Cogito, ergo sum... (I think, therefore I am)

Friday, February 25, 2005

iMate PDA2K thoughts!

OK, now for some thoughts on my newest gadget yet. Yes you got that right, the iMate PDA2K! First of all, let me say that I would not call it an awesome phone. 'Awesome' is too small a word for what I feel about this device. It has really changed my perception of how I view a cellphone. Now, I have come to believe that cellphones come in 4 categories:
  1. Idiot phones : Idiot phones, are the opposite of smartphones. These are phones which are not smartphones, and don't try to be. They are good for calls and SMS, and not much else. They've got a pretty good market because they are cheap and easily available. Examples would be Nokia 3310, 2100, 1100, etc. I hope you get the picture.
  2. Wannabe phones : These are phones which pack in all the latest gizmos and buzzwords like 'digital camera', 'mp3 player', 'colour screen', and fail to live up to their claims most of the time. There are some exceptions (like the Nokia 6230) which are really solid and good phones, but the main difference is that people often confuse these phones for smartphones, and don't realise the functionality they're missing by opting for these phones instead of opting for a smartphone. In my opinion, it's best to stay away from this type of phone if you're a power user or gadget freak. They don't give you the same bang-for-the-buck as smartphones do. Most of the Samsung phones I see nowadays fit into this category.
  3. Smart phones : This is where my love affair with cellphones started. Smartphones are all that phones can be, by being a phone first, and everything else second. These phones have keypads, and look like regular cellphones (although some of them may be bigger than the non-smartphones), but they do pack a punch! These little powerhouses can be used for just about anything, whether it be chatting on MSN or Yahoo, checking your email, browsing through your Orkut scraps, managing your calendar, or tuning your guitar. Oh yeah, they can make calls and send SMS's too ;) Anyway, they are very cost-effective and productive, and I do love them! Examples would be Nokia NGage, Nokia 3650, Siemens SX1. And how can I forget the Nokia 6600, which was my previous and trusty cellphone.
  4. Genius phones : No doubt about it! These phones are not just smart, they are geniuses! They leave smartphones in the dust. But in doing this, they sacrifice the form factor of a regular phone, and take on the appearances of a PDA. Not everyone wants to hold a brick to his head to talk, and not everyone wants to look geeky tapping on the screen with a stylus, so this is not for everyone. Not to mention the fact that not everyone can afford a $1000 phone (I can, thanks to my sister. Thanks again Ujala!). These phones can almost replace your laptop. Granted that they don't have that much clock speed, and neither can they connect to peripherals like a DVD drive. The arguments are endless, but the fact remains that they are little powerhouses, which you can use as a laptop replacement if you don't have to do a lot of work, and you need portability first, and functionality second. Owning a phone such as this is a relevation. It doesn't matter how much you've read about it, or how much you think you know about it. Once you own the device, it grows on you. The best example of this phone is the iMate PDA2K, of which I am now a proud owner!

OK, now that I've got that out of my system, let's continue. I've only had the PDA2K for about 3 days, but here are my thoughts on it:
  • Did I say that 'awesome' is an understatement for this phone? It grows on you. I feel so attached to it already. It is one hell of an amazing device!
  • The text input methods are amazing! I haven't used the 'block recogniser' and 'letter recogniser', because they're mainly for people used to Jot and Graffiti text entry methods. I have used the on-screen keyboard, and it's amazing, although using it for a long time results in a slight headache! The sliding keyboard is fantastic, although I haven't used it much, because I'm used to T9, and that's where my thumbs automatically go. I just haven't gottten used to the keyboard, but I do know that it will be the fastest and most comfortable way to enter data on this device. I just need to get used to it. Now I come to my prefered data entry method (for now). That is the Transcriber. It is just amazing! Everyone I show it to is amazed at its accuracy and ease of use. You just write on the screen, and after a pause, it converts your writing to text. I used it for the first time on this device, and it amazes me how accurate it is! I still have to get over the awe I feel every time it 'reads' my handwriting.
  • Phone functionality on the device is good. I haven't had any issues yet in taking calls. The only issue that I can think of is that I cannot figure out a way to set SMS notifications. It doesn't play a ringtone on the arrival of an SMS, rather it plays the standard alert/notification sound. So if the device is away from me, I can't tell if it's an SMS, or a notification by the operating system. I might be missing something here, but it's too soon to tell.
  • One issue that is bothering me is Bluetooth support, as well as its implementation. First of all, I can't figure out why I can't send any file via bluetooth directly. In my Nokia 6600, all I had to do was select the file, press Options -> Send File... -> via Bluetooth and it was sent. In the PDA2K, I have to open Bluetooth Manager, create a shortcut to browse the files on remote device, open that connection, connect to the device, open the menu, and send a file. That's unacceptable! I'm sure there are 3rd party programs which will solve this, but this should have been built into the file explorer provided with the operating system. The second issue is bluetooth headset support. I went to the mobile market to buy a bluetooth headset, and spent hours there, but couldn't get any headset to connect to the PDA2K satisfactorily. Even the shopkeepers gave up! I think it might be an issue with the WidComm stack or something, or maybe I need to update my ROM.
  • The form factor is OK. It's not as big as I thought it would be, but it is a lot bigger than regular cellphones, even a lot bigger than the Nokia 6600. But I wouldn't say it's uncomfortable. It's pretty slim (as such phones go) and I can easily fit it in my breast pocket. It's heavy, but nothing compared to the functionality it has builtin.
  • One other issue that I found has me perplexed. When the phone is not in active use, the touchscreen is turned off, with no display, and no touch feedback. This way I can keep the phone in a pouch (keeping in view all the cellphone-snatchings taking place in Karachi), and not worry about programs being opened or anything. Now when a phone call comes in, the screen turns on. But after I hang up, the screen does not get turned off. I have to either wait for it to turn off after a few minutes, or have to turn it off myself. This is specially invonvenient because I have to open the pouch and turn the screen off.
  • I used it for chatting, and it was a lot easier to chat to multiple people. I found the experience very enjoyable. The builtin MSN Messenger is a lot better than AgileMessenger. PocketWord does a fair job, and Pocket Excel is jsut plain awesome! I'm not a power user of Excel, and find the builtin functionality useful enough, although I did have issues opening some worksheets. Pocket Internet Explorer is adequate, but lack of multiple windows is a serious drawback.

Anyway, that's a lot of writing (and if you know me, I hate writing!). I'll be back with more thoughts soon!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Look what I got!


My PDA2K has arrived (all thanks to my little sister!)! Expect more developments soon! Take a look at all the accessories!

Friday, February 04, 2005

My dream gadget...


It's finally here... The one gadget which I can say has *almost* everything I ever wanted. It's the T-Mobile MDA-IV, and I guess should be out by new names like XDA-IV and what not soon enough. It's availability is predicted to be around mid of 2005. But this sure looks like a winner... like my Nokia 6600 was in its time.

Once, I had been thinking of getting a separate PDA, because of the various advantages it had over a PocketPC phone. But the killer was that I would have to carry 2 separate devices. Then along came the XDA-3, and the iMate JAM. Both of them were awesome devices. I was hooked on the JAM mainly because of the size and the clean looks, but the lack of wifi was a killer. And now the MDA-IV is out. I'll go ahead and list its pros and cons now:

  • VGA (640x480) screen: I can't wait to see this for real! a VGA quality screen in such a small device is going to be awesome! Browsing websites won't be as cumbersome as it was on QVGA screens.
  • Dual wireless (Bluetooth + WiFi): Bluetooth is a must for any high-end phone. Once you've used bluetooth for connectivity, it's hard to go back. I have never used wifi, but it's all the rage, and I plan to get on the bandwagon soon.
  • QWERTY keyboard: Chatting on IM using this device is going to be a lot easier than my current Nokia 6600. Granted it's not going to be as comfortable as my PC's keyboard, but it's also not going to be as difficult as T9 on my cellphone (though I'm a real fast texter).
  • UMTS, GPRS: GPRS I've used, and it's a godsend for when you're on the move. UMTS, I have never used, and I don't think any network in Pakistan supports it yet.
  • Two cameras: For videoconferencing of course! I know video-calling will be a novelty, but let's hope it's not doomed like MMS.
  • Megapixel camera: Well I don't really expect it to match up to even the cheapest dedicated camera (I have a better one for pics that really matter) but it's a good tradeoff for that occasion when you want a camera and just don't have one. After all it would definitely be better than my 0.3megapixel 6600.

  • Expansion slots: High-end dedicated PDA's generally have 2 types of slots: 1 SDIO, and 1 CF slot. This one only has SDIO (I think). But it's not that much of a dealbreaker.
  • Triband: I've heard a lot of people bashing this phone in the forums becaus it lacks a 850MHz radio. It's irrelevant for anyone outside North America. For the rest of the world, triband covers all the possibilities of GSM.
  • Form Factor: It looks really nice, unless you think about how you're going to answer phone calls when the phone is closed, like the way you close a laptop. The touchscreen would be on the inside, facing the keyboard keys, and I suspect that there is nothing on the back of the device. That would make for an awkward phone. You would have to open it up to answer a call! You could always keep it in a tablet style, with the phone closed and the touchscreen facing outward, but that would leave the touchscreen vulnerable to the elements. It's not a big deal having an exposed touchscreen, but people who are fastidious about keeping there phones scratchfree might mind. I have a strong feeling that HTC must have provided a way to answer the phone without opening it.
  • Size: I wish it were as compact as the JAM. Even though in the pic it looks like an updated version of the JAM, I've read that it is more near the PDA2K in size. Just a few cm.sq. would have made all the difference!

All in all, I have a feeling that this device is a winner, and I hope to get it when it's out.