Malcolm Murphy – Pocketsurfer Review

Contributor Malcolm takes a look at the Pocketsurfer.

It’s been several months since I first saw the Pocketsurfer. I was intrigued by the proposition – a connected device with a flat rate data plan, plus web acceleration to improve the 2G browsing experience.

Recently, the voice that says “you don’t need it” was overruled by the voice that says “yeah, but I want one” and I took the plunge and ordered one. I actually had a specific application in mind, checking email without needing to use the computer. I do of course have email on my mobile already (and have done for at least the last 9 years) but I was really intrigued by the idea of a consumer oriented device that just works. If it did as promised then it could be a useful addition to the gadgets in our house.

First impressions were good. The device has a sturdy feel to it, with metal keys that seem to be inspired by the RAZR, and it’s powered via a mini USB port. Unfortunately, the port is recessed so far that my Motorola charger won’t fit, so I had to unwrap the power supply that came with it. Ten out of ten for very sensibly using mini USB, minus several million for the way they’ve done it.

Once it’s charged, setting it up and configuring it is quite straightforward. Once you’ve got it configured, you get a configurable homepage that includes web access to your mail. There is short key access to a custom webmail interface, even if your email already has webmail, like Gmail does. At first I feared that this was because the device couldn’t handle feature-rich websites, but that was unfounded – going direct to Gmail works fine.

So, mail works.

And so does web browsing. The screen is nice and clear, and presents a kind of window on a web-page so you can scroll down and across as required. The claims that the Pocketsurfer recreates the PC browsing experience on a mobile device are not as far fetched as they might sound. Pretty much everything renders as it should. One niggle is that the Pocketsurfer doesn’t have a touchpad or touchscreen, so you have to scroll and navigate the pointer using cursor keys, which I found a little awkward. I also found the text entry a little strange to get used to; basically you have to type the text then press a button to insert it into the form or whatever. It does work, but it takes some getting used to.

The other claim that Datawind, the makers of Pocketsurfer, make is that it renders any web page faster than any other mobile device. I did a few quick tests comparing the Pocketsurfer with my E61 on Three, and the results were mixed. Not universal victory for the Pocketsurfer, but it held out credibly against the 3G device.

So, what’s wrong with it? Well, it only works when there is network coverage. Without network, you can’t do anything at all. Which would be fine, except there are quite a few places when I want to do something but don’t have any coverage. Like on the train into London Waterloo, where there are several dead spots, or in the downstairs seating area at one of my favourite coffee shops. The other problem associated with coverage is that when you move from an area with coverage to one without, the device can appear to lock, and it doesn’t recover straight away when coverage returns.

Ultimately, the Pocketsurfer does exactly what it says on the tin. Unfortunately, I actually wanted something more. In order for it to be truly useful to me, it has to be able to operate when disconnected from the network. So I can compose my email when it’s convenient to me, and send it when I have coverage.

The price of the Pocketsurfer is coming down – you can get it for around 140 quid now, and as the price comes down it becomes more and more tempting. You can find more information about the Pocketsurfer at this unofficial fan site.

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