Guest Author - Kathy Fleming
Do you carry both a PDA and a cell phone? Do you like to use your cell phone to keep track of appointments and contacts but are tired of using the keypad to slowly enter all the information? Then you might want to consider a smartphone or pocket PC.
Smartphones tend to be more expensive and could require signing up for a media package. The media plan may be optional, but if you use the media features of the phone regularly (internet, e-mail), it may be cheaper than paying by use. You can always give yourself a couple of months to use it and see what option is best for you.
Smartphones tend to be larger than most phones, which might be an issue for you. Some are basically PDAs with phone capabilities. Blackberries are fairly large, although the Blackberry Pearl is a compact alternative. Basically the size of the phone is based on the inclusion of a QWERTY keyboard. If you send a lot of text messages or e-mail, having a full keyboard is important.
Among the main factor in choosing a smartphone may be the keyboard. For example, the Blackjack is a popular model, but the keys are tiny. The Pearl has a modified keyboard with two letters per key, which may take getting used to. Others use a touch pad, which sounds convenient but some people find it awkward, especially if you have to use a stulus. You should really get some hands-on experience with a smart phone before you buy.
If you want a smartphone without the size, Cingular makes the 3125 by HTC (also called the Star Trek). Itís attractive and about the size of a RAZR. So you have the convenience of a smaller phone with the abilities of a smartphone. You can use either T9 entry (where the phone anticipates what you might be typing) or standard input. Itís just a bit slower without a QWERTY keyboard. If you donít send a lot of e-mail or text, itís an excellent alternative. And since it syncs with Outlook, you can do all your entry on your computer as far as contacts, appointments and notes. I own this model and love it. The only thing thatís a little frustrating is that it has a proprietary input for the charger and computer instead of a standard USB connection on the phone side like the RAZR. This limits what accessories you can use. However, I havenít found a problem yet since the only accessory I added was a Bluetooth headset.
At this writing, the 3125 is the only smartphone flip phone on the market. However, Verizon just introduced a slide out model that is similar and has a full keyboard.
There are all kinds of programs you can buy for your smart phone, just as you could with the PDA. Before you buy, however, make sure the program is compatible with your phoneís software (Windows Mobil or Palm and the version) and the phone itself.
Since I use Outlook for my calendar, contacts and tasks, the only program I have added is PhatNotes. There are a number of note programs out there, and Iíve tried several and decided PhatNotes is my favorite. Itís a good way to keep anything from grocery lists to password information.
And remember, a smartphone handles more like a PDA or pocket PC than a phone, so it may take some time to get used to and learn the features. But there are usually ways you can personalize your phone to make it as easy to use as possible.
Overall, being able to combine a PDA and phone, if you use both regularly, is great. Just take plenty of time to shop around. Compare prices, features, consumer reviews, and get that hands-on experience before you buy.