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!

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