Help me get smart about smartphones
January 22, 2008 9:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to make the switch from a cell phone and PDA to a smartphone. You are not my personal IT department, but I'd love to hear your recommendations anyway.

The specifics:

* My current PDA is a Palm Tungsten E2. I'm very comfortable with the Palm OS, but if I could transfer all of my stuff (see next bullet) easily to another OS, I could be persuaded to leave Palm.
* The PIM aspect is important to me: I like having contacts, task lists, and notes combined into one device.
* I've recently switched my e-mail to Gmail for my domain, so strength in Web browsing would be a plus as far as e-mail is concerned.
* I still have a year left on my AT&T Mobile contract, so I need something that's AT&T-friendly.
* I'll definitely be using the device for its calling capabilities; much less so for IMing.

What do you use? What would you use if you were me? Thanks, as always, in advance.
posted by shallowcenter to Technology (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
iPhone. It does everything you need, AT&T friendly, and is teh sexy to boot. Plus, Palm is dying and Windows Mobile 6 is looks like a failed abortion, unless you need Blackberry push email for work, get the iPhone.
posted by grumpy at 9:25 AM on January 22, 2008

well, the iphone, obviously. i love it.
posted by mpls2 at 9:26 AM on January 22, 2008

Blackberry. Its the only one that gets you the emails right away. In my line of work, that's everything.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:31 AM on January 22, 2008

The only thing I don't like about my blackberry is the inability to flag e-mail for follow-up, as I can in the regular Outlook client. I use that feature a lot to keep track of things that need particular attention, and it's a bummer not to be able to do that when I'm on the go. Otherwise, I've been pretty satisfied with it as a PIM/phone. The Gmail client is pretty good, too. Add in the Ramble IM client and I'm good to go.

But I'd drop it all in a New York minute for an iPhone
posted by jquinby at 9:43 AM on January 22, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, all, and keep 'em coming. Some follow-ups, if you don't mind: mpls, what do you like specifically about the iPhone? grumpy, is there a desktop client for the i's PIM functions so that you have a back-up? jquinby, why would you ditch the BlackBerry that you're generally happy with for an i?
posted by shallowcenter at 9:47 AM on January 22, 2008

The iPhone really doesn't have "PIM" functions. All the PIM stuff - sans contact management - is done thru online apps. The PIM functionality of a Palm device is heads and shoulders above the iPhone. If you weren't stuck with ATT, I would say go have a look at the centro - it's a damn good palm device and it's a decent phone. I'm not personally familiar with any palms devices able to be used on the ATT network. I have a Nokia e61, ATT has the e61i. These are really nice devices, you should have a look them. The PIM functionalities are on par with the Palm, but they work well enough for me.
posted by bigmusic at 10:01 AM on January 22, 2008

I have an iPhone, its a great phone. Web is great, PIM aspects not so much. It has no tasklist/todos. The notes application sucks.

IIRC, you need to add another 2 years to your contract if you the get the iPhone.
posted by mphuie at 10:03 AM on January 22, 2008

It is old, but I am very happy with my Treo 650. I have passed on an iPhone for the time being to keep using it. You have to ask it to fetch email, and that can take a little bit, and the browser isn't as nice as the iPhone. But it has a very nice keyboard, and you are already with familiar with the Palm software. You can get a Treo 680 for AT&T for less than $200 with a plan.
posted by procrastination at 10:05 AM on January 22, 2008

I alwas promote BlackBerry's on here. They're the tried and true for a reason, they just work. The PIM stuff is solid, push email is great, and despite what everyone says, there are a lot of third-party applications to choose from. The BlackBerry curve is best-of-breed IMO (now, if Sprint or Verizon would pick it up, that would even better).

I'm not trying to detract from the iPhone. It is a great accomplishment. As with all Apple products though, I would wait for revision 2 before making the leap.
posted by purephase at 10:12 AM on January 22, 2008

Seconding procrastination: Treo 650 user eligible for a new phone (but from Verizon, who never have any cool phones...). I'm still hanging onto the Treo right now. It's not as awkwardly large as it looks, it works great as a phone, has a 'real' keypad (I view this as a plus, and it's a QWERTY one to too boot), has a gorgeous (touch)screen, and has a zillion apps. Plus, you're already familiar with Palm.

Yes, it looks like Palm the company is dying, but my Treo rocks, and I think its replacement might be a newer Treo. Don't expect the sexy interface of the iPhone, but do expect something that works great.
posted by fogster at 10:21 AM on January 22, 2008

Oh, there's GMail for the Treo. I know there were some initial problems getting it to work; I think they don't support it on Verizon. But I got it to work anyway, and it's great. It does require a Java VM (which is a free download, at least for Treo 650 users, from Palm).

As procrastination says, though, the web browser isn't so hot, IMHO. Might want to play around with it in a store if you're sold on a web browser feature.
posted by fogster at 10:23 AM on January 22, 2008

Response by poster: The iPhone's lack of PIM functionality and its price tag have me shying away from it.

Wish the Treos got better browser reviews here. Blackberry users, what do you think of your browsers?
posted by shallowcenter at 10:49 AM on January 22, 2008

I was going to get an iphone, but it's more a toy than a business tool. I settled on a AT&T Tilt once I realized the iphone lacks:

-send MMS
-take video
-handwriting recognition
-physical keyboard

I switched over from verizon after having a treo 650 for 2 years and I was sick of waiting for vzw to get a modern handset selection. My treo had begun a restart loop about 1.25 years into its life and getting 3-10 minutes of usage out of my phone until it would reboot itself was pretty harrowing for 9 months. Also, it seems that there is a fix for migrating from palm to wm. The voice call quality on the Tilt is much better than the treo ever was. The other phone I wanted was the Nokia N95, but the lack of qwerty keyboard turned me off.
posted by knowles at 10:54 AM on January 22, 2008

I love my iPhone for many reasons, but task management isn't one of them yet. It syncs contacts great (I use an iMac), it works with Highrise, and web browsing in general works really well. But there's no task manager, and the notes feature doesn't sync to your main system.

If there's an online info manager you like, that would probably work with an iPhone, but it could work slowly (dial-up speed) in some areas, depending on the strength of your connection.
posted by PatoPata at 11:27 AM on January 22, 2008

"* I've recently switched my e-mail to Gmail for my domain, so strength in Web browsing would be a plus as far as e-mail is concerned."

Gmail has an imap server, an imap server that seemingly supports imap idle. Any smartphone that supports that (and most do) will give you an experience close to push email - without having to check the website.
posted by Olli at 11:30 AM on January 22, 2008

I'd like to address one concern here--lack of particular iPhone applications.

Apple will be releasing an SDK in February (next month) for developers to develop actual apps for the iPhone. I guarantee that all of the holes in the iPhone's app lineup will be filled by summer.
posted by mpls2 at 11:35 AM on January 22, 2008

I have a Palm Centro, which I believe is only on Sprint for now... it's excellent for everything I need, including quite a lot of web browsing and emailing. I use an email program called Chatter that works with my IMAP'd Gmail account, so all my mail is synchronized across my platforms, which is great.
The phone itself is really nice, with a very loud speakerphone, great sound quality, and a nice small form factor (though clearly not nearly as fancy-looking as the iPhone).

This is not so helpful for the OP, but I got my Centro for $99, and with the Sprint SERO plan I pay $30/month for 500 minutes and unlimited high-speed data. So anyone in the market for a smartphone, definitely check it out.
posted by allen8219 at 12:37 PM on January 22, 2008

Response by poster: I've had my eye on the Centro and keep hoping that it'll make the jump to AT&T to give me another option. Centro users, are the keyboard and screen sizes to your liking?
posted by shallowcenter at 12:40 PM on January 22, 2008

Personally I like the size of the Centro, but sometimes I am bit jealous of my friends' Blackberries. The keyboard is a bit small... definitely fine and usable, but when I type on a Blackberry it just seems... luxurious.

The screen is great, very sharp and bright. The touchscreen feature works well, too, and I virtually never use my stylus, just my fingertip or fingernail (for clicking on tiny things).
posted by allen8219 at 12:45 PM on January 22, 2008

Used a Treo for years, dumped it for an iPhone. Haven't looked back.

As others have said there are a few holes in the software lineup ,but now that they're releasing the SDK I have zero doubt that they'll all be filled in shortly. By me, if necessary.
posted by tkolar at 1:30 PM on January 22, 2008

If you want something smaller/cheaper than a BB or iphone, I have a suggestion.
You can't get one from AT&T anymore (it was the hot-stuff phone back in the Cingular days, but still works just fine with AT&T services), but try ebay, etc, for the HTC/Cingular 3125 or "StarTrek" phone. There should still be quite a few around, even NIB, and you should just be able to pop your AT&T SIM card in and go.
Windows Mobile 5 w/ActiveSync, so it syncs automatically with Outlook for your PIM needs.
For a flip-phone not much bigger than a RAZR, it has a much better screen, and a menu layout/interface that does actually make the PIM stuff useful for such a small phone.
IE for web, but it is actually readable on the screen

Music player is pretty good, but the output is a nonstandard connector, so you'll need to hunt down an adapter for regular headphones, or get bluetooth stereo headphones (work great on mine). Camera's lame, but most phones are. I almost never text, but I can enter a new task/appointment or whatever easily enough on the standard phone keypad.

The size makes it a "stealth" smartphone. You may wonder how you ever lugged the Treo around.
posted by bartleby at 2:19 PM on January 22, 2008

Treo 680 or 750p. I have a 650 and I'm smitten with it. I had the 600 before and it could only get better. If AT&T had the 750p I'd get that too (Windows Mobile is teh suck). And I can play NES games on it, compose music (with Bhajis Loops), play MP3s, MP4 movies, view photos, FTP, VNC, decent browser, great keyboard, super-fast response. And a touchscreen. You gotta have a touchscreen!
posted by ostranenie at 2:28 PM on January 22, 2008

I absolutely ADORE my HTC P3600i which is known also, I think, as the Trinity and the Dopod 810.
I've had mine since September and am very happy with it. Sometimes I wish it had a keyboard to make emailing and IRCing faster as tapping away on the on screen keyboard or using handwriting recognition is very fiddly.

The basic features of Windows Mobile 6 are hugely enhanced by third party software such as SPB's range of products, especually Diary & Pocket Plus.

A friend has an iPhone, and she was most impressed with the features on my HTC.
The camera is pretty mediocre and I don't think much of Co-Pilot Live 6 (the GPS software that I got with it) but everything else I love. I do quite a bit of web-browsing & email with it.
You can use Gmail's Pop functionality to access your gmail in the messenging application, or via whatever whatever browser you're using.
It takes 4GB memory cards - I have a 4GB microSD card in a micro to mini adapter in it at the moment
posted by goshling at 4:15 PM on January 22, 2008

Response by poster: I appreciate everyone's input. If you've been lurking but have something to say, by all means chime in. I'll continue to check back.
posted by shallowcenter at 6:20 PM on January 22, 2008

I have an iPhone. All is great, it blew my Treo out of the water- but you might want to wait for the 3G version to arrive. The guy at the Apple store told me today they were on the horizon by summer at the latest.
posted by bkeene12 at 8:02 PM on January 22, 2008

I *heart* my Blackberry Pearl but my SO just got a Blackjack II and he likes it so far. Both on AT&T. I don't use most of the features on the Pearl though, mainly email, SMS, and phone so I can't comment on anything else.
posted by tamitang at 8:17 PM on January 22, 2008

Got a Centro last month as my first smartphone, simultaneously upgrading my old cell phone and Palm V. I'm pleased so far. I didn't want to spend a lot of money, and was okay with signing on for another two years.

The only possible downside I can see for some people is that the microSD card installs under the battery cover -- not ideal if you'd expect to be swapping it out frequently. The Amazon reviews mentioned that it doesn't multitask, FWIW; not a problem for me.

Sprint has an exclusive on it for an initial few months (3? 6?), but then AT&T might get it.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:24 PM on January 22, 2008

BlackBerry. I have a Pearl. My wife has a Curve. We both love them. I heard several horror stories from coworkers over the Moto Q's and the Samsung BlackJacks (BlackJacks seemed to have a lot of battery problems).
posted by jeversol at 1:27 PM on January 24, 2008

Response by poster: A fascinating late comment, inasmuch as I had been looking very hard at the Qs and BlackJack IIs earlier today ...
posted by shallowcenter at 3:50 PM on January 24, 2008

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