There are several advantages to using a PDA over a standard cell phone. A PDA gives you access to your files, calendar, contact lists, productivity software, and with a cellular or Wi-Fi connection, e-mail and Web browsing.
There are a lot of PDA
s on the market, with varying capabilities. In the U.S. the market is split between PDAs running the Palm OS and those running Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system. Both operating systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and there is a wide range of devices running each. If you're trying to decide which type of PDA is best for you, consider the following points.
Palm devices tend to be cheaper than Pocket PCs. The Palm OS needs less memory and processor speed than Pocket PCs do, and this is reflected in their price. There are some entry-level Pocket PCs that are competitive in price with Palms, and some high-end Palms that cost as much as Pocket PCs, but for the most part you'll pay more for the higher power and extended functionality of a Pocket PC device.
Size and Weight
Most Palm devices are smaller and lighter than Pocket PCs, although not by much. Pocket PCs tend to have bigger and better displays than Palms and don't necessarily slip into your pocket as easily as some slimmer Palm PDAs do. Newer Pocket PCs are getting smaller and this difference will be less of an issue.
Both Palm OS and Pocket PC PDAs enable you to input data by writing on the screen with a Stylus. Palms use a system called Graffiti, which in earlier versions of the Palm OS required learning a new system of block letters that was different than the normal alphabet. Newer Palms use Graffiti 2.0, which doesn't require you to relearn the alphabet.
Pocket PCs have three options for inputting characters by writing. One option is similar to the original Palm OS graffiti, so Palm users can transition to a Pocket PC and use a familiar system. Pocket PCs also recognize standard block alphabet and cursive handwriting.
Both Palms and Pocket PCs have onscreen keyboards that enable you to tap in your letters with a stylus. There also are options for portable keyboards that you can use while your PDA is in a cradle, or QWERTY keyboards, either built into the PDA or available as a clip-on accessory, that let you type with your thumbs. Hey, I do that on my laptop.
The big advantage of a Pocket PC is that it includes pocket versions of major MS Office applications. A Pocket PC integrates with Word, Excel, and Outlook with no problems. Because over 90 percent of us are using MS Windows, this is a big deal. You can create, view, and edit Word documents on a Pocket PC as well as manage your Outlook contacts, e-mail, and calendar.
There are third party applications available for Palm PDAs that enable you to view and work on Word documents, or to get information from Outlook, but they don't work nearly as well as a Pocket PC, and they never will. Because Pocket PC is a Microsoft product, it only makes sense that it will always do a better job of integrating with Windows.
Palms do have a lot of software available, and a base of dedicated software developers that continues to extend the capabilities of the Palm platform. As a personal information manager, a Palm is easier to use and more intuitive than a Pocket PC. It takes fewer clicks to get what you need, and you'll be a Palm pro in no time. A Pocket PC is a little more involved, but if you're a Windows power-user the learning curve will be shorter for you than for most Pocket PC users.
The major issue with any portable device is battery life. Palms win here hands down because they need less memory, smaller processors, and tend to have smaller displays so they use less power. Depending on the model, Palms can go for several days to a month without replacing batteries or recharging, while Pocket PCs usually only last as long as a typical laptop, three or four hours.
When you shop for a PDA, make sure that it has a battery that you can replace. Some PDAs with rechargeable batteries don't have removable batteries, so you'll have to plug in or dock your PDA to recharge it. Removable batteries will allow you to keep a fully charged spare on hand, so you won't have to stop and recharge. Some Palms use AAA batteries, which makes finding replacements cheap and easy.