Getting your cell phone and PDA together

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Update: Getting your cell phone and PDA together By Leonard Fischer, Gannett News Service Often, I write about how you can connect a cell phone to a personal digital assistant (PDA) so you can use the phone as a wireless modem with your handheld. While I’ve discussed how to get cell phones and PDAs talking in past updates, a number of readers have e-mailed questions asking me to revisit this issue. Today, I’m going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions. Q: What kind of cell phones work as wireless modems? A: Almost any phone that operates on a digital network (as opposed to analog) will work as a wireless modem. That’s because it’s the digital network and not the phone that handles most of the data communications. The phone really just acts as a conduit to get your PDA talking to the digital network. Owners to dual-band phones, which operate on both digital and analog networks, should remember that their phones only work as modems when using the digital networks. If you’re roaming on an analog network, you’re out of luck if you want to place a data call. Q: What’s the easiest way to connect a cell phone to a PDA for wireless communications? A: Use a phone that includes a built-in infrared (IR) port. Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia sell some models that include IR ports. Simply point the an IR-enabled phone toward the IR port that’s included as standard equipment on all Palm and Pocket PC devices. Then set the communications settings on your handheld for IR communications and you’re ready to go. Remember that the IR ports of both the phone and PDA must remain pointed at one another for the duration of the data call, or you’ll lose your connection. Q: I don’t have an IR-enabled phone so I must connect with a cable. Where can I buy one that works with my PDA? A: If you own a best-selling phone, including models from Kyocera, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sanyo, you might be able to buy the appropriate cable directly from your wireless service provider. For example, Sprint PCS, Verizon Wireless, Cingular, VoiceStream and AT&T Wireless often stock data connection cables for Palm, Pocket PC and laptop computers at their retail stores. I recommend calling ahead to make sure that the cable you need is in stock because inventory tends to be spotty. You also should ask about the price because wireless providers sometimes charge a premium on accessories such as cables. Buying a Wireless Web Connection Kit from Belkin (www.belkin.com) is another option if you own some Kyocera, Motorola, Samsung and Sanyo phones. The kit includes a cable, instructions and some software to get you started. The software may or may not be important depending on your device. Most newer PDAs don’t need it because the required networking components are already built-in. The suggested retail price for these kits is about $65, though I’ve seen them priced lower at CompUSA stores. Finally, your best bet might be to check out two online retailers that specialize in selling data cables for cell phones. They are Purple Data Cables (www.pcables.com) and SupplyNet (www.thesupplynet.com). Both sell appropriate cables for dozens of different types of cell phones, which are compatible with practically every brand of PDA, including those from Palm, Handspring, Sony, Casio, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard. Purple Data Cables lets you use its product selector to show the correct cable for a particular phone and PDA on an easy-to-read grid, while SupplyNet makes it simple to find the appropriate cable using its “Quick Search” by manufacturer form. Of the two companies, SupplyNet has a larger selection and also includes more helpful photos, showing how the cable connects to a PDA, so you can be sure you’ve chosen the right one. If you have questions about connecting your phone to a PDA or laptop, you can check out the helpful advice available at both sites. You also can call or e-mail both sites with your questions.

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