Has a UMPC influenced your smartphone usage?



We got a reader question from Tax Man (no known relation to or inspiration of The Beatles song) that I just couldn’t answer. And I generally have an answer for everything; if you don’t believe me, just ask my family. Let me provide the seemingly innocent and simple question followed by what I learned by not having an answer.

"Yesterday, I purchased a Samsung Blackjack windows mobile phone on Cingular.  I’m just getting it set up beyond the basic phone stuff. I’m syncing with Missing Sync on my MacBook and I’m using Cingular’s
Xpress Mail to push mail from my go-daddy email account….I’m new to the non-touch smartphone devices. What are your suggestions for "must have" apps for this platform?"

Simple question that should be easily answerable, right? Not for me personally….

Over the past few years, I’ve answer this question or a derivative of this question countless times. There’s no lack of good smartphone software on the market and I know we’ve covered those apps in the past in our Smartphones and Windows Mobile categories. We’ll continue to cover them of course, but the question really hit me as I realized I run my T-Mobile Dash with practically no third party apps. There’s a couple of reasons for this; let’s get through some of the less interesting and more obvious ones.

Now that I have the Windows Mobile 6 upgrade on the Dash, I have a few more useful apps included automatically. I use the Windows Live Search quite often on the road to find the nearest hotspot or place to eat. The Internet Connection Sharing utility allows me to use the Dash as a modem without any hoops or third party software. Voice Command is also included now and works very well.

What have I installed and why at this point? I’ve sung the praises of Widsets before and they give me the quick ability to post my Twitter status or read RSS feeds. I could actually do both of those functions natively in Windows Mobile using Internet Explorer; in fact, I sometime do. I simply like the Widsets presentation better, which is why these widgets have stayed on the Dash. eReader is the only other bit of third party software but I don’t even need that, which gets to why I’m not putting apps on my Dash: by carrying around my UMPC everywhere I go, my smartphone usage habits have changed.

All day long within an arm’s reach, I have access to everything I need with the UMPC running Vista and supporting applications. I have eReader installed on the Q1P, which is why I alluded to not needing it on my smartphone. Let’s think about this for a second. My UMPC has an extended battery, which gets me a good five hours of constant use. With turning off the radios and using Sleep mode when not actively using the machine, I can spread that five hours of constant use into a full day of intermittent or as-needed use. I also have the standard battery charged and handy in a pinch, plus I’ve been known to turn the backlight off when using the UMPC to listen to music.

So what does that get me? Well, it certainly doesn’t get me a phone replacement because I can’t make calls from the device other than SkypeOut calls when I have connectivity. What it does get me is a much more powerful machine than a smartphone; one that might not have ‘instant on’ or ‘always on’, but 3 to 5 seconds to wake from Sleep is very tolerable. In fact, it’s a very small price to pay for a device that has so much more functionality.

I sincerely believe that this is why I haven’t loaded up my smartphone with applications. As I think back now, I’ve used a UMPC for a full year. In that year, I’d say I’ve installed less than 10 apps on my phone devices. In the year prior: I’d estimate that I installed at least five times that amount. My conclusion: based on my UMPC usage habits and needs, I’ve replaced much of what I used to do on a phone with what I now do on my UMPC.

Does this mean that smartphones and their apps are a dying breed? Can today’s UMPCs replace smartphones? Am I recommending that everyone buy a UMPC and never install an app on their phone again? No, no, and no. I’m just pointing out a paradigm shift in the way I personally use my devices because I hadn’t thought of it until Tax Man asked his question. How you use your devices and what devices you use is completely up to you; I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I’m anticipating the commentary about how quick and easy it is to view a schedule or read an e-mail on a Windows Mobile or other phone device. I don’t disagree and there’s definitely a strong market for the devices as they’re a good tool for that task. I still use my phone for e-mail in the appropriate situation and conditions and wouldn’t naively suggest otherwise. However, I wonder if my enlightenment is a personal paradigm or something that other UMPC owners are experiencing as well. Let me know!



Like several others, no UMPC here yet. But I used to carry around a laptop, PocketPC, and a standard cell phone. I’d keep all three loaded with the apps I used the most and ilium’s e-wallet and ListPro were on all 3. When I got my first SmartPhone, Mpx220, I passed my PPC along to my wife, who uses it as a gaming device. I replaced my laptop with an HP TC4200 TabletPC and my SmartPhone is the Cingular 3125. The Tablet and 3125 are perfect for me now. The Tablet pretty much goes with me everywhere and I leave it in Standby throughout the day so I can get on quickly. I like having access to all the applications I can run under Vista and the 12.1 inch screen makes it easy to read as well as write. At 6’8″ my big hands had a hard time taking notes on my iPAQ ;-) I’ve looked at the UMPC’s and go back and forth on them. Adding to the indecision was HP’s announcement of the 2710p. With it starting at 3.6lbs I’m seriously considering it as my next Tablet. Since that’s still at least a year or two away I’ll have plenty of time to decide as well as see what comes down the pipe in UMPC land.

Rick Mahn

Kevin this was a great editorial on mobility! While I’m not currently a UMPC owner (darn it), I have noticed a change in my device usage since the beginning of the year.

My usage pattern changed simply because I started using the “standby” mode instead of shutting down my computer all the time. Because of this, I also find myself not requiring a super powerful phone.

My phone needs to deliver email, and allow me to reply. That is it. The rest is on my laptop, and hopefully a UMPC someday. :)


My first Ppc was a HP Jornada 928 which had an integrated phone. To be blunt the hardware sucked as the phone rarely worked. I also had a problem with whipping out a £300 phone to make a quick call when I was out for the evening or maybe in an unpleasant district. An experience I still hold today as I wouldn’t want to use a £800 UMPC as phone in anything but the most comfortable and safe environments.

I subsequently changed to a two device man, which worked fine, but I found the tethering to be a really pain regards to time taken to get “connected”.

Currently I am using a Orange m5000 (HTC universal) (which sucks at gaming) that has it’s own sim card, which I use extensively daily for GPS navigation (Tomtom 6), note taking (Textmaker) and a report generation database I chucked together (Sprintdb Pro). I also own a T-Mobile MDA Mail (T-mobile Dash) which is invaluable for phone calls, games playing (Astraware catalogue and Nes emulation), and finding my way around at street level when I don’t have a GPS module (Tomtom mobile & London Tube), music listening or video watching (nothing beats Family Guy or Futurama on TCPMP) and quick note taking (freeware app).

Currently I feel much more comfortable wiping out my T-Mobile MDA Mail for quick notes, calls, games etc when travelling or waiting around than my Orange M5000, plus I ALWAYS have my phone (MDA Mail/Dash) with me.

Recent case in point lying by the pool on holiday I found it much easier/comfortable to watch a movie on my MDA Mail/Dash than my bulky M5000. The phone just felt more robust for the environment.

However lately I am feeling bogged down with my Orange M5000 as I HAVE to use activestink to convert documents back and forth (not easy with access databases) I don’t really sync anything with my MDA mail/Dash other than appointments or contact details.

So my next purchase will definitely be a UMPC that is has HSDPA, Bluetooth and Wifi radios built in, the UMPC will replace my M5000 (no more Activestink yay!) and easily manage my work/internet/e-mail requirements, while my smartphone will be the device of choice when sitting on the train, walking around town or killing time while waiting for a client.

Aaron Walker

Kevin, I’m with you. Although I am still awaiting my UMPC, I carry my tablet PC with me everywhere (until the little wonder arrives that is ;).

And since I fell for the okey-doke and did not get a Windows Mobile phone instead getting a Symbian phone OS because it was free (I still kick myself everyday), I use it primarily for making phone calls and keeping a rudimentary appointment book (and a few pics of my son to share :).

So it seems my sub par usage of my smartphone is due more to a lack of options that I had with my PocketPC which the tablet more than covers. Symbian/Nokia tries but they are not there yet in my opinion with their software or the UI.

On my PPC I had about 12 different third party apps I used often. I anticipated as much when I tried to do the convergence thing. But since there are fewer options in the Symbian world (I only have one third party app installed), I don’t use it much beyond its basic functions.

Recently I became so fed up with the lack of functionality on my Symbian I seriously considered getting a Windows Mobile phone. Then I remembered I still have one year to go on my current contract before I can upgrade which meant I would have to get one unlocked. If I am going to pay that much for an unlocked WinMo 6 phone, I might as well spend just a little more and get a UMPC. Since my current phone was free from my carrier (AT&T) when I signed up, I might as well keep using it as a basic phone and simple calendar (I keep telling myself it was free after all) and follow yours and James’ and others example with their UMPCs (I am getting weary of having to lug a 4.5 pound, 12 inch screen tablet everywhere).

Would things be different with a WinMo 6 phone? I like to think so based on my usage patterns with my PPC. But, having used my tablet so much, especially lately, I’m not sure I could go back.

I’ve come to enjoy, as you said in your post, having full apps and the internet (when near a hot spot) within arms reach and a boot time of 10 – 15 seconds from standby. I’m not in the kind of industry where I need constant access to my e-mail or the requisite data package and getting on the internet was okay on my PPC but I wouldn’t even want to think about it on my Nokia E62.

I do want something lighter than my tablet but realized if I got a WinMo 6 phone now, I would miss all of the things having a tablet within easy reach allowed me to do.


OH i forgot a MUST have, at least for me.
the NES emulator with all of the mario games =) if i’m sitting waiting for my wife to try on clothes at the store i pull out the dash and work on mario 2, its taken me 2 months to beat the game with random 5 min game plays.


thats exaclty whats been happening to me after i bought my Q1, i am seeing myself pulling out the q1 more and more for random use. even though i love my t-mo dash i do miss the touchscreen of a WM phone. some of my must have apps are:
Google maps (i like it better than live search)
One note mobile (awesome when you want to insert recordings and random snapshots to one note.)
TCPMP (for my divix video needs)
Documents to go (the latest version allows document editing for excel, word and ppt)
last but not least an app called Dash weather, its just a simple weather application.

besides that the Q1 does it all. if i want to upload to my blog i just do it through mms using blogger.com and to update twitter i just send an sms message, simple as that.

Jose R. Ortiz

Great commentary! I could definitely see how one could get away with not loading a smartphone with apps. I have an HTC Excalibur and the only app I’ve loaded on there has been a game emulator for those ‘waiting in the lobby’ moments. I usually carry my Motion LE1600 around with me so if I do need anything that I don’t already have on S620 I can just boot up the tablet from sleep mode. One interesting comment that you made was how you don’t see the UMPC as replacement for a smartphone since you can’t make calls. Will all that change when HTC releases the Shift? From what I’ve read it is going to have quad-band GSM and tri-band HSDPA. With these radios built in, I can see how one device can take the place of both. I personally can’t wait until I get my hands on one to see if I could get away with using a UMPC device as a phone but two issues come to mind: battery life and the form factor. Would I be willing to carry a UMPC as my phone all day every day and along with that an additional charger and / or battery? Of course I can always switch the SIM card to the phone when I need to but what’s the fun in that?

Tax Man

Thanks for the post and your e-mail reply. Your thoughts on this topic are very interesting and I hope to hear from others who are maybe using their smartphones with their UMPC in a different way. I can clear up one point. “Tax Man” is intended to be a double meaning because I’m a CPA who does taxes and I’m a guitar player who is a huge Beatles fan.

Rock on!

Bill (aka Tax Man)

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