I think the Zipit 2 is good looking. (Sorry. I meant "UR 2 cute, Z!")
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Tired of 'texting' fees? Zipit might be for you

August 24, 2008

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2008, The Post-Standard

   If you have teenagers at home, you know something they don't. You know what life was like BC -- before cell phones. You also know what family budgets were like before texting.
   To teenagers, texting is an inalienable right. In case UR not sure what texting means, let me explain. Teens use the tiny keyboards on cell phones to send each other short messages such as "UR 2 cute" -- you know, stuff adults wouldn't dream of sending each other. (Don't argue. It will make my job harder if anyone admits that adults do this, too.)
   Texting fits the teen lifestyle better than chatting on the phone because text messages always catch up with you. Sometimes you can't answer the phone -- saying "Hi, Darren!" into your hand during dinner is so '90s, you know -- but you can and read and write text messages at any time, in any place -- even in class, as any 8th grade teacher will be more than eager to tell you. This has prompted many schools to ban cell phones.
   I first learned about texting when one of my great-nieces was visiting over Easter a few years ago. As we sat in anticipation of a fine ham dinner, ready to say grace, I noted that my 13-year-old relative was already sitting quietly with her head bowed, her hands in her lap, her eyes cast down ... and, as I looked more intently, her thumbs busy tapping the keys on a cell phone half-hidden in her hands.
   After dinner -- and after a quick family discussion about courtesy -- I got my first and only lesson in texting. The idea, I learned, was to use short words whenever possible. When that was not possible, you were to use numbers, such as "2" for "too" and 4 for, well, "for."
   I've got to be honest and tell you my lesson went nowhere. I still write the old fashioned way, and my cell phone has yet to send a text message. The problem? This new-age communication method costs real money, honey. The phone companies know when they have you over a keyboard -- sorry, I mean BRL -- and they give you a choice of paying a few zillion dollars for each text message or paying a lots of zillions for unlimited messages.
   Or something like that. When I saw how much Verizon wanted me to pay every time my fingers did the walking, I did the balking.
   So you can see why I'm so enthused about a new way for teens (or -- shhh! -- adults) to exchange text messages with any cell phone user for only $9.99 a month no matter how many messages they send -- and without the need for a cell phone. They can text as many messages as they want, from as many Easter dinner tables as they can. There are no cell phone charges at all.
   Hard to believe? I felt the same way until I started playing with the little wallet-size device that makes this possible. It's called a Zipit 2. You can buy it from Best Buy and Target stores or online at www.zipitwireless.com. It's only $50.
   I think the Zipit 2 is good looking. (Sorry. I meant "UR 2 cute, Z!") It looks like a very small laptop computer and has a more or less full keyboard. You type with your thumbs, just like you'd do on a cell phone.
   Since it's not a cell phone, it does all its texting by connecting to wireless ("wi-fi") networks. Most homes that have broadband connections and most laptops have wi-fi networks, as do many schools, libraries, businesses and, as we've discovered while traveling, tourist offices, campgrounds and Interstate highway rest areas. So someone with the Zipit should be able to text away in just about any common location.
   I like the Zipit, but I'm not in the target audience for such a gadget. So a few weeks ago I asked my 15-year-old great-niece -- yes, the same one who enlightened my Easter dinner two years before -- what she thought of the Zipit. She used it for a half-hour and didn't like it. She said the keyboard is noisy -- bad for kids texting in class, I guess -- and the case is too thick. But thick, shmick. I like it, 2 cute or not.