Archive for October, 2006


Earlier this month I asked for advice regarding phones that can send and receieve email. Only two people in the comments mentioned the BlackBerry Pearl, but that’s what I ended up purchasing and have had it now for about 24 hours. What follows is a mini review of the device, this coming from someone who is new to the BlackBerry, new to the mobile web, and new to sending and receiving email using tiny keys. The short version: loving it so far.

BlackBerry PearlThere’s several reasons I ended going with the Pearl, rather than the other great suggestions (like the Palm Treo, or Nokia e62, for example).

  • I realized I needed to stay with T-Mobile as a provider. I have a pretty great, grandfather’d plan that was too good to give up going somewhere else. Isn’t a shame that devices and providers are so locked together?
  • T-Mobile’s unlimited web and email BlackBerry plans are cheaper than their normal internet plans. You don’t get access to HotSpots, but I figure as long as there’s carrier service, that won’t be difficult to miss.
  • The Pearl is _tiny_ for a phone that packs a decent screen and 1.3 MP camera. I knew if it was bulky, I wouldn’t enjoy using it as often. It had to fit in a pocket.
  • I’m left-handed, so the normal-sized BlackBerry’s would’ve probably been awkward to navigate with the scroll wheel on the right side. The Pearl’s trackball works great, and it’s in the middle for either thumb.
  • My mobile phone is my business phone, so the call quality has to be good. It’s been fine so far — in fact audio coming in has been clearer and louder than previous phones I’ve owned. I’m not sure how I sound on the other end. I’ll have to call myself (wow, what should I say?!).

It took me a bit to get used to how Push email works. I have my main IMAP account set up and assumed I’d see everything in my inbox. Instead, it’ll push emails to the BlackBerry, where they’ll be until you delete them. You have the option of the delete also removing them from your mail account. But there’s a cool feature that lets you “Delete Prior” messages from your inbox. It’ll make them disappear from your BlackBerry but not your main IMAP account. Handy if you want a clean slate, and want to only see new incoming messages when you’re away from your desk.

As far as the keyboard on the Pearl goes, well that’s the tradeoff for the tiny, candybar form factor. It has what BlackBerry calls a “SureType” keyboard setup. There’s two letters per key, but they’re set up in a QWERTY formation. It really works quite a bit better than I thought it would. If you ignore what’s happening on screen while you type, it’ll get the right word nearly every time based on the letter combinations. I’m impressed. It’s not like typing on a normal keyboard, of course. But short replies will be no problem — something I’d never attempt on a normal phone keypad.

Finally having a decent web-enabled phone to really play with has been eye-opening. Seeing what sites have a @media=”handheld”@ stylesheet, or which sites sniff and serve a mobile-friendly version of their site automatically. From my limited time playing with it, it’s clear that there’s so many different methods for handling mobile content. One thing’s for sure, lean, unstyled markup sure is helpful, even when there’s not specifically a mobile version of the same site. We really need Cameron’s book.

So all in all, I’m quite pleased with the Pearl. It’ll take some getting used to, but it’s certainly a helpful improvement. And will hopefully help me work less, stay away longer, etc.

During my tenure at a failed dot com in early 2000, in between margarita parties, all the VPs where saying “the mobile web is going to change the world!”. This was 6 years ago. Everyone believed them of course, and dumped millions into mobile products that weren’t ready for primetime. But now (and I’m admitedly late to the game) it really feels like there’s momentum here — real stuff happening, “affordable” access, etc. Interesting times.

More Workshop Details

Amidst a flurry of client activity over here at SimpleBits HQ, I’m also lovingly crafting what I hope to be a great Carson Workshop: Bulletproof Design with XHTML & CSS on November 2nd in Boston. The venue is now booked, and it’ll be a fun one: Boston’s Museum of Science — a place anyone who’s grown up in the area knows very well. Perhaps between sessions we can chill out in the planetarium or IMAX theatre. Anyhow, I think it’ll be a great setting, and I can only hope I’m able to make the day helpful, fun, inspiring and interesting.

I should also note I’ll be handing out stickers, t-shirts and books to attendees in scheduled bursts of shameless self-promotion. I haven’t yet determined the criteria for receiving the goods — but we’ll think of something interesting.

Hope to see you there.

Mobile Email?

So I’ve been thinking of getting a mobile device suitable for sending and retrieving electronic mail. Here’s how I imagine it’ll help me work less: simply knowing that I don’t have an important email sitting in my inbox while I’m away. I don’t plan on reading email everywhere I am, but rather just having the ability to put out any fires, or attend to urgent stuff from time to time might allow me to stay away longer. Maybe there’d be some peace of mind knowing I don’t have to hurry back to my inbox — then again, maybe it’d drive me nuts.

So I wonder what your experience is with mobile email. I’m looking into something that:

  • Can connect to IMAP
  • Is a decent phone as well
  • Has a QWERTY keyboard (tiny tiny of course)
  • Isn’t gigantic

Blackberry? Treo? Sidekick? Nothing? Let us know, o’ untethered ones.

One Percent for the Planet

It’s been just about three years now that I’ve been out on my own, building SimpleBits into a fledgling little business. I feel really fortunate to be able to wake up everyday and work on things that I’m excited about. It’s been a lot of work, of course (as many of you know) — but the flexibility has been especially important lately.

1% for the PlanetFor a while now, I’ve been thinking of ways I could give back, finally stumbling on an organization called 1% for the Planet. From their mission statement:

1% For The Planet is an alliance of businesses committed to leveraging their resources to create a healthier planet. Members recognize their responsibility to and dependence on a healthy environment and donate at least 1% of their annual sales to environmental organizations worldwide.”

It struck a chord with me immediately. Here’s a structured way I could give back to the environment as a business each year. I filed the paperwork, and from now going forward, SimpleBits, LLC will be a proud member.

One of the aspects I really dig about 1%FTP, is the fact that as a business, it’s up to you in choosing what environmental groups you’d like to donate to from a list of approved organizations. That takes much of the guesswork out of “where to donate?”, and is a real benefit in joining the group. I’ll be choosing 2006′s groups over the next month or so. There are already a few local orgs that look interesting (Ipswich River Watershed Association for example, where I’ve often gone hiking).

I do realize 1% of our revenue isn’t going to change the world — a drop in the bucket really. But I thought it was worth mentioning publicly in case others have also been searching for an easy way to help the environment. And the more businesses on board, the better for all of us.