PDA Phones

Currently, I’m looking at a couple of PDA phones, which can be used for email and web browsing. Here are a few options: Motorola MPx (300), O2 XDA IIs, IIi / i-mate PDA2k / MDA III / Audiovox 6600, Blackberry 7100, Danger Hiptop 2/Sidekick II, and PalmOne Treo 650.

Since I’ve been a PDA user from the first (Palm) Pilot, and have been using Pocket PCs for the last couple of years, my preference is a device that is more than just a phone.

Basic requirements: Email access to POP3/IMAP accounts, web browser (preferably supporting JavaScript and latest standards), QWERTY keyboard, auto-sync with Outlook, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, speaker phone.

Nice to have: Quad-band including GSM 850, EDGE, memory slot, VGA screen, MSN Messenger, 1.3 mega-pixel camera, video capture & playback, Flash Player 6 (or Flash Lite) compatible.

Of the nine devices listed, only the Blackberry 7100r is available locally. I checked it out over the weekend, and find it less than what I’m used to in a PPC-based device. Pros: Blackberry push email (although there is only 1 push email account; so other POP3/IMAP accounts have to be forwarded to this one account; decent size and looks like a phone. Cons: Bluetooth only works with headset or car kit, and can’t be used from a computer or for wireless synchronization; keyboard is not true QWERTY; no memory slot; no camera; the Canadian/Rogers version does not have icon-based interface (all text); no Wi-Fi; no EDGE; not many 3rd-party apps; may get addicted like other Blackberry users.

If the O2 XDA IIi or the Motorola MPx is available today, I’ll probably pick one up. Unfortunately, these devices won’t be available until sometime next year, and there’s no end to waiting.

The closest device that is available immediately from online resources is the i-mate PDA2k. This seems like an ideal all-in-one device, covering almost all my basic and nice-to-have requirements. Pros: Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition; slide out keyboard; 128MB RAM; SDIO slot, landscape mode, all the Pocket PC applications (and Flash Player 6), option for voice-command/dialing. Cons: Still using a 400MHz processor (compared to 624MHz in some of the newer devices); QVGA (240×320) screen; VGA / 0.3 mega-pixel camera; no built-in push email; no EDGE; bigger than a regular phone, more expensive than other devices.

The Sidekick II, used by some Macromedians, also got my interest. It isn’t available in Canada yet, and no one seems to know when it’ll become available. It’s not as full-featured as a Pocket PC, but the “big” keyboard, email and IM apps are major selling points. Can’t say much unless I check it out myself.

Mike Downey showed me his Treo 600 and it seems to be a practical device. However, after checking out the specs for the latest Treo 650, it hasn’t changed my mine about Palm OS based devices.

It would be great to hear from current Blackberry, Treo, Sidekick II and i-mate PDA2k / O2 XDA IIs users, and get first-hand opinions…