If converged devices fail, you’re completely cut off

I was installing BlackBerry desktop software for a colleague recently when she announced that she was now using a separate cellphone rather than the phone in her BlackBerry, and she quite liked it.

I hid a smile as I showed her how to turn off the ringer for the BlackBerry phone, so if someone called it she wouldn’t be bothered. My BlackBerry phone has never been used; it is purely a data device to me, and I couldn’t do without it. The cellphone is an independent item.

We have another colleague who is so converged that his smartphone and Bluetooth earpiece are joined to him at the hip – er – ear. I think he’d go into withdrawal if deprived. And if his smartphone breaks, he’s dead in the water.

It’s called single point of failure, and it’s something techies are taught to avoid. If my BlackBerry has a tantrum (or, more likely, the battery dies), I can still make calls. If my phone is cranky, I can still get e-mail.

In fact, I think I could get e-mail on the phone if I needed to. And play games, and play music. I can do all of the above on my BlackBerry, too. But I prefer to preserve the phone’s battery life for its primary function, making and receiving telephone calls.

The BlackBerry’s for keeping e-mail flowing. My Palm organizer does everything else, since it has the best battery life of the lot. With it, I can manage my schedule, play games, and even read e-books, without jeopardizing my communications potential, and the battery lasts over a week. I have the entire Sherlock Holmes canon on it at the moment.

Yes, it’s a lot of stuff to carry around. In that, women have an advantage: We carry purses. A former colleague (male) who also preferred separate devices resorted to wearing a leather waist pack into which he stuffed his PDA, phone, wallet and other bits, which kept his clothes hanging nicely as well as providing needed extra storage.

Probably the biggest thing, aside from a compulsive need for redundancy, that keeps me relatively unconverged is battery technology.

In the main, it’s just not good enough, especially when batteries have to get smaller and smaller to fit into the sleek devices gracing peoples’ pockets these days.

Charging daily is a nuisance I don’t have time for. It’s bad enough having to carry the BlackBerry’s AC adapter with me to accommodate its two- to three-day battery life.

Battery designers have been working hard to increase time between charges, and they’ve performed miracles over the years. The trouble is, new devices keep gobbling the extra power as fast as new batteries can supply it. If we want small, light, powerful electronic toys, we pay the price of insufficient battery life.

Oh, yes, when I see cool new converged devices, I still drool a bit. And I joyously try out new ones when I get the opportunity. But I doubt that I’ll be seduced into making one my primary communications device until batteries get a whole lot better and we find a way to mitigate the impact of that single point of failure.

Lynn Greiner is a freelance writer based in Toronto.
lynng@ca.inter.net

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