Since its original release, I have had iPhone envy to some degree or another.  I saw it as the perfect implementation of the technology convergence that has been developing over the past few years of the PDA, mp3 player, phone, and camera.  Unfortunately, as it was tied to AT&T for the foreseeable future, my carrier was Verizon, and I did not want to switch, getting one was not an option.  When Apple released the iPod Touch (essentially an iPhone that is neither a phone nor a camera), I was intrigued.  However, I already had an iPod that I was happy with, and the price of the Touch was a bit beyond what I was willing to spend.  Then, with a recent price drop (an 8Gb model went from $299 to $229), an OS upgrade that added the Apple app store giving access to thousands of programs not tied to the Safari browser, and a TV advertising blitz that emphasized the “coolness factor,” I finally succumbed.

Since I already had an iPod and iTunes on my home computer, getting up and running took very little time.  I launched iTunes, plugged the device into a USB port, and was able to register it and load it up with music in no time at all.  Once I told iTunes to sync my Outlook Calendar and Contacts, it did that as well.  Finally, since an iTunes software upgrade had installed the Safari browser on my PC and automatically imported my Firefox bookmarks, these were synched to the Touch also.  After detaching it, it found my WiFi network, and I was able to access my e-mail, surf the net, and find all of my favorite sites.

The question now is, can this device replace my PDA?  For me, until I can sync it with my case management software, Time Matters, the answer is no.  However, anyone that uses Outlook for scheduling and contacts would be in pretty good shape.  One thing that is lacking is to-do lists that sync with Outlook.  Although there are several to-do list programs you can get from the Apple App Store, both free and for a price, it isn’t quite the same.  Hopefully, either Apple or a third party developer will address this soon.  E-mails, however, can be synced if your server supports the IMAP protocol or if you attach to an Exchange server (both of which are supported).  The e-mail viewing software is also much better at reproducing html e-mails than my Palm PDA.  As for surfing the web, I can view sites without being limited to the “mobile” or “m-dot” versions.  This is also helped by being able to rotate to landscape view when necessary.  There is also a notetaking app that comes standard, and although it allows writing with the touch keyboard, rather than with a stylus and the Palm Grafitti writing system, you cannot rotate the view to landscape to get a more comfortable keyboard layout.

There are also many useful apps being developed that are available for download from the Apple App Store.  The LinkedIn and Facebook apps help me stay in touch with my business and personal social networks.  The Maps feature is really nice to get directions while you are on the road.  However, without GPS capability, it is forced to try and determine your location from the IP addresses of nearby WiFi hotspots, which has been hit-or-miss for me so far.  The other thing about many of these online apps is that this is not a phone, so you are tethered to WiFi hotspots for internet access.  My Palm PDA lets me view and edit Office documents through Dataviz’ Documents to Go app.  Unfortunately, although it is in development for the iPhone/iPod, it has not been released yet.  There is also no shortage of apps for the iPod Touch, just the same as there has been for the Palm.  More apps are being added all the time.

The bottom line is that the iPod Touch can be a serviceable PDA to complement your non-AT&T phone if you do not need to sync it with any desktop software other than Outlook.  This is also assuming that applications are developed that better serve the need for viewing Office documents and task reminders.  However, the broadband Internet access and GPS capabilities of the iPhone make it a better PDA candidate for the mobile lawyer especially since, well, it’s a phone!