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Breaking Up is Hard To Do

Fri Jun 29, 2007 - 11:03 AM EDT - By Mike Overbo


Mike Overbo will be doing most of his writing over at our new sister site dedicated to the iPhone, Phone different. Check it out for iPhone launch-day news today and iPhone news and reviews well into the future! -- Dieter

So I'm hours away from waiting for about 12 hours to get my hands on an iPhone, and I'm not really sure how I got here. I'm diving into an untested platform with an uncertain SDK. I'm not really excited about web apps: I'm not really excited to trust all of my information to what (at least right now) often seems to amount to some person's Computer Science project. I'm going to miss the ability to play games on a plane. I'm going to miss TomTom Navigator (even my featurephone can be hacked to do GPS with Java!). I'm faced with the fact that there's (as of yet) no ability to import or edit ringtones (though that might be on the way too. I'm not sure about the software keyboard; most reviews indicate that it will take me a few weeks to get used to it. There's no A2DP (stereo bluetooth), even though A2DP makes more sense on an iPhone than on any other device. So maybe it's coming, maybe it's not. I have no idea, and Apple's not really the kind of company to tell you until the last minute, or until it's too late.

But here I am, hours away from waiting for about 12 hours to get my hands on an iPhone. What led me here? How did it come to this? I've stuck with Palm one way or another for what seems like ages. I supported who knows how many Palm OS smartphones, more Palm Zires than anyone probably wants to hear about, and made my way through 3 of their smartphones; 4 if you count the busted one. I've spent about $120 worth of applications and have maybe $200 invested in memory cards and I'm just kissing that goodbye. I'm leaving T-Mobile (#1 ranked in my area) for AT&T (dangerously close to Sprint customer satisfaction in my area) and paying $150 for the privelege of breaking my contract, and I'm on the verge of another $600. It's not like I can really afford this. Seriously, what happened?

For one, the promise of software updates. Apple has stated they'd add functionality to the iPhone over the course of the next 2 years, so who knows what they've got in store. Maybe A2DP will be enabled next week. Maybe Exchange functionality comes next month. Who knows? I'm ready to put my trust in a company that hasn't screwed me yet; I'm that surly about Palm not giving us software updates in any reasonably decent way.

The user interface looks good too. I've griped at length about Microsoft's UI choices on Windows Mobile (Dieter is really the one that's suffered most here (I've done ok by myself ;-) --Dieter). I like the power but can't stand their menubars that take 10% of my precious 240x240, and who knows when Photon (the next version of WM) will be available. I have to say that the Palm OS interface has been good to me. Yes, it looks old and it hasn't changed in roughly forever and it doesn't multitask, but it did what I needed it to do, Now, though, I'm tired of buying phones that Palm forgets about once sold.

The form factor matters, too -- The iPhone is thin, and will fit easier in my pocket. I'm weary of physical keyboards because they dominate the form factor, and keep me away from the most important aspect of the phone: the screen. I'm ready to try something new. Palm's keyboards are best-of-breed, and I'm sure they pride themselves on that, but I think they've become too attached to the form factor they perfected.

The screen is huge, which means I can finally browse the web somewhat normally without having to install some weird unsupported variant of IBM's websphere Java and hope that I can get beta versions of Opera Mini to load (the situation is both better and worse on Windows Mobile with a 240x240 screen). I'll miss Java (yes, even you, J2ME) though I don't know why. Heck: I may even miss Flash and I may not. Every 3 great flash videos or games are offset by one horrible flash ad that launches noise at me.

I look forward to the deletion of Palm Desktop on my computers. I've used Palm Desktop for almost ten years, but it feels like more. Not as long as some here, but long enough to fear duplicate entries and searching through logs to figure out why the HotSync failed. I'm tired of it. I no longer want to troubleshoot why something broke, I just want it to work. Maybe the iPhone will be just as much trouble, maybe it won't. If it's as easy as the iPod, I'll be a happy camper. Speaking of iPods, the iPod video functionality is a bonus.

I'm not selling my Treos or anything. I won't stop doing the podcast. I'm not taking Palm focused sites out of my RSS feeds. Outside of the iPhone, I think Palm is still the most interesting company in the smartphone field. I still think Palm has the ways and means to innovate (I'll wager they'll be a market leader in Linux smartphones) and I'd like to see what other smartphone form factors Jeff Hawkins has in mind. I'm just not sure they're going to give me what I need in the next year.

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