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New LifeDrive in my Hand!!!

Today sees the launch of palmOne’s latest generation of devices with the LifeDrive – it’s first multi-gigabite handheld ‘let’s not call it a PDA’ media and files organizer.

I had the opportunity to play around for a while with the LifeDrive earlier today and there were definitely a number of interesting new features to consider.


To start, as I’ve mentioned before, my main interest in the LifeDrive is to better understand possible future Treo developments.  In this respect, all in all there are only four key hardware features that the LifeDrive benefits from that can not currently be found on our Treo 650 (but which many would like to see on it some day).

4GB Microdrive: This is undoubtedly quite a leap for a palmOne device which has until now maxed out at 256MB with the T5 (and a huge leap from our own paltry 32MB on the Treo) but while there are many things to be gained by such a large on-board drive there are also many to be lost.  After reading an excellent review at BargainPDA it became obvious that a principal drawback from using a microdrive is the massive drain on battery life.

There’s no way to know for sure without the right data but a microdrive on our Treo might reduce our talk time from the current 6 hours (with 300 hours standby) to only 4 hours or less.  Considering that two 2GB SD cards – which would use significantly less battery – can be had for some $300, I personally feel that an on-board microdrive on our Treo would have to be of at least 10 or 20GB to warrant the reduced battery life.

WiFi: Having previously purchased, tested and then quickly sold a Sony Clie TH55 with built-in WiFi, I have to admit that I am having a hard time figuring out what the immediate and obvious uses of it are beyond the ‘nice-to-have’ extra feature.  In practical terms I could not personally figure out under what circumstances I would have a use for it but I understand how certain corporate users might need this to access files on their local network.  Naturally, again WiFi usage becomes a significant drain on battery.

Large 320x480 Screen: We’ve explored this before and there could indeed one day be a Treo model (with a sliding or folding keyboard for example) that sports a large screen like this.  There is no doubt that there is a huge difference having this expanded screen real estate particularly for uses such as web browsing and DocsToGo files as well as movies and ebooks for example.

Processor: Whereas our Treo uses a 312MHz one the LifeDrive benefits from 416MHz.  As a test, I inserted the 1GB SD card from my 4MP digital camera in both the Treo and LifeDrive and viewed the pictures (each about 4MB) using the built-in Media application.  I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the added speed of the 416MHz processor made a massive difference and in this respect I’m definitely keen to see this in my future Treo.

Separately, it has to be said that is one of the best looking PDA’s that palmOne or any other manufacturer for that matter have released in a long time.

LifeDrive02 LifeDrive04

Additionally, the LifeDrive also offers some unique software features which hopefully will soon make their way to our Treo as well.

Smart File Management: I only got a very brief tour of this new backup and synchronisation application from palmOne which appears to have been purpose made for the LifeDrive and which allows you to map certain files, folders or entire directories on your PC so that they are always available to you on the go without the need to individually select them each time.  Although this application was designed to make use of the LifeDrive’s 4GB, I see no reason why it could/should not be made available as a software update to Treonauts who are using one or more GB SD cards and who would similarly like to benefit from this functionality.

Drive Mode: start the application and press “Turn Drive Mode On” to have the LifeDrive appear as an external drive when attached to your PC via USB.  Why don’t we have this as standard for use with SD cards on our Treo instead of having to buy a separate application such as CardExport to do the job?

Camera Companion: one of the neatest software features that I found on the LifeDrive was the ability to insert the SD card from my digital camera and to have an easy option pop-up instantly to either copy all of the files over to the LifeDrive or to simply view them.  With this you could theoretically leave the full 4GB free when leaving on holiday and use it as a dedicated portable photo drive of sorts.  Naturally, this application would not become available on our Treo until the day that we have our own microdrive.

Overall, to the exception of the seven points above, I really don’t think that we have much to envy the LifeDrive as we already have most everything in our Treo – if the LD had a 20GB drive that would be a different story.  Nonetheless, I for one would sure like to see that promised “Treo Family” grow soon as I have a faint recollection that someone at palmOne had said something about this a while back…

LifeDrive Mobile Manager [palmOne Store]
PalmOne LifeDrive Review [BargainPDA]
palmOne Introduces LifeDrive, Its First Mobile Manager Product [palmOne Press Release]

Treonauts keep thinking about what will come nextTreonautstar4

Posted by Andrew on May 18, 2005 at 10:38 PM

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Tracked on May 19, 2005 7:03:09 PM


by A. Davis | May 18, 2005 4:41:03 PM

#1 - Many people, reviewers included, are overlooking the obvious in a BIG way. The Life Drive has a 4GB MicroDrive. Let me repeat that... microDRIVE... as in Hard Drive. Do you know what happens to hard drives when you drop them? The seek arms and heads touch the platters and the data gets thrashed. And the Life Drive DOES NOT, repeat does NOT, offer the IBM Active Protection system [http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1759,1473710,00.asp] which parks your hard drive during movement (if they licensed it for the LifeDrive, it would almost constantly be parked since a PDA is almost constantly moving). When you drop a drive-based MP3 player and the drive gets trashed, big deal... you only lose your songs which are downloaded and can be sync'd over again after repairing/replacing the device. If you drop your Life Drive, you have the additional potential to lose a lot more than just songs, but video's, documents, etc.

Personally, I much prefer SD cards. Sure, they're only at 2Gb right now, but they don't lose their data when they get dropped and they're all but static proof. They're even more resilient to magentic fields than hard drives are. Further, unlike with a LifeDrive, if I drop my Treo and break it, I can get a new one, move my SD card over, and with a sync be working again. With a LifeDrive, I can probably do the same, but if I haven't sync'd in a while, I risk losing the data on the hard drive.

#2 - In the last picture, on the right, what's the "dialer"? Last I heard, the LifeDrive doesn't have a built in phone and there's no Skype for PalmOS yet. So what's the number dialer doing on a LifeDrive??? You can't call out over bluetooth, and while it sports 802.11b, without Skype (or an equivalent), I don't see the point of a dialer? Maybe I'm just missing something...

#3 - I'll admit the USB function is nice... very nice to have it show up as a normal drive, or any other removable drive. This is definitely one feature I'd like to see in my future Treo's, even if it is only to access the added on SD card. I understand there are third party softwares for this now on my 650, but it would be nice to have it built-in.

by Andrew | May 18, 2005 7:24:21 PM

A. Davis - #2 would be the 'Phone Dialer' with which you can indeed dial a number out via your Bluetooth enabled phone... at least as far as I could tell.

Cheers, A.

by A. Davis | May 18, 2005 8:03:53 PM

Odd. I've heard of bluetoothing data over, and for good reason. But I've never heard of bluetoothing voice calls over. In fact, I'm not sure I see the point... if you have a bluetooth capable phone, you can just use the phone to make your calls. Why drain the battery of two devices to make a call from your LifeDrive over bluetooth to your real cell phone??? Just doesn't make any sense to me. If you have an 802.11b capable phone, at home say... for Skype'ey stuff, I can see a wireless connection from the LifeDrive to an access point with Skype capabilities, but that's about it.

This makes me wonder if you saw a "for sale" version or if you saw perhaps a product demo type unit. Maybe the dialer is an experimental feature they were testing for Skype type of things but that we won't actually see on the shipping units?

by Andrew | May 18, 2005 8:16:05 PM

A. Davis - you're right but you forgot one thing... Namely, you can dial the number on the LifeDrive (either direct or using your contacts as with the Treo) and then route the call directly to a Bluetooth headset... Now that's not too bad a setup...

No - the dialer will come as standard on the LifeDrive. I haven't seen any VOIP apps yet though - still chasing Skype to get their act together...

Cheers, A.

by Jeff | May 18, 2005 10:22:01 PM

The Dialler was in the T3. It sends a dial command to your mobile phone. Eg - Look up your contact and tell your phone to dial it for you. I used it a lot with my T3/Nokia combination. My nokia 6310i could not be paired to two bluetoth devices at the same time, so I could not use Dialler and a BT headset at the same time. Don't know if this has changed with newer phones.

by John | May 19, 2005 2:00:21 PM

I believe that most users want WI-FI for two things -- to keep their internet connection alive when they are in buildings where mobile signals fail, and to speed web surfing, so they may connect at local hotspots. I think the second one will become a moot point as EVDO is rolled out -- even mini-broadband speeds will be everything I need and more for surfing. I'm intrigued at the possibility of using Vonage or Skype to stay connected via my cell phone when I'm in a building with no signal, which is why my next purchase will be the Treo that has WI-FI and EVDO.

by PalmOne | May 20, 2005 9:24:50 PM

Where is COBALT?

by Loukas | May 22, 2005 8:44:01 AM

WiFi is an IMPORTANT feature for European users. Unfortunately, we don't have cheap data plans here (Orange UK is charging about 4$US per MB, other companies even more!) therefore WiFi is essential for web browsing. Plus, WiFi hotspots are a lot more widespread here - in regular cafes, especially in Universities and in airports where you can download your email..

One of the features I miss dearly on my Treo is the lack of WiFi. And it might be a reason for switching over (to the dark side? :) ) to a device that does include it!

by Brent | May 22, 2005 8:59:23 PM

I agree with the comments about solid state being far superior to hard disk - both speed and durability. I like the Drive Mode and File Manager features. Should be included in next Treo... but with a USB2 port built in. The "universal" palm connector is CRAP. I would like wifi for the same reasons others have stated. If the screen is that big it should be VGA resolution. WM devices have it, why not palm? I applaud pa1mOne for putting the Life Drive out there, but I just don't see it as a viable cellphone extension. 2GB Solid state! VGA! WiFi! USB2! This is what I want too see in the next Treo.

by Phill | May 23, 2005 10:32:02 AM

"2GB Solid state! VGA! WiFi! USB2! This is what I want too see in the next Treo."

Amen Brother. Just add a second sdio slot that will allow me to use additional storage and occasionally an sdio device both at the same time.

by reggie | Jun 10, 2005 1:27:15 PM

I've been reading that hte lifedrive is not compatible with teh Treo650. I went to the store and tried to connect and was having issues seeing the treo650 in the list...has anybody successfully connected a lifedrive to a TREO 650?

I'm about to buy it, but I love my 650, so only if they are friends will this $500 device enter my gadget family (and the ipod can go the way of ebay)

Please confirm...I want my lifedrive! =)

by Ruud | Aug 8, 2005 10:59:15 AM

"2GB Solid state! VGA! WiFi! USB2! This is what I want too see in the next Treo."

Amen Brother. Just add a second sdio slot that will allow me to use additional storage and occasionally an sdio device both at the same time.
And don't forget an integrated GPS receiver please! :-)

by chris wolf | Apr 3, 2006 7:01:03 PM

so has anybody figured out the purpouse of the, "lifedrive bluetooth dialer" yet?

by Neville Stewart | Nov 9, 2007 11:18:24 PM

Hey there I have me a problem on my hands
the other day I was carrying around my life drive and pressed on the screen for awhile we
well low and behold I have been trying to to get it back on since
I opened it and disected it totally put it back together nothing
adjusted teh clip tat controls the power sti nothing
I know its not dead
I just think there is something I am missing could you please advice me ast teh possibility of what I amy be doing wrong ?

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