With so many choices for buying a PDA, it clearly is getting really hard to make the decision. However, the flip side to this equation is that since there are so many choices, one can get the best possible combination of features and advanced technology; what with 8 mega-pixel cameras and operating system choices ranging from Android to Windows 7. All that is needed is to know what one wants.

Decide on the OS

The first most important consideration while buying a PDA is to decide the operating system. Following is a comparison of the different options one has:

  • Android: This open source operating system has grown exponentially in terms of usage and popularity ever since its launch a couple of years ago. the benefits are customizable home screens, better integration with social networks for sharing content, great widgets, Android Market with more than 200,000 apps (and growing!) and the fact that many Google apps can be used on an Android phone. Talking of the downside, the user interface is not as impressive as the iOS and webOS; game choices are not that great; and there’s no single point for buying movies and music.
  • iOS: This Os is exclusive to the Apple iPhone, and scores high among consumers owing to a remarkable integration of software and hardware. The benefits are an easy to use interface, the maximum number of apps (and the best quality apps) and the presence of a single point for buying apps, books, music, movies, etc. The downside is the absence of options in hardware (it’s only available on iPhones), limited availability in terms of carriers and un-social networking friendliness.
  • Blackberry 6: The latest operating system in a handset that’s targeted exclusively for executives is more versatile than ever. The benefits are a high-quality battery life, better internet browser and social networking integration, faster & more secure push e-mail, and an extremely useful Universal Search feature. The downside is that the hardware specification of Blackberry phones pales in comparison to Android and iOS; the software requires some efforts to learn its usage; while the app and game choices are below par.
  • Windows Phone 7: The latest in the line of many versions of Windows operating systems, Windows 7 handsets are a very likely choice for first time PDA users. The benefits are better accessibility, thanks to Live Tiles on the home screen; a great looking interface; the ability to pin practically anything to the home screen; fantastic app selection capabilities; the ability to launch the camera even when the phone is in sleep mode, and the integration of MS Office, Xbox Live and Zune. The downside is that one can’t copy and paste; there is no multi-tasking for third party apps; the OS is not optimized for landscape mode and does not support video chat & hotspot apps.

Moving on, let’s get down to business in terms of hardware specifications.

Screen size & resolution: It’s true that one can easily use a handset with a screen size smaller than 3.2 inches, but when one talks about doing a lot more with the phone, i.e., surfing the internet, playing games and watch videos, it’s best to go for a screen size in the range of 4 inches. The resolution, often an ignored part, is often as important as the size, if not more, since it determines the amount of content that will appear on the screen, particularly with regards to the internet. Hence, it is recommended to get a handset with at least an 800X480 resolution.

Processor: Similar to PCs, PDAs depend on processors to execute all the commands. These processors are generally paired with a graphics chip, and their clock speed can be anything between 600 MHz to more than 1 GHz. As a rule of thumb, the faster the processor, the better it is. However, some handsets having processors in the range of 800 MHz offer the ideal mix of battery life and speed.

Memory: There are two kind of memory in a handset. The first is the system memory, while the other one is used to store content. Quire obviously, one would like to have as much capacity of the two as possible. However, this is directly linked to the cost of the phone. Generally, cheaper handsets come with 2GB memory, with the option of expanding it. The internal memory needs to have a minimum capacity of 512 MB, for the handset to deliver a powerful performance.

Camera: Contrary to popular opinion, the number of megapixels is NOT the only factor that makes a camera efficient or otherwise. There are many other factors that one needs to consider, like how quickly does the camera start, how easy it is to modify the settings, etc. The best way to know whether or not a PDA has these capabilities is to experience it first hand at a store; the next best is to check reviews! As a norm these days, 5 MP cameras are present in almost all high-end PDAs, while some also offer 8 MP cameras. Also, if one is looking for a PDA that can shoot great videos, the camera should be able to record 720p footage.

Internet speed: It’s the age of 4G; and how fast one can connect to the web makes all the difference in the PDA experience when one wants to get the maximum out of the handset. 4G speeds are 10 times faster than 3G, and if one is looking at a contract deal, it’s all the more important to get the fastest option, since he/she will be carrying the phone for a long period of time.

Keyboard: There are PDAs that have a keyboard and PDAs that don’t. However, it is a misconception that one can’t type fast and accurately on a touch-screen keyboard, but yes, there is the comfort factor, i.e., how comfortable is the user in operating a phone with a touch-screen or regular keyboard. In the end, that’s all that matters while deciding on a PDA with regards to the keyboard!