True Mobility: GPRS, WiFi, and Bluetooth all in Hand

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When I emphasize how important mobile devices will soon become to online publishers , I speak from the experience of a user. I’m on the road about 14 days each month, and I can now leave my laptop at home.

In August 2002, I began replacing my Sony Viao laptop with a Pocket PC Phone manufactured by HTC of Taiwan and sold by T-Mobile. This dual-band GSM phone featured a 110MHZ Intel processor, 32-megabytes of RAM, and a 4,096 color, 240 x 320 pixel touchscreen. It was pre-installed with the Pocket PC versions of Microsoft Outlook, Word, Excel, Reader, and Internet Explorer. I inserted a 128-megabyte SD memory card into it and installed Adobe Acrobat, a half dozen cities’ restaurant guides from Zagat, and had about a dozen e-book in it at any time, almost all in Reader format (yes, e-books are harder to read than paperback books, but it’s hard to carry a dozen paperbacks in your carry-on luggage). I’ve kept it automatically syncronized with my desktop PC’s e-mail and other daily files, via the handheld device’s cradle.

People say that using broadband changes how you use online. Well, I can report that true mobility also changes how you use online. The ability to surf the Web wherever I could get a phone GPRS signal (which was everywhere I went in North America and Europe) was a revelation (even if the connection is only dialup or DSL speeds). I can Websurf from the beach, a boat, a train, a moving automobile, and having ready online access is a hell of a way to resolve bar bets.

Nevertheless, I still often had to tote my laptop with me because the Pocket PC didn’t have Microsoft PowerPoint or any other easily usable presentation software.

Last month, I upgraded to a HP iPAQ 6315 Pocket PC Phone and no longer need the laptop at all. The newer device is a quad-band GSM phone running a 200Mhz processor, with 64-megabytes of RAM, and a 64,000 color touchscreen. (Other PDAs feature much faster processors, but HP keep this device at 200Mhz to extend its battery life. Besides, remember that 200Mhz was the speed of the first Pentium processors, not bad for this handheld device). It also features a digital camera, WiFi, and Bluetooth.

When online, it automatically bridges among WiFi, GPRS, and Bluetooth, switching to whichever can offer the highest speed connection. The Bluetooth lets me keep it wirelessly syncronized with my desktop.

Besides transfering my old device’s extra application onto it, I’ve installed Conduits Pocket Slides presentation software and all of Zagat’s restaurant, hotel, and entertainment guides worldwide. I’m experimenting with MMS. I’ve also added a 512-megabyte memory card because I’ve discovered how to convert movies into Pocket PC format via TMPGenc.

I never trained any of these devices for recognizing my handwriting, and I’d gotten used to typing characters on the old device’s touchscreen keypad. The newer device has the same touchscreen keypad, but also features a snap-on thumbpad keyboard, for when I want to have something in common with my SMS-addicted Europeans and Asians.

On either device, the phone talk-time is about four hours, the standby-time one week. Each device recharges in about 90 minutes.

So, go mobile online. Fully mobile. Not just tethered to WiFi at offices, coffee shops, and airport lounges. #&151; Vin Crosbie