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From 2007: Palm T|X handheld computer versus smartphone

I wrote this for the Sydney Morning Herald in 2007 and am republishing here because it shows just how far smartphones have come in the last five years.

If smartphones haven’t killed off traditional handheld computers yet, the day can’t be far away. Sales of non-phone Palm and PocketPC devices are stagnant or falling. There’s been nothing much in the way of new hardware for a couple of years.

Sure, but something huge was on the way.

This is a pity. I’ve found my $500 Palm T|X to be one of my most productive tools. It goes way beyond managing my contact file and calendar information.

My word, what low expectations we had in those days.

The T|X has a 3.8 inch 480 by 320 display. While you wouldn’t call it large, it’s half as big again as the screen on most smartphones.

But nothing compared to the 4.3 inch 540 x 960 qHD display on my HTC Sensation and there was not camera.

It makes reading text, browsing web pages, viewing photographs and even watching movies a better experience than squinting at a smartphone display.

Which was true at the time.

The 128MB of built-in memory doesn’t sound much by today’s standards, yet I’ve got a dozen or so applications running on my handheld and scores of stored documents. If I need more memory, I simply slot in an SD card.

That sounds even less now.

And we’re not talking about any old documents. The T|X comes with a bundled version of Documents To Go, an application that allows you to read and, in a limited way, edit, Word or Excel files. It can also be used to read .pdfs, making it the nearest thing to an electronic book.

OK, this looks a bit daft today, but at the time the T|X was a realistic ebook reader.

The T|X’s best feature is its built-in wi-fi. When I’m travelling around the city, I stop for coffee where’s there’s a free hot spot and catch up on emails. Sure you can do this anywhere with a smartphone – but the bigger screen makes a difference.

Wi-Fi is still wonderful.

I use wi-fi to sync my Palm with my desktop before leaving home and then reverse the process when I return.

The T|X isn’t perfect, text entry is clumsy and the battery won’t make it through an extended working day if the wireless is switched on. Yet, all-in-all, it manages to better the specification of smartphones in most departments. When I’m on business away from home I carry a smartphone and a T|X.

No doubt a phone manufacturer will marry the features of the T|X with a smartphone before much longer – judging by the announced specifications Apple’s forthcoming iPhone could get there first.

And the rest is history