Tips On Buying A PDA

There are a lot of things you need to consider before buying a PDA.
Published: Nov 2, 2006
Author: Michael E, Callahan
Related OS: Windows
There are a huge number of handheld devices to choose from. A primary consideration is what type of operating system? Palm or Pocket PC which is now called Windows Mobile. In looking at different factors I'll try to point out, based on my personal experiences, where one type of device might be better than another.


Palm devices have been out the longest and have the biggest following. Pocket PC/Windows Mobile devices, however, are gaining in popularity. In general, Palms devices are cheaper than Pocket PC's.Obviously you can find expensive exceptions to this, but in general it holds true. As with most things, you'll pay more for extra features.Things like WiFi and Bluetooth will add to the price. Palm devices tend to be cheaper in part because the Palm operating system has been honed longer. That means Palm device can have less RAM and don't need to have processors that are extremely fast.

So, Palm devices will tend to be less expensive, but not less powerful.If you try to compare a Palm device to a Pocket PC it will be like comparing apples to oranges. The Pocket PC need more RAM and a faster processor to be competitive with a Palm device.

Weight and Size Considerations

Again, features will have an impact on both the weight and size of your device. In general, Palm devices are slimmer and lighter than their Pocket PC counterparts. Gradually, I've seen the size and weight ofPocket PC devices coming down. Even some of the Windows Mobile"smartphones" are very trim.

In my opinion you should look for the features you want first,and then deal with the size and weight. Remember that we aren't talking pounds of difference. In this arena we're talking ounces. So, unless space is a major consideration, pick the device you want to give based on its feature set.

Battery Life

Some of my first Palm devices were powered by either AA or AAA batteries. When those wore down you just popped in some new ones. Of course, back then the displays were all black and white and you didn't have things like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to draw power. All of the most recent Palm and Pocket PC devices tend to come with Lithium ion batteries that are rechargeable. Yes, there are variations as to how long a charge will hold, but in most cases it's nothing major. If the device is sitting in a pocket or a purse it's going to last a fairly long time. For those who are concerned about running out of power there are a wide array of chargers that can work with USB ports, electrical outlets, and in your car. You can also adjust power setting to give you the most from each charge.

In general I'd say that Palm devices tend to get more time out of a charge than do Pocket PCs. In part that's due to the faster processors used in Pocket PCs. Once again, there are a variety of ways to recharge a device, so battery life shouldn't be a huge concern.

Software Considerations

This is the one area that might prove to be a deal-breaker depending on what you're looking for. First I'll talk about the Pocket PC's.Because they're based on Windows, the Pocket PC/Windows Mobile devices tend to have Pocket versions of Windows programs like Word and Excel. They'll also have Pocket Outlook which is a decisive factor for some users. Because Pocket PC devices are setup to run with Outlook, it makes it easy to synchronize with Outlook on your computer.

Palm devices came out first and they found themselves in a world dominated by Windows. So, there is Palm software to handle basically everything Windows. There are products that can deal with Word, Excel,Powerpoint, and Outlook. Growing up in a Windows world Palm devices adapted through excellent software. For the most part you can find Palm software to handle any Windows-related problem.

Both Palm and Pocket PC/Windows Mobile devices are very good when it comes to calendars, tasks, to-do lists, and contacts. Both also have a wide range of productivity tools available as well as games.You can find software to tell you the weather, find a street, or find a recipe.

Miscellaneous Considerations

In my opinion you'll find more Pocket PC devices with support for wireless and Bluetooth. They also tend to have better support for multimedia. Both Pocket PC's and Palms are tending to provide space for extra storage. This is usually support for Compact Flash (CF), SecureDigital (SD), or even mini-SD cards. I have a mini-SD card the size of a postage stamp that holds 1 gigabyte. So, if you want your handheld device to carry music and photos, this capability will be something to think about.

To me a touch screen and handwriting recognition may also be big considerations. Having grown up with Palm devices and then having several Pocket PC's with touch screens, I find not having them to be a problem. My Motorola Q is a wonderful device, but I really miss having a touch screen. I also miss being able to quickly jot things down. If you've never had either of these options you may not miss them.I'd suggest trying them out in a store or using a friends PDA to see if you think you'd want touch screen and/or handwriting analysis.

Summing It Up!

As you can see there are many similarities between Palm andPocket PC devices. There are also differences. For the most partsize and weight are not a factor in buying a pocket device. I've had both Palm and Pocket PC devices over the years. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, I think Palm devices are easier to use. Despite the fact that Pocket PC's are based on Windows, I think the Palm devices are more intuitive. The "Start" menu is fine on a 19" screen, but for me it's not as good on a small device.

For basic schedule management, contact management, and task management,I'd say to go with a Palm device. It'll be lighter, cheaper, and will do all you need it to. If you're looking for high-powered features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, extra storage, and better multimedia I'd say to look at a Pocket PC device. These are just guidelines and tips to help you out. If you're buying a PDA as a gift for someone who already has one, be sure to look at their current device. If you're buying one for someone who has trouble with technology, I'd look at a Palm device. Looking for atechie, then lean towards the Pocket PC's.

To me, a similar rule applies when buying most technology products.Don't buy more power than you really need. Having wireless on your PDA may sound cool, but you may never use it. So, whether you're buying a PDA for yourself or a friend, think about how they will use it and Happy Shopping!

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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