Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It’s a computer, it’s a phone ... it’s a Streak?

Posted By on Wed, Aug 11, 2010 at 11:19 AM

Dell's got a new product, and I'm interested. It's called the Dell Streak. It's smaller than an iPad, larger than a smart phone and it offers similar features. Like the iPhone, to get special pricing ($299.99 v. $549.99), you have to sign up for a two-year contract with AT&T*. The Streak is officially on sale Friday, but, as with all other fancy new gadgets these days, there's a pre-sale for obsessed tech fans tomorrow.

As for myself, until a couple years ago, I was always a free-phone-with-contract kinda gal. Then my husband brought home an iPhone ... and I'd take it away from him as soon as he walked in the door so I could play. Soon after, I decided I needed one for my business since I'm frequently on the go. I've been attached to it, sometimes literally, ever since. It's as important to me as my wallet.

I purchased the 8GB version, in part because I'm cheap and in part because I never thought I would fill up that much storage space. Well, I was wrong. Now I'm saving my pennies for a new 32GB iPhone and (maybe) an iPad ... but the news about Dell's new tablet-phone hybrid practically gave me whiplash.

One of the things that attracts me to the Streak is the fact that you can use memory cards, so running out of memory isn't a problem. It can also be used as a phone without feeling like you're holding a laptop to your head. That leads me to the other thing that's attractive about the Streak: It's size. It's got a 5 inch screen, compared to the iPad's 9.7 inch screen and the iPhone's 3.5 inch screen.  It has two cameras — one in the front and another in the back. Like its competitors, the Streak offers applications that can do damn near anything, making it yet another pocket-sized computer that also happens to be phone.

One of the few negative things I've heard about the Streak is that the screen is too small to be an e-reader. I'm going to have to disagree. I downloaded Amazon's free Kindle app to my iPhone several months ago and find it's my preferred e-reader. I've since read several books on the tiny screen and find no need to buy a separate e-reader because of it. On the flip side, the screen size — which is a nice medium between Apple's products — is being touted as just right for other uses, like surfing the 'Net.

The Streak uses Google's Android operating system, which I'm obviously not as familiar with as I am with Apple's programs. By all accounts, it rocks though. And, like other Android enabled products, it's able to multi-task. The fact that my two-year-old iPhone can't is, and always has been, quite annoying.

Now, after all this blathering, I should tell you that I'm not a big fan of jumping on the next tech gadget just because it's available. When I switched to the iPhone, I did so because I realized it was an all-in-one gadget for me, like a pocket knife. I can use it to record interviews, make phone calls, play games, do a little research, keep up with my clients, read books ... and so much more. It's super cool, and the fact that I can use one electronic device instead of an army of them appeals to my less-is-more stance on consumerism. That's precisely why I haven't upgraded my iPhone and also why I haven't bought an iPad. I'm not going to upgrade until the gadget I already own either stops working or runs out of memory. And when I do, I'm donating my old iPhone to our troops instead of tossing it into the trash. (Click here to find out how to donate your old phone.)

All the same, I've maxed my iPhone's memory which makes it slow and, thus, infinitely less cool. Fortunately, my contract is up with AT&T so it's time to decide on my next gadget purchase. The Dell Streak is an interesting option, its service is with the same cell phone carrier I've already got and it's a nice mix of today's best technology. Plus, the price is roughly the same as the iPhone and quite a bit less than the iPad. (The iPhone4's 32GB option is $299 and the iPad's 32GB option is $599, though the 64GB option is $699. If you want to call someone on your iPad or take advantage of 3G technology, add $130.)

The people who tell me I should get an iPad always talk about it as if will replace my computer. I'm not interested in that, though. Call me old fashioned, and maybe I am, but I like the fact that I don't have to hold my computer's screen up with my hands — or buy anything extra to hold it up, and I like sitting at my desk when I work. So, that's not an effective sale's pitch for me. The desktop stays.

Anyway, I doubt I'll be in line at the pre-sale or for opening day for anything (I prefer to wait for companies to work their glitches out before I buy), but the Streak is definitely a contender for my technology dollars. What's really got my attention about it is the ability to exchange individual 32GB memory cards. (I tend to fill my electronic memory space with music from my antiquated music CD collection.) In my mind, that feature could extend the life of the product far beyond a two-year contract, which is very appealing to someone like me who actually spends time worrying about e-waste and it's impact on the environment.

Last thing, the fact that the Streak is a little too big for my pocket isn't a bother since I'm a chick and usually carry a purse. I could see why guys wouldn't like it, though; it's pretty bulky for a pants pocket. Of course, I've not heard anyone complaining about whether or not an iPad is pocket-friendly. So, there's that.

What do you think? Are you forever on team Apple, or will you give the Streak a chance?

Here's a video from Dell about their new product:

Here's a third-party review:

*Full disclosure: My husband works in the cell phone industry's geekery department and AT&T is one of his company's biggest clients. (Though, I usually hear something akin to Charlie Brown's teacher when he starts talking shop.) It should also be noted that I regularly complain about AT&T dropping calls and it's lack of 3G — in places like Mooresville — on Twitter, even though my iPhone is practically a new limb. Anyhoo, thought you should know. You should also know I never accept money or products from companies whose products I write about.

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