Okay, I’ll admit it–I lust after all of the shiny new handhelds that keep coming out. Sony’s PEG-UX50 looks amazing, and the Japan-only Zaurus SL-C760 is so far ahead of all of the other handhelds on the market that it’s scary. I mean, it has 4x the pixels of all of the Pocket PCs on the market, plus a (supposedly) usable keyboard.
There’s only one problem with all of these. I don’t have a clue what I’d do with them. I’ve owned a Palm III and a newer Clie, but they haven’t exactly changed my life, and in the end I stopped carrying them around, replacing them with a cell phone that syncs with my laptop. The phone is horrible for entering new information, but it can do it, and it’s okay at displaying calendar entries, so it does most of what I need on that front. Obviously, it’s pretty good at storing phone numbers, and iSync on the mac is actually usable now. In short, it all Just Works, which is what I want.
So, what would I do with a spiffy little handheld? Well, mostly play games. Store reference texts. Sometimes take notes. Maybe browse the web and deal with email. I mean, I’d dearly love a pocket-sized wireless web browser, but I’m too cynical to believe that any of them on the market really work right yet. I played with a Palm Tungsten C a few months ago, and the size, display, and keyboard were nice, but PalmOS really isn’t up to the Internet yet. It doesn’t multitask even slightly, and the startup time for the web browser was terrible–flipping back and forth between the browser and another palm app would drive you insane. Supposedly Sony’s browser is better, but I’ve never actually been able to get my hands on a Clie with a network card to play with.
The Zaurus obviously doesn’t suffer from PalmOS’s problems, since it runs Linux, but it has a host of other problems. Like, it’s completely incapable of syncing with my Mac. Plus, it isn’t easily available in the US. You need to tweak it to get it to display English at all. You need a CF wireless card to browse the net, and most of them stick out far enough to be a problem. Assuming that you want a wireless card, then you need to use a SD card for storage, but Linux’s SD support is weak. You’d be better off with a SD wireless card and a CF storage card, but the Zaurus doesn’t do SDIO, so the wireless card won’t work.
And so on. None of the Zaurus’s problem are really fatal by themselves, but the poor thing dies a death of 10,000 papercuts.
What I really want is for Apple to come out with a handheld, but they keep swearing up and down that it’s a dumb idea and they aren’t going to do it. I’d love to see a slightly bigger-then-average handheld with wireless and bluetooth, and maybe even a GSM phone, a VGA (or better) display, and tablet-style clamshell design. I’d really love to see it with a 1.8” hard drive, or even one of the cheap 1.5GB drives that are starting to show up in MP3 players, although that isn’t really big enough to displace my iPod. I want a camera, either a ~2MP fixed focal length camera for taking pictures of whiteboards and documents, or a lower-resolution camera for taking video. Or one camera that can do both, although it’s going to eat batteries. Basically, what I want is a handheld that I can use to listen to MP3s, make phone calls (cellular or VoIP) over a bluetooth headset, take notes during meetings (with pictures), write short documents, search through text, maybe play with an ebook or two, and play back ripped DVDs if the mood strikes me, all while browsing the web, dealing with email, and occasionally IM. All for under $700 or so, with good battery life.
Yeah, I know, I’m dreaming.