February 11, 2005 spout

i-mate SP3 Smartphone: How do I love thee?

Let me count the ways:

  1. Pocket-sized and no bigger than my old dumb phone and tons smaller than tricorder-sized PDAs
  2. Synchronized calendar, contacts and inbox every 10 minutes everywhere I go
  3. IM and web browsing everywhere I go
  4. 512MB miniSD upgrade (for $60), giving me room enough for 300+ minutes of songs/audio books, making the phone a wonderful mp3 player, both for personal use (via the included stereo headphones) and in my car (via a $3 Radio Shack part, the Audio Adapter 274-373)
  5. Bluetooth headset, freeing me from untaggling wires all the damn time and letting me answer the phone while it’s still in my pocket
  6. Voice tags, letting my dial the phone while it’s still in my pocket
  7. Extensible with inexpensive custom apps of all kinds, including ones I can build myself in native or managed code (and a wealth of development information)
  8. Backlit ebook for darkened movie theaters during the commercials and the slow bits
  9. A quicky flashlight in a pinch
  10. Theoretically acts as a modem for my PC to give it an internet connection via my cell phone’s GPRS service, although I haven’t gotten that set up yet : )

That’s not to say that all is well. The following mars the i-mate’s perfection:

  1. When the keypad is locked and a notification pops up, the screen remains dark, but the Unlock button turns into the Dismiss button, which dismisses the notification w/o showing it first
  2. Notifications can only be snoozed for 5 minutes
  3. No WMP10 and WMP9 on the smartphone has terrible playlist management
  4. A dearth of web sites targeted at the smart phone. I’ve only found msnbc.com so far. I really miss a decent movie showtime info web site (imdb.com works, but it’s a pain)
  5. Cramped screen and keyboard (I’ve heard the Motorola MPx220 flip phone solves this problem)
  6. Doesn’t use Wi-Fi when it’s available
  7. No FM radio

It’s my understanding that some of these flaws are fixed in the later smartphones (like the Audiovox SMT5600), but even with the issues I mention, I can’t imagine that someone with a cell phone wouldn’t pick a smart one over a dumb one, nor can I imagine that more then a relative few would prefer a PDA to a smart phone. The smart phone represents a perfect storm of form factor, capability and developer tools. Keep your hands and feet inside the ride, boys and girls, it’s going to be a wild ride.