8.11.2010

Dumb Thoughts about Smart Phones



These kinds of posts tend to be stultifingly dull so please know I write for my own documentation's sake today and not for any particular enlightening word. But about a month ago, I entered belatedly into the brave new world of smart phone ownership. I had previously owned two dumb PDAs in the past 10+ years, so the move to a smart phone was pretty abrupt for this technophobe. But the Motorola Backflip has performed admirably, with plenty of free apps to choose from, a relatively intuitive interface, and enough cool features to get me hooked on having such functionality in such a portable package.

Alas, I rely heavily on my calendar, contacts, notes, and tasks, synched between my computer at work and my old PDA, and only calendar and contacts sync with the Backflip. And, the calendar interface was not to my liking. So I decided to go Windows Mobile, and when I called AT&T, I was informed the only one they had in that system was the HTC Tilt2. Though faced with the prospect of learning a second device in less than a month, and of having to actually pay money for the device (the Backflip was refurbished and free), I decided I need the functionality and made the transaction.

Bad move. The Tilt2 just didn't work for me. I couldn't figure out how to use the touchscreen, navigation was not intuitive, and the app store was sparse.

The clincher for me was that I was going to revisit apps later in the month when I had more time, but I knew I would want to have the Bible in my pocket, so I went to the app store to download one. Only there wasn't a free version! With the Backflip (on the Android system), there were plenty of free versions to choose from, and the one I picked had 15+ translations, including multiple non-English languages, as well as links to posts by others and a search of nearby events I could attend. The only free app in the Windows marketplace, in contrast, was the book of Genesis. Ouch.

So the Tilt2 is getting returned, I'm getting a refund, and it's back to the Backflip for me. I've figured out a way (via my Gmail account) to get tasks and notes in my pocket and automatically synched, so I'm good to go there. And, while the AT&T rep who handled my Tilt2 return wondered aloud why I wasn't getting a Blackberry (he suggested Backflips are for teenyboppers), I'm happy with my original purchase. Of course, with any device, particularly a refurbished one, there is the danger that it will poop out in the near future. But hey, it was free, and if it happens I'll just have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what works best for me from what's out there at that time. For now, I'll stomach the much higher monthly bill.

(As a postscript, I'll note that the real productivity increase for me has been in having far more call minutes available than before, which allows me to take conference calls while off-site. Imagine that: a smart phone being most useful because it is a phone.)

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