How to Choose A PDA IV: Upgrading

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In the past four months, BargainPDA has produced a series of articles designed to help you choose what PDA model can work best for you. From wireless options, to choosing PDA accessories, it has been our purpose to help you make a decision not just based on the latest style, but also something that will enable you to get the most out of your purchase. That makes these articles very helpful to those who are new to the mobile computer field. But what about those who already have a PDA and are looking for something new?

For many people, they have a PDA that doesn’t fit their usage patterns any more and need something that will get them through the next season of their PDA lives. This guide is dedicated to the upgraders. If, whether because you want the latest and greatest, or you are just interested in doing more than your current PDA can handle; we’re here to help you make a solid decision. And, using some current and upcoming models, make some suggestions that will help you pare down the field to a few devices that would work best for you.

When and Why Do You Upgrade?

The biggest question is, “when do you upgrade?” For some, they have a system of upgrading once a year when the top of the line model comes out. These are people who usually use every ounce of power and ability, customize their device with tons of software, and usually want (need) the latest technology for their uses. These kinds of users are commonly called power-users and represent the smallest, yet most vocal, upgraders. These are the people that show others their new devices and illicit the ooohs and aaahs that lead other people to get similar, if not the same devices.

For other, less avid users, their desire to upgrade usually comes from a specific need. Either the current device no longer meets the needs that he or she has, or they have seen a device that does what they want, but the price is too high, so they plan to upgrade when the features of the top of the line model have trickled down to their price range. For these people, it is usually best to look to upgrade six to eight months after the top of the line models are released, thereby making it easy to either get the top of the line model at a lower price, or catch a lower model that gets many of the same features.

The last segment is those people who may have had a really basic PDA as a gift some years ago, but never got into it because of the learning curve. These people may be looking again at PDAs, hoping that current models can now address the issues that pushed them away many years ago. For these people, price and features are not as important as is ease of use. If they find that a PDA from four years ago that is in their desk drawer, can be found with a new label at Best Buy, then they are less likely to move with the technology.

As you can probably tell, upgrading out of need is always better than upgrading out of (feature) want. Upgrading out of want usually leads to some discontentment and the person upgrading will constantly spend money on new devices instead of spending money on solving a solution. That is not to say that there are some people who do not benefit from those who upgrade out of want. Websites, such as Overstock and eBay, have plenty of PDA users who are looking to sell a device that was top of the line only a few months ago, so that he or she could purchase the top of the line model from today.

What to Look for in an Upgrade

If it has been a few seasons since you last looked at the PDA field, there are some things that you might notice. The big ticket item for PDAs today (and in the foreseeable future) is the addition of wireless technologies to PDAs. Be it Bluetooth, WiFi, or GSM/CDMA (for PDAs that are also mobile phones). The PDAs of today have the ability to keep you connected just about anywhere, and in nearly in fashion you can imagine. For more information about these wireless technologies, check out our previous article on wireless technologies here.

Another feature that is commonly found on the PDAs of today is a high level of multimedia options. Whether it is the addition of a camera that can do stills and video, or software that makes it easy to take a DVD and format it to view on your PDA, there are many PDA models today that can serve as personal multimedia devices, as well as accomplish the normal calendar/memos/tasks/addresses functions that PDAs are most famous for. Many of these multimedia-honed PDAs have more memory, power efficient processors, and desktop conversion software that can make most of us look like a professional producer.

The last item that I suggest looking for in an upgrade is sticking with the price point that you had with the last PDA you purchased. The reason for that being that is if you last bought a PDA for $300 three years ago, a $300 PDA today is many times as good as a top of the line model from just one year ago. On the other hand, if you were bargain hunting the last time you got a PDA and are looking for something that is a great deal better, the $300 rule can apply there as well. $300 is about the average price for a PDA, so at the point you can pretty much find just about the perfect device. Of course, paying more will get you more, but paying less will also get you more (compared to a few years ago).

What to Upgrade To

So what are some PDAs that are great to upgrade to? There are many people that I know of that still have and use an old HP Jordana or Palm Vx. For people with models that old, I would suggest looking at the Dell Axim X30 series or the palmOne Tungsten T5 and Zire 72.

For users whom are looking for something with a bit more of a wireless flair, I would suggest looking at the palmOne Treo 600 and Treo 650, the Dell X30 High, or the HP iPaq hx4700. Though they may cost a bit more than average, their feature set is most definitely top of the line and you will have some of the best in class models.

Finally, for someone looking to just keep it simple and keep a similar feel to what they may already have, I would suggest something along the lines of the Tungsten E.

With whatever models that you choose, understand that what you buy today may be trumped by something else in a year. So, choose wisely, and make sure to pass down that older PDA to someone else who may need a PDA (high school and college students, and non-profit organizations are great places), but not a new model.

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