My Very Own Kaiser

I got a new toy… So what is it?  Well I’m glad you asked. It’s a German Emperor. Well, it’s more like a choose your own adventure, you get to pick a name for it. Whichever one you pick will be wrong at least some of the time, so go nuts:

  • Kaiser
  • AT&T Tilt
  • AT&T 8925
  • HTC P4550
  • SFR v1615
  • Swisscom XPA1615
  • T-Mobile MDA Vario III
  • O2 Xda Stellar
  • Vodafone v1615

Okay, so what is it?  Well I’m glad you asked. It’s a smartphone. Well actually it’s not really a smartphone, it’s a phone that is smart, see, according to Microsoft, it’s a PocketPC with phone capabilities, but it’s only considered a smartphone if it doesn’t have a touch screen. With me so far?

This is a replacement for my Treo 680, which despite having been loyal to Palm over the course of many years, I finally decided to replace.

Okay, lets talk design, features and specs first. The TyTN II has a sliding QWERTY 41-key keyboard, jog wheel, and 2.8″ QVGA (480×320) touch screen LCD.  3.0 megapixel camera.

The base operating system is Windows Mobile 6, but more on that in a later post…

In terms of communications,

About the only thing it’s missing is an IRda port, and a string to link to your tin can.  This baby is loaded.

Initial impressions are fantastic, it’s a device I have really enjoyed using, performance is so-so, it doesn’t have the “instant” feel of a Palm when moving between simple applications, however due to the multitasking nature of Windows Mobile, when moving between complex applications which are already loaded, it’s great.

Onboard GPS is a *huge* bonus too, since that’s one less device to carry around all the time — I can’t count the number of times I’ve been out and about, looked up an address, not had a clue where it was, and could have used a GPS to help out.  Now, I know the city well enough that I can take a good guess, and I had pretty decent maps on my Treo (Plus access to Google Maps, of course), but when driving circles around an unfamiliar neighbourhood, it’s sure handy to have full GPS capabilities.

I’ll still be keeping my external bluetooth GPS though, when we’re traveling I like to have the option to use my laptop rather then my PDA as a GPS, but then again, if I am taking my laptop bag, I can fit the GPS.

Anyway, back to the TyTN II.  Battery life is so-so, although the battery is only marginally larger then the Treo 680’s battery, I get a comfortable day’s use out of the TyTN unless I am on wifi or playing graphical games all day long, and even better, it recharges using a standard USB cable, so I can use my APC Universal Mobile Device Battery, should the need arise.

The 3.0MP camera is decent, although the automatic colour balance is just plain bad —  Manually setting the lighting setting helps, using white balance is even better, but lets face it, when I’m out and about, I probably won’t take the time to white balance properly.  Still, a fair step up from the Treo 680’s 0.3MP camera (yes, that’s an order of magnitude difference between the cameras)

Windows Mobile is a drastically different OS then PalmOS, probably as significant as moving from Windows to OSX, but once you learn your way around, it’s pretty decent. I’ll followup with some “must-have” apps that I’ve discovered in following posts.

How Palm has lost (another) loyal customer

Palm seems to have sneaked out the Palm Desktop 6.2 and HotSync 7.0 which are compatible with Vista (32bit only).

It doesn’t appear that they addressed any of the deficiencies that existed in the one and only beta which was released many months ago (like still no support for Quick Install… removed support for category coloring in calendar,etc.) — In fact, they removed support for a few devices! Why even run a beta?

For me, this is the last straw.  Well, actually a combination of this, plus iTunes64.  Why?  (And how is that related?)

Well I’m glad you asked.  With Apple having released iPod Touch drivers for Vista x64, my Treo is now my *only* device that doesn’t have 100% support for Vista x64.  (Well okay, in the vein of being completely honest, my printer/scanner/copier doesn’t have 100% support, I can’t make the “Scan” button on the scanner launch my scanner app in x64 mode, it works in x86 mode.  This is actually a limitation of the scanner software though, the drivers themselves support the scanner button — If I manually launch the app, it works great.  Since I didn’t notice this omission for over three months, I can’t say I’m broken up over it)

I’ve been a loyal Palm user since the 90s, and have owned more devices I can count (IIIe, IIIxe, m505, Zire71, TE2, T|X, Treo 650, Treo 680 all come to mind, but I know I am missing a couple in the middle somewhere), and having been progressively more disappointed with each device, I have been near the edge of moving on for a while.

I enjoy PalmOS, but it’s just not powerful enough to keep up with today’s applications, especially combined with the unavoidable brokenness of NVFS.

So, with that in mind, I am ordering a new HTC 8925 (aka TyTN II, aka AT&T Tilt).  Windows Mobile 6, built-in GPS, slide-out keyboard, 2.8-inch touchscreen, Wifi, 3-megapixel camera, 3G HSDPA, support for 32GB SDHC cards, stereo bluetooth headphone support, all in a form-factor that rings in smaller then the Treo 680 (okay, okay, only by a couple millimeters, but still, that’s an impressive list of features that Palm doesn’t even dream about)

I look forward to a phone with reasonable voice quality — My Treo 680 is so bad that I actually put it on a data-only plan and carry a real cell phone for voice, and use the Treo only for data.

I look forward to being able to answer the phone without a crash — Something neither my Treo 650 nor 680 could do 100% of the time.

I look forward to being able to survive a full day of standby with my email client running the background without needing to recharge mid-day.

I look forward to being able to check my email in a hotel lobby via wifi, rather then paying my carrier per-KB roaming charges that reflect a level of greed that would make the Enron folks blush.

I look forward to having more then 15 categories.  Seriously Palm, Y2K was eight years ago, get with the times.

I look forward to one again having more then 1-bar of signal in my basement.  Even my 2004 Razr has enough signal to make and receive calls, and transmit data — I have reliable data on my LifeDrive using Bluetooth through my Razr, but the Treo 680 doesn’t even notice inbound calls most of the time, and don’t even get me started about checking an email.

As I compare the specs against what is more or less the top of the line for Palm’s GSM line (Treo 680), were I Palm, I’d be embarrassed by the 2005-like feature set.

I’ve stayed loyal to Palm thing long due to some bad WM experiences in the 2001-2002 era, my existing collection of applications, and the fact that I know and understand PalmOS’ internals well enough to be able to fix nearly any software issue I bump into.  Once upon a time I was on a constant hunt for new Palm apps, updates to my apps, new tips and tricks — I rarely went more then a week without finding something.  It’s been months since any application I use released anything other then a minor bug fix, and several of my can’t-live-without-them apps have been abandoned completely or simply killed by Palm (KeySuite, Mapopolis, Chatteremail, Blazer)

I am still apprehensive as despite having done a fair amount of reading, I am still effectively going by marketing rather then real life experience.  Palm’s latest devices look great on paper too, so we’ll see.  I am a little concerned about losing some functionality, from what I have heard there isn’t a single functional IMAP mail client on WM6, but there are a couple on the horizon, and this area is an area that I am personally and professionally invested.

So, fingers crossed… Ordering on eBay in a little over 12 hours (no local carrier carries the device I want, nor do I want to renew my contract)

UPDATE (2008/01/12): Palm’s official blog announcement post

New smartphone hunting

Welp, I’ve about run out of patience with Palm… I’ll go over the reasons in another post, but as a result, I’m hunting for another PDA.

I’ve got an iPod Touch, which I love as a web browser, and occasionally use it for music, but it’s Contacts app is limited at best, the Calendar is just horrid, there is no tasks, email, or authorized ability to install other apps. My plan had been to wait out the SDK and see if anything interesting shows up, but having now written several multi-page long articles from the Touch, I’m just not loving the keyboard.

So, what AM I looking for?

Well, ideally a smartphone. I’ve also got a Razr2 V9 that I use as a phone, my Treo 680 is configured as a data-only device. I’d like to have one less thing in my pockets.

I’m moving away from PalmOS, which more or less means Windows Mobile 6. If you know of another device running a different OS, feel free to mention it, I’ll consider anything.

So, with that in mind, what am I looking for?

  • Quadband GSM (850/900/1800/1900), not locked to any specific carrier.
  • High speed data HSDPA/UTMS (850/1900MHz especially)
  • Wifi (Some combination of 802.11n/g/b) — This one is mandatory as unlimited data is not available yet.
  • Physical QWERTY keyboard (don’t get me wrong, the iPod Touch’s keyboard isn’t horrible, but without the tactile feel, I just can’t manage to type without looking at the keys)
  • Bluetooth headset
  • Removable battery (I’ll settle for 4-7 days of actual use on an internal battery that is not removable, otherwise, a spare battery is in my future)
  • On that topic, I want to get at least 1.5 days of actual use on a single battery.  Having to charge mid-day isn’t acceptable.
  • Ability to install additional applications
  • SyncML client (built-in, or third-party is acceptable)
  • IMAP mail client with support for multiple accounts
  • Internal GPS is nice, but not mandatory.
  • Expandable memory (SD, mini-SD, micro-SD)
  • Decent voice quality — Again, loved my Treo 680, but as a phone, it’s bad.
  • Noise cancellation — This one is optional, but my Razr2’s active noise cancellation is nothing short of amazing.

Now… What don’t I care about?

  • Camera.  I have a Canon S2 that does the trick nicely, my next camera will probably be a XTi.
  • Speakerphone.  Don’t use it, don’t care.

With all that in mind, I’m currently eyeballing the HTC TyTN II aka AT&T Tilt

Opinions? Suggestions?

Also note, I will not be buying this from my home carrier (Rogers Wireless), so I am not limited to their selection in phones.