We gave OmniSky a lot of ink last year, and for good reason: they have a great service, and they're extending it to more and more devices. The OmniSky Minstrel S is the latest addition to the line, working with Handspring's new Visor Platinum and Prism.
As I've lamented in the past, living in the country does have the rare disadvantage, and not having any CDPD service is one of them. But last December I spent a week at PalmSource and decided to give the Minstrel S a very personal test: I used it to retrieve and reply to my email all week. It went well.
First I should tell you about the install. It was easy. With the Springboard cover removed, you take the Visor in one hand, and the Minstrel S in the other. You slide the latter into the former, and watch as the OmniSky logo is animated into life. Installation is automatic when you press the OK button, and takes about 12 seconds. As for memory, it sucks up 1,316K. That's a lot, but it's because there's no flash RAM on the Visor, so everything has to run in regular memory, whereas much of it is loaded into flash on a Palm V. But it's an 8MB machine, so no worries.
Once you have it up and running, you just enter the server information for the email addresses you want it to retrieve, and the OmniSky server will check and notify you of incoming email at whatever interval you choose. I would prefer a vibrating alarm for this, but at least you get a red light. That first day at PalmSource, I also learned that it's better to turn the modem off and forget about notification, because two hours before the day was done, the battery in the Minstrel S was ready to turn in. I had used it frequently that day, but here's where a removable battery would have been nice, something impossible with this modem. From then on, I just used the Power Switch application to shut the modem down after I used it. With this method, I didn't have to charge the unit again for two days.
The OS Mail application, a modified version of JP Systems' One Touch Mail, worked flawlessly. I really like getting the first part of the email instead of just the headers, because I'm better able to see if it's junk mail; often I get the whole message and can reply from that. I replied to many emails, and I doubt anyone knew I was away from my desk.
The modem is a little big. It doesn't fit into the Visor Plastic Holster as a result, and it weighs just enough that it pulls the Visor's bottom up off the table if you lay it on its back.
Those minor things aside, the Minstrel S shines. The OmniSky service is excellent, their interface is attractive and pleasant to use, and the price is better than most. It's almost worth moving to the city for. US$299 and US$39.95 a month with no contract, but check their website for possible deals on a six month contract. www.omnisky.com -Shawn Barnett
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