Which Gadgets Do I Need?

So Many Gadgets

This week Amazon announced new Kindles, both low-power e-book readers that work forever on a charge in ambient light, and the color tablet Kindle Fire.

Fun.  I want.  But what do I want?  What gadgets do I want?  (What do I need?)

Smartphone, notebook computer, tablet, e-book reader, Ipod, Camera, Hiking GPS?

Each has its virtues…


Little, always with me, internet access (when I am in T-Mobile territory).  Hard to be without.

Notebook Computer

Keyboard, real web browser, lots of disk space, multiple windows at once, lot of familiar software.  As a software engineer, needed for nerding.

(My current notebook is wearing out.  Anyone have a good recommendation for a nice sub-notebook? Under 3-pounds, full dimension screen, good trackpad, works well with Ubuntu, tough?)


I don’t really know, I don’t have one.  But I want one.  I want something like my phone but bigger.  Even though pulling out my notebook and opening the cover is very easy (sleep to RAM wakes up quite quickly) I want something that is even easier: just pull out the tablet and hit the switch, no lid to open nor surface to sit on needed.

I want a big screen phone with a front-facing camera (my phone doesn’t have that).

I want to be able to read the New York Times better. My phone can read the Times but with such a small screen. My notebook can read the Times, but such a production to open it up and set it down.  (Oh, so much work!)

I also want to use Google Maps on a bigger screen than my phone.  As impressive as maps are on my phone, maps scream for big. Remember paper maps?  They are big for a reason, so you can see where you are, and where you are going, and detail in between.

I want to play Angry Birds on a bigger screen.

I have this idea that a tablet can be more opportunistic, not as omnipresent as my phone, but more casual and available than my notebook.

The Kindle Fire

Is rather tempting at $200. Luckily I am saved for the moment because it isn’t yet available.

But it is rather limited:

  • No cameras.
  • No orientation sensors nor gyroscope.
  • No GPS (Google’s Maps application probably won’t install at all without GPS, doesn’t seem to exist on Amazon’s Appstore).
  • No Bluetooth.
  • No microphone.
  • Probably no apps that don’t come from Amazon’s appstore. (A little like Apple’s closed Ipad ecosystem.)

Still, it is only $200.

Update: Nexus 7!

Same price as the Kindle Fire, but all those things I complained about? Google fixed them all. Okay, the camera is front facing only, but it is there! Nice machine, I am using it to update this post now. Get one.

E-Book Reader

The key features here are long battery life, screen that uses ambient light and is easy to see outdoors, and limited function so I don’t keep looking at what new Tweets have shown up.  The new cheap Kindle is so small and pretty dang cheap at $79 (still only $109 without ads). And so small.  And linked to my reading on my phone’s Kindle app.

I’ve been reading a 400+ page book on the Kindle app on my phone and it is taking forever.  I have this idea it would go faster if I had a bigger, better reading screen.


(No, I won’t cooperate with marketing driven fuNNy caPITaliZatioN.) I have a 120 GB Ipod and it is great to have a ton of music available.  It works without any network connection.  It has great battery life.  (Alas, it might be discontinued soon. Constantly listening to things I already own, and free podcasts, doesn’t generate any bucks for Apple.)

I also have the FM radio adapter that Apple used to sell, and would listen to public All Things Considered and Morning Edition on it, but now I usually use my phone for that–it gets better reception in buildings.

I don’t usually have it on my person these days, not like I used to, my phone is the bigger entertainment. Instead my Ipod has been relegated to the larger bag I carry my notebook computer in.  Handy at work, handy in the car, not terribly far away at most other times.


I like having my little camera with my almost always. I like that “film” is now essentially free, I can use the camera to take notes and document physical stuff (what exact replacement part do I need at the hardware store?, I look the picture I took of the dismantled gizmo at home).

My phone has a camera, but I think it is a lesser device, though I haven’t tried side-by-side comparisons.  I know the phone doesn’t have a real zoom. Swapping new memory cards is easier on my camera than on my phone because the phone has other data on the card I don’t want to swap out.

The usage model is different, the phone wants to upload photos, the dedicated camera wants to transfer them to my notebook.

The camera has a battery that doesn’t need constant charging because it is only for the camera.  The camera doesn’t have GPS and can’t tag photo locations.

Hiking GPS

I have to throw this in.

My phone has GPS, and better maps than does my Garmin GPS Map 60Cx, but I still like my Garmin with the North American maps I bought for it:

  • It has better battery life.
  • It has a display that can easily be read in sunlight.
  • Its maps work when out in the sticks! No need for any cell service. (When there is cell service it is also sometimes nice to have a second opinion for navigating.)
  • It is far tougher than my cellphone, it is pretty happy being dropped and being used in the rain.  Works in cold weather where my phone reboots.
  • I have a nice mount for it on my bike where it is a nice speedometer and map.

I don’t have my hiking GPS with me always, but I frequently have it in my bigger bag, with my iPod and notebook computer.

And the Winners Are?

I don’t know yet.  These are very different beasts.  The dedicated devices are nice in that they are better optimized for their specific uses.  The multi-use devices (phone, notebook) are nice for their general purpose aspects but I am then afraid of dropping it on a hard rock and being out too many features.

I suspect there are some Amazon products to be added to my list of toys in the next few months.

Stay tuned.

-kb, the Kent who always has some tech on him.

©2011 Kent Borg





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