Music + Technology + Random Nonsense from the Music Industry by Ethan Kaplan, VP Product, Live Nation

My Netbook vs Iphone 3gs

I have had a Dell Mini 9 for a few months now. On which I have of course installed osx through the hackentosh process. I have the mini 9 with a built in 3G cellular modem, and it has made a formidable “emergency” machine for me and our lead developer. In fact said developer has used it for programming Drupal modules.

I primarily used it for email, web and RSS reading, as well as had dropbox on it for ocassional editing.

With some kernel extensions to enable CPU stepping, I get about five hours of battery on the thing. All in all, a nice, if not elegant device.

With the iPhone 3GS however, I have found myself not using the Dell as much as I used to. In fact, I have hardly used it at all. Here is why:

My iPhone 3GS is faster, more portable and more capable for what I used the netbook for, than the netbook is. In short, this smart “phone” is the ultimate netbook.

Let’s go through some points.

- the iPhone keyboard is no more difficult to type on than the dell’s. Seriously. The Dell keyboard is nearly unusable for serious use over time.

- the iPhone is faster in perceived speed, helped mostly by a better gpu

- the iPhone does more automatically and seamlessly. Entourage won’t work well on the netbook. The equivalent works fine on the iPhone.

- I have just as good (if not faster) VPN access to our data center and office on the phone as I do on the netbook. Through the app store I have a good ssh client, vnc client and with istat, a good way to check system performance.

- the one thing I give the netbook, and it is not the fault of Apple is that dropbox needs to make an app asap.

So there you have it. I still use the netbook. It comes in handy in meetings at times and for light work, but it’s the iPhone 3gs which is the most netbook like devices that I own.

PS: I wrote this post on the iPhone. The keyboard is just fine.

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17 Responses

  1. That’s a very good list of points. But I definitely wouldn’t go as far as saying that the iPhone’s virtual keyboard is easier to type on than the Dell’s. It’s much, much smaller, so people with slightly podgier fingers will have a hard time typing accurately.
    Besides, there are other netbooks on the market, most with much larger, spacious keyboards. If you’re looking for a netbook that has a nice, Scrabble-style keyboard, I would recommend Sony’s first foray into the netbook market: the VAIO W-Series.

  2. Denz says:

    These two machines are not on the same league. There are lots of things you can’t do in iPhone which you can in netbooks. about the keyboard, you still have an easy option to attached an external kb which is hard to do in iPhone or might be even impossible (hope apple creates a folding keyboard with docking port for iPhone/iPod touch). The bottom line is that they can’t be compared.

  3. Those are some really good points that I would never realize. However, the iPhone has one big gigantic flaw that you really completely overlooked. Multitasking. My programming style usually has a ton of windows/data open at a time, sprawled across on three screens. each one usually has 3 or 4 applications running on it. The Dell Mini can do this. The iPhone cannot; It can only do one thing at one time.

    [And my thumbs would get tired on the iPhone much faster than on the Dell Mini.]

  4. Brad says:

    hi great post i love my iphone best phone

  5. Andrew says:

    Agreed! I don’t use my samsung netbook at all as a lot of what I did is on my iPhone and it’s more mobile I can’t constantly take my netbook around with me but I can with my iPhone.

  6. Justin Sluss says:

    I have to disagree with this statement. Maybe your iPhone “tethered” to your netbook to give you a 3G connection on the device itself to take advantage of a larger screen and keyboard. Yes, I don’t like the touch pads on netbooks, laptops and etc but that’s why you get a wireless USB laptop mouse. Yes you posted this from your iPhone but it lacks ANY visual efforts such as images, videos, etc. You’ll find it’s hard to design something in HTML on an iPhone or iPod Touch.

  7. Lisa says:

    Since there’s now copy/paste, you could keep a bunch of simple HTML elements on notepad and easily add images, links, etc to blog posts or web pages.

    I find I use my laptop alot less since getting my iPod Touch. It’s fast, portable, fun, and I can get alot done!

    Am typing this comment from it! ;)

  8. Bob D says:

    iPhone’s keyboard as good as a netbook’s? In a word, no. The netbook also gives you a much better web exoerience overall, with multitasking and Flash support. Some netbooks are also getting in the 7-9 hour battery life range. Lastly, the netbooks cans run “real” OSs and apps (including OS X in many caseS).

    The iPhone has real advantages – size and weight. There is a legitimate decision as to when to carry the netbook and when the iPhone will suffice, but, no, it isn’t “better” by any reasonable definition.

  9. Palaemon says:

    I agree that the iPhone doesn’t completely replace a netbook, but for the things listed that the poster uses the netbook for, the iPhone does meet those needs.

    I have a iBook G4 that I have barely touched since I got my iPhone 3G. I know I’m not the only one. All the “negatives” listed are possible. They my not be available yet or sanctioned by Apple (background apps, external keyboard, etc.)

    I will be forgoing any future netbook purchase and just upgrading my iPhone as I feel necessary.

  10. Ethan Kaplan says:

    I think some of you are getting confused “function” over “use”

    Function to function, a Netbook of course does things an iPhone can’t (multitasking isn’t one of them, the iPhone does that fine, its a software restriction).

    Use to use though, the iPhone does everything I ever USED a netbook for, better. I never did video editing, graphics editing, web design, etc on a Netbook. I have a MacPro or a MacBook Pro for that,

  11. I took a Hackintoshed Dell 9 and an iPod Touch with me on a recent vacation. I found that I used both, but in very different ways. iPod Touch: music & games. Dell Mini: email, web, and working on a couple of documents.

    The Dell keyboard is not as good as a full-sized keyboard, but it is far better suited for writing than a virtual keyboard.

  12. Ethan Kaplan says:

    @rachel – I’m very specific that this is the iPhone 3GS I’m talking about. I’d never say the same thing of the previous generation iPhone.

  13. [...] 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 [...]

  14. Lucas says:

    good points…I’d rather have the mobility of the phone, although I think the only thing really to question now is the screen size

  15. mech says:

    Nice post. Though, unlike you I find that my iPhone is the ‘fun’ tool. I do most of my academic/research stuff on the dell mini 9 osx. VPN is a lot easier for me to use on the netbook as well.

    Keyboard, despite being horrible on the mini9, is still superior to the tiny virtual imitation keypad on the iPhone. The only good thing going for the iPhone’s keyboard is the adaptable vocabulary library and error correction (again, this is only a limitation on the software front for the mini9).

    Screen is the other limiting factor of the iPhone. After playing Rolando for 20 minutes I found I couldn’t focus properly in the real world! Damn, my eyes were so strained staring at that tiny thing…

    All in all, both are amazing tools, for function, utilization and for just some fun

    PS Miranda: What an awesome find you got there: an open-source netbook/tablet with a detachable screen!!! Now that is definitely something to get excited about, not a supposed iTablet without a functional keyboard.

  16. Jonny says:

    Interesting read. I did a search for this sort of debate simply because I love my 3gs so much.

    The virtual keyboard is fantastic by the way, I can type away no bother but I am very used to qwerty keyboard layouts, so maybe an advantage? Anyway, I can type for fun on this thing and I also have an MSI Wind U100 plus, with another 1gb of ram I installed. As much as I love my netbook, I use my iPhone more. The 3gs is too handy for me, it does mostly what I need the netbook to do. Being a amateur photographer, I have a desktop pc for all that sort of mumbo jumbo.

    I also use office and documents to go is decent enough and the e-mail editor is spot on. You won’t be getting any fancy macros with this office programme but for word and excel it ain’t bad for me.

    I have always said that the iPhone nearly replaces a netbook/laptop, it’s not quite there but it is still very very good and for me replaces most of it – msi win u100 plus a iPhone 3gs is a fantastic combo for web stuff , I’d love the ipad but until there’s more flexibility with one I’ll stick to my 3gs and netbook and leave the serious stuff to my desktop pc