Kinross

Palm

This is a bit of a personal grumble and maybe says a lot about me and my attitude to some of current trends in "tech".

In January this year, my old Palm m130 PDA decided to give up the ghost, not completely but enough to make it unusable for me.  I've had it about 10 or 11 years and latterly the battery wasn't holding charge for much longer than a day or two (compared to the 8 or 9 days I could get out of it when it was new) and I was considering buying a new battery for it when it suddenly decide that it wasn't going to sync some items.   Oddly, "some" is the operative word and it also seems to be highly selective: Most items will sync from the PC to the Palm OK but Documents To Go, which I use to move Word and Excel documents to or from the Palm format just wasn't going to work, and no amount of re-uploading the application, erasing it, soft reset or hard reset of the handheld was having any effect.  Weird. But I digress - the point is it's proving rather difficult to replace the old Palm.

 Over the years, I'd come to rely on my little Palm to remind me of meetings, act as my portable 'phone and email directory, and a means to take quick notes when there wasn't a Post-it handy, so suddenly not having in my shirt pocket was a bit of a loss and no-one seems to be interested in making something that's like the old PDA or even pocket PCs that were around just few years ago.  "So what?" you might say, "you can do most of that stuff on just about any mobile phone".  Well, that's as may be but on a push button clam shell 'phone like mine it's a bit of a pain, and here's where we get to the crunch - my 'phone is a few years old but it still does what I bought it to do - it makes calls and it sends text messages.  It's got a camera I very rarely use (I've got a Olympus SP550UZ and a Canon A1 if I want to take photographs) and a FM radio I almost never use (if I want to listen to music or the news then there are plenty of ways I can do that without needing my 'phone to get involved).

What I'm getting at is that I like to have the right tool for the job and I really hate the "all your eggs in one basket" approach that most so called "smart" phones seem to want you to buy into.  It seems to pretty common to hear stories of folks whose lives have been thrown into chaos by leaving their 'phone in a taxi, full of lots of personal info, passwords, account details, etc.  If these "smart" phones ever get "smart" enough to call the police by themselves if they get lost or stolen then I might reconsider my position, but until then... 

So if we look at the other option, the tablet PC, then what we've seen happen here is a move towards progressively bigger screens with higher resolutions, heading towards full HD type specifications.  Four and five-inch displays have given way to seven and ten inch devices.  Frankly, that seems a bit dumb to me, because at five inch with a wide screen format a tablet is just about "pocketable" (in a shirt pocket, that is).  Seven inch needs a large jacket pocket which isn't so convenient if you're walking around indoors and ten inch really isn't portable without some kind of dedicated pouch for it.

Next on my gripe list is the battery life.  It seems to be rare for any smart phone to give a realistic life of more than two days between charges with many seemingly needing charged daily and a lot of tablets have charge duration that can be measured in a handful of hours.  That sucks!  I could (although not so much latterly) charge up my Palm before a business trip, be away a couple of days and not even need to consider taking the charger with me - I knew it would last easily.  For me battery life is a key attribute: I don't really want to to be forced to remember to charge up my portable device every day, and I can't really understand people putting up with that for a mobile 'phone and risking being stuck somwehere on the way home of an evening with a failing battery and nowhere to recharge.  My current 'phone will quite happily hold charge for the best part of a week, which is yet another reason for being content with multiple devices as it's unlikely that I'll have simultaneous battery failures in every device.

I know I'm arguing for a lost cause.  The demise of the PDA has been proclaimed since at least as far back as 2003 ("PDA, RIP", from The Economist and "Mobile Learning and the demise of the PDA", from Handheld Learning), so I don't expect there to be a sea change amongst manufacturers and a return of the humble PDA.  But maybe some of the recent revelations over online snooping and concerns over the security of your personal information will make people wonder if the "connected world" that drives the smartphone and tablet market is really such a good idea after all...