Thursday, August 28, 2008

iPod touch as PDA: two week review

Two weeks ago, I bought an iPod touch with the intention of using it as a PDA. On the whole, it's working out well so far. Here are some observations:
  1. WiFi works well. Silently joining known networks is the right way to do it—the Palm TX was always obsessed with telling me what it was doing. Having said that, and despite Internode's pretty decent-looking coverage list, I've found WiFi reception in Adelaide to be somewhat sporadic. Presumably the range from any of those locations is limited. Despite a hotspot listed at 33 King William Street, for example, I can tell you that reception just over the street outside the National Australia Bank Building, at 28 King William Street, is feeble. There's no denying that it would be nice to have the additional 3G coverage of the iPhone.
  2. I'm still not quite sure what to conclude about battery life. It's clearly modest at best, and watching video gives it a real hammering. I think even in the absence of any significant video habit, I would still want to be charging it daily. Not surprisingly, audio is nowhere near as taxing, and the display can be turned off while using it as a conventional iPod.
  3. The Calendar and Contacts applications are significantly better than their Palm TX equivalents. (There's no real surprise there—the TX is a 3-year-old device.) I can't really fault them. They both do what they're supposed to do. Syncing via MobileMe works in both directions.
  4. Mobile Safari is pretty much the gold standard of mobile browsers at the moment. It's that good.
  5. The Mail client is a let-down. It feels like a decent version 0.5 of some kind of much better mail client. There are just too many basic features either done incorrectly, or lacking altogether, to call it anything other than rudimentary:
    • It top-posts on replies. This is a completely inexcusable, Outlook Express-level misfeature.
    • There's no mechanism for selecting a block of text, and hence...
    • There's no way to delete large chunks of text other than sitting there with a finger on the delete key for minutes at a time.
    These problems combined mean it takes quite some effort to not look like a moron when replying to email. Additionally, it would be good to be able to either unsubscribe from, or at least ‘forget the contents of’ nominated IMAP mail folders. I have some folders into which I directly pipe mailing list subscriptions, for example. While I delete a lot of the individual messages, I also save hundreds of them. As far as I can tell, if I open one of these folders using the iPod's mail client, I'm going to start accumulating copies of these saved messages on the iPod, even if I don't download more than the default first 50. I could be wrong here—I need to look into it further.

The interim verdict is this: the iPod touch seems to be quite feasible as a PDA.

6 comments:

  1. The iPod Touch is more than a PDA as we know it. I honestly think that Mobile OS X is under hyped (if that is even possible!)

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  2. I've waited out the initial rash of problems and, to my surprise, ended up with an iPhone on a Telstra plan. I paid upfront for the $30pm plan, with a $29 data pack @ 300MB = $59pm.

    Using the iPhone as an iPod Touch most of the time via wireless saves me the bandwidth, while being on Telstra means I have 5 bars 3G everywhere. I have put it onto EDGE to slow down the amazing ability to slurp up 10MB in 5 seconds.

    My verdict so far is that this is amazing stuff, and is in fact under-hyped if anything. This is an entirely new league of mobile functionality.

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  3. a $29 data pack @ 300MB

    That figure just hurts my eyes. I always like to convert it to "what I'd pay for my (modest) 25G broadband cap at those rates": just shy of $2,500. Obviously that's not apples-to-apples, but you can't deny that you're being reamed.

    My verdict so far is that this is amazing stuff, and is in fact under-hyped if anything. This is an entirely new league of mobile functionality.

    It's certainly impressive stuff. How would you respond to my criticisms of the Mail application?

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  4. The reason why it's an entirely new league isn't because of anything it does, like the Mail app. It's because you can program your own stuff.

    So load in a different Mail client, or write your own. I'm learning how to program this, and OpenGL ES is a nice bonus. It's about as easy as a desktop app.

    So as far as the iPhone goes as a PDA/phone, it's pretty good. I'm OK with that. I'm a lot more amazed by the possibilities of the particular combination of A-GPS + camera + always available Internet connection.

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  5. Have you ever tried Iambic's Agendus for Palm? It's really a great software.
    How is going your experience with iPod Touch? I'm planning to buy one too :)

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  6. Hi Brando,

    No, I never tried Agendus.

    The iPod touch is working out well as a PDA. I have reasonably modest requirements, though.

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