PDA's, or Personal Digital Assistants, were introduced in the 1990s as a tool for the up-to-date man in the modern world to use while on the go in tracking and storing data such as schedules and contact information. Over time, as technology has improved and expanded, PDA’s have kept pace and today some of the original PDA features are taken for granted as higher end PDA’s can also be phones/cameras/MP3 players/or even miniature computers. Today most PDA’s have expanded to include the following features: playing video; recording voice; displaying photos; and storing maps, guides, and books.

With all of these features and the changing technological world, choosing the correct PDA can be a daunting task. According to, one of the most important questions to ask in the early stages of buying a PDA is, “What type of computer programs do I use.” While this may seem awkward (why not just buy the one you like the most), there is an important feature of PDA’s that demands this question be asked. This important feature is that PDA’s communicate with computers in updating information and often are designed only for specific programs. Additional programs to adapt a PDA to a computer can be expensive and lead to an underperformance of the PDA. Therefore one first decides what programs are most essential for PDA-type features (i.e. word processing, spreadsheet, and/or e-mail) and then considers PDA’s that communicate with these programs. For example, a Macintosh user would possibly prefer a Palm PDA over a PocketPC PDA since the latter is designed for interaction with Windows software. From there, typical questions relate to features and to one’s budget. “Is a certain feature a luxury or a necessity” may likely dictate the final purchase.

Brand may also be a consideration for a conscientious buyer. Several big name companies produce PDA’s (and/or smartphones: cell phones with extra capabilities, often including traditional PDA functions) including Apple, Blackberry, Hewlett Packard, Motorola, Nokia, Palm, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. If one is looking solely at PDA’s and not smartphones, Palm and PocketPC are probably the first search terms to consider. According to, Palm PDA’s range in price from $100-$400 and are compatible with both Macintosh and Windows computers. PocketPC PDA’s range from $200-$600. One concern for Palm PDA’s is that their batteries are often difficult, if not impossible, to replace. PocketPC's do not have this problem. It may just be easier to buy a smartphone since if one is busy enough to need a PDA then one likely owns or needs a cell phone. That way one does not have to juggle between two devices for information. Two downsides are that switching to a smartphone may affect current cell phone plans and that smartphones are often more expensive than PDA’s. Also, some smartphones, like the iPhone, are only available under one carrier (in the case of the iPhone, it is AT&T).

Top Online Resources:

  1. - PDA comparison: Advice on comparing PDA’s from Consumer Reports  
  2. Palmtops/PDA’s- The Comprehensive Source for all Things PDA  
  3. PDA Buyer's Guide: What to look for when buying a handheld - PDA’s