Editorial: How to Choose a Handheld

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One question that appears on a regular basis within the BargainPDA forums is, what PDA do I buy? For many people, choosing a PDA is worse than looking for a car. From the different models, to what model has what option, it can be a daunting task. Well, instead of having a brief summary of each PDA that is available, and some of the software that is available, I will give a few questions that one can ask themselves before purchasing a PDA. From there, it will make looking and using a PDA a better experience.

 

Here, I will address some of the more common questions. There may be other questions that you have. Please feel free to ask them in our forums.

 

Question 1

What do you want to do with the PDA?

When looking to purchase a PDA, you will want to figure out what you want to do with the PDA. Most people look at PDAs first because they help you to organize your calendar, tasks, and phone numbers. All PDAs do this well, and so other tasks should be looked at such as: carrying large references, mobile email and Internet, gaming, music play, or one that does all those things well. Once you have figured out what you will do with it, you should analyze your budget.

 

Question 2

What is your spending budget?

How much you are willing to spend will also be an important question. The more you spend, the more that your PDA will act like a laptop. That is not to say that if you spend little, that you cannot get much. The $150 PalmOne Zire31 is capable as a replacement to the paper planner, as well as has the ability to play MP3s and carry large reference materials via the SD (secure digital) memory card slot.

 

As a general rule, spending $100 will get you a basic PDA; up to $200 can get you a PDA with a camera, MP3 player, or included document editing abilities; up to $350 will net you a midrange PDA that can have wireless connectivity (wifi or Bluetooth) along with cameras, MP3 players, and full document editing; over $400 will get you enhanced screens (higher resolutions than lower models), dual wireless capabilities on some models, more included software, and much more memory (up to 128MB internally on some models) than lower priced models.

 

Question 3

Do you need a PDA that is like a phone, or would you like a PDA that easily connects to a mobile phone?

Some people do not like the idea of carrying around a PDA and a mobile phone. They may like the functionality of a PDA, just in the form of a phone; or, the functionality of a phone in the form of a PDA. If you need to access the internet and would find getting email on the go as making things easier, then a smartphone or wireless PDA would work best for you. Many mobile phone companies offer smartphones with a discount if you get a contract with it.

 

Here are some smartphones that are available with the mobile phone services that support them.

Smartphones that use the PalmOS

PalmOne Treo 600 GSM Cingular, AT&T, T-Mobile, Orange (UK)

PalmOne Treo 600 CDMA Sprint, Verizon Wireless

Samsung SPH-i500 Sprint

Kyocera 7135 Verizon Wireless

 

Smartphones that use PocketPC Phone Edition

Samsung SPH-i700 Verizon Wireless

Hitachi G1000 Pocket PC Phone Edition Sprint

TMobile PocketPC Phone Edition T-Mobile

 

Smartphones that use Windows Mobile 2003

Audiovox PPC 4100 AT&T

HP iPaq h6300 TMobile

Samsung SPH-i600 Verizon Wireless

 

RIM Blackberry Devices

Blackberry 6230 TMobile

Blackberry 6280 Cingular, AT&T

Blackberry 6710 T-Mobile, AT&T

Blackberry 7230 TMobile

Blackberry 7280 AT&T, Cingular

Blackberry 7750 Verizon

Blackberry 7780 AT&T

 

Question 4

Do you need a keyboard built in?

When purchasing a PDA, deciding how one wants to input data is very important. Though all PDAs have some form of handwriting recognition and a virtual keyboard, if you plan on sending a lot of email or editing documents, then you may want to look at the PalmOne Tungsten C, PalmOne Treo600, HP iPaq 4350, and the HP iPaq 6300 (included accessory).

 

All PDAs can also accept input from keyboard attachments. Think Outside and Belkin make some of the more popular models.

 

Question 5

Do you need to sync word documents, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations for editing or viewing?

Starting with the PalmOne Tungsten E ($200), one can have a Palm OS PDA that will be able to edit and view MS Office documents (via third party software). PDAs with the Pocket PC OS support office file editing as part of the base software.

 

Question 6
What is considered acceptable battery life?

Acceptable battery life is anything in over four hours of continuous usage. That will translate to 3-5 days of intermittent usage. Many PDA models will do this and better.

 

There are different factors that go into getting the most out of your battery, such as: the screen resolution (the higher the resolution, the more power that is needed to keep the screen on); how bright you keep the screen; are you using the multimedia functions (they drain the battery faster); are you using wireless technologies (bluetooth uses battery power at a lower rate than wifi, though both drain the battery more than not using them). How you will be using the PDA you choose will determine how much of the battery that you will be using. Some Windows Mobile PDAs (such as the new HP iPaq 6300) use removable batteries. You could use one battery while charging the other.

 

Question 7

Does your business support using a PDA with a camera?

These days, data security is very important within many organizations. If you are looking to purchase a PDA to use within a work setting, make sure that your organization authorizes its use, especially if the PDA you want has a camera. Many government agencies, and some health clubs, do not allow you to carry devices with cameras on them. Make sure that you do clear it with the IT and senior personnel of your organization.

 

This was a brief look at many questions to consider when looking for a PDA. If you can cover these bases before you purchase, you will be more satisfied with your PDA.

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