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Now I Need A New Phone (er, PDA)

As I mentioned before, I was on the road in Brisbane this week poking at customer implementations of ISA Server, troubleshooting the odd problem, and generally Chatting About Things. I don’t usually get nearly enough time to do that sort of thing, but it was both enjoyable and interesting, so I’ll try to make more opportunities to do the same again.

[Aside: Speaking of which, it’s plug time – I’ll be at Tech.Ed on the Gold Coast (*who won’t!?*) so if you’ve got a crazy design to share or sanity check, bring a Visio printout (or a Tablet or laptop, whatever). All care taken, no responsibility accepted.]

While I was up there, I developed a newfound appreciation for my Smartphone as a mobile computing thingamabob. Being able to get email remotely sounds like a good idea, and it is, despite the tiny form factor (it’s amazing how much you can read from the little screen). On one occasion, it saved my bacon by being able to synchronize an email containing a correction to a mistyped phone number on the fly; in cabs and at the airport, it helped me plan and adjust my schedule – while not requiring me to actually interrupt anyone else by doing anything as crude as talking to them! And the battery life is fantastic for me- I typically get at least 2 full days’ use (manual email syncs, 5 short calls/day) out of it as a mobile computer, often more.

But it’s not perfect for everything. A bunch of times while on tour, I’ve wanted to send a reasonably complex email, or quickly write down a bunch of notes and a diagram, and there ain’t no diagramming with the joystick (which is probably something of a blessing, I always kinda sucked at Etch-a-sketch), and I’m not really fond of tapping out huge missives on a 12 key keypad, so I’ve had to turn to my trusty laptop, which has a hard upper limit of about 1.5 hours of Just Sitting There – mileage may vary with actual use – and its not-really-bulky-but-still-kinda-heavy-and-annoying power supply if I need to do any serious work on it.

Ideally, I’d love to be able to leave the laptop in the hotel, or at the office, and just take a PDA with me when I’m out and about. But a PDA on its own isn’t good enough any more, and I’d like to minimize the number of devices I carry (back in the late 90s, it was a badge of honour to have both my old Nokia mobile phone (fitted with large survive-the-whole-day-talking battery pack), and a Jornada 420 clipped to my belt. And admittedly my belt’s now able to support even more devices at once, but it’s the principle of the thing – I want convergence!).

Looking around, I think the near-ideal PDA for me is coming this year. My list includes:

  • Keyboard! I’m a reasonably accomplished On Screen Keyboard pecker, but I often prefer a thumb keyboard to an OSK

  • Touch Screen for scribbling

  • 640×480 resolution (or better – I’ve seen this cropping up in PDAs, but not in PDA Phones so far)

  • Phone capabilities (including data, natch)

  • Must survive at least 8 hours of intermittent use before needing a charge

  • Erm, Windows Mobile. 2003SE or later. Must eat own dog food (and at the moment with the SP3i, I’d have to say it tastes pretty good).

For bonus marks:

  • USB connectivity

  • Microdrive storage (1-10GB)

  • WiFi

  • MP3 (OK, you got me, WMA) playback @ >=128K

I did the smallest amount of research possible, and the HTC Universal looks like it covers the basics, and might be available this year, though I wouldn’t complain if it was even smaller. I was thinking PDA2K, but I’d like the screen resolution to be higher.

Anyone know of any others? What else is out there that could conceivably replace most of a Windows laptop, in a PDA form factor?