The other day Engadget editor Joshua Topolsky wrote an interesting commentary about trying to get real work done on his iPhone 3GS. The verdict? He couldn’t. The on-screen keyboard certainly didn’t help matters, but the biggest problem was the lack of multi-tasking support. How often do you find yourself trying to do work on a computer that requires a single window only?
Not everyone sees things the same way though. BlackRimGlasses’ Ethan Kaplan says he barely uses his Dell Inspiron Mini 9 anymore, because he finds the iPhone 3GS to be just as easy to use, if not easier in most situations. He says he can type just as fast using the on-screen keyboard, which is more of a dig against the Mini 9 keyboard than a word of praise for the iPhone’s. There are also a number of applications that have been optimized for the iPhone, and while it actually has a slower processor than the Mini 9, Kaplan says it feels faster.
Of course, he makes no mention of the lack of multitasking support. Presumably he can get buy without it, while Topolsky can’t. And to be fair, plenty of other smartphones running Windows Mobile, Symbian, Blackberry OS, PalmOS or WebOS can run more than one application at a time. But in addition to multitasking support, a good netbook also gives you a nearly full-sized touch-typable keyboard, a higher resolution and larger screen, and the ability to plug in peripherals like a mouse if you’re not happy with the built-in touchpad. On the downside, they’re bigger and heavier than smartphones, and you can’t typically carry them in your pocket.
Personally, I’ve found I have little use for smartphones and a whole lot of use for netbooks. Almost everything I do online requires a higher resolution display, touch-typable keyboard, and the ability to toggle between programs. But where do you fall? If smartphones were a bit faster, ran Firefox (which they will soon), and met most of your software needs, would you still want a netbook with its larger screen and keyboard?