Monday, August 07, 2006

I hope it doesnt suck

Well, it's that time of year again, phone contract renewal. Of course along with my contract renewal, comes my "free" phone upgrade, wherein I get to purchase a new phone from T-Mobile for the same price as a new customer.

Actually, it's really not that bad a deal, usually about $200 less than the retail price of the phone.

This year, it's coming at a very opportune time, because both my phone, and my PDA are both starting to die on me; AND because I need wireless data service for my job.

I've had my Motorola RAZR for a year, and my Palm Tungsten-T for three years now; and both are still working, but have intermittent issues, or just age issues.

The RAZR has only one jack for power, headset, and data transfer, and it's a miniusb A port; which has loosened up to the point where the connection is sometimes intermittent. It's a real PITA, because often I lose calls when I'm on my headset, or I'll take the hone off the charger after a night of charging, and it wont have charged fully because the cable got bumped or something.

The Palm is functioning entirely properly, but the conformal lithium polymer cell is slowly losing battery capacity. It's not dead by any means, but the capacity is down.. I dunno, about 1/2 maybe, from when I first bought it.

On the connectivity side, the Palm doesnt support WiFi, or wide area wireless data (like EDGE or EVDO), and the RAZR only supports GPRS data, which is slooooooow.

So for a while I've been thinking about a Treo, but I don't really like them. They dont feel great as either a PDA or a phone. Worse from my standpoint, t-mobile, who I've been very happy with, stopped carrying the Treo series earlier this year, in favor of their own new branded smartphone the MDA-III (in the US it's just called the MDA, but this is the third revision, the other two were europe only).

The MDA is a Windows Mobile 5 device, which I really don't care for, but it does mean it pretty much just works with a bunch of stuff from Microsquish and others. As much as I love the Palm platform, support for it has been dropping steadily for several years now; and current software for it is getting more expensive; while the opposite is true for Windows Mobile.

I figured I'd look at the reviews, and see what they said. So I read about 30 reviews, all pretty positive, except for the fact that it doesnt come with a memory card (they're cheap), and the processor is slower than the competition; but it's still fast enough to play videos and music, which is all I really care about.

So anyway, I've decided to take the plunge, and take advantage of getting the thing for $250.

The good bits? It's a quad band world phone with GPRS data and EDGE service; and should be firmware upgradeable to the 3G/EDGE being rolled out next year (in theory 256k data, in reality 150k or so, but with 3g its 512k), because it's built in to the phone, it jsut isnt turned on by T-Mobile. It can act as a EDGE modem for connected computers as well, and a plain faxmodem; plus it's got built in WiFi and Bluetooth. In fact, the MDA standard wireless plan gives you unlimited T-Mobile WiFi hotspot use; which means in a heck of a lot of places you can get full WiFi and not jsut edge bandwidth.

It's also got a built in qwerty keyboard, a half decent digicam for a phone, and it's supposed to have really excellent battery life.

Most importantly though, it should be big enough to be a real PDA, but still small enough to be comfortable as a phone; which was my biggest problem with the Treos. With the treo, putting the keyboard and the screen on one surface ment both were squeezed unacceptably, and the phone was way too wide. With the MDA, you do pay for the extra real estate in thickness, but you get a much bigger keyboard and screen.

Minuses? Well theres no dedicated numeric keypad, and the processor is only 200mhz, instead of the 400 on most competitors devices; but benchmarks show its actually only about 30% slower, and its jsut fine for playing MP3s and small video, plus ebooks, which is why I really want it in the first place. It also means losing my investment in Palm software, but it's all amortized by now anyway.

The biggest minus for me is windows mobile in general, which I just havent liked whenever I've used it, but as I said before, the support for it is huge and growing, whereas Palm is shrinking.

So, here's hoping it doesnt suck. Anyone have the thing (or the nearly identical model offered by Cingular) and want to share their experience?