Thursday, October 19, 2006

Wireless Devices

I've been using a Palm-powered device for years. I started with a Palm III.

It was a cute little Palm, monochrome screen and I bought it at Fry's in Palo Alto, CA on my first business trip of my life.

It's predecessor was a Sharp Wizard that I'd been using all throughout law school.

It was filled with calendar and contact information. I thus taught myself Graffiti by manually entering the data into the Palm III in the hotel room and while riding in the car.

The III lasted from about 1998 until almost 2000, when I got a Palm V.
When I saw the Palm TungstenT in 2002, though, all bets were off. The T was so cool, with a sliding mechanism that allowed the screen to become larger when needed.

I finally upgraded to the Tungsten T3, a slimmer, more powerful version of the same concept.

But I've been lusting after the Handspring (now Palm again) Treo for a long time. The Treo was one of the first "converged" devices, one that combined the Palm organizer with the benefits of a cell phone. EVERYTHING was finally on one device. But the original Treo was a bit bulky. I had the chance to play with one early on in their release, so I knew that this would eventually be great... it just wasn't quite what I wanted (besides, it had a monochrome screen again).

The Treo kept a pretty brisk release schedule.
First the 180,

then the 270

(and in keeping with a "degrees" theme, they released a 90 that didn't have the phone capabilities).

And when they released the 600, I KNEW it was ready. By the time of that release, however, the Blackberry had taken the world by storm, and I had already owned two Blackberries by the time Nextel and Cingular both combined the Blackberry wireless e-mail system with phone features. Now there's the 650.

So now anyone that wants a converged device has a dilemma... Treo or Blackberry. Of course, in the last 2 years, Microsoft has added their $.02 worth, too - with a slew of Windows Mobile (remember its predecessor, WindowsCE?) powered devices by Sanyo, Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, etc. So the dilemma is compounded by these Windows-based devices, too.

But I've been using the Palm for a long time and like that OS. It's been completely designed as an organizer - which is exactly what I use it for. Easy to use, cleanly defined... almost simplistic. Perfect for me. Thus, even the addition of all these extra players really didn't cloud my judgement.

What IS a problem, though, is the wireless CARRIER differences. And all of this has been setup to talk about these differences. THIS is where the real decisions need to be made - THIS is where you can make a deal or go broke - THIS is where you need to pay attention. So let's look at the carriers for the Treo devices (there are 2, almost 3, now available: the 650, the 700 and now the 680 - not yet quite released). Know in advance that the 700 has about 4x the memory of the 650, a faster data transmission capability (EVDO rather than 1XRTT) and a little bit better camera. Everything else is about the same, but you can read a lot of reviews elsewhere. The 680 will be out soon, but it's not yet available, so we'll not really talk about it here.

There are 4 carriers in my market that supply the Treo. In alpha order: Alltel, Cingular, Sprint/Nextel and Verizon. First, forget who your current carrier is (mine's Alltel) and look just at device costs and wireless plans.

Alltel is selling the 650 for $249 (after all discounts) with a 2-year service plan. You then can pick any of their national freedom plans for voice, and you pay $29.99/mo for unlimited data. The limiting factor here is slower data speed (the 1XRTT standard rather than EVDO), but as a CDMA phone, it's good almost everywhere.

Cingular is selling the 650 for $299 (after all discounts) with a 2-year service plan. You then can pick any of their voice plans and you pay $39.99/mo for unlimited data. Cingular offers XPress Mail (similar to the Good Technology product) to connect you with your office e-mail system. Cingular has a decent network, but their data network isn't as robust as others.

Sprint/Nextel has the 700 for $399 (after all discounts) with a 2-year service plan. You pick any of their voice plans and pay $39.99/mo for unlimited data. The trouble here is that you're limited to Sprint/Nextel's network. If you walk off their network, you lose connection.

Verizon also has the 700 for $399 (after all discounts) with a 2-year service plan and you pick a voice and data bundle. Verizon's data network isn't super, either... and they aren't able to do anything with data separately from voice (although the bundles are a good idea).

All in all, given the fact that I'm with Alltel, I decided to take the slower device and stay with Alltel. Got one for Tina, too.

God I love my Treo. The lust was worth the wait.