11 Ways Newton is STILL better than iPhone

So you went to an Apple store, made your purchase, sold your soul to some wireless carrier, and now you have tons of free apps downloaded and your voicemail is all set up. You’re an iPhone 3G owner. What makes you so special? It might be that you don’t have an Apple Newton MessagePad to play around with.

Here are ten eleven reasons to sell your 3G and take up the ten-years-abandoned Newton platform for fun and recreation:

  1. It’s cheaper. The Newton MessagePad 1×0 series may cost you $15-30, while the 2×00 series might cost you $100-200. But that’s it. Except for wireless cards and the extra stylus, there’s no “plan” or “rate” to buy in to. You pay for it once. That’s it.
  2. The batteries last longer. Way longer. Like, weeks longer. I’ve noticed that my 3G iPhone can last up to two days with light usage, but in the end I still have to plug it in. My Newton 110? I’ve lasted a month on the same Sanyo Eneloop batteries. No color and no wifi help, of course, but the point still stands.
  3. You can fax. Faxing may be on its way out, or at least moving to the electronic world, but the MessagePad’s ability to fax – with the special modem – can be an advantage if (Steve forbid) wifi or cell towers ever went down. It could happen, and faxing lets you use the tried-and-true phone lines to do your communicating. Someone may release a faxing iPhone app, but in the meantime, your MessagePad has the market covered.
  4. No in-store activation required. No lines, either, and if you use eBay, it’s not as scarce as you think.
  5. It’s more rugged. Drop your iPhone and step on it. Now drop your MessagePad and step on it. Which would survive the fall and subsequent stomping? Place your bets.
  6. Newtons qualify as “underground.” Retro. Rare. Counter-culture. Whatever you want to call it, the Newton fills the “not-everyone-has-one-so-mine-is-cool” gap the iPhone 3G left behind. Before, the iPhone 1.0 was the rare species, eliciting looks and whispers when someone whipped one out. Now, Apple is selling tons of them. Which means, like the iPod, the “coolness” factor dips a bit. Not so with your MessagePad. You could probably count on one hand the number of people who own one in your 50-mile radius. Kids these days love their retro and throwback technology – what serves that purpose better than a Newton?
  7. It still has fun games on it. Every cell phone in the world has Tetris and chess and tic-tac-toe. So does your Newton. If your gaming style is “simple” over “Crash Bandicoot Racing,” keep your Newton around. Many games can be had for free.
  8. You’ll never have activation problems. Maybe an error message now and again. But nothing on the scale of the “iPocalypse.”
  9. You already have a system that works. Why switch now? If your MessagePad fits your GTD needs already, switching to the iPhone involves setting up a whole new system. I, for one, am still trying to decide on what flavor of to-do app I want to use on my 3G. Save yourself the hassle.
  10. No AT&T involved. This goes along with point one, but really – any situation where you can avoid giant nation-wide media and communication carriers is a chance to show your shutzpah. Those of us who settled on buying an iPhone are still grappling with the catatonic depression that goes along with signing up with AT&T. And the fact that we had to wait in long lines to do so only strengthens the insult. Do your own thing. Hold your Newton tight.
  11. Your Newton is a “project” device. This is what originally drew me to the MessagePad. Setting up wifi and Bluetooth, sending and receiving e-mails, playing around with third-party apps and games, even syncing with OS X – the Newton gives you weekend projects that satisfy your inner DIY’er. The iPhone? Too easy. Unless you’re an app developer or a jailbreaker – in which case, Mr. Jobs would like to have a word with you – the iPhone is a device of convenience and comfort. You don’t even need Apple’s permission to make applications for the Newton. All you need is knowledge of NewtonScript, an inner drive, and a mild case of masochism.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m loving my iPhone. Just the camera and the GPS are worth the madness that I lived through that Friday in July.

Anything I haven’t thought of? Have a different point of view? Let me know in the comments.


  1. You made the wrong comparison.

    You should compare the Newton to the iPod Touch 32 GB model.

    Both are not cell phones.

    The iPod Touch kills the Newton.

  2. A fair argument, james, but the point is still made with items 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, and a bit with 11. Maybe the next post will be “How the iPod Touch beats the Newton” – which, for gaming and web surfing – is right on.

  3. I also think you should’ve compare the Newton with the iPod Touch …

    I totally respect your observations … however, I respectfully disagree …

    1. The Newton is cheaper, but it is not easy to find one in good condition, getting one on eBay, who knows how long it will run … sure you can buy an older car for much less than a new one, but it is still an older car …

    2. Newton’s battery may last way longer, but we are talking about totally different functions here, and if the iPod Touch’s battery can last for 2 days on regular uses, unless you are traveling to some really remote areas, it should be pretty sufficient as an handheld device

    3. OK, you can’t fax with an iTouch, true … but since you can’t scan with a Newton … email to fax machines services would do the same …

    5. The iTouch is more portable, so … depending on preferences, it is a trade-off … I can buy a ragged case for the iTouch, you can’t make the Newton more portable!

    6. Why is being “underground” an advantage?

    7. iTouch has tons of free games too … and developers are making more everyday … and the iTouch definitely has a better graphic set-up

    9. I think you are right here if you have been using the Newton for a long time … however, if you use a Newton, own an iPod, then switching to an iTouch would make more sense …

    I think the most compelling reason for me to switch from a Newton to an iTouch is probably a modern web browser …

  4. @bear: I agree. I can’t imagine surfing the web decently these days on a Messagepad.

    One of the dangers of tongue-in-cheek posts like this one is its easy to show me up, which you’ve done well. So there we go – look for a “Why the iPod Touch kicks the crap out of an old, huge brick-of-a-PDA Newton” post coming soon.

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  6. @bear: What you are forgetting with point 2 is that older cars are better than new ones. Case in point: 1958 Lincoln Continental vs 2008 Lincoln Towncar. That comparison was over before it even began. I don’t want to even get started with all of the reasons why, but chances are if you don’t already know why, you are probably not the kind of person who would ever understand (that last part was directed at everyone in general).

  7. @james: “The iPod Touch kills the Newton.”

    What for ?

    I don’t get the comparison of a device that is primarily about content creation (the Newton) to a device that is primarily about content consumption (the iPod Touch / iPhone). They do different jobs, and sure, although I *could* listen to MP3s on a Newton, I’ve got an iPod for doing that. I also carry a separate mobile phone. A disadvantage ? No: three devices, three batteries. One set of batteries goes flat, it’s an irritation but not a problem. If you have one device to do all things, and its battery goes flat…

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  9. The most severe problem w/ the Newton is… Steve won’t release it to a 3rd party, but won’t let Apple move ahead with it either. In Steve’s solipsist little self-centered world, the Newton must remain forever crushed since it was the ONLY thing w/ John Scully’s imprimature on it that was truly successful. Never mind the fact that Scully had less to do w/ the Newton’s success than Steve did w/ the MacII [& hence, all the Macs up until his return to Apple in ’98.] Whatever.

    The reality remains that the Newton is a *tool*, while the iPod/iPhone/iWhatever are basically *toys*. C’mon, Steve: give me the chance to take the Newton forward w/ today’s tech and I’ll make Apple a mint, & all w/o stepping on the iPhone’s telephonic toes…

  10. Hi Dave,

    read your 11 points with interest and some smiling too.
    Surely some points are ironic, I’m supposed.

    As I tested an iPod Touch (and sold it again) and I’ve a MessagePad lying here my impressions of both are quite fresh.

    To speak the truth, the iPod is really smart (over here in germany the youngsters would say “cool”). And there are (and will be) many interesting applications running on it. The integration with any mac and OS-X is very, very good and our beloved Newton cannot compete in any way.
    On the other hand: The absolutely mini size of any letters on the iPod, the “micro” browser-surface is a bad joke. (Esp. if your eyes beginn to get worse like mine) This is not! adjustable by user. Summary for me: Not usable.

    But for me the messagepad was too large and too heavy all over the years. It never became my darling. Palm and other PDAs were disappointing in usage.

    Today I own three messagepads (two of them with US-OS) and a lot of Newton stuff. A german 2100 was never used: new as just arrived. If anybody wants to invest some money, contact me (but not for an outlet-price/ I shall sell at fair conditions). Perhaps with Dave’s help, if he wants?

    My idea and dream too: The so-called tablet-PC as a reborn Newton (with character-rec. of course) with the finish, elegance and user interface of the iPod at the size of a 12″ powerbook. Apple would have the technology…

  11. Thanks Steve. Wouldn’t that be cool? You’re right that the iPhone/Touch syncing with OS X can’t be matched; I think about it everyday as I plug in my iPhone and everything (iCal, Address Book, etc) syncs automatically. I hear the Newton is pretty popular over in Germany. What got you started?

  12. Hey there

    have to agree with you on your points raised (even though I own a 2G iphone and unlikely to go 3G…for what? Faster web access? I’m on a jailbroken pay-as-you-go sim and only web via home network)
    Have had my Newt 2000 for 4 going on 5 years now and like you love that add-on/tinker/functionality aspect to the device.

    You’ll hear from me elsewhere

    Rob (down in Oz)

  13. Fair points made. Did you say you like your iPhone’s camera? you must be joking, or perhaps you’ve never seen a 5MP high quality compact Cybershot camera in new Sony Ericsson phones.

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