Becoming more wired

Next month, I’ll get $100 towards a new cell phone from Verizon. My usual tactic is to pick one that is either $100 or less to start with, or comes with a rebate to make up the difference. Last time I got a phone, I was looking for a smallish flip phone with a small screen on the outside to tell me who’s calling and what time it is. I didn’t want a camera, but apparently enough people want cell cameras that they are on almost every phone.  Of course, I picked my phone after doing tons of research at CNet.com and wandering around in the Verizon store looking at the ones I’d narrowed it down to (as well as a few others).

I haven’t started doing the research this time, because I’ve just barely figured out the answer to the very first question I ask myself:

What do I want this gadget to do*?

In the past, I’ve not considered my cell phone a gadget – it’s just a phone. I make calls on it, and now I text message with it. End of story. The camera has been used twice, each time to put something other than the default wallpaper up on the inside screen. No MP3s, I have an iPod Mini for that. No pictures, that’s what my digital camera is for. No web access, I am not paying extra, even if it would occasionally be helpful. (I am wary of all-in-one gadgets, I guess.)

But in the last year or so, I have moved from being a stalwart paper-calendar person (I have a lovely leather planner) to using my Google Calendar far, far more. To the point where every couple of weeks, I have to sit at the computer with my planner and update it. If I’m looking at my planner, I can’t be sure that it’s up-to-date. So I’d like something that I could sync up with Google Cal — probably through some sort of XML/iCal feed trickery involving another calendaring application on my (Windows) computer, since I don’t want to pay to use internet on another device and GCal only offers URLs for extra access (you know, being web-based and all).

It’d also be nice to access bus schedules from the MBTA while on the go. I carry around a few paper schedules, but that’s not always enough. (That being said, I can’t afford to pay any additional fees to use the web on a cell or other device–through Verizon, data access on a smartphone or Blackberry would almost double my bill. No can do. The MBTA offers schedule downloads compatible with handhelds running Windows Mobile or Palm OS 3.1 or higher. Sounds good, thanks.)

So after all of this thought, here is where I have arrived:

  • Get my usual small flip phone, hopefully with as few extra features as possible (ha!)
  • Find a used PDA on ebay (or through my network of techies) to carry around on weekdays when I need calendaring and to reference MBTA schedules, keep notes, etc.

I say “used PDA” because at the moment, what I plan to do with it is not worth a hefty price tag (though I don’t doubt that I will wind up using other features) and I don’t have much money for this. Anyway, this will solve my problem of wanting to move to doing a couple more “life-management” type tasks digitally, while still being able to fit my cell phone into my small purses and clutches. (I am a lady geek, after all. One who does not have a Big Important Job that will pay for a more robust device because they want to be able to do stuff while I am not at work.)

But, I would like your input, oh techie readers. Am I unaware of some amazing small cell phone that can do some of this stuff? (I am a loyal Verizon customer, but don’t let that stop you from recommending non-Verizon stuff.) Do you have recommendations for a particular type of PDA to look for? Do you have one you’re looking to get rid of?

As I said, I’ve done zero research. I figured I would start with you guys and see what sort of opinions and recommendations I got, and start from there. Also, there has been no time for this until today, and I thought this through by writing this post. (Hey look, it’s my life! I forgot what my life was like. Wow . . . )
* Yes, that one time the answer was “I want this gadget to be an iPod.” And there will be another time someday when that answer is “I want this gadget to be a Mac.” Like you’ve never done that.

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One thought on “Becoming more wired

  1. i currrently have a blackberry pearl, not by choice but by my sister’s boyfriend’s mom finding it on the street and my being the only one anyone knew with tmobile. anyway, the thing is awesome — it has all the features you could ever want, but here’s my experience with actually using it:

    – i don’t use the camera. it’s decent quality as far as cell cameras go, but my sony dscw70 is way better and small enough to allow me to carry both out
    – i love being able to sync contacts, calendar and tasks with my phone using outlook. for example, my “libraries” contact has several libraries listed with their numbers and hours (crucial, since you librarians don’t get paid enough to work weekends or late)
    – besides calls and texts i use calendar the most. i have it synced with my work calendar, so i’ve got everything right there.
    – have you ever used google text? it’s great for directions, weather and looking up phone numbers…it has been able to replace most internet functions for which i would otherwise be paying an extra $30/month.
    – jpgs of subway maps…also very useful
    – also i bought an extra 2 gigs of memory for the sucker, so i now use it as a mp3 player too. way better than ipod cuz there’s no bulky proprietary software (well, there is, but it’s super easy), and then i don’t have to carry around a third gadget. i sync with new downloads/podcasts and favorite songs, and use my mp3 player instead as a backup drive (with 60gigs it’s decent)

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