You’ll probably remember (since I’ve mentioned it so many times) my heartbreak when the best piece of travel equipment I had, the HTC TyTnII cellphone, was stolen in Osaka. I’d spent weeks getting that thing perfectly customized – and it became my total lifeline while on the road. Its PDF reader replaced dozens of pounds of books; its GPS replaced the need to carry any maps; its dictionary replaced my electronic translator; its WiFi scanner made getting online a cinch; its mp3 player avoided the need to carry a CD player or iPod; its RDC software made it possible to remote-control my PC back home; an external bluetooth keyboard made it easy to keep up with emails and blogs even without a PC.
I may be a traveler…but there’s no shame in being a 21st century traveler 😉
Once it was gone, I found myself scribbling blog notes and contact information in a little notebook in my back pocket – not only incredibly time-consuming by comparison, but extremely prone to error and loss. Finding wireless network connections from which to do my work or catch up on personal correspondence suddenly became a huge undertaking. It was one of those classic cases of “You don’t really know how convenient something is until it’s gone.”
Not to mention the fact that not having a GSM cellphone meant always having to search for new phone cards and payphones whenever I reached a new country 😛
Well, at long last, its replacement has arrived: the all-new HTC Touch Pro. This thing is a powerhouse. It’s got all the goodies of the TyTn and more: A 528MHz CPU, 288 megs RAM, 512 megs ROM, a full VGA screen, 5-row keyboard, and even a built-in FM radio. That’s faster than a Pentium 3 back in 1999. Plus, it’s even smaller/lighter than the TyTnII.*
Obtaining one, however, proved to be quite difficult. After spending a day with Andy shopping around in China we concluded the only way we’d get a reasonable price was to order from the US. Luckily, one of his buddies just happened to be there on vacation – so we ordered a pair from eBay and arranged to have them carried back across the border (avoiding the hefty import tax of shipping directly).**
Andy’s arrived without a hitch.
I got stuck with not one, but two very shoddy eBayers – incredibly slow to respond, making it seem (until the very last moment) that the phone wouldn’t arrive in time for the friend to carry it back. But in the end things worked out, and the seller paid for rush shipping to make up for his non-responsiveness.
The two of us tore open our new toys and holed up in the office for 3 solid days – researching cooked ROMS, flashing radio stacks, and writing UC installation scripts (ending up with this ROM & this radio stack). We wanted to get those things up and running before heading off to the middle East and Hong Kong, respectively.
It was a mad dash. But we got them done (with only a couple hours of sleep) just in time for his driver to pick us up for the long ride to Beijing 😀
*There are actually a few downsides to the Raphael in comparison to the TyTn: the non-tilting screen, for example, makes it more of a hassle to set the phone down when watching a movie or typing with the wireless keyboard. It’s got FAR fewer hardware keys, and the D-Pad on the front is nearly impossible to use. Plus, it still doesn’t come with a 3.5mm headphone jack. I guess there’s no perfect solution out there…yet…
**The issue of import tax in China is, like most laws, open to interpretation. Basically, when a package arrives at the border the immigration officer says whatever he feels like – and that’s what you gotta pay. If he feels like the phone is worth more than it is, or like he wants to pocket a few extra bucks for himself, then that’s the value you’d better pay – or back it goes.
It’s kind of crazy how you never really know quite what you’re in for out here. You walk into a big, nice, air-conditioned Nike store – and are just about as likely to pick up a cheap knockoff (priced like an original) as the original itself. In the supermarket, one bottle of Lipton Iced Tea tastes drastically different from the one next to it – and the plastic of the bottle feels much more flimsy. Even the huge, legit-seeming music & DVD stores in the biggest shopping malls are chock-full of knockoffs.
Nothing is quite what it seems.