The one vs. many device question


N95_and_n800Jonathan Greene has a nice post up from a few days ago and he thoughtfully shares opinions on the “one or many” device debate. It’s no secret I’m a strong believer in using the right tool for the task. That means two things: one, I use many devices and two, this approach requires an above-average gadget budget.Currently, Jonathan gets through a mobile day with a Nokia N95 and N800. Yup, there’s some overlap there, but Jonathan takes the same approach I took for CES week: if you can, always have a backup. If the Eee PC didn’t cut it (or simply crapped out), I would have easily transitioned over to a Samsung Q1P and a Bluetooth keyboard. No, you don’t want to carry two devices everywhere, but for something as important as a week at the country’s largest consumer electronics show, a backup plan is a must.The pocketable promise of MIDs with WiMAX connectivity has Jonathan waiting for some product releases. I don’t think any MIDs we know of will come close to replacing the awesome camera on the Nokia N95, but aside from that, a MID might be a great single device for him and his activities. How about you: are you dead set on a single, all-my-needs-are-met device? As much as I’d like one of those, I just don’t see one available yet that fits all of my requirements.



My critical issue for having more devices is well designed sync-ing.

In fact, I’d identify this as one of the big problems of mobile computing. Maybe it depends a bit where you live, but for me, the infrastructure to “use the cloud” is only just getting good enough. And it’s still not really good enough for big documents. And the cloud apps don’t do everything the desktop ones do. As such, I have a Sony SZ4 (with docking station and screen for desk work) and a HTC Universal.

What I’d like to have in my arsenal is a proper desktop with more grunt, a lighter laptop/tablet for mobile working, something like the HTC Polaris as my business phone and a nice compact phone that lives comfy in a jeans pocket when necessary for personal time. And I’m sure that I could be persuaded to rearrange around a UMPC or OQO or something once I played with it, but the ideal is still more devices, not less. But there’s no simple way to even sync Outlook tasks and calendar across those 4 devices, let alone getting into issues about web bookmarks or multiple email accounts, because IMAP is good, but not perfect and some things can’t be put through gmail.

And then there’s the apps issue. I don’t always need photoshop on the road, but I do sometimes. So you need some grunt to run it but also, what’s the licensing answer across all the bits of software you’d like to have on both laptop and desktop?

Of course, I’m no expert, I know syncing is possible, but I’d maintain it’s not easy, but maybe some 3rd party has made it easy?

Ahmed Gabr

Well, well ..

That’s an industry policy debate .. If Nokia for instance made a single device that can offer everything .. Who is going to buy 2 and 3 or even more devices ??!! who’s going to upgrade his device every now and then .. ??!! .. Man that would be catastrophic for the industry players.

But actually that doesn’t mean that you can’t get an all-your-needs device .. some companies actually do that kind of devices but they’re mostly companies with a single product, it doesn’t mean smallcompanies but companies that just produce a single product and always look forward at improving it .. consider OQO for instance ..

For me .. I don’t like carrying many devices around .. so I try to minimize this by buying all-in-one devices and also by improving the productivity of a single device .. apps, accessories .. etc

Keep rocking Kevin .. It’s my first comment but I’m a lifetime lover of JK :D


I like to carry a few things if its practical, since I have several different tools for different jobs. However, most of things I carry perform double duty, so I almost always have a backup in a pinch.

I think if i was to choose the one device that could serve 90% of my needs, it would be my dopod 838 pro/HTC tytn I. Its an adequate macro camera (for imaging any written notes I have), phone, Internet device (via work wifi), office documents reader and notepad. It can also be a podcatcher/ downloader and mp3 player. its a shame that I can’t do some of my image analyses on it and output to a bigger screen, or else it would be hands down the one device for me.

James A. Morman

I have decided I only need my 2710p, but what I need for different situations is a smaller case. I get way too many oohs and ahhs over this thing to ever leave it at home.


thanks to you and James for the CES coverage.
I do share the same approach: a light mobile blogging platform (N95+N800) + (when possible) a back-up with some more horse power (Toshiba R400) and a MacBookPro as a desktop replacement at home. I start thinking, btw, that it is in the geek nature not to be “fully” satisfied with any spec list you can make fit in your bag :). What I mean is that there’s no end point, it is a process and the most important thing is to enjoy the process and not only the early adopting pain.
stv at

P.S. stvdicorsa translated from italian to english sounds like stvontherun hope you and James do not feel copyright offended ;)

Philip Ferris

I am trying to cut down a little – currently I tote a HP2710p (it’s just too gorgeous not to me every chance I get); my N95, brilliant cameraand my most common ebook & podcast listening device; Dell Aim x51v and Stowaway keyboard.

I use the HP and N95 everyday but virtually never the x51v now, but I will keep it for security purposes I just need to stop carrying it around “just in case”.


I expect that we’ll see both convergence and divergence over time. My mobile device (aka my phone) will have more functions and take the place of my basic camera and basic portable MP3 player. But whenever I’m on vacation or at an event, I’ll bring my 8 MegaPixel camera. If I go on a trip, I’ll bring my 30 MB iPod so that I have a lot of music and audiobooks to listen to. The goal is the right product for the right purpose.



You said it yourself, “It’s no secret I’m a strong believer in using the right tool for the task.”

Sometimes, that means you get lucky and find a single device that completely (or mostly) meets your daily needs. Sometimes, however, that means you need multiple devices.

In my case, I like my combination of desktop, Toshiba Tablet PC, Sprint Mogul, and my Zune. They work for me for specific purposes, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. If I find that solution, awesome, but definitely not there just yet.

Mike Cane

>>>Currently, Jonathan gets through a mobile day with a Nokia N95 and N800.

Oh for God’s sake. The man needs help!! Someone intervene!! Maybe shock treatment. It’s very hard to get rid of Finnish Embedded Syndrome.


UMPCs nowadays sure make it easy to bring backup plans. I brought two devices to a recent business trip and the best part was that I didn’t have to take them out at the airport screening. How many people actually had backup plans while carrying around a full size laptop? I certainly never did!

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