This week I’m on the road again, and I’m doing something I don’t often do; namely drive a car. This might not seem like a huge deal to most people, but having lived in New York for 17 years without a car, driving is one of those things that I don’t do all that often. This time my wife and fellow freelance writer, Enid Burns, and I are in Phoenix, Arizona, a city we know only reasonably well.
Being a stranger in a strange land we aren’t exactly lost, but we usually rely on public transportation, taxis and other means to get from point A to point B. But Phoenix is a city we visit at least once or twice a year, and thus we are familiar with the locations of various points of interest, as well as the location of companies we regular meet with while visiting.
The latter information is of the type that makes it just a bit frustrating because we know where things are, just not always how to get there. This is where digital help comes in very handy. Upon getting into our rental car we decided to seek out a restaurant we liked for lunch. And armed with an actual GPS device and our BlackBerry Tour World Phones, we found something truly fascinating. Completely different directions depending on which device we used. We expected the different interfaces and different functionality with each handheld, but not different ways to get there.
Different functionality is a part of the digital world. So this is nothing new for us, as we regularly test and review consumer electronics. But we were a tad surprised that the directions would be so different, especially when each offered what it suggested was the best or most direction option.
At least we didn’t get the old time, “you can’t get there from here” line. But it made us think about this. While we won’t debate which option works better, we agree that for those who regularly use GPS they probably know better than us. But for the casual user, and those who aren’t used to GPS devices—but use their handsets a lot—we’d actually say that a smartphone seems like the smarter move.
Mobile Twitter-Only Device Debuts
At the turn of the century (that would be the turn of the 19th to 20th century), there was talk of closing the U.S. Patent Office because it was (wrongly) assumed that everything that could be invented must have been invented. I would suggest that we reconsider this again, with the disclaimer that maybe everything useful has already been invented.
This week the world’s first dedicated Twitter device has made its debut. Available exclusively on Amazon.com, the TwitterPeek from a company called Peek, is an always-on handheld device that lets you tweet away. It naturally features a QWERTY keyboard, color screen and carries a $199 price with wireless lifetime service. For $99 you can get a six month plan and then pay $7.95 a month thereafter. In normal use—whatever that may be for Twitter—the device will run for four days on battery power.
Users can use the device with a single Twitter account at a time, and tweet, reply, retweet, download followers and even send direct messages to users. Power Twitter users (and yes there are such users) may find this to be a very helpful device. Twitter is how word was spread of Michael Jackson’s death after all, and many users do follow the “news” via the service.
But the question is whether such a device is even necessary. Smartphones and feature phones can easily be used to follow Twitter. Has the idea been for the mobile business traveler to have less devices in the pocket. Smartphones combine a voice communication device with GPS (see above), e-mail and Web. And today’s feature phones can do many of these things as well. So even for $199 for a lifetime of Twitter seems too high a price to pay. This device may do one thing very well, but today we should expect one device to many things just as well.