Palm Readings

Palm readings – vital signs decreasing. User death imminent. Or something of that nature. That’s pretty much what I hear any time I see any news about PalmOS platform. There is a poster hanging on one of the subway stations I pass, promoting some Palm device (I think it’s Palm Centro Red Smartphone, from Sprint) as a socializing platform, poster with hot girls having fun and all. I don’t know if any such (hot and geeky enough) girls exist, but the hot girls I know own RAZR. Or Sidekick. Or iPhone. Not even the Blackberry. They don’t know what PalmOS platform is, and they couldn’t care less.

And that’s the problem with PalmOS platform – not the lack of hot and geeky girls, of course, but the lack of marketing. When I first got my hands on my first PDA – it was Palm III, I think – it was the hottest thing in town. I adored my little baby and was loudly complaining that I want my cell phone integrated into the blessed thing. My prayers were answered years later, but it was the different device on a different platform already.

The first blow that Palm delivered was the paid upgrade to PalmOS 3.5. It wasn’t whole lot of money, but it was expensive enough to go cautiously – which I did at that time. All the hottest commercial software titles somehow were requiring version 3.5 as well. I didn’t want to invest in the outdated hardware, so instead I started saving for new device – and found an incredible deal that landed me an iPaq (color Windows mobile device) nearly free. Turned out the iPaq was the hottest kid on the block by that time and Windows CE became almost ubiquitous – unlike gray and black Palms that started to fade away. Besides, the familiar concept of a file system, somewhat skipped by PalmOS, was all the way back in WinCE, which introduced the familiar Windows interface (I later on figured what old PalmOS looked like – it looked exactly like stripped down TI-92 scientific calculator).

Everyone and their mothers were after WinCE devices, and another thing that Palm was missing was the sex appeal. Palm devices just weren’t appealing anymore – to any crowd, corporate or casual. Despite being cheaper (or maybe because of that) they looked like an ‘uncool’ alternative to cool PDAs (after all – when did we, consumers, refuse to pay for an expensive cool gadget?).

The platform itself may not be all that bad – I’ve seen college students put full blown Java development environments on their Palms to develop apps. Those apps, however, weren’t in demand, because the devices weren’t all that hot anymore. At that time it still wasn’t too late to save the platform. Maybe opening up would have worked, or some sort of remarketing, appealing to a different audience – we will never know. Then RiM came about and Palm lost its last foothold.

Sorry attempt to jump on the bandwagon of mobile computer (I am referring to Foleo here) might have worked, if company was a little braver. After all, who would want to lug around a PDA phone AND its “companion” (and a laptop). I was happy enough to get rid of mp3 player when I got my music in my PDA phone. Ditching the phone for the one integrated into PDA – and you got yourself a good deal of space savings.

To wrap up the thought here, I must say that Palm once again missed the opportunity to get back in business – at least before Android. Now it’s so late that the word “palm” should get back its original meaning – front side of the hand. Especially that modern mobile devices so much smaller, better and – sexier.


HTC Advantage 7501 has arrived

HTC Advantage 7501 with Windows Mobile 6So, the first impressions.
The device was ordered August 17 from Amazon, half a month after I have discovered the existence of HTC Advantage (aka Athena) 7501, but arrived almost 3 weeks later, last Friday. While unpacking I came to a realization that the device is just a little too big and a little too heavy. It’s of a size of a small pocketbook, yet I don’t really have any pockets for it (except with winter coming – maybe somewhere in winter jacket). So I end up carrying the unit either in hands or in my backpack, which isn’t really a good idea.

First off – the phone capabilities of this HTC Advantage 7501. Let me go ahead and make a bold statement. Anyone talking with this thing next to his or her head looks dumber then a monkey talking through banana. At least monkey has a reason for that, while no sane human being has no reason to talk into that big black box with shiny screen. Throughout the weekend I used speakerphone (it’s quite decent, try it). First thing I did when arrived at my office – paired my Bluetooth headset with Advantage.

Snap-on magnetic keyboard is a real blessing if you need to type URLs, SMS, short e-mail or use instant messenger, but don’t count on it for lengthy letters. It’s just a little larger then regular thumb keypad, and smaller then any decent size keyboard. I was, however, able to get used to it after couple of days. Keyboard acts as a screen protection when Advantage is stowed away, as a very firm stand (see picture) but absolutely gets in a way when using PDA in a portrait mode. HTC supplies the device with nice leather cover that holds the 7501 by special latches and the keyboard just snaps to magnets hidden in a flap. Overall, if you can get to any horizontal surface – HTC Advantage is a great tool, that will allow you to type away whatever you need.

Not quite so if you don’t have such surface. As a part of my daily routine I spend around 1 hour in NYC subway. Good thing I almost always get a seat. Bad thing that MTA didn’t get tables by them. Reading eBooks from large, 5-inch screen is much like reading a real book. Except for the sun, since the 7501’s screen is almost invisible in bright sunlight. Note to self: I think I saw a protective self-adhesive cover for screen, must try that tomorrow. Writing or typing while holding the devide in the air is very complicated, since the 7501 is much larger then any other PDA, keyboard isn’t in a right place and if you decide to go with on-screen tapping or writing you must hold the device in a proper fashion which isn’t an easy thing to do. Currently I am giving a try to Spb Full Screen Keyboard, but found myself adapting to use attachable one more and more often. After all, it is a real keyboard.

The built-in GPS wasn’t very useful last Saturday, when I was a bit lost while driving to Renessanse Faire. While passengers in the car were very supportive and understanding about my geeky need to figure out how to make Advantage show us right directions it still worked pretty slow, probably because I used Google Maps for Mobile instead of pre-installed, subscription-based (and for some reason non-functioning) TeleNav. We used Garmin Nuvi 360 in the meantime, to get to the place.

Video playback was a major disappointment. DivX programs encoded to 512×384 pixels with 24 fps were a snail-paced slide show (I used Core player, since Windows Media player just won’t accept the DivX video at all). For comparison – the previous HTC that I owned (BlueAngel) was able to play the files flawlessly (if only dragged a little during fast-action sequences, but I don’t watch movies on PDA at all, so it’s okay). However, when I re-encoded files using Pocket DivX Encoder – everything just started flying (and files took much less space – around 100MB for PPC video as opposed to 600MB for source). Now 8GB microdrive starts looking real spacious.

Concluding the first impressions I should add that charging via USB cable yields weird results – battery indicators showed anything they wanted and not the real status of things. Another dis-Advantage is that device is using miniSD memory cards, instead of full size SD (I believe there was plenty of space for it) or microSD.

Knowing how lazy I am I probably would not post a full hands-on review, but I will try to get pictures of line-up of all my devices – Samsung i607, Verizon VX6600 (HTC BlueAngel), HTC Advantage and maybe even iPhone. Stay tuned.

cellular shopping technology

Someone up there loves me

Yes, someone up there must love me, here’s the HTC Advantage that is large enough to read/view/game away plus it acts as a GSM cell phone. Just the answer to my yesterday’s rant. Well, at least to the first part.

The only two noticed problems are the weight/size (damn, with 5 inches of screen real estate the thing weights around one pound) and the price – Amazon has them for $849.99. CompUSA all sold out, unfortunately, as I was going to try to hold the thing in my hands. Obviously, it will be quite hard to hold it during a lengthy conversation, so bluetooth (or wired) headset is a must. I got two of bluetooth headsets plus one wired, so recharging shouldn’t be an issue here. Judging by reviews the PDA is large enough not to fit in small pockets and I hadn’t noticed the option to carry it on the belt.

My contract with Verizon expires on August 18th, so if by that time Verizon will not come up with something decent (and judging by some leaked information – it will not) – I’m switching my main Zealus phone from Verizon to (most likely) Cingular – it’s the only company I haven’t been a customer of yet.