Wednesday, December 28, 2005

the nokia 770

my big gift to myself this season was the nokia 770, a linux-based tablet that is the size of two decks of cards and weighs about 8 ounces. this device is, among other things, proof that there space for internet appliances if the size and price is right. this isn't really a computer, but a sleek web-surfing and emailing tool.

The pros:
  • intuitive virtual keyboard, which appears whenever you tap into any text-entry field. very extensive character library. the cons of this pro: the implementation of "guessing" the word after the first few letters shrinks the space key so that i often chose a wrong word instead of a space.
  • the rss reader. this is actually the nerve center of this device, since any rss feed -- news, your gmail box, flickr streams, blogs -- can be added. the most recent eight items display on the home screen, and tapping jumps to the reader, so the browser isn't invoked at all as a matter of course, which speeds things up.
  • the email client, which is configurable to non-standard ports and employs various security standards. it will import a contacts file. the con of this pro: it is not easy to delete mails because it is not easy to select them. "select all" requires three keystrokes, and it isn't possible to select a single email, or multiples but not all, by tapping on the mails themselves. Then again, gMail (and I presume other web-interfaces mail services) works just fine in the browser.
  • gaim works.
  • the resolution of the screen is really quite breathtaking.
  • a nice implementation of "right-click" by holding down the sylus to the page
  • bluetooth, which makes dial-up possible (and with 3g rolling out that means broadband virtually everywhere)
  • even the lowest brightness setting is more than enough.
The cons:
  • very little memory. a "busy" web page will sometimes raise a "memory low" message even if the browser is the only app open.
  • fairly slow switching between programs.
  • on mine, anyway, it loses connectivity often and for no apparent reason. it does, however, reconnect seamlessly and without any pesters.
  • some have complained that there is no ebook reader included. the device itself, given the generous, bright, hi-res screen, probably does lend itself to reading.
  • the left nav button is very close to the edge of the inverted cover, making it hard for people without delicate digits to use it.
  • on a web page, the nav buttons jump from embedded link to embedded link and thus cannot be used for scrolling; the only way to scroll is to use two hands.
this device has caused the pendulum to swing back for me: i went from three devices at one time (palm, phone, blackberry) to deciding that the madness had to stop and it had to be one (cellphone, on as many steroids as possible) and now back to two. While internet activity is widely available on phones it will never be a satisfying experience at least because the screens must be hoplessly small.

while pricey -- as an early adopter i didn't blink at the nearly $400 cost, including state tax -- the prospect of freeloading wifi prompted me to give up t-mobile's pricey vpn service, which means that the nokia 770 will pay for itself -- in a couple of years :)