The unthinkable recently happened to me. I had my Tungsten C stolen from me in broad daylight. Hope was lost. Fortunately, thanks to a past Gadgeteer article “Insuring your Gadgets” I had added a ridiculously cheap (far cheaper than a good case) endorsement in my renters insurance policy for my Palm, so it was fully insured, replacement cost, with no deductible. America was pulling together again.
So here I was, needing to have a Palm overnighted to me as soon as humanly possible. I know tech, but I’m not a techie. I’m a business professional, and throughout my day I’m collecting phone numbers, jotting down thoughts, and need access to all my databases. I’ve been a little clueless for a while now, but my IQ was being reduced by 20 to 30 points further with no Palm.
All this happened to me on a Friday night, leaving all day Saturday and Sunday to research which handheld was right for me, in terms of what was available on the market. There had been a 512 SD card worth a little over 200 dollars in the Palm when it was stolen meaning I had quite a bit of cash to work with. Of course I was up to date generally, being a daily Gadgeteer, on what was out there but this was a purchase that warranted researching other sites as well.
So after getting all my facts straight, early morning Monday I placed an order for my next Palm. For how much I use my Palm, I was only considering ordering the best thing on the market. What did I choose?
The exact same thing, a Tungsten C.
Please keep in mind, I’ve been chasing the perfect Palm since the Palm III, and generally upgraded every year or so. I know a lot of Gadgeteers enjoy chasing the latest tech, and believe me, I am completely guilty of it too. For instance, when I meet people I sometimes say “Check out how small my cell phone is!” But as a business professional (unemployed writer), all the minor things in the Tungsten C have added up to a Palm that I have a hard time imagining I’ll ever have to upgrade. Here is a year long introspective of what works, and also what could be improved in the Tungsten C. You want proof? You can’t handle the proof. Stop whining, let’s get to the down lo.
First and foremost, the best feature of the Tungsten C is the BlackBerry keyboard. Let me explain my mindset when I bought it, I felt the keyboard was a HUGE problem, but had trust in Graffiti 2 (which sounds great, in the magical world of ‘Never Gonna Happen.’) I was moving from a Palm i705. I wanted the memory and color screen enough that I was willing to put up with the size. Let no one doubt my mad Graffiti skills. I know it so well, my normal handwriting has unintentionally moved to Graffiti’s faster strokes, meaning no one can read things I write. But believe me after a year, it’s not that the keyboard is better than Graffiti, it’s that it’s so much better, buying a Palm without one was completely out of the question. Once you get used to a keyboard it’s much, much faster than Graffiti.
Before owning the Tungsten C, sure I’d played around with Documents to Go. But with a keyboard? It’s like having constant access to every document in My Documents, a big plus for someone working on a novel like me. Or maybe I edit and improve an important email in the works. Maybe I want to type out a quick thought I had about someone’s shoes. In any case, let me be clear, Documents to Go works seamlessly requiring no conscious effort on your part.
Another HUGE advantage of a keyboard is I can hand the PalmPilot to a stranger and ask them to input things like their contact information. That’s important in the real world, try that trick with Graffiti. I know a keyboard is a tough sell to a Gadgeteer, but it works for me and works well.
It is true there are some impressive Windows CE and Sony Clie Machines (running Palm OS) the same way it’s true there are some impressive Macintosh systems. There are strong arguments to diverge from the standard, but welcome a whole nightmare of software incompatibility, shoddy updates and no one selling accessories you need. Pocket PC has arguably never attracted people that actually use their PDA’s as professionals, and non-techies. Sony? Sure they’ve got some overpriced stuff with a few more features techies convince themselves will impress strangers. But support if it breaks? In my experience, Sony just can’t compete, maybe it’s PalmOne’s economies of scale.
I had looked at other PDA’s with keyboards, such as the Sony CLIÉ PEG-UX50 and the HP iPaq H4350. Granted I have not actually sampled a Pocket PC in the last year, but every other purchase of a Windows device has been in retrospect a terrible, terrible mistake. Once again, I feel it’s an OS for techies and casual users. Pocket PC’s to me seem to sell by incorporating early adopter gimmicks. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that features like fingerprint recognition is a PDA feature created by a child for children. As far as the Clie, I pretty much took from Judie’s review it’s an unfinished “everything but the kitchen sink.” Judie liked the horizontal keyboard, but I’ve felt that the vertical BlackBerry keyboard allows such quick input, and besides LMil’s not about using a screen that small.
The second biggest advantage to the Tungsten C is the ton of memory available. On every other Palm I’ve ever owned, making the most of every kilobyte has been an issue. Putting in every program, database, and game I could possibly ever use, I’ve honestly never had to look at it if I had space. The SD slot is also in the perfect place, making swapping out and losing cards a piece of cake.
The screen on the Tungsten C can hold it’s own with any other thing I’ve seen on the market, including laptops, and battery life has never even been an issue. And although the Tungsten C is quite large compared to many PDA’s, particularly the Tungsten T3, if it were smaller it would make input much more difficult. It’s an acceptable tradeoff for having a Palm you can quickly input data into, and in any case passes Julie’s legendary creak test with flying colors.
In the input department, the included stock stylus is the best original I’ve ever used. It’s metal and has a perfect weight to it. Also in the “you can’t make this stuff up,” despite my best attempts, I have not lost the original stylus, except in case of having it physically stolen from me.
I know a lot of people are interested in the Tungsten C because it’s the obvious choice for Wi-fi. Surfing via Wi-fi is simple to both setup and use. Honestly though? In terms of actually being a useful tool for finding information I need to know, it’s helped me maybe twice. If I’m on the go, and know I’ll need access to Wi-fi I’ll bring my laptop, and in a pinch call InFone, or even a friend near a computer is much faster. For those of you that want a Palm with Wi-fi don’t get me wrong, the Tungsten C will do it, but as far as being a useful tool? No offense to the techies, but I don’t get it.
Let me tell you what doesn’t work on the Tungsten C, and I’ll hope the guys at Palm are listening. First up, the “headphone jack.” Instead of being the standard headphone jack, it’s the cellular phone size. Begin eye rolling now. And the bigger irony? A converter adaptor doesn’t work either. No, you’re stuck using the crappy little earbud-microphone from the Palm store. Sticking it in well enough that it doesn’t fall out makes my ear ache after more than an hour. If listening to MP3’s is a priority for you, this is not the Palm for you.
A special word about the Audible experience on the Tungsten. For those of you uninitiated, Audible.com offers a library of downloadable audiobooks on everything you can think of for dirt cheap. Start listening to audiobooks instead of the radio, and you will be amazed at how it changes your life. Audible compatible MP3 players are very difficult to find nowadays, as the company has decided to focus on handhelds and the Ipod. So that is to say, Audible working on my Palm was a top priority for me. Anyone that has AudibleManager installed on their desktop knows that the lone programmer at Audible has the easiest job in America. After careful consideration, AudibleManager for the PC is the worst buggy mess I’ve ever used. No surprise that the software for the Tungsten C is the same awful quality. Even when I could stomach the earbud, Eventually I just gave up installing and reinstalling the software, and bought an Ipod.
If you contact Audible they will tell you their software works, barely restraining their diabolical laughter. Frankly, I think the fact that the software doesn’t work kind of undercuts their point that it does. I mean if it worked, that would really be something, huh? But it doesn’t.
Also on the downside is that once you’ve accessed a Wi-Fi site, that record always stays in the Palm, making them add up. I’ve tried every trick I am to erase this useless data that makes it difficult to find new networks, but to no success. Not even hot syncing the replaced Tungsten C helped this.
The third downside is that there really aren’t cases out there that work the way the metal case worked for my Palm Vx. No, just like with the i705, I use the included book cover. In over 2 years of using minimal protection it has caused no problem or scratches, and in any case it’s insured.
If you’re looking to do something really stupid like me, make sure to put years of credit card data, passwords, financial records in Memo Pad unencrypted. Even better, live near Memphis where the police will laugh at you if you ask to see their weekly list of pawn shop sales (more restraint of diabolical laughter.) I spent $59.85 on Chapura’s Cloak. The software costs $19.95, but their web store is poorly coded making a trip backwards to set the purchase from two to a single copy a third purchase. I have yet to get my money back.
My final afterthought is that reviewing a PalmPilot after using it for a year gives insight that an initial review cannot. I hope that this review might spawn more “Afterthought” reviews from grateful Gadgeteer’s so we can give Julie and Judie even more work to do for us. Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions, particularly on the insurance or my Kat humor. ;-p