Dateline: Starbucks, Roswell GA
Grande Americano in one hand, PalmOne LifeDrive and Universal Wireless Keyboard in the other, I sat down to try signing onto T-Mobile’s free 30-day Wi-Fi service, using the coupon that came with the LifeDrive. It took a few minutes, and the WiFi connection timed out a time or two, but I got it working and downloaded my email. I came across a Google alert linking to a story from Australia discussing how the new Palm LifeDrive could rival the Apple iPod, and tapped on a link.
After reading it for a minute, I considered the thought. I’m not sure they’re right, but I do think the LifeDrive is comparable to the iPod in that it offers good Storage in an easy-to-use package. I wouldn’t presume to say that the LifeDrive is as easy to use as an iPod, but that’s partly due to the greater capability built into a Palm handheld.
Comparisons to iPod are unavoidable, but the comparisons I’ve seen drawn really don’t apply to most PDA people. It is true that you can buy an iPod with far more storage than LifeDrive’s 3.85 GB, and use it as a music player, photo storage and display terminal, and even set it up to perform some of the functions of a PDA; but you can’t pull into any Starbucks to get your email and browse the Web, or sit and write a review, as I’m doing now, with an iPod.
Neither is better, they’re just different.
As I said in the preview, the music lover desiring to bring mass amounts of music wherever he goes would be better off with a very easy to use and capacious iPod.
PDA users, on the other hand, need a device with a good amount of storage, and the ability to transform into whatever they need at the moment.
I’ve read a few reviews that say the LifeDrive tries to do many things but does none of them well. Okay. I can think of a few things like that. My Leatherman Charge XTi, for example, isn’t what I usually grab when I need a saw or a ruler, but it does have both when I need one. It’s a great pair of pliers, too, and one heck of a sharp knife, and I use it at least once a day. Those who make such criticisms don’t get what PDAs are for, nor what they’re becoming, and I think their criticism can be ignored. Nothing but a full set of individual tools will do for them, and that’s fine. I’d rather have a good multitool along to get most of what I need done and leave the rollaway at home.
If you are to compare the LifeDrive to anything, it should be the crop of PDAs on the market, not to the iPod, and not to a full-fledged notebook computer.
LifeDrive offers more Storage and WiFi to a Palm Community that has needed a worthy upgrade. We’re tired of constantly worrying about a memory ceiling that requires us to cull our data periodically to maintain space for the latest program, picture, or document. And Bluetooth, while a great option when out in the great wide open with a cell phone, is still a speed compromise that doesn’t work well in some buildings. WiFi is a welcome addition.
Too big or not too big?
There’s no question that the LifeDrive is bigger than a Tungsten T3 or T5. It is better compared to a similarly sized and capable handheld that is no longer produced: the Sony Clie NX80V. The CLIE was actually more ambitious than the LifeDrive in many ways, including as it did a camera with video and still capability, and an expansion port that could take CF cards, Microdrives, and a specially-designed WiFi card. It also had a lighted keyboard and unique flip screen.
Had Sony included the capability to store and play music and videos through a CF card on an NX80V, the LifeDrive would have been two years too late. But Sony limited video and audio to the Memory Stick slot, presumably to keep from undermining Sony’s own proprietary and more costly memory format. Still, those who chose the NX80V learned to put up with its larger size, and I’m willing to bet that those wanting greater multimedia capability and capacity in their handheld will not mind the LifeDrive’s profile, which is only a little shorter than the NX80v, and almost exactly as thick and wide.
Compared to a selection of other handhelds, the LifeDrive’s size isn’t so outrageous after all. It’s smaller in width and height than the Palm VIIx, though still thicker. It’s about as tall as a HandEra 330, though thicker and not as wide; and perhaps most interesting, it’s just a little taller and thicker, though narrower by millimeters than my original Palm Pilot Personal.
It’s safe to say that if you carried an original Palm Pilot, Handspring Visor, or Palm VIIx in reasonable comfort, you shouldn’t have trouble getting used to the LifeDrive.
This review has been broken up into sections: