1 + 1 = 2?

I recently moved back to a PDA, a Palm Tungsten E2, after a couple of unsuccessful flirtations with paper based organisers and diaries.

I’m pleased with the E2; it’s a great Palm and feels like the spiritual successor to the classic Palm Vx but with a great colour screen, Bluetooth and non-volatile memory.

One of the key things I wanted from a Palm was a to do list with reminders but you know what I find I’m doing? The alarm goes off and I ignore it or just cancel it and on top of that I’m still making paper to-do lists – I give up.

Anyway, I do use the other functions notably diary, contacts and a secure password database program and having email and a browser in my pocket is very handy.

As I say I’m happy with the Tungsten E2 and I’m not sure what prompted it but yesterday I started wondering if a separate PDA and phone was the right way to go for me.

This is the classic one or two box question where:

  • One box = smartphone
  • Two box = mobile phone + PDA

However, I have a new two box solution: smartphone + mobile phone.

This may seem a little unusual and with some duplication but I see distinct roles and uses for each device.

The Smartphone is a PDA replacement that will be used as a weekday and business phone. I get to combine the two boxes I carry around into one single device with greater functionality such as seamless integration of email, browsing and messaging.

The mobile phone will be an evening or weekend phone. I have a Motorola V3 RAZR which is fantastically slim and lightweight for those times when I don’t a large Smartphone cramping my style… OK I’m kidding I don’t have any style but for times when I don’t want the added bulk and functionality of a Smartphone.

So which Smartphone to get?

I want something that is closer to a PDA than a mobile so I have narrowed it down to two phones: the PalmOne Treo 650 and the Sony Ericsson P910i and purchased both via the wonder that is eBay. My intention is to use both and then to keep the one I prefer and sell on the other – hopefully at a profit.

The key differences between the devices that I think will drive the decision are:

  • Operating system – Palm OS vs. Symbian
  • Input method – thumb board keyboard vs. screen input + small thumb board
  • Integration and syncing with Mac
  • Price – the P910i is significantly cheaper than the Treo 650

Operating System

I am familiar with the Palm OS having owned and used many Palms including of course my current Tungsten E2 and I have a number of Palm apps that I can load straight onto the Treo 650.
Symbian is a relatively new OS to me despite being ex-Psion and having played with a P900 last year so I’m keen to see how I get on with it. The Symbian OS does have one massive advantage over the aging Palm OS which is multi-tasking. One of the benefits I see for a Smartphone is being able to check email and browse or consult my diary at the same time – this is not possible on the Treo.

Input Method

The Treo 650 has a great thumb board which is really good to use and is combined with a 5 way navigator. The Palm OS has been tweaked to use this input method in place of the usual stylus although the Treo 650 still has a touch screen and stylus.

The P910i is almost entirely touch screen and stylus but has the excellent 5 way jog dial that Sony use and own the patent on hence nobody else using it. The P910i also has a phone style keyboard on the flip and tiny qwerty thumb board on the inside – the flip is removable.

It would seem that the P910i has the most input options but it will be a question of which I get on better with.

Mac Syncing

I use Missing Sync on my Mac to sync my Tungsten and it works brilliantly; I see no reason why the Treo 650 will be any different. This allows me to sync with iSync, install applications, load files onto the Palm etc. A definite plus for the Treo.

The P910i will sync with iSync over Bluetooth only. Sony Ericsson ship software with the P910i but it is PC only so I may find that anything beyond syncing such as installing new applications will be impossible but we’ll see if there are workarounds such as installing from the Memory Stick.


The Treo 650 is almost twice as expensive as the P910i; I got mine for a VERY good price, which will mean it needs to perform much more strongly to justify the extra cost.

On the surface it looks fairly evenly matched but the areas that will tell most I think are the OS and Mac integration.

I’ll write up my thoughts on each device as they arrive and let you know which one I choose.