Modern Replacement for Psion Revo/Diamond Mako for Business Use?
I have been using these PDAs daily for the last 10 years as a business professional for the following tasks:
(1) Real time note taking (as I find a PDA to be less distracting in meetings then taking out a laptop + I ALWAYS have my notes with me because a PDA fits in my pocket)
(2) Contact management (3K+ business contacts, scanned and edited with custom field data in CardScan, copied to the Revo/mako, and imported into a custom Revo contact database that I made)
(3) Calendar/schedule management (I don't synch with Outlook but plan to after switching to a modern device)
BTW, I am a Windows user living in the USA. I happen to use and like very much the Verizon network (though I have not signed a new contract so I am ready to make a switch if needed in order to grab the right device).
REVO/MAKO PROS (for business use):
+ Large landscape physical keyboard is awesome for real time note taking in meetings.
+ Database app that is bundled with the built in Symbian Epoch Release 5 is amazingly flexible. It provides an unlimited number of custom fields that I use to add lots of additional details about contacts that I load in (which I scan from a CardScan scanner and import into as a CSV into my business contact database on the PDA). Also its easy to use while driving because entries can be located by searching on just a couple of letters. Furthermore, the database contact entries open in read only mode so you can't screw up your data if you hit a wrong key while grabbing a phone number while on the road.
+ Clambshell design provides a bit of extra ruggedness to protect the large internal touchscreen display while it is closed . . .although over the years I have still managed to break 2 of these displays even while it was closed in my pocket because something hit my leg (ie the corner of a bench) right in the dead center of the unit that apparently flexs just enough to allow breakage (which would have also more easily killed any device with a large external display).
+ Size and weight is very pocketable (fits easily into a shirt or pants pocket).
+ 7hr active battery life lets you go several days with heavy usage before needing a recharge.
+ Automatic file compression is really impressive! I have 10 years that fits easily into even an 8MB Revo.
REVO/MAKO CONS (for any use):
- Plagued with a tough to replace internal set of AAA NiMh batteries that wear out and with a charging circuit that tends to die over time such that new batteries will no longer keep the unit powered.
- Legacy ext 56K analog IR modem is the only way to get on the web. Boy would I love at least WiFi let along mobile broadband.
- Monochrome display. In this decade color is nice to have, certainly for the web.
- I have not used the Psion Outlook synchronization software as its so old and outdated I would be concerned about it corrupting my PC's Outlook data.
o Novia Communicator: I have been following these PDA Phones for years as they seemed like the perfect evolution of the Revo with the addition of a cellphone and modern features. Sadly they never added a touchscreen to these products. The Symbian Epoch OS is so touch friendly that I could not imagine using it without a touchscreen, especially for things like cut/copy/paste.
o Novia N97: This sounded like it was going to be a communicator style phone with touchscreen. I would be willing to live with the slide out landscape keyboard instead of more rugged clambshell design of the Revo/Mako and the Communicator series. However Ryan and Peter don't care for the keyboard design and didn't feel it was a good value. I would pay the $700 bucks for this phone even though it would mean moving from the great coverage of the Verizon network to the AT&T network, but I don't know if the database and scheduling apps live up to the Revo/Mako for business use? Any thoughts on this?
o iPhone: Hugely popular among consumers, but lacks a physical keyboard. Even if they do eventually add a physical keyboard, I am not sure if there are any business/productivity apps available for contact management and scheduling that allow this product to be used as a PDA.
o BlackBerry: Hugely popular among business professions, but only has a small portrait mode keyboard. I don't see why anyone would want to use a small portrait keyboard when large landscape keyboards exist and are much easier to use for high speed real time note taking. I expect that the only reason this device is so popular among professionals is that the Psion/Mako was never properly marketed globally. Most business people only knew about Palm PDAs which had no keyboard so they were thrilled when Blackberry and Trio devices came out with physical keyboards. Even these tiny portriat mode keyboards are a huge improvement over a touchscreen, but pale in comparison to the Revo/Mako keyboard.
o Palm Pre: A good BlackBerry & iPhone contender, but again its all about the keyboard. I look forward to a future landscape keyboard rev.
o HTC G1: Ah ha! At last a landscape mode physical keyboard, but how about its contact management? Are there flexible business friendly contact management apps (perhaps with plenty of custom fields)? How is the schedule management? Does it synch well with Outlook? Too bad its only available now on T-Mobile here in the USA. Also the G1 power consumption is pretty bad, but its a first gen device so I have been looking forward to checking out a 2nd gen version of this landscape keyboard device. Sadly all recently announced Android phones are following the iPhone into the consumer space and loosing the business friendly keyboard.
o HTC Touch Pro: Great, another nice looking modern device with landscape mode slide out physical keyboard. Yes the Windows Mobile OS is a bit dated, but so is Symbian Epoch 5 on the Revo *haha*! The big issue I have with the WIndows Mobile OS is all my custom fields I use on my Revo. I really an not excited about taking all my rich custom field data and collapsing it all into a single notes field in the Windows Mobile Contacts app that syncs with Outlook. Maybe there is a 3rd party Windows Mobile contacts app that supports many custom fields?
I own a few different Revo and Makos and they all are suffering from battery/charging problems. I can really use your help to find a suitable modern device to move to. What are you using that offers a flexible contact management system with landscape physical keyboard? Thanks!!!
That said, I only have one recommendation for you. You're not going to like it. Get over your physical keyboard hang-up ad get yourself a iPod touch (assuming you don't want to get the iPhone). I know, I know. Just trust me.
I've bought and tried so many small for factor devices to do exactly what you want and you just can't do better than Apple. The landscape on screen with 3.0 is better and combined with mobile me and/or google there has NEVER been a more powerful PDA.
People who say that Apple is lacking in this regard are simply ill-informed. Soon there'll be either a solid hack or a licensed 3rd party BlueTooth keyboard. Until then, my advice is to adapt. You owe it to yourself.
Ask me specific questions and I'll be happy to respond. I firmly convinced there is no better option for you. Don't let the 'perfect' solution keep you from the best one. Also, as I recently read somewhere, haven't you seen Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.?? "In the future, there are no physical keyboards!"
See these apps: QuickOffice, Jott, Google Calendar, and Pocket Informant.
Also, the 'Cloud' is your friend.
I agree with mensrea, though, for a portable device, you won't do any better than the iPhone or iPod Touch at this point. If you wait for the new models coming in Fall 2009, that will be your best bet. By then, we can all only hope that there will be a bluetooth keyboard or tethered keyboard dock for it.
So, wipe that tear, put away the wallet-sized photo you carry around secretly, and embrace the compromise of "modern" technology. ;)
Yesterday I reactivated my revo again. It's such a sophisticated software. The palm looks extremely poor next to it. I am thinking about changing the revo's battery and reusing it again.
We should start collecting signatures to encourage Psion reviving its PDA line. I am sure there would be an interesting niche market. They shouldn't compete with Blackberry+Apple but just continue building great products for convinced users.
I've been in exactly the same boat for years now, and I switched to iPhone a year ago. I still use the Psion though, mostly as I keep a list of passwords to all the websites I use ( I try to NOT use the same password everywhere). Also, it's great for birthday reminders, and regular reminders like my quarterly tax returns (VAT) and just things like which coloured bin to put out! I've now moved most of this stuff across to Google Calendar, which sends me a TXT message for reminders - although misses quite a few - but I still don't have the facility to snooze that reminder for 5... 10... 15 minutes.
And don't even get me started on trying to set up reminders for the LAST Friday of every month, for example.
About the keyboard though, surprisingly I don't miss it at all and I can get a decent rate of typing. Especially as they have recently updated the software so the keyboard switches to horizontal when you move the device round. Most of my stuff I update using a PC anyway, and I keep all my contacts in Google.
Of course, sticking everything pretty much in the cloud like this you are going to want to have a solid mobile signal so you should check that AT&T have good coverage in the places you visit 80% of the time. And check you can get WiFi if not.... or jailbreak and stick with Verizon. Not that I know about these things, as I'm from the UK, but I hear Silicon Valley podcasts complaining about AT&T. (TwiT and Tech5).
You'll get loads of other benefits too, like maps, web browsing, chat (fring), Film Reviews (flixter), Stocks, Weather, Evernote, Last.fm, as well as an iPod. It's a pretty compelling little package really.
Web browsing is (usually) surprisingly painless too, as long as the site is designed correctly and will word wrap nicely.
Unfortunately, I don't have an answer for you. For many, the iPhone may be the answer, but I used my Psion to write more than short passages, and so I need a real keyboard for touch-typing. Right now, my compromise is to carry a simple legacy phone (I'm also waiting to find a better one I really want) and a netbook, which is easy to throw into my backpack or bag and to use for work whenever I need it. I bought the original netbook -- the Asus EeePC 701 -- but there are others out there that are lightweight, inexpensive, and useful. (I'm looking forward to seeing how well the upcoming Nokia netbooks works.)
Out of what I have, the Nokia 9300i is definitely a modern successor to the Revo - and the still-available E90 may be the right solution for the OP. The HTC Touch Pro2 may also be a solution, but I've never been that much of a fan of the HTC build quality, as much as writers on engadget et al may be satisfied - never, ever had a problem-free HTC. I plan to look into it, but not right now.
I'll say again without reservation; anyone spinning this not a competent business tool is sadly confused/ill informed.
I did play around with the Nokia Communicator 9300, but I found it difficult to navigate, select text, and edit documents without a touchscreen. Otherwise it would have been perfect!
iPHONE TOUCH TYPING IS DIFFICULT: On the other hand I have been considering all of your suggestions to use an iPhone or iPod Touch as a business PDA, and not just a fun consumer entertainment gadget. After receiving all your strong pro-Apple suggestions, I've been playing with my wife's iPod Touch to try getting used to the onscreen keyboard in landscape mode. I haven't given up on the idea yet and I do plan to check out the app suggestions from Mensrea, but so far what I found is that I need to always look at the virtual keyboard when I type. This is fine when taking notes on spoken text, but doesn't work for me in meetings where I am capturing real time notes from projected presentation slides where I need to watch the slides while typing. Sadly I suspect there is just no replacement for a physical keyboard for lengthy note taking when touch typing is necessary.
iPHONE FILE SYSTEM IS VERY LIMITED: Also I was really surprised that unlike Symbian and Windows Mobile, these Apple devices lack any kind of file system that supports the creation of separate files and folders. I don't think I can compromise on the Revo's ability to let me create separate folders with lots of individual files of mixed type inside for each of the customers and vendors that I work with. I like the idea of having a modern email client with attachment support, but I would want to be to file away the occasional attachment in a specific folder outside of the email client. Instead, in the Apple world, users appear to need to combine all notes together in a single Notes document that would be too difficult to manage for a wide variety of different note topics that don't make sense to combine in a single file.
TEMPORARY SOLUTION: I am really leaning towards the HTC Touch Pro 2. While waiting for that to come out on Verizon I created a cool solution to breath some new life my aging Revos. I have removed my internal Revo AAA batteries with a pair of external AA batteries in a holder. This lets me use an external charger to properly charge my own AA batteries, and I can carry a spare set with me. This was necessary because I have already replaced the internal Revo AAAs several times, but the internal charging circuit no longer seems to charge them properly in either of my remaining Revos. The external batteries add a little bulk, but this comes with a lot of extended battery life and reliable operation over the full battery life without early shut downs. The downside is that I need to backup my Revo before swapping the external AA batteries and perform a full restore with the new batteries in place. However on my next Revo mod I will just leave the internal batteries installed and wire up the external battery holder in parallel so that the internal AAA cells will maintain the Revo SRAM contents while I swap out the external AAs.
It never ceases to amaze me just how many of us devoted Revo slaves there are.
I started with a Psion 3 MX during the last century and after a troubled start, formed a long lasting relationship with it until the dreaded ribbon cable fractured. I then moved on to Psion 5s but then tried the Psion Revo. These (I have three in all) have served me well until, like you the battery charging got the better of me. I have tried freeze charging, tandem charging and even upgraded the batteries. But now I just cannot rely on them any longer. Even backing the live Revo up every evening on returning home, I do still lose valuable data from me day’s work. If only someone would come up with a Revo replacement, possibly using the EPOC software. The screen is crisp and clear and I have managed fine without requiring a backlight.
I answer to your question though, have you seen the Umid mbook M1? This is the closest thing I have seen size wise to the Revo. It is still pricey though and does rely on an internal rechargeable battery. But it actually runs Windows XP or Linux, has a touch screen, stereo speakers and even a web cam.
I, like so many, will be interested in how you get on in your quest. Maybe we should start a petition and send it to Psion asking them to revive an improved, re-usable battery version of the beloved Revo.
I had a HTC TyTN imported back in the day and while expensive ($900.00 - early adopting 3g smart-phones was an expensive and bulky affair), this route might be your best bet. Looks like it will cost you about as much as I paid back then. I don't regret it. Before the iPhone/Post Psion HTC was putting out the best kits.
Also, a paradigm shift could help. I have a Pulse Smartpen and it is an awesome solution for notetaking during meetings; audio, text-conversion, small, attractive, great desktop software.
Anyhow, good luck. Let us know what you end up doing.
My only replacement was to get a HTC TyTN and a bluetooth keyboard. It worked for me as the short notes I could take on the TyTN keyboard and when I had to write long notes I pulled out the keyboard.
As I was on the road a lot it totally replaced a laptop. I had my movies on it, my music, my docs and everything. It was a PMP and a computer that I carried with me everywhere.
Now I have an Iphone and it's great too. But not for the same purpose. It's more a great toy than a great work machine.
The Revo's ultra compactness and design was way ahead of it's time. Maybe too much so.
In other thoughts, if you have already resorted to using AA batteries anyway, why not just get a Series 5? I have one, but I do not like it as much as the Revo because it is bulkier and heavier. It would be less of both than the ghetto rig you are now rolling, though. :) I haven't been using it for a long while, but I am about to dust it off as I start prepping for a book I am going to work on. I wrote most of my first book on my Revo. For this book, I have a MacBook Pro or an Acer Aspire One to use, but neither get enough battery life for a really long writing session at the coffee shop, and I need something in my pocket for when the random inspiration strikes. If the Bluetooth + E71x experiment works out, I may get a pocketable keyboard and go that route. If I do, I'd be willing to send you my Series 5 so you could play with it and see if you like it. If the experiment fails, I might also be willing to send it, but only if you promised to send it back very soon.
I'll report back ASAP.
- KEYBOARD: I miss the Revo's relatively massive keyboard, but I am getting used to the TP2's landscape keyboard which is one of the better keyboards I have seen integrated into a smartphone. I expect that I will be able to touch type on the TP2 as well after a bit more practice.
- SIZE/WEIGHT: The TP2 is rather bulky in size and rather heavy, but its still smaller then carrying a phone + Revo PDA or an iphone + external BT keyboard.
- DATABASE: I also miss the awesome Database tool on the Revo that I used to manage all my contacts in separate databases with loads of custom fields. However I have them all imported into Outlook contacts and have been able to segregate using categories. Its really not so bad having all my custom fields concatenated into the single Outlook Notes field.
+ NATIVE O2K7: One huge Windows Mobile OS benefit that I really like (besides all the obvious generic smartphone benefits that come from integrating a phone and a PDA in one) is no more file conversions! I have copied all my old Revo files and folders onto a microSD card. I individually expored them to Office 97 format using PsiWin. Then I used a MS script to batch convert them all to Office 2007 format which I can open natively on my TP2 or on my PCs without any conversion. This enables me to work on more complex documents on the PC and sync them bi-directionally with my TP2 where I can then easily view/modify them on the go. Its nice to be able to maintain the nested folder structure I used on the Revo to organize all my personal and business data, and then access this same data seamlessly on my PCs.
I would like to thank you all for the very interesting discussion. I really appreciate all your comments and look forward to further thoughts on this topic. Hopefully a device with the form factor of the Revo will return with modern benefits of an integrated phone, color display, BT, WiFi, etc.
Anyways, this got me worried, and spurred me to start yet another search for a substitute, something that until now I have always tried to put off.
I am really not a big fan of the Iphone, so I looked up the pos ltd website (www.clubpda.co.uk), to see what was happening there. They are the company that provides support and service for psion pda's in the uk. I used them several times in the past and - although not cheap - they are really excellent. They have recently launched their own pda, the PsiXpda.
This is what they write on their website: "POS Ltd is please to announce the new PsiXpda. If size matters, then PsiXpda is the perfect UMPC for your Pocket, with a large TFT 5” 800x480 touch screen and a large back light QWERTY keyboard. PsiXpda gives you the full view of your Word and Excel files along with much more.
Take the weight off of your shoulders and migrate to PsiXpda. At less than 500g PsiXpda is the Ultimate UMPC. It comes full loaded with Windows XP Pro or Linux Ubuntu. When browsing the net is essential. PsiXpda is your Ultimate UMPC.
Book your appointment by emailing or calling +44 (0) 208 684 2800. If you are a Psion PDA user, ask our team to assist you in moving your data from Psion Epoc format to PsiXpda."
So it seems that, although the PsiXpda works on Windows, they would give assistance in migrating from the Psion pda, which is quite a primary concern.
I think I'll go and see them next time I am in the Uk to see what this new pda looks like, although I doubt it will ever match my revo, starting with its weight, which is over twice as heavy....
Now that so many of these companies are on the tablet craze, Sharp may be our last hope for a true replacement. Meanwhile, I used my Series 5 to write my latest blog post, proving to myself that it is a viable option when I want to work on some writing without carrying around a laptop bag. :D Must say I am sorely tempted to buy one of those refurb Revos from the POS ltd. website you linked to.
As for getting another revo? Well, the clouds of nostalgia may be an issue there - while we may hanker for the utility it had *for the time*, times have moved on.
If people could be bothered to write some better office-type apps for it, a bigger N900 might actually be a nice idea. Email bugs have finally (only 8 months after release, I hear you say? Yeah, that soon) been squashed to a usable degree, multitasking's good, mobile features are pretty strong - add a decent keyboard in a still compact form factor, a bigger screen...
... Probably never happen of course. Meego? Who knows.
That said, I love my iP4 and iPad. I'm sure someone will soon make a clam shell holder with keyboard for the iPhone a-la the one soon launching for the iPad. Not that I care, I'm very satisfied. I understand those who aren't though. I Still miss Psion. What a team the had! Great usable design.