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THOUGHT: What's the ratio of wireless to non-wireless apps I'm using the XDA for?
Posted by PPCW.Net Editori - on Tuesday, 01.06.04 - 19:48:40 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 8207x
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Contributed by Dr. Wolfgang Irber, PPCW.Net Reader and Business Professional

I'm using the XDA with built-in GPRS modem for two years now, started with the XDA I, and later switched to the XDA II. As already described in an earlier thought, the XDA had a significant impact to my daily life, and still has, for how I access or manage information. I consider myself a very typical Pocket PC user, and recently wondered what would happen if my XDA stopped working. I started to summarise everything I'm using the XDA for and came up with a list that resulted in this thought. I was in particular interested in the ratio of wireless to non-wireless applications I'm using throughout the day. Do I really need the wireless connection or is it actually the standard Pocket PC that is getting my attention?

Wireless Applications

Mobile Access to E-Mail
E-Mail is my favorite online application. I never will miss the convenient access to various E-Mail accounts anymore. In particular when traveling, I prefer the communication via E-Mail rather than via voice. To be honest, I avoid using my phone in the public when everybody is listening. My colleagues at work noticed that they are able to contact me much faster when sending an E-Mail to my private account. I get informed about incoming E-Mails via SMS notification and can reply. By the way, SMS or text messaging is so convenient with the XDA, that I still wonder how people can cope with the little keyboards and screens of today's cell phones. I never ever want to step back to an ordinary phone.

Mobile Access to Info Pages
When it comes to wirelessly accessing info sites on the Internet, checking the public transport schedule is one of my favorite WAP pages. Other WAP and non-WAP sites cover the weather forecast, airport information, traffic jam situation, news channels, stock market prizes, telephone numbers, movie information, and the daily TV program. For instance, we soon cancelled the subscription of our TV journal once I found out that I can get all I need via GPRS on my XDA. Another print item less that is not "decorating" the flat anymore.

While driving to work I'm using the public transport exclusively: an ideal terrain to get online via GPRS to read the most recent news. Even though I also have a "real" newspaper with me, I often find it more convenient or relaxing to use the Pocket PC. Unfolding a newspaper in a crammed bus is definitely less enjoyable than reading on the Pocket PC. The same actually applies to reading in a plane!

Before driving with a car over long distances, I check the current traffic situation online, and let the time calculate I need for driving to my destination through an online route planner. And an honest word: I never use the map option available through my operator's portal site which is advertised as substitute for real maps: even when I know the area very well, I barely recognize what is shown on the digital map. Sorry to say this, but that's not worth the money at all.

In foreign German cities, I often use the localized services over GPRS for finding the next ATM machine of my bank. For this purpose, the small maps delivered through GPRS are OK and provide a rough idea of where to look for the next ATM machine.

Using Ebay's mobile portal at times when others are not sitting at the desk and push prizes is another benefit of wirelessly accessing the Internet. At unusual times bargains are still possible at Ebay.

Last but not least, the mobile version of Google is extremely helpful as substitute for an Encarta and often provides answers when nothing else is available. That's a major benefit when sitting in a meeting or listening to a lecture, and boring meetings are less boring when surfing the Internet.

Using the XDA as Phone
Well, I have to admit, I rarely use the XDA as a phone, the XDA is without any doubt a data terminal to me. But occasionally, I need to support friends or my father when they are having computer troubles. I simply switch on the external speaker, put the XDA next to me and have my hands free for typing and even can walk around for checking books. People call me on my home zone number (fixed wireline number) and get a cheap online support.

Non-wireless Applications

Morning clock
The XDA rings in the morning to wake me up. With the option for different wake-up profiles it soon replaced my old clock. I configured an early bird profile for workdays and a sleep-in profile for the weekend: different music clips that wake me up at different times. Very nice!

Newspaper Reader
I daily download the most recent issue of our local newspaper via desktop to the XDA. Since my girlfriend and I use Pocket PCs, we switched to an online-subscription offered through the Roundpoint client. The benefits: we can access the newspaper even while traveling abroad as long as the notebook finds an internet connection. Further, the Roundpoint client allows a one-handed reading during lonely breakfasts, and no newspaper is jamming our mailbox when we both are away from home. And last but not least: no paper is wasted; good news for the trees!

Worldwide Information Access
When starting with Avantgo's offline reading service, I was amazed how easily I now can access info sites throughout the world. There are even sites that cover very specific topics I need for my job. I fully utilize the 2 MB I got from Avantgo for this free service.

Mobile Interface to Outlook Data
When at my workplace, I first synchronize the XDA with my desktop for upcoming appointments that came in over night. In combination with the freeware tool Calendar+ for the today screen, I get a quick overview of my next appointments for the next days. During the day, the XDA is my mobile interface to all my Outlook data such as tasks, notes, and calendar entries. Honestly, before using a Pocket PC I was poorly organized and always searching for the little paper notes I had written important information on. With the Pocket PC I'm also a major step closer to the real paper free office!

E-Book Reader
Before going to bed, I love reading a book. With the Pocket PC I found reading much more convenient than with real books. I like reading English books, but getting them in Germany was often a costly challenge and the selection was limited. Now I get them cheaper and more conveniently online as E-Book from an online bookstore. When I don't know a word during reading, I tap on it and get the translation from a free dictionary. And – almost the most important aspect - when reading till late night, my girlfriend is not complaining anymore: neither the dim light of the screen nor the silent page turn via button does prevent her from sleeping.

Torch Substitute
Occasionally I need a torch to find my way out. With the Pocket PC, the light is available when I need it. The torch in our flat newer worked anyway when I needed it. And it always amazes me how bright the light of a Pocket PC is in the dark.

Music Player
When listening to music, I exclusively use my Pocket PC since our CD player broke down one year ago. I converted all of my CDs into the wma format with variable bit rate which uses much less memory than the common 128 kbit mp3 format. From time to time, I copy a new random collection of music files to a 256 MB SD card which gives me hours of music. When having guests over for dinner, I simply connect the XDA to our stereo and do not need to change a single CD for the whole evening: very convenient!

Final conclusion
When reading the list above, I guess the ratio of wireless to non-wireless applications is roughly equal. Only with respect to the usage time, the non-wireless applications are clearly the winner. However, I easily can find a non-digital substitute for the non-wireless applications. Even though the Pocket PC allows me to be digital and mobile, in case of failure, I could live without it for a while and would not experience a major impact to my daily life except for the missing convenience.

With the wireless applications that's definitely the opposite. The XDA allows me to access the Internet for information or communication when I need it, right in time and conveniently. With a standard Pocket PC without Internet connection, the Pocket PC would be only half as valuable to me as the XDA is right now. The simultaneous use of cell phone and Pocket PC both connected via Bluetooth could serve as a substitute, but then I need to worry about two devices, two chargers etc.

In summary, it is the connection to the Internet that makes the XDA a Pocket PC that I never will miss again. I am really looking forward to see devices that support UMTS so I can take full advantage of the increased wireless bandwidth, hopefully at lower online charges. And maybe, my office will then be paper free after all.

Cheers ~ Wolfgang


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