My Elusive Quest for the Perfect Pocket Media Device

Posted by Hanson Hosein

“notmyPhone.”  There I said it.  I own or operate five Apple computers, three iPods, two Airports, constantly curse anytime I have to use Windows, and regularly sermonize that Steve Jobs singled-handedly democratized media production.

But in my quest for that one device that can do everything (phone, e-mail, web, pictures, video, GPS, word processing, modem), the iPhone continues to come up short.  And that’s too bad, because it puts any other phone operating system to shame (I know that much just from using the iPod Touch).

I could just be a contrarian happy to challenge the wisdom of the crowd — I didn’t think the Dark Knight was anything special (even on IMAX), preferred Batman Begins, and suspect that Iron Man is the holy grail of superhero movies.  So you just may want to stop reading now if you believe my opinion counts for nothing.

But I do maintain that the graphic above gets it right (link to original article What Your Phone Says About You): the iPhone is a media consumption device, not a media production one.  So its beautifully self-contained operating system makes mobile telephony a sheer joy for the vast majority of owners, but does little to satisfy all the ridiculous hoops I want my phone to jump through.

My current Nokia E61i is an amazing workhorse.  It lies somewhere between “Worker” and “Media Creator” on that scale.  I use Blackberry Connect on it, through T-Mobile, which is fast and cheap (with a flat data rate add-on when I travel overseas, which is huge, and one major reason why I don’t go with AT&T).  The camera is so-so, but at least it shoots video.  The browser isn’t bad, but after playing around with Apple’s mobile OS, the Symbian 60 3rd edition OS reminds me of Windows — very flexible if you know what you’re doing, but not all that fun.  I tether it to my Macbook Pro for a data connection (Edge).  I connect it via bluetooth to a GPS unit, and sometimes to an external keyboard.  I sometimes listen to music and audiobooks.  I use it for Skype, Twitter, and Google Maps.  I can leave my laptop at home when I’m take short trips across the country.

Now that our MCDM program is looking to focus on the power of consumer-grade pocket media devices, I’m striving to find that One Device to rule them all.  I’d like a Nokia N95 for its amazing video and still capabilities, but it doesn’t have a keyboard.  I coveted the new Nokia E71, but Nokia just ended its relationship with Blackberry.  The Blackberry Bold looks cool, but the camera is still 2 megapixels, with the Blackberry OS getting a little long in the tooth.  And the iPhone has that amazing touch OS, but doesn’t shoot video nor send multimedia messages.  Besides, it’s tied to AT&T.

What I did today exemplifies the kind of tech travesty to which  I regularly subject myself, in the absence of the ideal pocket device.  I recently picked up the Pentax W60 waterproof point-and-shoot, on the strength of its HD video capabilities (well, not quite, only 15 fps at 720p and mediocre sound).

Here’s my nephew and niece monkeying around in the water in 720p AVI:

I wanted a “take-everywhere'” camera that could potentially supplement my 1080p HD films (the Flip camera, simple and beautiful, just doesn’t cut it in that department).

Part of “everywhere” includes my weekly kayak commute to campus.  Here’s how I wrapped myself up in proverbial knots, gadgetry-wise to record my trip.

(1) Attached the Pentax W60 to the bow of the kayak to shoot the entire 52-minute, 3.5 mile trip, in 320×240 30fps — that way I could get the entire trip in one shot, as each video clip maxes out at 2 GB.  Here’s the video, massively compressed, and sped up 1500%:

(2) Activated a GlobalSat BT-338 Bluetooth GPS receiver and stuck it in my lifejacket pocket.

(3) Tethered the BT-338 to my Nokia E61i via bluetooth, and fired up Nokia’s amazing Sportstracker program to track my water commute (see Google Earth image above).

(4) Plugged in Sennheiser PX-100 headphones (I like top-quality sound, even with compressed MP3 files) to a Sandisk M240 MP3 player for tunes to inspire my paddle.  I’d rather not risk my iPod 160GB classic in the wake of all those speeding boats, though I did dare to stick my E61i into a waterproof Pelican case and strap it down near me.  Sadly, I did lose my brand new Pacific Science Center waterbottle (sorry Stan!).

(5) Strung a water-resistant Plantronics Voyager 370 bluetooth earpiece around my neck just in case my wife and daughter needed to check in with me.  Or if I needed saving because the boat was too heavy with superfluous tech jetsam.

Sheer folly isn’t it?  Since I’m obviously a big Nokia fan (have been ever since I used its nearly bulletproof phones as an NBC journalist in the Iraqi, Israeli and Balkan wars), maybe my best bet is the somewhat bulky E90.  But I’m still missing out on that magnificent Apple touch screen…do I need to wait until Nokia releases its own superhero touch device, which got an early sneak peek via The Dark Knight when Morgan Freeman used it to knock out communications in a Hong Kong skyscraper?

Maybe I had better be patient.  (Perhaps Iron Man will design a waterproof all-inclusive gadget one day.)  In the meantime, I intend to add a 5-credit course to our program on Digital Media in the Mobile Space in the coming academic year.  Hopefully its new instructor will also schedule a gadget intervention for me…

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