August 30, 2006

Get Smart!

For years now technology pundits have been talking convergence between PDA's (electronic diaries) and mobile phones. Traditionally PDA's have excelled in keeping track of appointments and contacts and mobile phones have been used for keeping in touch and actually talking to people. It didn't take a wise man to predict that these two products were the most likely candidates to converge and become one.

Not surprisingly that is exactly what has happened. Before I even begin talking about smart phones it is worth noting that about 90% of mobile phones on the market today are actually smart phones. They do a great job of storing contacts and an okay job of storing appointments. Most of these phones even ship with synchronisation software so that you can move the data from your computer on to your phone and back again. At first thought this may not be a useful feature, but if you do keep your phone in sync with your computer and you happen to lose or damage your phone it is a simple task to restore all the data.

Smart phones take this convergence to the next logical level and in some instances can actually become a replacement for your laptop or desktop computer as a whole - and certainly when you are away from your desk. Like computers and phones there are many different makes and models of smart phones on the market, each has it's own strength.

When deciding on a smart phone you'll need to consider things like form factor (size), operating system, brand and input method. Do you want a smart phone that fits in your pocket or are you happy carrying it in your bag. Are you happy inputting information with a stylus and a touch-screen or would you prefer a keyboard (full-size or half-size). What sort of networking do you need? Will GPRS be enough or would you like WiFi to connect? Most importantly you'll need to decide which operating your smart phone uses. A large majority use Windows Mobile - a stripped down version of Windows that is 100% compatible with Windows XP, but doesn't work well with other operating systems like Mac OS X or would you prefer to go Symbian - an operating system designed that is fast and open. If neither of those suit you can choose also choose between a BlackBerry or a Palm Treo.

Here are a variety of different smart phone options, each with their own advantages:

Nokia 9500 Communicator
Size: Large
Best Features: Large screen, easy wifi setup, compatible with MS Office, nice keyboard, can be used as a regular phone when flip closed
Worst Features: Too big, doesn’t sync with Mac OS X
Price: $1100

Nokia E61
Size: Medium
Best Feature: Bright clear display, intuitive interface, good speakerphone
Worst Feature: Joystick hard to operate, doesn’t sync with Mac OS X

Nokia N91
Size: Small
Best Feature: Large hard drive, 3G means fast internet access, good speakerphone, great camera
Worst Feature: Slow to access hard drive, slow interface, doesn’t sync with Mac OS X

O2 Atom
Size: Small
Best features: Built in Wifi, Voice dialing, 2MP camera
Worst Feature: ActiveSync 4.1 doesn't work correctly with third party firewall software, contacts could be better integrated with phone.
Price: $1029

Size: Large
Best Feature: Sound Quality, Built-in keyboard
Worst Feature: Size and weight
Price: $1029

Palm Treo 650
Size: Large
Best Feature: Fast, built-in keyboard
Worst Feature: Requires frequent restarts, ageing operating system, external aerial

BlackBerry 8700v
Size: Medium
Best Feature: Integrated email client, Fast, clean operating system. Very stable
Worst Feature: Not compatible with standards like vcard and vcal

Sony Ericsson M600
Size: Small
Best Feature: Compact Size, bright screen, simple user interface
Worst Feature: No Wifi, No camera, Not yet released
Price: TBA