Last weekend I was mostly relying on handheld devices while visiting the wilds of Stockport, trying to decide what Ii want to do when I move off Orange soon (terrible customer service and poor data plans). For this sort of use while travelling my main need is web access and mail reading with IM and SSH access both very desirable too. So, what did I find?
- Sony Ericsson P990: This works very well as a web client and 3G modem. Opera is very good at rendering standard pages onto small screens and the jog wheel is a really good interface for selecting and following links – accurate and intuitive. The e-mail client is more of an issue – charitably, it.’s been designed for text messages. No support for IMAP folders and it’s got little hope of rendering 80 column text (due to the screen size) but it does a reasonable job with flowed and HTML text. Battery life is an issue in heavy use, too.
- N800: This is slightly too large to use as a secondary device – but the screen size means that it is a spectacularly good web client. It benefits a lot from a Bluetooth keyboard (the N810 has one built in), but without one it’s workable unless entering large quanities of text. It also works well for e-mail when using Modest, which has good support for IMAP (including folders) and renders e-mails well. Unfortunately Modest is still quite obviously pre-release software, having issues with spotty connectivity, but that’ll change. The generally high level of freeness is an obvious win, too, and part of the reason for SSH, Jabber and Skype support. The major wishlist would obviously be a 3G modem on board.
- iPod Touch: The same software as the iPhone. The email client is very nice for “standard buisness” e-mails but it toils badly with anything else. Safari is OK for most pages but the zoom based operation can fail badly and finger operation isn’t quite reliable enough – it’s far too easy to either accidentally select links or have it fail to register taps. In the iPhone this would be OK if it were able to act as a bluetooth modem but that’s not supported and the device is totally non-free so you’re stuck with the built in feature set. Obviously, the major selling point is that it is an MP3 player with a reasonably large amount of space but this doesn’t really offset the drawbacks.
So, nothing that’s quite satisfactory in itself. The N800 or an N810 plus a phone that can act as a 3G modem currently seems to meet my needs best.