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ATPM 14.01
January 2008





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Mac About Town

by Mike Chamberlain,

How Did I End Up Here?

Well, that’s embarrassing! My #1 gadget hope for 2007 is a matter of record. It was a “MacPhone.” A couple of weeks after my January column appeared, Uncle Steve came through for the faithful (albeit with a delayed shipping date) and we were all agog at the iPhone. I dutifully entered my e-mail address on both Apple’s and AT&T’s Web sites and for the next five months soaked up the news and speculation about the machine of my dreams. June found me in a new location thanks to a job change. Everything is up to date in Kansas City, as the song goes. It’s fully covered by AT&T’s 3G network, and we even have an Apple store! I knew that my new iPhone was only a matter of time.

So, here I am at the end of the year with my new phone in hand, happy that I have finally pushed my way through all the decision gates and comparisons and false starts. The only surprise to me, and the source of some personal embarrassment I must admit, is that my new phone is a Treo 775p.

Now before you report me to Scott Bourne as a “hater,” let me say that I am still hopeful that one day Apple will produce the phone that I’m looking for—it just hasn’t done it yet. Who knows, perhaps Steve will have a new form factor at this year’s Macworld Expo. Nonetheless, there are some concrete reasons that I am using a Palm-based Treo and not an iPhone:

  1. A ton of software: The Palm OS may be getting long in the tooth, but the truth is that it is very stable and has built up an impressive library of software of both productive and entertaining varieties. Moving to the Treo allowed me to bring all my Palm applications with me to add to Treo functionality. Unlike the iPhone, there are no barriers to further software development. Some of the best productivity applications, for instance, overlay the Palm’s core application’s data to bring additional flexibility. It doesn’t seem to have posed any particular danger to the phone’s functioning. Apple has other considerations, of course. The iPhone truly is a mobile computer and thus, one would assume, more susceptible to malware. Perhaps Apple needs to be cautious, but the caution has come at a price.
  2. Enterprise support: Leo LaPorte, for one, has argued from the beginning that the iPhone is more of a video iPod that makes phone calls than a phone that shows video. I think he’s right. The evidence for the argument can be found in the enterprise functionality (non-functionality would be more accurate) of the iPhone’s basic software. We get Cover Flow for browsing our music, for instance, but no way to manage and manipulate tasks or to extend the limited options available within iCal. I’d be happy to have the iPhone on my vacation, but day-to-day in the office, the Treo has everything I need and then some.
  3. Toughness: I’m hard on my phones—and my PDAs for that matter. I can’t count the times that I have had my phone hit the floor and watched the battery and cover come off, or dropped my PDA and had the SD card and stylus pop out. I’ve never held the iPhone without a vision of what dropping it would look like. They aren’t pretty images. My Treo, on the other hand, seems to be a pretty stout piece of gear sporting an attractive non-slip case that fits snuggly in my paw.
  4. AT&T: Speed, cost, service. ’Nuf said. I’m sticking with Sprint.
  5. Undefinables: Lastly, there was the issue of the bricking. I’m not a person who would tamper with the software of my iPhone, so I wasn’t personally threatened by the bricking of unlocked phones. I don’t even believe that they did it maliciously. That doesn’t prevent me, however, from being troubled by the thought that Apple has been tainted by its association with the cell phone industry and has acted more in keeping with that industry’s standards of behavior than with their own corporate identity—at least what I have thought Apple’s identity to be.

I’m content that I finally have a phone that really meets my personal and business needs. I’m just surprised that it isn’t an Apple. I continue to dream of the day when I can bring my newly-purchased, fully-functional, modifiable, open Apple phone to whatever carrier I choose and have it my way .

In the meantime, however, I’ll be waiting for the call from Steve on my Treo.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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Reader Comments (6)

Rich Shields · January 2, 2008 - 10:23 EST #1
Thanks. I have been a satsified Sprint customer for 6 years. After being a voice-only person, last week I purchased a Palm Centro (mini Treo), and find it very convenient and easy to setup and use. Speed has never been an issue, Sprint is fast, very fast, and reliable. I traveled to western Kansas this past weekend, and not one miss or hiccup in service or speed.

You are correct, it (Palm/Sprint) gives me everything I need and want.... and "it just works!" Where have I heard that before?
Stephen Ward · January 2, 2008 - 10:55 EST #2
Funnily enough... -- I did exactly the same thing, recently! However, I went to eBay and purchased myself a two-year-old Treo 650! (A cast-off from someone buying an iPhone, I wonder!?)

I've been using Palms since a trusty Palm III many years ago (and graduated through Handsprings and a Sony Clié NX70V); and, although my personal computer has always been an Apple (starting with a Mac Plus, and now an iMac), I see no reason why my handheld _or_ my mobile needs to be the same brand (especially when I needed a _very_ good reason to combine my Motorola V3 and Clié -- which the iPhone currently isn't...).

Also: I've always found Palms to be exceptionally reliable; and the sheer amount of software available (much of which I seem to have bought or tried over the years) is overwhelming -- and often lovingly crafted by developers who respond immediately to bug reports and feature requests, etc. (even if the company itslef is a little flaky ;-).
Michael Moon · January 2, 2008 - 12:22 EST #3
I agree with most points Mike raises. And I'm likely to make the same Treo 755p (not your 775p typo, Mike!) purchase despite my allegiances to Apple. My wife informed me that she wants to get me a phone for my birthday this year to replace my Treo 600. My salivary glands went into overdrive as I instantly imagined my very own iPhone in my hands. But, then, reality set in. First, we're dedicated Verizon customers. Not because of our contract, but because we've been treated decently by their customer service and the coverage everywhere we go is excellent. Second, when I was playing (note choice of word) with my sister's iPhone last summer, I also got the distinct sense that 'serious productivity tool' was not a good descriptor for the hot gadget, no matter how much its packaging and design appealed to me. I've tolerated the heavy, bulky Treo 600 for years mainly because it's a PDA/phone/QWERTY keyboarded memo buddy. Prior to the Treo's release, I had been one of those geeky jugglers of a PDA and cell phone. Now I'm only a geek without the juggling. Only the phone function seemed to be present in the iPhone (I couldn't get comfortable with the iPhone's touch screen keypad -- no tactile feedback). Third, I use Palm Desktop and it has tons of my personal info that would take too much time/effort to transfer to an iPhone-usable format. Even though I find Palm Desktop laughable and pathetic (at least for the Mac), I still use it because it's the most convenient PDA-computer software I've been able to find (Palm, PLEASE update the Desktop for Mac!).

I've also dropped my Treo and done ridiculous things to it and it looks almost like it did when I purchased it some 4 years ago. I can't imagine the highly chrome polished surface of the iPhone comfortably sustaining such abuse. And the profile of the iPhone -- while allowing its stunningly beautiful screen to shine -- is too large for me to comfortably carry around. Finally, I've got a classic iPod nano (3rd gen) that is in my pocket all the time, so that relieves me from needing the iPhone music function.

I loved my 12" PowerBook, I love my 15" MacBook Pro and my 3rd gen iPod Nano. But I just couldn't love an iPhone for what I'd need it to do for me. I still get excited when I see one and hold one in my hands, but it's just not the productivity tool my finite pocket space requires.

Thanks, Mike!
Ximula · January 3, 2008 - 09:00 EST #4
Re. #5: what exactly is it about the iPhone bricking that doesn't remind you of Apple's core philosophy? It's not the first time the company has shown a disregard for the consumer/developer. In fact, I'd say the iPhone bricking is the opposite of what you think of Apple: it is exactly in keeping with the core philosophy of Apple, ie serving its needs as a business first and foremost.
David Thompson (ATPM Staff) · January 9, 2008 - 09:35 EST #5
Thanks for the interesting comments on the iPhone and Palm devices. I've owned and used a number of phones and PDA's over the years and have a few observations, based on my experience.

I'm currently an iPhone user. It isn't a perfect device and there are features it lacks I'd like to have, but I think it suits me for now. I gave up my BlackBerry for my iPhone and think it was a reasonable trade. I don't send much email from my phone, but I do read my email on my phone, so the iPhone works. I miss the BlackBerry keyboard, but I don't miss the hassle of synchronizing the BlackBerry and my Macs.

I started with a U.S. Robotics PalmPilot many years ago and moved through a series of PDA's and phones, searching for something "optimal" that conforms to my way of working. Palm devices were stable and offered a reasonable software selection. When I switched to Macs, they worked with my Macs. Windows-mobile devices were fun and capable, but not stable -- at least with the software suite I was using with them. Plus, after I switched, persuading a Windows-mobile device to talk to a Mac was, um, challenging. Yeah, that's the word!

Ultimately, I decided I wanted to carry only one device. So, my PDA's went away and I searched for a smartphone capable of helping me manage my life as well as talk. The BlackBerry was a pretty good approximation. But, my frustration with synchronization made it less than what I wanted.

So, I bought iPhones for Wife and me. She's happy as a clam. I can send and receive email from the variety of accounts I actively use. I don't send a lot of email, but I can if I need to. I can track my calendar and do some minor 'net surfing. The maps application is good and I appreciate access to stock quotes and weather.

The iPhone needs a task manager. It needs an integrated GPS receiver (and application). With those two changes, I'd be happy.

I gave up on Sprint after a nasty customer-service issue. This happened when I was looking for a solution that ultimately led me to the BlackBerry. I got such a run-around that I gave up in frustration, bought Wife and I out of our contracts, and switched carriers. Their network was great; they dropped the ball on service.
Charlie Trexler · January 30, 2008 - 17:30 EST #6
Palm did in the beginning not support the Mac, only with poor software. If it hadn't been for third party software we, the Mac community, were left in the cold.
Nows my chance to jump ship and support who has been good to me. I will not part with my iPhone and work through the wrinkles with Apple, after all this is 100x's more support then with Palm.

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