Looking for a PDA-phone
August 28, 2006 10:01 PM   Subscribe

I got a new job and it is quickly becoming apparent I need a PDA to get organized. At the same time, the last thing I want is something else to carry around as I need to keep a cell phone on me at work. Consequently, I went to the store to look at PDA/phone combinations. However, I didn't realize how many different types there are. So, instead of listening to somebody trying to sell me the newest version of x,y,z, I beseath thee for thy wisdom.

My two most pressing concerns:
1) A good to-do list. I'm computer guy at work, so people stop me all the time to do x for them whenever I have time so I need a way to organize that.
2) Size. I hate carrying a phone on my belt...it must go in my pocket so I need something that fits comfortably in my pocket. For example, I was looking at Blackberries, and they seemed to big for such comforts. Idealy, I would like to have a mini-QWERTY keyboard, but I dunno if it's possible for something smaller. Note that I don't need something ultra-thin. I currently have this flip phone and wouldn't mind something bigger.

I'm not so much concerned with hot-syncing. The function would be nice, but could live without top-notch support. I do not care about bluetooth/WiFi whatsoever. If I need to connect to my computer, I'm more than happy to hook up a wire or two.

Of medium importance is actualy phone quality and possibility to play mp3s. I'd be nice to have some music to listen to when I have some spare time, but not a big deal. And I've never really used a phone beyond it's basic calling functions as their planners absolutely suck. As for a built-in camera, meh. I imagine all new techie-phones comes with one, but the quality doesn't matter to me at all.

(Before someone asks, I tried going into some stores with these parameters and all they ever suggested was $600+msrp stuff. Or is that my price basement and I'm screwed? I'm hoping to spend <$300. Is that even possible for a smaller pda-phone that won't break 6 months from now?)
posted by jmd82 to Technology (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Get an unlocked Nokia 6820 on eBay. No mp3s but otherwise will do you perfect. It's a good phone before all else, and small.

If you want to record your to-dos as free text, just flip it open, starting typing on the QWERTY keyboard and it immediately goes into "new note" mode. Or if you decide you want to start using the (basic but good) calendar, flick the center stick to the right while at the main menu. And it'll sync with Outlook or whatever perfectly if you ever want to do that.

I've been using it (now replaced by a 6822 - don't do it, gets crappy reception in the US) for a couple years now.
posted by lbergstr at 10:10 PM on August 28, 2006

Are you male or female? What's pocketable seems to vary based on this, since most women's pants have shitty pockets.
posted by rbs at 10:27 PM on August 28, 2006

treo (palm version).
posted by Izzmeister at 10:58 PM on August 28, 2006

Best answer: i lurve my T-Mobile MDA, runs PocketPC: very good size - highly pocketable. decent qwerty keyboard. good synching. good phone quality. plays MP3s, and with a 1GB mini SD card (not included, but cheap) it plays a LOT of them. 1.3mpx camera. all for around $250, depending on the plan you get. highly recommended.
posted by ab3 at 11:07 PM on August 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've just picked up a Nokia E70. Kinda the new smartphone version of the 6820 mentioned above. Unsure if it quite fits into your budget, but I've been researching for some time and it does darn near EVERYTHING, whilst still being very close to a standard phone in size.

It runs Symbian OS so you can download (or write yourself) pretty much any app for it, but the built in stuff does all the PDA goods and more.

posted by pivotal at 1:39 AM on August 29, 2006

I too recently started a new job (congratulations by the way) and in an effort to get organised bought a pda type phone, the Motorola A1000. (Apparently Motorola have stopped production but they are still available on ebay).

I have only had it a couple of weeks and am only really starting to use it now but it looks like it should do the job for me.

It uses a touchscreen and stylus arrangement. When not in use the stylus slots into the side of the phone, (I assume that is standard). To input information you can use an on screen qwerty keyboard or it recognises handwriting. I find the qwerty keyboard to be faster but my writing is pretty illegible!

Size wise it fits in my pocket without a problem.

It runs symbian OS and there are several websites that can give you information on this phone (it seems to have a bit of a cult following).

Flashing the phone to update the firmware is really quite easy (once you have the right programs; easily found on google) but does take a little time. There are step by step instructions on a couple of sites. General consensus is that it is well worth doing with this phone, some of the older firmware is pretty poor by all accounts.

It can play music on it (and video with the right applications).

It has a to do list function and a notepad function (if you need to sketch plans / diagrams you can do that in the notepad too). Not really sure on the criteria you have for a good to do program but it is good enough for my purposes.

You can sync it with your computer (it can use bluetooth but my ancient laptop can't)

The real selling point as far as I was concerned was the price. It is a few years old now so the phone, a couple of plastic screen protectors and a 1gb transflash card set me back a little under $400 (Australian).

I just entered a new phone contract with 3 here in Australia and got a Motorola V3x. The sim card from this has gone into the A1000 and to offset the cost I am planning on selling the phone on ebay (they seem to go for $300 - $400). I don't know your situation but maybe you can do the same.

If you are interested I can point you in the direction of the sites I mentioned above but am conscious that this post is fairly lengthy as it is.

Good luck!
posted by Rc at 3:03 AM on August 29, 2006

I was a dedicated Razr user, due to the pocket thing and not the belt.

As a Realtor, I have to carry around this electronic key thing to open lockboxes on homes. Well they upgraded and the new one can be software added to Palm's, so I tried a Treo.

Still not happy with size, but I have Cingular with a GSM sim, so I can still switch back and forth if I'm doing something that doesn't require the Treo.

I used the RAZR for email, which wasn't the greatest, now I prefer the Treo for that of course.
posted by thilmony at 5:35 AM on August 29, 2006

I currently use a Treo 650, and it is nice if a bit pricey. The Cingular data plans are also expensive for unlimited use (although I managed to convince the tech to put me on the $20 plan instead of the $40 data plan the Treo is supposed to use).

You might also check out the T-Mobile Sidekick. It is not as business focused as a Treo or Blackberry, but I had the first generation and loved it. The screen is great, you have a full keyboard, relatively good size, data plan is $20 a month, and all of your information is synched automatically online. That way you can get to all of your info through a website or sync up to Outlook (I believe a small additional cost for that software). You never have to worry about backing up your information, either. Looks like the current Sidekick 3 is running about $300 with a new service plan, and you can check out the interactive demo on their website.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:27 AM on August 29, 2006

The Symbian OS is a must for what you want, and Nokias are widely considered the best in actual phone quality; they get signal where no others do, have great speakerphone/voice dial capabilities. I'd suggest something like the E70 if you're in Europe, or the 6682 if you're in the US. Check out the reviews of the 6682 on Phonescoop. It does pretty much everything you want it to do, and it fits in your pocket. It has one of the fastest EDGE implementations on the market, has decent IMAP and POP clients built in, has an OK mp3 player that supports playlists, comes with mini versions of MS Word, Excel, and Powerpoint, has a nice large screen, and you can get it for -$20 on Amazon.

I'd suggest Opera mini, and Google Maps as applications to get, and it comes with the Opera full version for those cases where mini doesn't work well.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:39 AM on August 29, 2006

Look for a Treo 600 on ebay - that way your initial cost outlay will not be so great if you later decide that the form factor (or having a PDA at all) isn't working for you.
posted by omnidrew at 7:06 AM on August 29, 2006

Don't get what I recently bought, a Cingular 8125. It is big and clunky, a crappy phone, and locks up regularly.
posted by LarryC at 7:45 AM on August 29, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies. Some good ideas and suggestions so I know exactly what I can expect in my price range now.
I'm really liking the Nokia series- only problem is I currently have Sprint and according to the websites, the phone doesn't work with Sprint service. However, my contract runs out end of the year so I might just bite the bullet and wait to get the killer savings which come with a new contract. The Sidekick also looks good- not quite the savings that come with the Nokia's from what it looks like, though.
The Treo also looks very promising- I'm going to talk to the Sprint people and see if I can just switch phones if I were to e-bay one.

Are you male or female?
posted by jmd82 at 7:57 AM on August 29, 2006

Response by poster: Upon further review, it looks like I'll go with the T-Mobile MDA as it looks to be exactly what I want. Though I didn't think about it before, I am a huge fan of the hidden keyboard, something the Treo doesn't have. With the discounts, it is by far the best deal as T-Mobile offers free number portability- if Cingular didn't charge $250, it might be a different story.

Also, Rc, I could only find information on the a900, not the a1000...
posted by jmd82 at 12:57 PM on August 29, 2006

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