I always feel cut off from the world whenever I am going out (either simply going downtown to shop and run errands or going out of town for a convention) and I’ve been looking for a small and cheap internet device / work station for a long time.
First, document.write(“”); I’ve looked at the Palm handhelds / PDAs, but that’s a technology that is limited and now getting outdated fast. The best solution is, of course, a laptop but the MacBooks are still expensive (over a 1k $) and with time I stopped believing in all those rumors of a Mac tablet or sub-notebook. So I started to seriously consider a Netbook that would either run Linux or Window instead (sacrilege!) and if the Asus Eee-PC seemed appealing at first, now I would rather favor the Acer Aspire. However, if those make excellent portable work stations and have many advantages (bigger screen, real keyboard), they’re not Apple products and therefore offer limited compatibility with the Mac.
So I was back considering a handheld-type device with the new 3G iPhone. This one has the advantage of combining both a phone and a handheld device (offering both Wi-Fi and 3G networks), but it’s somewhat expensive (not as much the device itself, but the network subscription), has only a 3.5“ screen, a tiny soft-keyboard and doesn’t offer any apps or softwares to actually do some work (like using Word, Excel, PDF files; I thought that I could type text using Google Docs but it doesn’t work, leaving only the possibility to type texts as notes or emails). I thought of saving money by getting an old iPhone, but buying second-hand electronic devices on the internet can be risky. For now I opted to try out the concept by purchasing one of the new second-gen iPod Touch. Wow.
The iPod Touch looks exactly like the iPhone, but doesn’t make phone calls (although I bet there will be some VOIP apps available soon). It also has the same disadvantages than the iPhone (small screen, tiny soft-keyboard, can read but not modify files), plus the fact that, without the 3G network, it is limited by the Wi-Fi availability.
Despite those serious handicaps, it is a superb internet device. It’s the gadget heaven. I can check any web pages, like Wikipedia, YouTube or Google—as well as all my emails—from any room of the house: from the TV room to my bed! There are tons of apps, from the useful programs to the funny games. I can check my calendar or contacts, the weather, the stocks, a Google map, listen to music, to radio stations (through wi-fi), watch a video or look at my photo albums, contact people via AIM, Facebook or Twitter, read eBooks, check the bus schedule, the news, the movie listing, or play a game to kill time. Absolutely amazing.
Of course, it is not perfect. The Mail app doesn’t identify and discard spam—like the desktop Mail does—so every hours I have dozens of junk mails to delete from my mail boxes. That’s annoying. And Montreal is a city without much Wi-Fi spots, so there’s not many places where I can check my emails and roam the web when I am downtown (so far, I have identify the Eaton Center food court as a nice wi-fi spot). Until we get a city-wide network, there are a few Boingo hot spots and a few WiFi directories.
For now it is a very useful device and I am quite happy with it. It offers the Mac’s compatibility with synching capability. In order to be able to do some real work when I am away, I am considering to later acquire a Netbook like the Acer Aspire (when I have a little more money).