I can’t say that I’m an early adopter when it comes to mobile devices. I was reluctant to carry a pager when it was first offered, because there were times when I felt that it was good to be out of reach. I was similarly reticent about a cell phone, especially because it was being offered by my employer. While it was great to have from a convenience perspective, I could also expect to receive plenty of calls “inviting” me to work on problems outside my normal work hours.
In truth, the problem hasn’t really been that bad. Once we got the ground rules set (no, I am not your personal on-call tech support), there really haven’t been that many annoying calls after hours. And most of the calls I do get have been fairly important.
Still, I’ve continued to buck the trend of increased mobile capacity. Some would joke that my cell phone still had a rotary dial. It was capable of sending and receiving text messages, but I never used it for that. It had a camera, but there was no convenient way to get the pictures off. I used it for phone calls, and that was it.
So why, after all this time, was I excited about upgrading to a smart phone? We’ve finally reached the point of device convergence. I can now carry around this thing called an HTC Evo. It replaces my cell phone. But it also replaces my mp3 player. With its 8 GB SD card, it has just as much storage space as my iRiver Clix, and I don’t have to carry another device. Plus, when I’m ready, I can upgrade it to 32 GB. It also replaces my PDA. Until about a year ago, I was using a Palm LifeDrive, a huge, slow device that gave me calendar and email access along with a few games and memos. All of that is now in the Evo. While the camera in the Evo isn’t nearly as good as my DSLR, it can keep pace with the point-and-shoot 8-megapixel camera that used to live in my laptop bag, and it also now takes the place of the Flip camera I used to carry around to do short video clips.
It hasn’t replaced my navigation system, but that’s only because I have an in-dash nav with an 8″ touch screen built into the dashboard of my car. If I were using a Garmin or a TomTom for navigation, I’d probably be leaving it behind at this point. It also hasn’t quite replaced the laptop, though I do find myself reaching for the phone to quickly check email, Twitter, and Facebook instead of waiting for the computer to boot.
I don’t have an ebook reader. But I do have some ebook apps for my phone. I don’t know yet if this is going to be good enough. I do know that it’s easier to read a book on the phone than it was to read one on my Palm, or even on the eee PC. But the jury’s definitely still out, and I have a lot of concerns about ebooks that aren’t related to any particular device.
So what’s that? Five devices replaced by one, along with the functionality to partially replace two or three others. That’s pretty significant. I don’t have to carry a bag full of devices around with me anymore. I don’t have to have a half dozen different chargers and interface cables and accessories. It’s all in one device.
There are down-sides, of course. I always shy away from those printer/scanner/fax/copier/coffee maker devices, because they never seem to do any of their various functions very well. In this case, the phone itself is not quite as easy to use as the old flip phone. And the camera is a little harder to use than the old Canon point-and-shoot. But the old phone didn’t pull my contacts directly from my Google account. And the old camera couldn’t scan barcodes and look them up online. In all, it’s a pretty good trade-off. I’m very impressed.
There are two things, so far, that I don’t like about the HTC Evo. The first is that the battery life sucks. With heavy use, it won’t make it through the day. Once the newness wears off, and I’m not using it all the time, I don’t think this will be much of an issue. But just in case, we’ve ordered an extra four batteries and two chargers (total cost, $33). See, unlike some companies, HTC lets you replace the battery. This should provide ample battery life in those situations where we need to go multiple days or periods of intense use without a full charge.
The other thing I’m not happy with is the wifi antenna. At least, I think it’s the antenna. Sitting on my front porch, I couldn’t even SEE my wireless network with the phone. This is in a location where the laptops don’t have any trouble at all. At work, too, where we’re flooded with wifi, it could barely make a connection. I’m hoping this can be fixed (and will be fixed) with a software update. Many people have complained about this, and it is quite annoying. Still, though, with the great G3 coverage, I haven’t missed the wifi that much.
Android is incredible. I’m very impressed by this operating system designed for mobile devices, and I’m convinced that anything running Windows, even a mobile version of Windows, just isn’t going to cut it. I get a similar feeling with the iPhone UI, though I haven’t really used it enough to make informed comments about it. I do really like the openness of Android. I can attach the phone to my computer, and it shows up as a drive. Try that with your iPhone. The apps marketplace is also more open, with no one saying that developers have to use a particular development platform, and no overbearing company taking a cut of each app sale. While I’m optimistic about the WebOS stuff that HP just purchased Palm to get, I think Android devices have a real future in the mobile market.
It’s still new. I still don’t know what the long term effects of this device will be. But I’m excited about it, and optimistic about it. That’s going to take a while to wear off.