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The Holy Grail: An All-Purpose Electronic Device
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Gene Kinney
(carl_kinney) - F

Locale: Southwest
The Holy Grail: An All-Purpose Electronic Device on 09/18/2006 20:55:54 MDT Print View

Would like to discuss whether any of us in the BPL world has heard of any company developing some kind of all encompassing electronic device combining a phone, camera, GPS, MP3 player, am/fm/wb radio.
Some phones have GPS, some with MP3 music playback. Of course there are camera phones if you are satisfied with a paltery 1.3 megapixels.
Some MP3 players have a FM band but not AM and certainly not a weather band.
And GPS devices think they are giving something extra with pixelly games that just eat battery life.
So my question is whether there is company developing an all-purpose electronic device for the backcountry; something about the size and weight of a good quality digital camera?
I think not only it could serve the small niche of backpacker/hikers but also skiers and even the man-in-the city driven to high tech devices.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: The Holy Grail: An All-Purpose Electronic Device on 09/18/2006 22:12:55 MDT Print View

Some of the small handheld computers have came close to what you imagine.

Personally, I wouldn't want one. You end up making some pretty harsh compromises to get all of those things in one little box -- like your comment about camera phones, which matches my generally feeling about "MP3 phones" too.

Unfortunately, we hikers really aren't that big a market when it comes to mass-produced electronic devices.

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: Re: The Holy Grail: An All-Purpose Electronic Device on 09/19/2006 04:56:48 MDT Print View

I would keep an eye on Apple Computer. They have been working on a phone for some time now and rumors are it will be released in early 2007. The original plans apparently had a phone, mp3, camera and gps all in one... but they ran into some serious technological hurdles trying to cram so much into one device. The current plan (according to sources) is for a phone/mp3/camera... 3 megapixels... 2.2" screen... and no 100 song limit like other iTunes phones. I can't imagine it having a radio... but perhaps a future version will have GPS... once it's technologically feesible and cost effective.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: The Holy Grail: An All-Purpose Electronic Device on 09/19/2006 05:04:48 MDT Print View

> Would like to discuss whether any of us in the BPL world has heard of any company developing some kind of all encompassing electronic device combining a phone, camera, GPS, MP3 player, am/fm/wb radio.

Yes, but we took the company out the back and beat the stuffings out of them for attempting to inflict such an insane electronic overload on us.

Camera - yes. The rest - phooey.

ian wright
(ianwright) - F

Locale: Photo - Mt Everest - 1980
ultimate toy ? on 09/19/2006 06:02:03 MDT Print View

Sounds tempting but . . .

if something goes wrong such as a flat battery or it's dropped in water, you lose the lot.

A small camera, a small GPS and a small MP3 player is fine for me. But a phone ? Yuck, that's what I want to get away from.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: The Holy Grail: An All-Purpose Electronic Device on 09/19/2006 08:12:11 MDT Print View

Oh YEAH! I'd buy that in a second. As long as you can leave the phone off when you're using the GPS or whatever.

But to have the option of GPS, phone, etc. in one small package AND to be able to climb a peak and make a call in case my solo trip goes awry...that would be a killer product. Sure- I hate phones in the wilderness too but when you have a baby at home, you start to change your thinking. Having communication in something I already carry and with only ONE kind of battery to replace...find it- I'll buy it.

But no, it doesn't really exist yet.

Dan Cunningham

Locale: Land of 12,000 Loons
handy? yes, but... on 09/19/2006 08:42:43 MDT Print View

Nifty idea, but when I head out the only thing that requires batteries is my headlamp, my watch, and the camera if I bring it. No phone, no mp3, no GPS, no FRS, no radio... no thanks. :)

That said, I don't through hike (no time) and all my trips are 1 week or less. For me, being disconnected for the short amount of time I am out is great. If it were longer, I can certainly see where somebody would want to be more connected, and an all in one device like you suggest would probably be quite nice for them.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: The Holy Grail: An All-Purpose Electronic Device on 09/19/2006 11:34:43 MDT Print View

I'm with Roger on this one.

Eric Carlsen
(cooleric1234) - F
You forgot a few things on 09/19/2006 12:23:24 MDT Print View

As long as we're at it why not add a few things? A heart rate monitor would be nice. Why not also a bike computer so you can use it when cycling? A book reader would be great too. Oh yeah, and it must be smaller than the palm of my hand.

This is only partially tongue-in-cheek, as I happen to agree that it just makes sense to merge many technologies. It's bulky and annoying having to carry a phone AND a PDA, for instance (when smartphones get cheap enough I'll get one). Being an electrical engineer myself, I can estimate that this is a difficult task. As others have mentioned, it usually means compromise on some of the capabilities. But I'm sure the industry will be able to make something available eventually. Just hope that Moore's Law keeps holding true.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: You forgot a few things on 09/19/2006 12:50:36 MDT Print View

Technology convergence seems to be happening mostly in the cellphone realm. Because a cellphone is dead weight most of the places I hike (no reception), this isn't the gizmo I want hosting my camera or gps.

I believe we'll see GPS creeping into digital cameras, first simply to document *where* each shot was taken, along with all the other data that's already collected, but then they'll notice, "Hey, what could we do with this big display screen and the GPS chip?" The camera could easily become the GPS.

GPSs are already paired with 2-way radios (which gets a hearty "so what?" in my book) and some now have sound recording for verbal waypoint descriptions. Add a camera function too? Probably, but likely in the cellphone-quality realm, which would be fine for snap-shooters.

Mass convergence might well be PDA-based, but size, weight and complexity will tend to make such do-all devices not very attractive for lightweight hikers. GPS on a big PDA screen is pretty nice, though.

I guess my vote is for the digicam-GPS. I don't see any reason to toss in MP3, especially now that the iPod Shuffle is the size of a Chiclet.

Edited by halfturbo on 09/19/2006 13:19:47 MDT.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
phone on 09/19/2006 13:01:59 MDT Print View

That sounds good to me, However, I never have cell phone service where I hike. If I did, I would take my phone on my solo trips in case of emergencies.

Bob Gabbart
(bobg) - F
problem with convergence devices on 09/19/2006 13:09:31 MDT Print View

Often the problem with convergence devices is that they do everything but nothing well. That is one of the reasons the ipod is so popular (as compared to the other MP3 players with lots of features) -- it does one thing really well.

A convergence device would be great but not at the expense of ease of use or quality. IMHO.


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: problem with convergence devices on 09/19/2006 13:31:07 MDT Print View

Finding a company with that many talents would be a challenge too. Sony could cover radio/mp3/imaging anf I just found an interesting blurb on a new GPS they make that will time synch with your digital camera and record the coordinates for the photo.

"SAN DIEGO, Aug. 1, 2006 – Sony Electronics today announced a GPS device that puts your pictures on the map.

Using time and location recordings from Sony’s GPS-CS1 GPS device and the time stamp from a Sony digital still camera or camcorder, photo buffs can plot their digital images to a map and pinpoint exactly where they’ve been.

The 12-channel GPS unit is 3-½ inches long, weighs two ounces, and is sold with a carabineer to easily attach to a backpack or a belt loop.

“Whether you’re traveling to the Seven Wonders of the World, or just wondering where to buy your next house, our new GPS device can track your journey,” said David Johns, product manager for digital camera accessories at Sony Electronics. “Adding a geographic context to your digital images helps organize and make use of your photos in entirely new ways.”

To arrange your pictures geographically, import the logged data from the GPS device, using the supplied USB cable, and then download the digital images to a computer. The supplied GPS Image Tracker software synchronizes the images on your digital camera with the latitude, longitude and time readings from the GPS-CS1 device.

Once synchronized, your photos can become virtual push pins on an online map by activating the Picture Motion Browser software bundled with the latest Sony cameras and camcorders released after July. You can easily add new photos and coordinates to the mapping web site, courtesy of Google Maps, and showcase years of globe-trotting.

The GPS-CS1 GPS device will be available next month for about $150 at, at Sony Style® retail stores (, and at authorized dealers nationwide.

Sony GPS-CS1 specifications
GPS device type 12 channel
Object image JPEG file (EXIF 2.1 or later)
Power • One AA battery (Alkaline or NiMH)
• Recording time around 10 hours (Alkaline) or 14 hours (NiMH)
Communication USB 2.0 Full-speed (same speed as USB 1.1)
Dimensions 36 x 87 x 36 mm (1.4 x 3.4 x 1.4 in)
Weight (no battery) 55 g (1.9 oz)
Software • GPS Image Tracker (Windows only)
• Super Mapple Digital Ver.7 for Sony (Windows only) "

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: Re: problem with convergence devices on 09/19/2006 13:50:10 MDT Print View

Gee... guy asks a simple question and it turns into a bit of a rant :) I, personally, would never hike with an MP3 player or a phone either... or a GPS for that matter... heck... I don't even own a cell phone... or an MP3 player... never have... and probably won't any time soon... and I'm an IT professional!!!... i.e... a professional geek! But I just answered his question. It can be annoying for a poster... any of us... when you ask a question and get a debate instead of any attempt at actual answers.

Gene Kinney
(carl_kinney) - F

Locale: Southwest
Thanks David and Others for Sticking to the Question on 09/19/2006 23:21:38 MDT Print View

Yes it was just a simple question about any company attempting to converge electronic communication technologies that we now have to pack seperately whether we want or need just one, two or more or maybe all.
And I agree with Rick it will probably come from a cell phone companies since it's the one comm device we all use nearly every day.
I'm quite aware most backpackers are looking to get away from the every day electronic world. But to comment on the rant, technology of any kind is merely how we manipulate the material world to do things. Humans are not created with built-in gear like animals so we can go backpacking butt-naked. And you can use or not use whatever you want; fine with me. The Amish stop with technologies developed prior to the industrical age; I'm sure their packs would be quite heavy if a BPLer wanted to do a thru-hike on the AT.

Edited by carl_kinney on 09/19/2006 23:23:22 MDT.

Sab .
(sabme) - F - M

Locale: SW UK
actual hardware on 09/20/2006 06:06:24 MDT Print View


No one's actually suggesting any real hardware.

How about:

1. Fujitsu-Siemens Loox T830
£420 WLAN BTv2 2MP 416MHz 2.4in240x240 190g SirfStarIII.GPS 3G+GSM qwerty WinMob5.Phone USB1host SDIO VoIP 126x64x21mm 195g

2. Mitac Mio A701 Pocket PC Phone + GPS
bit lighter faster CPU 1.3MP camera no WLAN

3. Hewlett Packard HW6915
similar to Loox T830 but not as well spec'd

Might be some others as well but can't remember off the cuff.

My fav would be the T830

Chris Miller
(chrisdm) - F
Sat combo on 09/20/2006 17:53:56 MDT Print View

I carry a GPS and a satellite phone on my solo trips, so I'd love to see those combined. They use different satellites though, so I don't think that would work.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: Thanks David and Others for Sticking to the Question on 09/20/2006 19:19:36 MDT Print View

I find this rather funny...

You post, on the internet, asking a question. And you are, um, bemused that you don't get a straight and simple answer? Nearly all people posting here are doing so on their own time. Nobody is obligated to give you a satisfying answer or any answer at all. And topic drift is as old as the internet, and quite possibly older.

The internet is this magic thing that let's you ask questions and get answers back. Like ancient oracles, the answers aren't necessarily satisfying, or even useful. Life goes on.

I'd suggest looking at product offerings from PDA manufacturers making smartphones. I've heard of GPS add-ins for such gadgets. One of those would be fairly close to what you are asking for.

oleksandr kidalov
SE k 750 on 09/21/2006 08:28:07 MDT Print View

I have Sony Ericsson k750i cellphone (102 gr)

This cellphone is a 2mp cameraphone with mp3 player and fm radio function. Last week i've find a java applet GPSJ. It becomes possible to use a bluetooth gps with my phone. I've tried a G-space bluetooth gps (80gr), it works perfect with my cell and GPSJ applet.

greg degler
(gregdegler) - F

Locale: West
by the way on 09/21/2006 21:38:11 MDT Print View

I've heard that some AMISH drive cars.

courtesy of the ThriftstoreMountaineer