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How PDAs Work

Buying a PDA

If you're in the market for a PDA, the main question you should consider is, "What will I be using this for most of the time?" If you're looking for basic PIM functions and organization, you probably don't need wireless connectivity. On the other hand, if you travel frequently and want to stay in touch via e-mail, you need Wi-Fi capability or a smartphone with cellular data service.

Because most people use a PDA as a PC accessory, synchronization is an important consideration. Look for a device that easily synchronizes with the PIM software you use on your computer. For example, if you have a Macintosh computer or you don't use Microsoft Outlook, a Palm OS device may be more to your liking.


The device's data entry method is another important consideration. If you plan to use your PDA for e-mail or other text-heavy applications, consider a built-in keyboard. If you can, try out the keyboard before you buy.

The size and shape of the device and its display are also important considerations. The device should be comfortable to hold. The display size and clarity should also meet your expectations. As with the keyboard, it's best to make a trip to a store that sells the devices you're interested in so you can try it out before you buy.

If you are interested in a multipurpose device that combines features such as GPS, an MP3 player, or digital camera, look for a device that has these features integrated. Alternatively, you can opt for a device with an SDIO slot and use compatible SDIO peripherals. If you plan to use numerous applications or store large files, look for a device that accepts flash memory media cards.

Accessories to consider include an additional battery, a car or travel charger, headphones, a carrying case, a plastic screen protector and add-on keyboards.

If you're interested in a smartphone, many of the considerations for purchasing a cell phone apply. Some of the most important things to check include service providers' coverage area, the additional cost for cellular data service (if any), and the length of the service contract. For more information, see How Buying a Cell Phone Works. You should also consider the capabilities of the different smartphone operating systems, such as Symbian, BlackBerry , Palm OS and Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone edition.

The Future of PDAs

Traditional PDAs appear to be less popular than they have been in the past. Several manufacturers have exited the PDA market, including Sony and Toshiba. Sales of traditional PDAs have declined in recent years, according to IDC's Worldwide Handheld QView press release dated February 2, 2005.

For the future, PDAs need to continue to add to their core PIM functions in order to survive. The emergence and gaining popularity of smart phones and devices that combine other features such as wireless Internet, GPS and multimedia capabilities seem to back this trend.

For answers to frequently asked questions about PDAs, check out the FAQ on the following page.