March 29, 2004, 10:11 AM — First of all, I must admit that I am a gadget freak. I love electronic toys. I buy a lot of them, but I don't always use a gadget once the initial period of experimentation and adventure wears off. I've got more PDAs than I'll ever have time to really learn to use. Computers -- ditto. I don't spend as much time playing with old-fashioned, voice-only cell phones as I used to, not because these have gone out of style (despite my editorial comment here), but rather because they're just not that interesting or differentiated any more. Color screens? Cameras? Whoopee! Fun, but not essential. More on that later this year.
My focus of the past six months or so has been on finding and using a new personal wide-area wireless data device. I formerly used a Research In Motion (RIM) BlackBerry 957 (http://www.blackberry.net/products/rim857_957/index.shtml) for many years, primarily to get e-mail. This product has a monochrome screen, works on the Cingular Wireless Data Mobitex network, and has amazing battery life -- well over a week in normal use. I used GoAmerica (http://www.goamerica.com) as my wireless ISP and was in general happy with the service. While this combination served me well, the world moved on -- I found that I needed a decent (read: something that looks a lot like a desktop) Web browser, an e-mail client with HTML support, and a color screen. Since I don't think it's currently possible (and may never really be) to optimize for both voice and data in the same device (see my April 2003 column, "The single-device paradox"), I've decided on a two-body solution: I would still use a fairly basic CDMA cell phone on Verizon's network, and replace the BlackBerry 957 with something new.