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Personal Digital Assistance: Get Your Life In Order!

How do you trawl through your daily to-do list? There's a presentation at work tomorrow, you want to check your e-mail, hubby's going on a business trip, your boy is sitting for his piano exams next week, and your aunt wants you to make dinner reservations next month. If you can't clone yourself, why not get a Personal Digital Assistant or PDA?

What To Consider When Choosing A PDA

The Processor Speed

Some models have a more powerful processor of up to 400MHz to allow for integrated wireless communications while others require you to wait as a digital photo uploads.

Memory Capacity

A RAM of 16MB is sufficient if you need a PDA with basic functions, but if you're into multimedia features, go for 32MB. With expansion card slots in many devices today, users can purchase memory cards. A I GB card is about US$75, while a 512MB card is less than US$50. These cards allow you to store many MP3s and hundreds of pictures.

Operating System

You can choose from two systems, Palm OS and Windows Mobile. The former is compatible with Apple and Windows-based computers, and works with Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. On the other hand, Windows Mobile is hailed as a compact version of Windows, and is user-friendly, allowing you to access Hotmail and MSN.


PDAs have monochrome display screens while recent models have full-colour screens in 320 x 480 pixels, which are handy for photo viewing and multimedia functions.

Handwriting Recognition

You may have to make an effort to adapt to handwriting software like Graffiti 2, Block Recogniser or Letter Recogniser, to enter data. Or you can use the onscreen keyboard or get a PDA with a built-in keyboard.


Consider also the number of third-party applications it supports ie programmes like entertainment, games, finance and education, that are purchased separately to meet your needs.

How Do You Use Your PDA?

If It's Your First

Get basic function: address book, calendar and notepad. You should be able to synchronise the information with your PC.

If You Have A Bigger Budget

Get video and music playback and a photo album. You can add new software and accessories later.

If It's For Work

Get a big memory, Microsoft-compatible software like Excel or Word, and a sharp color screen.

If You're On The Go

Get integrated Wi-Fi or Bluetooth so you can receive and send e-mal outside the office.

Death Of The PDA ?

The emergence of the personal digital assistant (PDA) in the 90s heralded the demise of the Filofax of the 80s. The early adopters of the PDA were a small, niche group. They packed myriad programs into their handhelds - a veritable miniature PC - and were able to do almost any thing on the go.

Professionals read and edited hundreds of spreadsheets and text files with them; musicians composed tunes; authors wrote novels. Entire databases and hundreds of novels, dictionaries, photos and maps were carried around; as were hours of music and movies.

Can't Do Without A PDA Phone

Then converged devices came along. Cellphones were no longer simply communication devices with dinky monochrome screens and minuscule memories. They started pumping iron: Screens got bigger, brighter and more colouful. Processors got faster, storage capacities swelled and functions multiplied. They became smart too.

PDAs themselves began to be more communicative, offering call-talk functions. Smart phones and PDA-phones entered the mainstream. Will the dedicated PDA survive? Going by numbers, probably not. According to research, more than half of the 96,700 devices sold in 2004 were pure PDAs. But by 2005, the number of smart phones (this includes PDA-phones) accounted for more than two thirds of the 121,800 devices sold.

IT practitioner Samuel is among the PDA-phone converts. Initially, he did not like the idea of "putting all your eggs in a basket". "If I were to lose a PDA-phone, I would be down with two devices," he said. Now, he has a different story to tell: He owns a Treo 650, bought 10 months ago. "After getting used to it, it'll be tough to go back from `one' to `two'!"

A Dedicated PDA For Me

But not all sentiment has swung to the converged devices camp. Price is a key consideration and the two-in-one hybrids, typically costing twice as much, is a major drawback. In 2004 and 2005, the average price of a pure PDA was less than US$225. And cellphones came free with a plan from a telco. In contrast, although the prices of smart phones have dipped, people shelled out an average of $1,111 for them last year. Performance is another issue.

A pure PDA has a bigger screen, better battery life and performance. And dedicated cellphones, being less complex, "hang" less often and are more ergonomic. There are also purists like Dr David. He had used an 02 XDA for a year. Now, he uses a mid-range mobile and an Acer N311 PDA. Said the retired professor: "A convergence device seemed perfect." But a combination of soflware hitches, poor battery life and weaker performance changed his mind. He added, "I didn't fancy having to clamp that rather bulky devise to my ears."

PDA-Phones And Smartphones 


  • Two-in-one convenience
  • Messages and contacts integrated


  • Twice as expensive
  • Compromised PDA performance
  • Less ergonomic than a dedicated phone

Dedicated PDAs


  • Bigger screen
  • Better battery life and performance
  • Cheaper


  • Need another device, the cellphone

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