Things are awfully busy around here, and I was looking for a new PDA (Personaly Desktop Assistant, such as a Palm Pilot) to help me keep my act together. I have an ancient Palm-based Sony Clie, but it’s sort of big and heavy, and anyway I was looking to reduce the number of things I lug around in my shirt pocket — a PDA, an iPod, and a cell phone is too many.
I carry an iPod not for music, but for audiobooks, so I can combine reading time with chore time and driving time. I’ve written about this before. I get most of my audiobooks from audible.com, which is a book club for downloadable audiobooks.
I also wanted WiFi access so I can check my email or surf the Web anywhere with a wireless signal, with includes my home and almost any public establishment, these days. (Wireless via cell phone is even more universal, except for the crummy signal on the farm.)
I looked at the current offerings from Palm and Blackberry, and almost picked one when a casual reference made me look at the Apple iPod Touch, the iPod that looks like an iPhone. Rather to my surprise, instead of being a mere MP3 player, it has WiFi, a Web browser, email, and most of what I want in a PDA. It also has a wonderfully conceived and easy-to-use touch screen that’s perfectly visible in direct sunlight.
So I bought one. Problem solved. I combined the three things I carry around in my pocket to two. And it’ll go to one if Verizon (the only carrier with a decent signal on my farm) ever supports the iPhone.
A typical use for this device, besides reading email, is to look up information in the course of conversation — what other movies an actor has been in, the definition of a word, answers to random questions.
Apple is a weird company, and when you buy their stuff, you have to take the rough with the smooth. Their products are beautifully designed but have a high failure rate — seems like a contradiction in terms, but there you are. Your unit might fail, and its replacement might fail. It’s the cross you have to bear. Their customer service is weird and infuriating. For example, when I wanted my first iPod repaired, they charged me money to evaluate whether they could repair it, and pocketed it when they decided they couldn’t. My recommendation is to recognize that the product development people at Apple are world-class and the rest are maniacs, and just put up with it. Apple retailers are often extremely helpful and long-suffering because of this, and it probably is in your best interests to buy from them. Besides, my local Mac store had a better price than I found on the Internet.