Mobile email with a Palm T|X

After using my new Palm T|X for a few weeks, and as a follow-up to my previous blog entry, here are some thoughts about the good, the bad and also the ugly when it comes to this little device. Time flies… It’s already been over a month since I looked at various devices to replace my SonyEricsson P910i. As mentioned in my previous Blog entry, I was looking for a new device (or combination of devices) to provide mobile email access and more. My choice went with the Palm T|X and overall, I am really happy with this PDA. A few things could be improved, very few should be completely replaced and most of them are great! And overall, I am really happy that I don’t have this brick in my pocket all the time anymore :)

Before I start the good, the bad and the ugly of this PDA in relation to my previous blog entry on the subject, I have to say that Graffiti 2 (the way you write characters these days) takes a lot to get used to if, like myself, you have been using Graffiti for years. OK, there is a way to get these libraries back on the latest generation of devices, but I decided to go with the way it is supposed to be (for the time being at least).

What I love

First of all, it’s a Palm OS device and I felt right at home in matters of minutes. My previous Palm was the Tungsten T (the first Palm OS 5 device) and in the 3 years since then, not much has changed on the core OS side (except the move to Graffiti 2). It is still a very simple design, easy to use and that does extremely well what it is supposed to do. I am happy to see that the calendar and the address book have been slightly updated to support a longer list of fields.

As the Palm T|X replaces my P910i as a mobile email device, I need to go a little more in detail about Versamail. This email-client is pre-loaded on the TX to enable access to POP3, IMAP (both secured and unsecured) as well as an Exchange server. The IMAPS connection seems to work great and I can now access my private email server. The strange thing though is that, as IMAP keeps everything stored on the server, I was hoping to be able to easily sync my inbox on the server with my inbox in Versamail. Well, that is a little more complex than I though. The Get button in the main screen only downloads the new messages, but does not delete those which where removed from the server. For that, you have to go into the menu and select the “Sync Folder” option. A little to complex for my taste.

When it comes to Versamail, the other important email server supported is Microsoft Exchange. I use that to access my work email on the go, and to go straight to the point, it works great. I can sync my inbox and my calendar, I can send emails and, because most of the time I only have a slow (and expensive) Internet connection, it is possible to limit the amount of each message that is retrieved. The Calendar sync includes meeting proposals, with the attendee list, as well as meeting notes (very useful for getting the conf-call number to dial). The only thing that is missing in my opinion when it comes to MS Exchange support are the server folder and the Global Address book (also known as GAL) support. I cannot move an email from my inbox to another folder on the server, such as “To Be Sorted”. I always try to keep my inbox fairly clean, but want to keep most of the messages for further reference… well, there has to be a reason for Palm to sell me an upgrade of Versamail or of the Palm as I don’t think you can upgrade only the email client. And not having the global address book support means that I needed to add all the internal people that I am in regular contact with to my contact list.

Blazer, the web browser, does a very good job at rendering complex web pages. I gave it a try with CSS Zen Garden and it worked impressively well on most designs. You can also use the Fast Mode in Blazer which does not load the Style Sheets and the images… I found that this is usually a very good way of going through web sites until you arrive to the page you actually wanted to read, at which point you can quickly turn on all the bells and whistles.

Now for those who use a Blackberry or a P910i, the great thing about the Palm T|X is that it has both Bluetooth (for GPRS / 3G Internet connections using your mobile phone) and Wi-Fi (802.11b). This means that it is possible to avoid the majority of the GPRS charges, especially when you are roaming outside of your country, as long as you are near a Wi-Fi Hotspot. And with the free ones popping-up more and more frequently, it enables access to your email for free on the go. If there are only pay-for Wi-Fi Hotspots nearby, you can always consider the GPRS vs. 802.11b access 😉

Another really nice thing is the support for Office documents through Dataviz’s Documents to Go, that comes pre-installed on the machine. Quality is really good, and you can sync files with your desktop computer for references on the move. With the v8 upgrade that you can get from Dataviz’s web site, you can even read PDF files on the go… and it works a lot better than the Acrobat Reader that is on the Palm TX CD-Rom. But please, please, add support for Corel WordPerfect Office (WordPerfect, Quattro Pro and Presentations). I know Microsoft has 90%+ market share, but Corel’s office productivity is the number one alternative.

And for those Mac users out there, go and check out Markspace’s Missing Sync for a great way to synchronize Palm OS devices with the various applications that you use (iCal, Address Book, AvantGo, iPhoto, iTunes, …). Being able to share you laptop Internet connection through bluetooth adds yet another way to avoid the GPRS charges. And the Drive mounting capability is really nice to quickly transfer files onto or from your SD Card.

What I hate (or at least don’t like)

Well, not much actually. I am missing my voice recorder and the little let that I had on my Palm Tungsten T. Please Palm, bring these back in your next generation of PDAs. And even more important, the vibrating alarm. To notice the meeting reminder, I need to leave the sound on, which is not very nice for the other attendees of the meeting… having my Palm briefly vibrate would be a lot better.

Part from that, not much to say at this stage as I am still getting used to the Graffiti 2 handwriting… when you have a word that finishes with a L, if you don’t wait a while before writing a space character, you end up with a T, a backspace, … which overall is annoying me. In the end, I might get the Graffiti 1 libraries, but I least I will have tried.

What could be improved

Outside of the Exchange Folder and GAL support mentioned before (which HAS to be improved), there are a few things that could be improved.

I was talking about my new Palm to a friend of mine and he immediately started talking about his Psion 5mx, how great it was, and that nothing was close to it now. The number one comment was around links between the applications. If I want to attach a contact to an appointment, or embed a photo / drawing to the notes of that contact, I am quickly hitting a wall with the Palm. Makes sense to go into that direction, but I need an address book, a calendar and a mail client, not a full-blown computer in the palm of my hand (I’ve got a laptop for that).

One application that I would like to be added to my Palm is a nice little RSS feed reader. I haven’t had a chance to try out those available yet, but will try to do that soon. And Instant Messaging capabilities are certainly on my list of things to have fun with and try out in the future.

What I don’t care

After using the Palm T|X for a few weeks, there are many things in this device that I don’t use at all. These include the MP3 player, the video playback capabilities and the other stuff that I haven’t tried yet. But that’s only for my needs. Also, battery life seems to be long enough so that I don’t need to think about it. I have to charge my Palm as often as my cell phone with the usage I have, so that it only comes down to plugging two devices into the wall instead of one. So the fact that I don’t care about battery life is that there is enough for my needs, which is a very positive thing.

That’s if for now. Need to get ready as tomorrow is a busy day. But that’s something completely different…