The evolution of handheld devices driven by wearability factor

While rummaging through my purse in search of a cellphone the approximate size of a Tic Tac, I came to a realization.

Device convergence isn’t about efficiency. It isn’t even about keeping costs down by allowing consumers to buy multi-purpose contraptions instead of several single-purpose units.

It’s about men’s pockets.

Consider the Palm. It was originally designed by Jeff Hawkins to fit exactly into a man’s shirt pocket. Everything about it was pocket-friendly — its size, its shape, even its weight.

Because it fit into shirt pockets, it became the device of choice for thousands — even millions. Technology debates aside (talking about that is akin to discussing religion), one big reason Pocket PCs didn’t catch on as briskly or pervasively as hoped was that the darned things were too bulky for shirt pockets.

Many of my colleagues use teeny little cellphones, not because they work better (they often don’t), but because they tuck neatly into a pocket. Of course, they occasionally sit on the electronic midgets if they’ve stuffed them into a back pocket (and then they don’t work at all), but the mantra “”mine’s smaller than yours”” seems to be a guy status symbol these days.

Women, on the other hand, carry purses. We can tuck away all sorts of useful things without worry of unsightly bulges and split seams. Despite that fact that I’m sure modern handbag design is a male conspiracy (it amuses the guys to watch us pawing like starving squirrels through the dump bins designers have foisted on us), a woman can carry much more about her person with minimal inconvenience.

Although a great lump of a phone would be too heavy to drag around, we don’t really need the cutesy little trinkets now on the market. The phonelet I was hunting for was a unit a vendor had loaned for review; my “”real”” phone, although not huge, is not easily lost, and fits comfortably in my hand.

Women, on the whole, don’t need converged devices, with their attendant risk that, should one function stop working, the whole unit would have to go for repair. I carry a BlackBerry and a Palm and (at the moment) two cellphones, with no inconvenience. The only one of my male colleagues who could do that has bowed to the inevitable and obtained a nice leather belt pouch in which he stashes handheld and phone and wallet and other sundries. Another tries to carry a phone on a belt clip (for short-waisted folks, that can be extremely uncomfortable when sitting), and a Palm in his shirt pocket (every time he bends over, it hits the floor — thank goodness for hard cases!), but he has to leave other items locked in his desk drawer.

That’s not to say that we women don’t fancy the neat toys, we’re just not pocket-bound so can be a bit more flexible in our choice of electronic accessories. We can pick our phones for sound quality and battery life, not pocketability (though some pocket-sized phones are lovely fashion statements). We can choose a converged device, or not, depending on how well it works. And we can do all this without destroying the fit of our favourite garments.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner has been interpreting tech for businesses for over 20 years and has worked in the industry as well as writing about it, giving her a unique perspective into the issues companies face. She has both IT credentials and a business degree.

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