9.29.2008

gadget help revisited

Way back here, I asked for gadget help.

Then I postponed buying anything, as I've been so pressed for time, and I know that anything new requires time, especially if it's going to sync with my home computer via new software. So I decided to wait.

Now, one week from deadline, I'm anticipating more time on the horizon, so I'm starting to think about the phone again. (It looks like I'll have more writing work related to Spinal Network, but the huge project I've been working on since early July is coming to a close.) And I'm thinking myself in circles about this phone thing.

I really want a qwerty keyboard for texting. Although I don't text often, I do find it very useful, and I would text a lot more often if I didn't have to pick through my stupid alpha-numeric keyboard. I know many people like T9 but I find it maddening and useless.

As I looked through my qwerty-keyboard options, I saw this phone, a "Rumour" from LG. (Doesn't it seem like I should own a piece of LG?) I really like the look, but Rogers doesn't have it.

I'd have to switch to Bell in order to get the phone thrown in the deal. Do I want to change providers? I find Rogers super-easy to deal with. (Don't laugh! I really do). Any time we travel or I go to the US, I add on long-distance or US minutes for only that month. And since our we have cable and internet through Rogers, too, there's a discount. Do I want to take a chance on a new provider? Not really. But do I want to stay with Rogers so much that I spend $300 on a phone? No.

If I give up on the Rumour phone, and stay with Rogers, and I want a qwerty keyboard, I'm looking at a Blackberry.

If I get a Blackberry, I'll have mobile email. And I don't really want my email following me around. I'm at my computer practically all day and all night. When I'm away from it, I want to be away from it.

What's more, I would have to pay for that, right? There is just no way I can afford another monthly bill. I'm earning about half of what I was earning in 2006. Allan's earning slightly more, but the net result is way down. And even if I could afford it (which I can't), I don't want more expenses. I already wish we could simplify more, and we can't seem to. No need to add anything else to the pile.

But if I don't get mobile email, can I get an organizer that will sync with my computer? I've had that for so long, it would be strange to be without. Allan thinks I could wean myself away from it and eventually not miss it.

So now I'm coming around the other side. Maybe instead of ramping everything up, I should just get a new phone, not a pda, not a Blackberry, just a phone.

There is also this phone, a Samsung SCH-u740, which has a double hinge, for talk or text. Rogers doesn't have it, but it's inexpensive. I can't spend $300 for a phone Rogers doesn't have, but I can spend $30.

Or should I just give up on the qwerty? Get a cute little phone and pick my way through text messaging the way I do now? And can I give up a pda? I'm still vacillating.

And a tangential question, if I don't sync with a handheld device, how do I back up my Outlook data?

At least I've ruled one thing out. Higher monthly bills just to have mobile email and a data stream I don't need is out of the question.

34 comments:

Amy said...

I don't have a PDA or a fancy phone, but I do have one comment/question. Have you tried texting on a qwerty keyboard that small? I tried to use my brother's Blackberry a few weeks ago, and I found it harder to type on a little qwerty board than the phone keyboard. Although I can touch type on a regular keyboard, I found myself hunting and pecking for the right key on the little qwerty, whereas at least the letters are alphabetically arranged on the phone keypad. Funny how the brain works: it knows where the right letters are on the larger keyboard when I type with two hands, but not when I have to use one finger at a time.

Maybe this is not an issue for you or for most people, but I handed the Blackberry back to my brother and just told him what to type for me.

L-girl said...

Well, I've used my iPAQ for 3 years. Here's a picture of it.

It's a small keyboard. I've written blog posts on it, sent emails, etc. I wouldn't write on it as my main keyboard, but it would be great for texting.

But I'll definitely try any device before I buy it.

I found it harder to type on a little qwerty board than the phone keyboard.

You would also get better at that as time went on. Not that you necessarily want to, but like anything else, you would get used to it, with practice.

James said...

One of the advantages of having a Fido GSM account is that I can use just about any unlocked GSM phone by dropping my SIM card into it... I don't know if you can do that as easily with Rogers' network. Then again, the unlocked phones are more expensive, too...

You may want to hit some of the mall phone shops like "The Telephone Booth" or "Wireless" (or whatever it's called) and ask them about what they carry that can work with Rogers -- they may have more selection available, though I don't know that for sure.

mister anchovy said...

We have a land line at home, a computer at home, no cell, no blackberry or anything like that and I'm just fine about it. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything.

PS...we're considering upgrading our rabbit ears for cable tv. Maybe next year.

L-girl said...

We have a land line at home, a computer at home, no cell, no blackberry or anything like that and I'm just fine about it. I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything.

Well, yes. Any post about technology inevitable draws comments from readers who live lower-tech lives.

I don't use technology just to use it, or because I feel I'm missing out if I don't. I use it if it improves my life.

I was a late cell-phone adopter, but it's been incredibly convenient having one. I really couldn't function effectively in many of my roles (activism, researching, writing) without it.

Similarly, having both a home computer and a laptop is very freeing and very useful.

And without digital cable, we couldn't watch our baseball team, which is a huge part of our lives six months out of the year, and doesn't show up on regular TV.

L-girl said...

One of the advantages of having a Fido GSM account is that I can use just about any unlocked GSM phone by dropping my SIM card into it... I don't know if you can do that as easily with Rogers' network. Then again, the unlocked phones are more expensive, too...

I don't really know what this means. I've only ever gotten a cell phone with a plan. More explanation, please?

You may want to hit some of the mall phone shops like "The Telephone Booth" or "Wireless" (or whatever it's called)

Wireless Wave, I think. They have a place very nearby, and I've looked at their phones online.

and ask them about what they carry that can work with Rogers -- they may have more selection available, though I don't know that for sure.

I will check, for sure. Thanks.

James said...

I don't really know what this means. I've only ever gotten a cell phone with a plan. More explanation, please?

Cell phones come in two incompatible standards: GSM and CDMA. CDMA is used in the US and a couple of other places (such as Iraq, thanks to only US companies being allowed to bid on the contract), while GSM is world-wide (including in the US).

GSM cell phones all take a little memory card, called the SIM card, that contains your account info. In effect, your Fido account is attached to the card, not the phone. So you can use any GSM phone with your account (so long as it's not locked to a different service provider) by plugging your SIM card into it.

For example, when I was originally in the market for a PDA phone, I decided on the Palm Treo 650 -- but Fido wasn't offering it. However, I could order an unlocked Treo 650 from Palm directly, and just stick my SIM card into it, for it to work with Fido. And when I accidentally let my battery die when I was expecting a call, Lori lent me her phone, we swapped SIMs, and the call came in on her phone.

I don't know if attaching CDMA phones to an existing cell phone account is as simple.

L-girl said...

Thanks, James. I bought my current phone through Rogers when we moved here. Does that mean I can do the same thing as you're describing?

impudent strumpet said...

You can't buy the blackberry and keep the package you currently have without the email? Or if it's data charges you're worried about, just...not configure the email?

Kim_in_TO said...

I had to endure someone showing off his iPhone on the weekend. He's paying $90 a month. I was not at all impressed.

I finally gave in and traded my landline for a cell 2 years ago. It works for me because I seldom use the phone; most of my communication is by email. I rarely text, and when I do so I am content to use the phone pad (and I refuse to abbreviate the way kids do). I notice since Bell and Telus announced charges for incoming texts, I receive fewer (and am more reluctant to send them myself).

James said...

Thanks, James. I bought my current phone through Rogers when we moved here. Does that mean I can do the same thing as you're describing?

All that and I forgot to mention the important part: Rogers is CDMA, though Rogers' subsidiary, Fido, is GSM. With Fido, it's easy to buy a non-Fido GSM phone and use it with Fido's plans, but I don't know how simple it would be with Rogers.

Though I should also point out that unlocked phones (the ones you get independently of any provider contract) are more expensive than getting ones with contract, since the contract subsidizes the phone.

L-girl said...

You can't buy the blackberry and keep the package you currently have without the email? Or if it's data charges you're worried about, just...not configure the email?

I suppose I could, yes. It just seems like I would be paying for something I don't want and won't use. Its primary function is to push email.

But yes, I suppose I could buy a Bby, and only use it for talk/text/pda functions. Something to consider.

L-girl said...

I had to endure someone showing off his iPhone on the weekend. He's paying $90 a month. I was not at all impressed.

I'm not impressed, but I do think they're beautiful little devices. Not right for me, but very smart looking and they do cool stuff.

I rarely text, and when I do so I am content to use the phone pad (and I refuse to abbreviate the way kids do).

I know several people who say that. I think it's funny that people take a point of pride in not abbreviating.

I spend my whole life typing, and I'll cut corners wherever I can. I've always used all the "TLA"s on discussion boards or when emailing. I do it when notetaking for an interview, or anything else.

I find texting really useful - the immediacy of a phone call w/o having to interrupt anyone or be interrupted. It combines the best parts of phone and email.

I don't gab via text, but for sending messages (usually activism-related), I really like it.

L-girl said...

All that and I forgot to mention the important part: Rogers is CDMA,

D'oh!

though Rogers' subsidiary, Fido, is GSM. With Fido, it's easy to buy a non-Fido GSM phone and use it with Fido's plans, but I don't know how simple it would be with Rogers.

Ah, I see. I'll find out at Wireless Wave when I get there next week.

Though I should also point out that unlocked phones (the ones you get independently of any provider contract) are more expensive than getting ones with contract, since the contract subsidizes the phone.

Right. That I've seen online. It will give the price of the phone, then the price w/o a contract. That's what I meant by "do I want to spend $300 for a phone just to keep Rogers"? (No!)

James said...

I'm not impressed, but I do think they're beautiful little devices. Not right for me, but very smart looking and they do cool stuff.

After the original gadget help post, we visited with friends who had just picked up iPhones under the new, improved (and not widely advertised) data plan, and got to work with it. We decided that, with the better price, they were worthwhile, and picked two up -- and cut our monthly bill by about 25%. Our old plans had been built up over about 10 years, and included stuff so old that the Fido staff didn't recognize it.

I know several people who say that. I think it's funny that people take a point of pride in not abbreviating.

I'll use the standard email/chat TLAs like you do, but not the barely literate leet-speak misspellings.

That's what I meant by "do I want to spend $300 for a phone just to keep Rogers"? (No!)"

Ah -- I thought you were referring to some of the $300-with-contract offerings at Rogers.

I was going to suggest the Palm Centro, but then I discovered that it's the most expensive Palm device at Rogers -- $299! I had thought it was more an entry-level device, but I guess not.

L-girl said...

I'll use the standard email/chat TLAs like you do, but not the barely literate leet-speak misspellings.

Like what?

I use b, 2, u, r and things like that when texting.

I really don't get why people hate that stuff so much. (Not you, James, just in general.) It doesn't make me forget how to write proper English. I'm not suddenly going to think this is the only way to communicate. It's just a very useful tool to use while picking out a message on a tiny keyboard.

L-girl said...

I was going to suggest the Palm Centro, but then I discovered that it's the most expensive Palm device at Rogers -- $299! I had thought it was more an entry-level device, but I guess not.

I was very surprised by that too!

James said...

I use b, 2, u, r and things like that when texting.

I really don't get why people hate that stuff so much.


They scan stiltedly to me, and I find them unpleasant to read. "r u goin 2 b ther?" sounds like "Ur oo going to buh there?" in my head.

L-girl said...

They scan stiltedly to me, and I find them unpleasant to read. "r u goin 2 b ther?" sounds like "Ur oo going to buh there?" in my head.

Funny, I would never use "goin" or "ther". I'd type out those words, and most others.

Allan and I always jokingly pronounce "u" as "oo" instead of "you" and "r" as "err" instead of "are". But when I see text messages with u, r, 2, pls, thx, and such, it scans the same way to me.

But many people are so against this! I think one reason it doesn't bother me is I type that way for my own notes, interviews and writing all the time - I use ppl, govt, democy, disy (disability), acs (accessibility), and whatever else saves me keystrokes.

James said...

But many people are so against this!

Of course, my aversion to it is likely mainly due to my primarily associating it with things like the borderline illiterate scribblings in YouTube comments or the Barrens chat in World of Warcraft, which is where I see it most.

Scott M. said...

A few corrections with respect to Rogers:

Rogers is GSM. Fully. It converted before it's purchase of Fido, and was why it purchased Fido. It *used* to be TDMA (it was never CDMA), but Rogers shut off its TDMA towers at the beginning of 2007. GSM is all it is.

You can take your SIM card out and put it into any other Rogers phone, or any unlocked phone, just the same as Fido.

You *cannot* use a locked Fido phone with Rogers.

If you bought your phone with Rogers, you would have committed to a term. If you cancel before that term is up, you owe Rogers money. You can, however, upgrade your phone before that term is up.

My wife uses her blackberry without a data plan on Pay As You Go. It is quite functional, is easy to text with, and is synchronized with her outlook. You can also get a blackberry on a monthly plan without data.

NOTE: If you buy a blackberry without data, then use data you will be charged a lot. Easily fixed though, you can disable Data and hide all the icons without hassle.

Also note: If you change your mind about a data plan, there is a very good special on for three years at $30/month for up to 6 Gigs/month. This plan will likely disappear by November. This plan also works on iPhone or any other data device.

L-girl said...

Thanks, Scott. My term with Rogers expired long ago, so that's no worry. But I do like their customer service, so I may stay with them just for that, and avoid any potential hassle of switching.

My wife uses her blackberry without a data plan on Pay As You Go. It is quite functional, is easy to text with, and is synchronized with her outlook. You can also get a blackberry on a monthly plan without data.

Ah-ha. That is interesting. Between what ImpStrump said above and this, perhaps this is the solution.

Also note: If you change your mind about a data plan, there is a very good special on for three years at $30/month for up to 6 Gigs/month. This plan will likely disappear by November. This plan also works on iPhone or any other data device.

Hm. Is that $30 for data, above what I'm paying for talk, text, voice mail, system access fee, etc.? Or $30 including all that?

Scott M. said...

Alas, it's on top of your existing plan. You might find a better plan though when you call in, but $30/month is certainly not insignifigant.

One other thing you can think about... if you were to get a new blackberry, certain models have UMA. What's that? Well, if you are in an area that has a wi-fi signal, and you sign up for the TalkSpot option, you can get unlimited minutes while you're in that wi-fi area.

Put another way, if you and Alan both got a UMA-supported phone, you could get rid of your home phone service with Vonage and just use your cell phones and when you're at home it would be free.

Personally, I don't think Dawn and I would go for that, but it's something to think about for the future. To that end, though, I'll make sure our next phone purchases are UMA compatible.

L-girl said...

Thanks again. :)

$30 additional per month is too much, most importantly because it's for something I don't want. I don't want my email following me. I'm very clear about that.

Allan doesn't have a cell phone and doesn't want one.

I would never get rid of my Vonage account, or if I did, I would switch to another VoIP provider. I need it constantly, for interviewing. A cell phone or WiFi ("Talkspot") phone couldn't replace it.

But a Blackberry w/o a data plan might do the trick.

James said...

Rogers is GSM. Fully. It converted before it's purchase of Fido, and was why it purchased Fido. It *used* to be TDMA

My mistake, then. We haven't really looked at anyone but Fido in 10 years, so I was obviously way out of date!

Curiously, when we were at a Fido store a few months back, the sales guy was adamant that they were not purchased by Rogers, they were just partnered.

Scott M. said...

Curiously, when we were at a Fido store a few months back, the sales guy was adamant that they were not purchased by Rogers, they were just partnered.

Huh. I guess when we took over their IT systems, payroll, HR, and everything else it was just a "partnership". :)

Kim_in_TO said...

I really don't get why people hate that stuff so much.

You know, I'd never really thought about why I hate it. I guess part of it is that it is associated with young people, so I feel a bit out of place doing it. I know I could get used to that. A bigger reason is that some of it doesn't work phonetically (e.g., "ur" makes me want to say "yer"). That, I will never get used to.

impudent strumpet said...

I use b, 2, u, r and things like that when texting.

I really don't get why people hate that stuff so much.


Yeah, it doesn't scan for me either, it's like reading German. Doesn't come naturally at all. That's why I love T9 - because it's faster and easier to write words out in full.

L-girl said...

(e.g., "ur" makes me want to say "yer").

It would for me as well. For your, I would type "yr". That could mean year or your, depending on the context, but the reader is unlikely to be confused.

For "you are", I would type u r, with a space in the middle.

I have trouble believing that in the context of a very short text, this is actually difficult to understand. For example:

r u going 2 demo today?

yes, what time r u lvng?

8 - c u there.

Pretty clear, I think.

Scott M. said...

8?

L-girl said...

The number 8. What time will you be there? 8:00.

Sarah Gates said...

Hmm... I don't think I really mind when other people use text abbreviations, but I generally don't do it myself, except when I need to fit more than 160 characters worth of information in a single text. I'm not even quite sure what my aversion is based on - I think it's just visual. I like words to look like words, I suppose. With a qwerty keyboard I find it more intuitive to simply type out whatever word I'm thinking. I suspect that's just largely habit though. Get off my lawn!

As for phones, do I correctly recall that you are Windows based, Laura? If so, perhaps one of the cheaper Windows Moblie PDA phones would work well for you. While you certainly CAN set them up to recieve your email, there's no built-in email push like the blackberry and, at least in the US, the plans tend to be cheaper. I have the older version of the Moto Q, and I enjoy the interface and the qwerty keyboard. It's not been a great phone for me, but I'm told that the stability issues have been adressed in the more recent models. I like the device itself and if it weren't so flaky I'd have been very happy with it. A few of my friends also have Samsung's Blackjack, and they really like it - seems to have the same utility as my Q but I think Samsung just makes better phones than Motorola these days.

I myself will probably be buying an iPhone when my current Sprint contract is over - I've switched to a Macbook Pro, which I adore, but having a windows mobile device is no longer as useful as it once was. When I was using Windows however, the syncing and PDA functions were excellent because I kept all of my information in office, which the windows moblie devices use as well. I've grown so accustomed to the PDA style that I would be very disappointed to return to a T9 phone.

L-girl said...

Sarah, thanks for your very informative comment.

As for phones, do I correctly recall that you are Windows based, Laura? If so, perhaps one of the cheaper Windows Moblie PDA phones would work well for you.

Yes, I am, and I should look into that.

While you certainly CAN set them up to recieve your email, there's no built-in email push like the blackberry

That's good...

and, at least in the US, the plans tend to be cheaper. I have the older version of the Moto Q, and I enjoy the interface and the qwerty keyboard. . . . A few of my friends also have Samsung's Blackjack, and they really like it

I've seen the Blackjack, it looks nice.

When I was using Windows however, the syncing and PDA functions were excellent because I kept all of my information in office, which the windows moblie devices use as well. I've grown so accustomed to the PDA style that I would be very disappointed to return to a T9 phone.

Yes, that's part of the issue for me. I've had a Windows-based PDA, and a separate alpha/numeric/T9 phone. Now that I want to combine them, it seems silly to give up the qwerty keyboard, like going backwards.

The searcho continues!

L-girl said...

Make that *search*. Not sure what a searcho is. :)