1. Computing

PDA vs. Smartphone

Decide Whether A PDA or Smartphone Is Best For You

By

Although smartphones have largely taken over the handheld computing space, PDAs are not entirely extinct. Many people still use PDAs for personal and work uses. Given this, you may be wondering what the difference is between a PDA and a smartphone, and why some users prefer one over the other.

Simply put, a smartphone is a converged device that combines the functionalities of a PDA and a cell phone. However, there are additional factors to consider as you decide which device is best for your needs. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of each.

Save Money with a PDA

PDAs are often cheaper than a smartphone over the life of the device. Although the initial purchase price of some smartphones is less than the cost of a PDA, due to wireless carrier subsidies, you’ll often pay more for a smartphone over one or two years than you would with a PDA because of ongoing costs.

Many carriers require you to purchase a wireless data plan for a smartphone along with a voice plan. This extra monthly fee adds up over time, making smartphones more expensive in the long run. As an example, consider a PDA that costs $300 and a smartphone that costs $99 plus an additional $40 per month for data service. After just one year of service, you will have spent a total of $579 for the smartphone and data service.

Connectivity

As mentioned, smartphones connect to a cellular network, just like a cell phone. With a wireless data plan, smartphones can surf the Internet from anywhere a cellular signal is available (though speeds vary). PDAs do not connect to cellular networks and are thus unable to provide the same range of connectivity to the Internet.

PDAs and smartphones also use other forms of connectivity, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. With a Wi-Fi enabled PDA or smartphone, for instance, you can surf the Internet, check email, and download files wherever a Wi-Fi hotspot is available, often at much higher speeds than with cellular data networks. If your device has Wi-Fi, you can also use Internet calling plans, such as Skype, to connect to friends and family.

PDAs are Carrier Independent

Smartphones are often tied to a wireless carrier’s network. Should you wish to switch from AT&T to Verizon Wireless, for example, the smartphone you used with AT&T is unlikely to work on Verizon Wireless’ network. This means you’ll have to buy a new smartphone. With a PDA, changing wireless providers is not an issue.

Converged Devices Often Require Sacrifices

While it’s true that many users are trading in their cell phones and PDAs for a single, converged smartphone, some users still prefer the full functionalities that only two separate devices can provide. For example, a PDA may offer a larger screen than some smartphones, which is very helpful for users who want to review spreadsheets or other documents without excess scrolling. Memory and processing power can also vary among devices.

With a smartphone, you’re putting all of your eggs in a single basket. Should the smartphone break or become lost or stolen, all of the information you’ve stored on it is also gone. If you have a PDA and a cell phone, on the other hand, you could still use your PDA to look up a friend’s phone number even if your cell phone becomes inoperable.

Software

PDAs and smartphones often use the same, or very similar, operating systems. As a result, both types of devices can support third-party software programs that will increase the functionalities of your device. You can find out more about various software programs for PDAs in the Software Add-Ons section of this site.

All About Choice

In the end, no single device is perfect for everyone. Both PDAs and smartphones have strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what each has to offer will help you determine which device is better for your needs.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.