The Problem With PDAs Today

When I finally get around to writing up my impressions of the Pepper Pad, I’ll be pointing to Roger Sperberg’s recent posts at TeleRead about non-PDA handhelds and computers for stand up use. At the moment, however, some of his points remind my of a few I’ve got to make about PDAs here.

I’ve got a Sony Clie TH-55, the top of the line of the last series they imported to North American shores. It’s got a big bright screen (for PDAs), WiFi and a camera that can shoot movies and .3 megapixel stills. It’s got all of that and a battery that I’ve never had below 65% despite hard camera and WiFi use at times, but I still find it nearly useless.

(Some of) my complaints? The WiFi gets poor reception and requires a long wait while the radio warms up and finds a signal before each use. Unlike most laptops, the WiFi isn’t running all the time and it’s like waiting for a modem to dial while it connects. Then, when the WiFi does connect, the web browsing is slow and painful on a screen that still has too few pixels to render most sites reasonably. Though bookmarks help, entering URLs in Graffiti 2 is like pulling out all my eyebrow hairs one by one. The keyboard solves that, but it using requires a desk and going down that road begs for comparisons against the laptop I could be using instead.

Still, these problems might be fixable. I depended on the handwriting recognition on my Newton to take notes in classes and meetings back in the day (far better than on any Palm OS or HPC I’ve ever used), so I’m holding out for something better yet from current handhelds. My use cases are changing, though. PIM apps are on devices everywhere, but I really like using Earthcomber when traveling. I need a great web browser that can remember web-site passwords and auto-fill forms like my desktop browser can. And it’s hard to know what will replace iPods, but I somehow see a device like the LifeDrive, perhaps with a camera, that might do the job.

None of that, however, should suggest that I don’t also see a huge market for products like the Pepper Pad.

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5 thoughts on “The Problem With PDAs Today

  1. My Friend you need to go back to 1983 or get a life.

    It seems that you do not research your reported problems with the Sony TH55. Try google or head over to 1src.com TH55 forum.

  2. Oh, I’ve been trying a notebook. But, when I turn it on, I have to wait 30 secs until it’s running. I can’t stand that! My TH55 is much faster. Press the button and here it is!!! And it doesn’t fit into my pants pocket!! And my laptop is difficult to use as a camera, or as a quick voice recorder! And also difficult as ebook reader! And difficult to use while standing, and using a phone in the other hand!!! Can you explain to me, why they still don’t built notebooks which can do that!

  3. Richi, you make some good points and I have to agree that I’m happiest with my Clie when I use it for things that I can’t do with my laptop. But web browsing — a hugely important feature to me — begs comparisons with full featured computers. I’m looking forward to what the Nokia 770 can do on that front and I’m happy to report that the Pepper Pad does it well, but browsing the web on my Clie sucks (even if it’s still a lot better than browsing in WAP on my phone).

    My other complaint, about the limits of handwriting recognition, may be harder to fix. I was surprised at how easily I navigated the Pepper Pad’s split keyboard, and it’s likely that I’ll be looking for a “thumbable” keyboard in my next handheld/pda/thing.

  4. I find my Dell Axim PDA darting quickly into obsolescence. It started with my trials of an HP tablet and progressed even quicker when I got a new ultra-lightweight laptop. I used to use the Axim all the time. Now it holds my key contacts for times when I need to access a phone number when I’m away from the computer.

    Once I can get all my Outlook data into a cell phone, the PDA is history. Yet I’m still looking for Nirvana. I read your review of the Pepper Pad, but I’m not sure it has adequate inputting capability. I want a tablet that is fast, light and responsive. I discarded the HP rather quickly…dang thing just couldn’t keep up with me and my work style.

    Here’s what I really want…a Pepper pad that will hold all my music (20 gig for now), has all the web and email features, is thumbable and has handwriting recognition, and will take voice notes. It would be extra cool if I could give you a call on it, too.

    Am I asking for too much?

    (nah!)

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