exercises in compound storytelling

Thursday, September 4, 2008

coincidental posts on convergent devices

My To Do list is becoming manageable again, and in spare moments I'm reading posts I had missed while catching up. Jordon Cooper is looking for the perfect PDA, and Mike Doughty has among other things purchased an iPhone after many years of using minimal cell phones.

Remember when they were called PDAs? Back then they were mostly digital organizers, and they acted like them: if you ever owned an Apple Newton you probably remember how you co-adapted to its peculiar handwriting recognition software, and if you did that successfully you may wax nostalgic for the Newton. Or even still use it.

Jordon is downwardly mobile in Saskatchewan, intentionally poor and working with homeless people professionally, but he's still trying to find a mobile email solution and fighting the urge to make do with a BlackBerry or an iPhone. I don't blame him for holding out: I'm a little nostalgic for my recently-deceased BlackBerry 8700, I'm disappointed with my BlackBerry Curve (the 8700 handled multiple email accounts more smoothly, the Curve tried and failed to fix some of the 8700's navigation problems, etc.), and it'll take a lot for me to drop more than $100 on an iPod (not to mention change cell phone companies) while they've got less than 100Gb of storage.

Doughty points out that the short battery life is still the iPhone's dirty little secret.

And while so much about the iPhone's navigation is cool, the touchscreen buttons are too small for my fat fingers and I dislike the two-fingered gestures. Apple seems to find innovative ways of doing things (stylus, clickwheel, gestures) and then overuse them; I swear one day we'll all look back on both the iPod and the iPhone the way we look back on the Newton now: a few of us with nostalgia, the rest wondering what they were thinking.

Would it be too much to say that the Newton is an ancestor of the Nintendo DS? I'd love to see some decent PDA software for that thing; I'm just not sure I'd want to use it to take notes or send text messages.

I don't think the Google Android is going to fix this, either. The picture that appeared in the Google Chrome introductory comic suggests to me that it will look like a BlackBerry/Treo/etc., which means that Google will do what it does best so far: offer small fast applications that transport data well and collect lots of personal information for Google.

All signs suggest that the second wave of PDAs/smartphones is over: they're no longer new, and they're just barely cool. We can only hope that some day there will be a device with storage, intuitive usage, battery life, and well-thought-out applications. It may not even need to be a phone first. Or at all for that matter.

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1 comment:

Sara Z. said...

How did I not know Mike Doughty has a blog? But I can't figure out how to capture the feed for my reader...