In January of this year (2008), I was getting the itch to buy something to replace both my cell phone and my Palm PDA (I used the Palm as my MP3 player). I wanted an all-in-one solution so I wouldn't have to carry around two pieces of technology with me. Being the geek that I am, I was naturally interested in the iPhone but at that time it still wasn't available in Canada, and wouldn't be available at all through my preferred mobility provider which uses a CDMA network. So entranced was I by this new Apple technology that I seriously considered getting an iPod Touch and just keeping my old cell phone. I'd still have two items to carry around, but at least one of them would be super-cool.
In doing some research, I came across an interesting Windows Mobile phone from HTC called the "Touch." It has no number or key pad and instead relies almost completely on its touch sensitive screen for controlling the device (much like the iPhone). Windows Mobile was never designed to be operated by a touch screen, so HTC includes this glitzy little interface called Touch Flo which is neat enough, but doesn't really replace the standard Windows Mobile interface. However, the real advantage of the HTC Touch was the network fee - it came with an UNLIMITED data plan for only $7 a month! For replacing my MP3 playing Palm, the HTC Touch uses a microSD card, so I could at least approximate the storage capacity of an 8GB iPod Touch.
So that's what I did. I bought the HTC Touch with an 8GB microSD card and I've been mostly happy with it. Unlike the iPod or iPhone, the HTC has both regular and stereo bluetooth, so I also bought a pair of Motorola S9 bluetooth headphones, which work and sound pretty darn good. So, things have been good - mostly. There are some serious downsides to this solution, however.
First, I've mentioned that Windows Mobile is not really a mobile OS designed for touch screens so it has nowhere near the usability or cool flashiness of the iPod Touch/iPhone. Second, the battery life is atrocious - with the bluetooth radio on all the time and playing MP3s for about an hour a day, the device won't last 24 hours without a recharge. These aren't deal-breakers mind you, just a little annoying. What is more than just a little annoying is the fact that the HTC tends to corrupt the contents of the microSD card every once in a while (a couple of times a month on average). This is a known issue all over several Internet forums, but no one knows why and a fix is not forthcoming from HTC. So I just live with it, growling when it happens and re-copying my MP3s over when it does. I expect this doesn't happen on the iPhone.
UPDATE (March 2, 2009): After upgrading the HTC Touch to Windows Mobile 6.1 (a free upgrade) several months ago, I haven't experienced a single SD card corruption issue.
The latest "gotcha" with using the HTC as an iPhone replacement is with my car stereo, or pretty nearly any car stereo that supports "MP3 players." Usually this means they have an AUX jack that you can plug your MP3 player's headphone jack into. And I suppose that works well enough - it's certainly way better than using a tiny FM transmitter to do the same thing. But if you're lucky enough to have a decent car stereo, it will also come with an iPod dock connector so that you can completely control your iPod through the car stereo system! Playlists, artist names and song titles show up right on the car stereo display, and the iPod can be controlled with the steering-wheel radio controls, if your car is so equipped (mine is). But, if you don't have the magical device from Apple, all you've got is the AUX jack. Boo. (I understand that come vehicles also let you plug in any USB memory stick that contains MP3s and will work much like the iPod control - alas, my car does not have this option.)
So, do I buy an iPod so I can have the convenience (and cool) factor when I'm in my car (not to mention the absence of corrupted memory cards)? Do I go back to having two items of technology to lug around? I'm very tempted, though having everything on my cell phone is mighty handy. I suppose if it was really worth it to me, I could dump the HTC and switch mobility providers and get the iPhone now that it's available in Canada. Honestly though, paying $75 a month for the privilege isn't really enticing, not to mention the early termination fee I'd face with my existing provider. But I still have my eye on a new iPod. :)