I appreciate my iPod touch more now that I have a BlackBerry

I recently became a member of the CrackBerry crowd. My last three year contract ended in November, and I figured it was time to get something better than my old Motorola phone. I was thinking about the iPhone, but since I already had an iPod touch, I ended up going with the BlackBerry Curve. So far, I love it. Text messaging is much better, email access is fantastic (obviously), and I can hop online from anywhere if need be.

It hasn’t been a perfect experience however. I’ve run into a number of issues trying to figure out how to do things – simple things that took no time at all to figure out on the iPod touch. Here’s a small list of them:

  • One of the first things I did was open up the browser. It took me a ridiculously long time to figure out how to enter an address though! Eventually I figured out the menu button and the “Go to” option, but I found the iPod much easier – just scroll up and there’s the address bar.
  • Another problem was deleting messages. Very quickly I figured out how to delete a single message, but I couldn’t figure out how to delete multiple messages at once! I ended up searching for it, and found the CAPS button trick. The iPod was much easier – nice big edit button, which reveals checkboxes beside each item. Just really intuitive.
  • Settings are another issue. Changing the background on my iPod took barely any effort at all, but I once again had to Google for help with the BlackBerry. The menus just seem to make more sense on the iPod.
  • I like to keep the unread messages count cleared, and one day it was stuck at one. I checked the email inbox, the text messaging inbox, and both were empty. I once again turned to the web and found out that missed calls show up as unread messages! I then opened up the Call Log, but it didn’t clear! Turns out they show up as messages in the combined inbox. Confusing design.

There have been other issues of course, but these few stuck out. In general, I think the interface on the iPod/iPhone is just much more intuitive. I guess that’s not surprising, given Apple’s reputation for good design, but it still caught me off-guard.

Most of my searches end up at the the CrackBerry.com forums. I’m clearly not the only one who has run into these issues! Thanks to everyone who has contributed there – you’ve made it much easier for me to get up-to-speed with the BlackBerry!

Thoughts on pocket computing

Post ImageDickson and I had a discussion a couple weeks ago where I argued that mobile devices like Pocket PC’s, Palms, and BlackBerry’s would either disappear altogether or be forced to live with very niche market segments (ruggedized Pocket PC’s on oil fields, BlackBerry’s for rich executives, etc). Dickson didn’t completely agree with me, but I knew I wasn’t the only one. David Heinemeier recently gave up his smart phone:

I simply don’t have enough situations available where I need the power of a computer in the palm of my hand.

And so did Jason Fried:

I convinced myself I needed a smartphone when I really didn’t. What I really needed was Less Phone. A phone that made calls, picked up a strong signal, supported simple text messaging, and offered a dead simple calendar.

Smart phones are just one example of the kind of devices I think will go quietly into the night, and there are many more. Devices like the UMPC will probably exist for quite a while, if only because they are fully featured computing devices.

Let me first tell you why I think these devices will go away:

  • They are too complicated! Can anyone use a Pocket PC? I would argue you no. Can anyone use an iPod? It would be hard to argue against it.
  • Battery life sucks. (Though I agree this will get better, and that it doesn’t affect all devices, like the BlackBerry).
  • They are redundant. Why create pocket versions of all the applications we have on normal computers? Doesn’t it make more sense to simply use the normal versions? More on this in a second.
  • The screens are too small. You can read email, see the currently playing song, look up a phone number, and lots of other things. But can you do any real work on them? Can you write a document? Watch a presentation? Play a video game? There are so many things that the small screens just are not suited for. And when laptops have auxillary displays (coming with Vista) the need for a small device to quickly access calendar and contact information disappears.
  • They take up space. Why carry around a little pocket device when you already carry your cell phone, for example?

Most of my criticisms of these mobile devices are based on what I think is coming. So what do I think that is?

Computing surfaces will be everywhere, and you’ll carry your computer on a little memory stick or even just on your cell phone. Set the phone down on a table, and it turns into a full sized screen that you can use interact with your computer. Or you can use a kiosk that has been setup at the airport or hotel or wherever you are – it will read the memory stick or communicate with your phone. As soon as you sit down in your car, it can communicate with your phone so you can look up addresses or phone numbers using the in car computer. Your data is with you everywhere you go, Internet connection or not.

Obviously, the infrastructure we need for this kind of thing doesn’t exist yet, but it’s coming. Some of these technologies have already been demonstrated too, like the cell phone on the table thing. And that last point is particularly important. Conventional wisdom suggests that Google or Microsoft or someone will host all of our data online, so that we can access it anywhere. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Privacy is the biggest reason. And when the scenario I have described becomes possible, why would you store all your data online, except as a backup? You wouldn’t.

What do you think? Do you think pocket computing is going away? Do you think the vision I described above will become a reality? Just imagine what would be possible!