[EDIT: I added the word "Review" to the title so that it might have a better chance at showing up in search engines. I really want people to see how frustrating being a Palm customer is.]
My primary purpose in purchasing a new Palm was to replace my well-aged Palm IIIx, which had served me well for a couple of years but began suffering screen calibration problems. When beginning my deliberation on Palm versus Windows Mobile, I stuck with Palm because I already had a small investment in Palm-based software. Even with this prior investment and the purchase of software afterwards, I am ready to abandon all of these investments and move completely to Java applications on my K790a. In fact, I am only one app away from being able to dump Palm completely, and I am considering writing it myself.
1) Palm Support (or lack there-of)
I contacted Palm support more than a few times about some of the issues I address in this list. Each time Palm's response was more or less that the problems I was having were due to me using the device improperly -- all of the faults I find with the LifeDrive are really my fault. In reality, I bought the LifeDrive because the T5 I purchased originally would never support WPA WiFi encryption, and buying a LifeDrive instead was Palm's solution.
2) Horrible file type handling
The LifeDrive support IrDA, Bluetooth, downloads (via the Blazer web browser,) and email attachments (via VersaMail) for file transfers. However, if the file does not have a "registered" handler, the system rejects the file. This is really a pain in the ass since it seems that some programs are unable to register themselves as handlers. For instance, I run Kinoma Player and MMPlayer, which together support a multitude of video and audio file types, such as MP4 and DivX-encoded AVI. Forget transferring these files via any means other than directly copying to the drive or SD card, as the PalmOS rejects the files, without chance to just save the file.
[EDIT: I have been told this is actually an issue with the programs themselves, though I have also been told that the PalmOS does not make this easy. He-said, she-said.]
3) Limited Bluetooth phone recognition
It does not recognize my new SonyEricsson K790a, so I am unable to use the SMS or EDGE networking features. To be fair, the unit only recognized my T637 enough to use it, but tests always failed because of unrecognized responses.
[EDIT: The LifeDrive itself says that I should run the Phone Link Updater, found in the Palm folder on my PC. Not only does this not exist, but the last updater available for download from Palm is dated the middle of 2005, well before LifeDrive Update 2.0.]
4) Unstable networking stack
The network stack cannot switch between Bluetooth and WiFi without crashing.
5) Unstable applications and operating system
The Palm-included applications, primarily Blazer and VersaMail, crash under normal use. It is also extremely easy to crash the operating system. Mine reboots so often that it is practically useless during a normal day.
6) The LifeDrive is seemingly abandoned
As I stated before, I have contact Palm on several occasions about numerous problems. I even presented a good dozen bug reports, each reproducible. All of my cries have gone unanswered, and there hasn't been a major system update since December of 2005, which did not address any of the problems I had with the system.
7) No sense of security
The Palm Desktop software is not multi-user aware in the Windows environment. Each Windows user who wishes to use the Palm Desktop must install the software, and even then the Palm user profiles, which are often different for different Windows users, are not protected.
8) Poor performance and functionality from included or sanctioned software
My 50MHz Amiga has better performing email and browser software than VersaMail and Blazer.
VersaMail crashes the moment it touches an ActiveSync (Exchange 2003) server, which I have come to find apparently actually communicates via Outlook Web Access in basic authentication mode rather than RPC over HTTP. The only good thing I can say about VersaMail is that it seems to handle IMAP better than Outlook 2003, though it would be nice if messages no longer on the server would be cleared from the Inbox. VersaMail should also support groups or at least have better contacts lookups.
The LifeDrive also supports VPN software. Even using the Palm-sanctioned VPN program, the system still fails to recognize that VPN functionality is available. None of the VPN menus work, and the program must be launched on its own rather than conveniently from within programs.
9) Left-Handed mode does not change user interface elements
The LifeDrive provides a left-handed mode which one would assume makes the unit more friendly to left-handers. However, it only seems that this mode affects the direction of the landscape viewing mode layout. One would expect that in left-handed mode the UI would adjust itself in ways such as putting scroll bars on the left side of programs to prevent having to reach across the screen to scroll. The left-handed mode setting also does not survive a reboot, so needless to say that, irrespective of its apparent uselessness, I never set it anymore as I would have to do so many times a day.
10) Unfriendly, inflexible, and obstinate hand writing recognition
Graffiti2 is a pain in the ass to use, especially if you do not write with the exact hand orientation as expected. This is another problem for many left-handers already. It also differs in many regards to the original Graffiti system, and cannot be trained to the writing nuances of the user.
All-in-all, the Palm LifeDrive has amazing hardware specs: 413MHz Intel XScale processor, 4GB built-in hard drive, SD RAM and SDIO, high resolution color screen with fast refresh, Bluetooth, WiFi, IrDA, and USB. The machine rocks, but is crippled by the PalmOS. This was supposed to augment my laptop as a surrogate in times when I either could not carry or simply did not have my laptop available. Instead, it has been an incredible incumbrance. My experience with the Palm LifeDrive has not only pushed me away from future PalmOS-based devices, but also to sway the professional recommendations I make to my clients. My LifeDrive is close to becoming a $500 paper weight, or embedded in a wall.