My New PDA: iPod Touch

Background. In iPod Touch as a PDA, I mention my “requirement” for a PDA, how I’ve been a happy user of a Palm computer for years, and have been very happy with the apps for the Palm. I also mentioned that it wasn’t the frustration of my sometimes very long sync times that made me look for something else, but that recently my Palm Tungsten E2’s battery started to behave erratically. And it is a replacement battery! (It almost never completely charged, and when it did it lost much of its charge quickly. And when using it would slip from quarter charge to “recharge soon” to “recharge now!” to quarter charge again. And the long syncs continued. (By “long,” I mean I would go to bed at 10PM and at 5:30 AM it was still chugging.)

What I got and general impressions. On Friday, October 10, 2008, I bought a Apple® – iPod® touch 32GB MP3 Player. Why the 32G? I did go back and forth on that. The Palm I am replacing only has 32MB (that’s an M). I also have a 30GB iPod Clickwheel. (It was originally a 20GB, but replace the drive when it crashed a few years back.) It is still working. I also have a 1GB iPod nano. So, while I didn’t need the 32 G, I had the money (from a recent consulting gig) and figured one is never sorry for more space. So, now I am looking to farm out my other 2 iPods.

Impression? Very intuitive to use (no user manual, though there is one at manuals.info.apple.com). It just worked. iTunes walked me through registration and then syched my music, Contacts, Events, and Mail settings. It charged very quickly via the USB connector. (It, of course, came with a USB cable, but I just used the one from my other iPods. Those are the same (though not all things are, as I will mention). I then set up the wireless settings (a slight pain given my long key and lack of skill with the virtual keypad on the touch. After that… everything worked!

Meeting my needs? I laid out my needs/wants in the above-mentioned blog entry. This is what I wanted and what I found:
  • Bible—I copied the free Bible Reader and free Bibles via the App Store from Olive Tree Bible Software.
  • ereader—I copied the free eReader app from eReader. The app itself allows one to download eBooks, so I just copied the books that I previously had on my Palm. I did this by putting them on a web page and pointing to them.
  • iCal sync (including birthdays)—It is standard, and if you show Birthdays in iCal on your desktop they will show up on the handheld.
  • Calculater—Standard app.
  • Address book sync—Standard app.
  • wireless access—As I said, it works great and I use it for email and web (and a lot more).
  • Notes or memos—Well, it has a Notes app, but it is not syncable. That rots. I found and downloaded the demo of Phoneview. The demo works fine. I am hoping that Apple provides syncing of Notes sometime. Notes sync in 3.0! 🙂
  • email—Works great.
  • To do/iCal Tasks—Missing. Not a show-stopper. I am hoping Apple fixes this lack, also.
  • expense tracking—I cannot find a simple replacement for the simple, free expense program my Palm had.
  • Secret!—I’ve found a number of lockbox programs. I want one I can populate through a copy from my desktop. It need not be fancy. Secret! was very simple. I want to any information in free form and have the option to encrypt the file (with 256 bit crypto or stronger). I will keep looking.
  • As I said, “I have Documents to Go on my Palm, that reads and writes Microsoft Offices files. I don’t really use this much.” Their web site says “Coming to iPhone/Touch soon.”
  • It seems very stable. Apps and syncing just work, although it helps if the Mac iSync process has finished what it does.
  • There are bunch of free or inexpensive apps and more keep coming.
  • When in iPod play mode, I can still read mail or do other things while it continues to play.
  • When I get up in the morning, instead of booting my PowerBook, I click on my Touch, touch the Mail button, and have emails in my hand in short order.
  • Some email attachments display fine on the iPod touch (text, images, PDF, Word doc files, Word docx files).
  • As I mentioned, no sync of Notes without using a 3rd party product. Added with version 3.0!
  • No keyboard option. (Maybe someday? Palm has attached and Bluetooth keyboards.)
  • No Copy/Paste. I’d like to copy a URL from a web page and email it. Or copy something from my Contacts book and paste it into a web form. I cannot. And my short-term memory is not what it used to be.
  • If I receive a meeting invitation, and I click on the attachment, Mail does nothing with it. I want it to add it to my calendar, as it does on my Mac. I assume they will add this functionality.
  • I really, really want a replacement for Secret! so I can securely carry my account information and passwords with me.
  • While the same USB cable that works for my old iPods work on this, the car and home chargers do not. I have to buy a new car charger for long trips (the new ones work in all iPods). I probably do not need a wall-charger as even if I travel overseas, I have my PowerBook.
Overall. Over all, it rocks. Syncing no longer takes all night. It has good to great battery life. And wireless use is very easy. And it is fun to use.

The thing that used to really kill me was when I would do large Contact list changes. I organize my address book into different books (like categories): APL, Business, Personal, Press, Restaurants, etc. My biggest address book category is my church directory, with 1736 entries. I just updated it by deleting all the entries in the category and then importing the updated list (from a tab-delimited file). Next, I told the Sync process to “Sync Now,” which gets its head right. Then I clicked Sync in iTunes after first clicking Contacts under Advanced. This replaces the information on the iPod with the desktop information on the next sync. It worked perfectly and quickly. I’m very happy.


Unknown said…

Hi Fred, thank you for sharing all of these experiences and comments. I’m also considering buying a iPod Touch and use it as a PDA (Perhaps my first PDA :P), and your post helps me a lot.

And yes, it will be great if it can sync ToDos with iCal. Maybe I can try “Things” for the moment.

Unknown said…

Thanks a lot Fred for sharing your experience swapping from Palm to iTouch. I am considering doing the same (I have an iPod nano 8 GB and Classic 80 GB)

What puzzles me is that how can Apple believe that they can convince business users to swap from Blackberry to iPhone, without a decent Notes, a decent to-do and calendar tasks, and a group calendar.

Even as a casual user I cannot swap yet from my Palm, as current.

Let us keep praying

Dave R. said…

Hi Fred,

Thanks for sharing. I have used palm products since the pilot days and am looking for an upgrade. Currently that is an Nokia N800, neat little IT, but a bit of a “ticker-toy”, ok for email, but pretty rough as a PIM.

Have you tried splash ID I have used this for years on my plam and PC with very good luck. I have never tired it on a Mac.

Since it has been a couple of months since your last post about touch as a PDA I was wondering if you have any additional thoughts about it?


Fred Avolio said…

Hi, Dave. Regarding SplashID, it looks interesting. On the one hand, I don’t want to spend so much money. On my Mac, I use a PGP-encrypted file to store passwords and other authentication information. On the Palm, I used Secret. On my iPod touch, I now use Lockbox Pro. I suppose it is time for me to move to a solution that works on the desktop and handheld with the same file. I may try it over an upcoming vacation.

Now, to your question…

I am very happy with my move to the touch for my PDA. It has changed some of my routines at home, for example. No longer do I power up my PowerBook in the morning to check email in our home office. I grab my first cup of coffee, switch on the iPod touch, check email, check FaceBook, check the weather, and open up my Olive Tree bible software.

I also check my calendar for birthdays, then go to Mail and send of birthday greetings. I wish that the birthday record in Calendar would take me to the record on Contacts, which would then take me to Mail as it did on the Palm. But, that is a minor inconvenience.

I also wish there was an integrated Tasks/To Do manager. I am currently using “To do’s.” And I’d still like to be able to search e-mail.

All-in-all, what I say in the listed “Pros” and “Cons” still stand. If none of the “Cons” got “dealt with,” I’d still be happy with the iPod Touch as my PDA.

I’ll be even happier if Apple gives us Copy/Paste.

Fred Avolio said…

There was just a discussion on the Apple discussions about someone else Moving from Palm Tungsten to iPod touch

Dave R. said…

Hi Fred

I just got my IPT and I am starting the slow move from Palm. Since my wife and I use a Google calendar and email I have started to build my sync around google. Currently I am using www.nuevasync.com to sync my contacts and my calendar between the IPT and google. This has worked pretty well so far.

I still use the Palm todo and memo’s on the office computer, and have not found a good replacement so far.



liangedward said…


A few questions for you:

1) Have you used Ipod Touch as an alarm? Does it work well that way?

2) I have read at other website that the calendar just play beeps when for events, in general, could you hear them?

3) Are the applications and games stored in the 8GB area?



Fred Avolio said…

“Yes” to all three.

Fred Avolio said…

Oh, wait, Edward… re: your #3:

I have a 32G iPod touch.
18 GB is audio
4.6 GB is video
190 MB is Apps
and 235 MB is under Other.

Fred Avolio said…

Re: my mention of Secret! in the post, above. I just got email from the company who makes Secret!:

Some time ago you bought a shareware license of Secret! for your Palm.

We would like to inform you that new major releases of Secret! that secures your most important data with a strong encryption algorithm, are now available for BlackBerry® and iPhone®.


Secret! Cross Upgrades for registered user of any former Secret! version are available at


Unknown said…

I am using my ipod as a PDA but when trying to download content from a website to my "PDA" which platform do I use? Is there an ipod app that I need inorder to download PDA software?

Fred Avolio said…

Jennifer, I think in general the answer is you cannot do that. There is no general-purpose download feature because there is no general-purpose download location. Certain URLs will take you to different apps. A URL on YouTube, will open the YouTube app. Click on an .mp3 audio file, and it will Open the QuickTime app. Click on a PDF and it will display it. But, if you just want to capture a generic file the best you can do–as far as I know– is email it to yourself.

Maybe I or someone can help if you give a few examples of what you are trying to do.

I am still very happy with an iPod for a PDA (as you can see in Apps on my iPod touch, and I still need to make time to blog about Evernote.