Revenge of the Handheld

by Reads (7,468)

People have been predicting the demise of the traditional handheld for several years now. At the same time, though, some have wondered if this is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Thanks to several devices announced this week, we’re going to get a chance to find out.

A Circular Argument?

There’s no arguing with the fact that sales of handhelds without cellular-wireless connectivity have declined, while the business in smartphones is booming.

Still, there are those who think that part of the decline stems for handheld makers expecting sales to go down, and cutting way back on developing new models.

HP iPAQ 210
HP iPAQ 210
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There’s a certain justification for this. The two best traditional handhelds available now came out in 2005 — the Palm TX and the Dell Axim X51v. With companies not coming out with new models, it’s no surprise that sales of these devices are slumping.

Fresh Blood

A couple of companies apparently didn’t get the memo that the traditional handheld is dead. Apple has just announced the iPod touch, its first handheld since the Newton, and HP is coming out with two new iPAQs that will attract the attention of those looking for a new mobile device that’s not a smartphone.

It’s much too early to tell how well these will do, but there have been predictions that the new iPod will take a lot of business away from the iPhone. If so, it will be interesting to see the shoe on the other foot: a handheld stealing thunder from a smartphone.

Latest and Greatest vs. Tried and True

I’m tempted to say that the mobile device market is in a period of transition, but I’ve come to realize that this is a market that’s always going to be in transition. New technologies are constantly coming along to shake up the status quo.

But new types of devices don’t automatically make older ones obsolete, especially as new features generally come with drawbacks.

Apple iPhone touch
Apple iPod touch
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The primary reason why some people still want a traditional handheld is because adding cellular-wireless functionality also adds a monthly service charge.

Also, the features many want in a phone are the exact opposite of what they want in a handheld. These people are looking for a small, light phone, but they want a handheld with a large, high-resolution screen. Having both in a single device just isn’t possible, at least not right now.

That’s where the traditional handheld comes in.

I’m glad HP and Apple have realized that there’s still a market for this type of device, and I hope some other companies get the message too.

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