IRL: Nike+, UTStarcom PPC-6700 and the Droid Incredible

Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

We have an inside joke among the Engadget staff: one of these days, we say, we'll publish IRL: The Luddite Edition. It's not that we go home to bunny-ear TVs and VCRs, though for a group of journalists trained to calculate pixels per Super AMOLED inch, we're awfully set in our ways. That, and there's nothing like brainstorming IRL ideas to make a grizzled tech editor feel a little nostalgic. That's the place Darren was in when he dug up his PPC-6700 from '06 -- and Lydia, too, who thinks about ditching Nike+, but won't. As for Billy, he's not wistful; just biding his time until he can replace his Incredible with something he really wants. So how good is good enough for a bunch of tech writers? Meet us past the break to find out.

The PPC-6700, unearthed

The year was 2006. The carrier was Alltel. The operating system was Windows Mobile. And honestly, I have no clue what the version number was during that phase of my life. All I knew was that my new job was giving me the opportunity to lay claim to a smartphone, and I couldn't wait to upgrade from that Nokia candybar I'd been using for years before. Picking up the UTStarcom PPC-6700 turned out to be one of the best and worst decisions of my life. Back in those days, unlimited data was but $20 per month, but the interface was so god-awful that you couldn't make it suck down a webpage if you tried. Perhaps that's why data was practically given away -- they knew the hardware couldn't utilize it.

I fondly recall showing up to work and there being a power outage. So, I sat around for two hours playing Solitaire. And then, the phone died. This brick of a phone wouldn't even last two full hours in use, but somehow, I loved it. It was the future. It was a glimpse of what was to come. But I can't count on every toe and finger to name how many times this thing locked up mid-call, or how many times it froze when I slid the keyboard out. It was truly a terrible, terrible product.

Looking back, the most insane thing about this phone -- and Windows Mobile -- was that the original iPhone was alive at the same time. Can you imagine what Cupertino's engineers were thinking during prototyping in 2006, having the iPhone in one hand at its closest "competition" in the other? I actually didn't own an iPhone until the 3G came out, and I ditched that for a Nexus One not long after. But one thing is abundantly clear: the smartphone -- the real smartphone -- was born in 2007, and the divide between devices before and after that year is just stunning to peek back on.

-- Darren Murph

Running with Nike+

Humans have long since befriended machines: Fry and Bender, C3PO and the Star Wars crew, Sam Treadwill and his android girlfriend Cherry 2000 – but none of these bonds have been quite as strong as the one between me and the voice of Nike+. My long-term workout buddy, this chick gets me through easy runs, hard runs, hot days and cold days, supporting me when no one else would. Okay, fine, I'm not running marathons here, but after one too many unbalanced meals and an early Saturday wake-up call, Nike+ girl never fails to show up.

I began using the OG Nike+ shoe pod and iPod Nano attachment back in 2009. Pulling the insole out of my compatible running shoes, I secured the pod snugly, wondering if I would feel it à la the Princess and the Pea. With the wireless adapter plugged into my third-generation iPod nano, my running companion would track my progress and chime in over whatever one-hit wonder I was using for inspiration.

When I purchased an iPhone two years later, the voice sounded the same, but I knew she had changed. No longer did she require the shoe pod and iPod adapter, as everything she needed was right there in her swank new iPhone app digs. Although she still cheers me through punishing workouts, Nike+ girl now asks me to sign in with Nike+ credentials, Facebook or Twitter before I can bring the pain. After my workout, she asks if I want to share my times with the world or maybe rate myself with a smiley face or sad face depending on how good or bad my run really was. Since my friendship with the voice has gotten so complicated, I've contemplated switching to the boot camp drill sergeant. Oddly, I always find myself going back to my old friend, even if dealing with her is more of a pain than the actual run.

-- Lydia Leavitt

The HTC Incredible: Still kicking (mostly)

Yep, I know... most of you would have taken advantage of that pending Verizon upgrade that I have lying around, ditched the Incredible and sprung for a Droid X2 or a Bionic or something. Well, to be honest, friends, I don't need to. I'm rocking the original battery and it still lasts for a full day of "regular" use. The only issue I have appears to be Sense-related. Every once in a while, HTC's Gingerbread fingerprints go nuts and the home screen gets a mind of its own. The phone is still usable; I just have to manually access apps via the full menu instead of homescreen shortcuts. No huge deal there, as it only happens about once a week or so and lasts just a few minutes.

This was the first time I'd bought into the hype surrounding a phone and purchased it on the day it was released. I definitely don't regret it, as I've been lucky enough to not have major issues like some of my fellow Incredible owners have. Don't worry, though, I'm anxiously biding my time until the Galaxy Nexus finally arrives.

-- Billy Steele