Yesterday was the last day of my “redfly experiment”. I am very pleased that I did it, and enjoyed my experience immensely. This week gave me an opportunity to try a sort of uber-mobility; lightweight “terminal”+smartphone. It was great to just whip out the Redfly and go anytime I wanted to type an email, check facebook, etc. I got a few questions from friends, mostly wanting to know why I would try something like this, or why I didn’t just “get one of those really little computers they sell in Costco now?” I plan to address that, but first I have a few more observations about use to share.
Almost every major website has a mobile version these days, and for the most part they look great brought up to the redfly resolution. It got me wondering whether full size web pages were feasible, and whether the extra functionality would be worth the hassle of waiting for them to load. So I tested a few of my favorite websites to see how they did.
-Facebook: Mobile site wins, but it was a close one. Opera pulled off almost all the formatting of the main page without a problem, but the site took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to load. Even over wifi. But the main site offers more, so it was a tough call. If I had desperately needed to do something on Facebook and needed the main site, I could have pulled it off on the Redfly without too much trouble.
-Newsgator (RSS): Mobile site wins hands down. Newsgator’s website does not like smaller resolution screens; it gave me trouble on my EEE as well. On the Redfly, it had some formatting issues in Opera, and was just signficantly slower than the mobile site, without a huge difference in the overall experience. Again, it took quite a while to load, even over wifi, and the end result wasn’t really worth the wait. I could have been halfway through my feeds on the mobile site by the time it was done loading the full one.
-CNN: Mobile site. Hands down. Same news as the main site, far less video and images to load. The only downside to the mobile site is that it is formatted for small chunks of each article at a time, so a one page article becomes a 4 page one when translated to the mobile version. Not a dealbreaker, and great for a smartphone screen, but a pain on the redfly.
-Honorable mention: televisionwithoutpity.com does not have a mobile site, but it is a very heavy website with images and lots and lots of menus to load. Opera loads it like a champ, and there’s no formatting problems. This is my test website for any mobile browser experience, because if it can properly navigate TWOP, it can navigate anything. Also, then I know I have something to read when I am bored (seriously, their recaps can make anything fly by faster).
I am typing this back on my macbook, which seems to be pretty indifferent towards its week off. It might just be happy to have gotten a reboot and a week of being charged and left alone! After using the Redfly for a week, it is nice to return to the macbook and its bigger screen and keyboard. I did miss having the higher resolution sometimes, the speed is definitely better, and having a larger keyboard again is definitely reducing my typos. There are a few things I miss about the redfly though. I got really spoiled by having my whole schedule and task list on the today screen. This morning I saw something I wanted to note for later, and my first instinct was to copy the link and plop it right into the task I had already set up. I used evernote to get it to my phone, but it was not as smooth an experience as alt-tab, pop into Pocket Informant, drop the information into the task, save it, alt-tab back to Opera. The other area that I did not expect to get so dependent on was having my phone so tightly integrated with my computer. Answering text messages, phone calls, emails, and browsing the news all without having to swap devices once was like geek nirvana.
And just to be fair, there is one thing I put off because I simply could not do it with the redfly/epix combo; a friend of mine asked me to set up some videos on a flash drive for her, and that has been sitting on my task list until today. I also couldn’t get hulu really working well on Skyfire for me, so I am finally catching up on a few shows I don’t tivo already. Since neither of these are everyday activities, I didn’t miss not being able to do them, but since they came up during the week and I had to wait until I was using the macbook to complete them, I thought they were worth mentioning here.
As I mentioned at the start, I did asked a few times why I didn’t just buy a netbook. A netbook doesn’t make as much sense for me. I don’t sync my phone to my computer, everything is cloud based, so unless I am near a wifi source a netbook would still require being tethered or otherwise connected to my phone, all to get the same information that is already on my phone. I also spend a great deal of time invested in making my phone as functional and usable as possible, and I have it set up basically the way I like it. Setting up another OS to display the same information as my macbook, or to have a computer that has to be specially connected to get the same information as my phone, seems silly to me.
And that’s just me. Everyone has their own computing needs, and what works for me might not work for someone who wants a more powerful experience. For my average day of browsing the web, answering emails, and tracking my calendar and ever-increasing task list, the Redfly did everything I needed which tells me that I made the right choice in choosing a Redfly+windows mobile as my mobile computing options (and that I am a boring computer user). I am not throwing the macbook out the window anytime soon, but for light, everyday IM, browsing and email it has been usurped by my Epix and my Redfly. So far it doesn’t seem terribly offended, but I will be sure to put out an update if there is a showdown!