Added applications elevate your handheld to being more than a glorified Day Runner. We've already mentioned Documents To Go as a tool for working with spreadsheets and word-processing documents, but there's also Margi's Presenter To Go so that you can give PowerPoint slide shows right from your handheld (it requires a VGA adapter). FileMaker, among others, offers handheld database software, and road warriors will appreciate expense-, time-, and mileage-tracking software such as BillQuick Palm and BillQuick CE that tie in with their office billing and accounting software.
To keep from getting lost, try MapQuest-style applications such as Mapopolis (alternatively, you can use a Bluetooth GPS receiver
add-on to navigate to your destination). And once you've reached your destination, you may still need help with the local language; electronic phrase books such as EasyTalk are ideal for the situation.
You'll find a variety of different expansion slot types in PDAs: CompactFlash, SDIO, MultiMediaCard, Mini SD, and Micro SD. A memory card is a great way to store more applications and files as well as to back up RAM data, which can be lost if your battery dies. Other than the price per megabyte, all the form factors are roughly equivalent.
Use an expansion card to add more memory to your PDA or wireless connectivity.
Other expansion card options include Wi-Fi networking cards, Bluetooth cards, digital cameras, FM tuners, and bar-code scanners. Handhelds such as the HP iPaq hx2750
have two expansion slots so that you can simultaneously use a memory card and a wireless networking card. As noted earlier, if your PDA has an SD slot, see if it supports SDIO, a necessary feature when using peripheral devices rather than mere memory cards.
Handhelds endure rugged lives as they get tossed from pocket to bag to desk. Some protection is in order, but even pricey PDAs come with decidedly cheap cases. If you know you're hard on your gear, check out metal and rubber cases. For gentler folk, a soft case is all you'll need--perhaps in leather to suit your business attire. And don't forget the most fragile component on your PDA: the screen. Inexpensive plastic overlays are available to protect it from scratches or inadvertent taps with a real pen rather than the stylus.
Road warriors will need to have an extra battery for their handheld, provided the handheld has user-replaceable cells. When you miss a connecting flight and have to call all your contacts to alert them of the schedule change, it's no time to run out of power. Likewise, heavy Wi-Fi users will appreciate the extra juice.
If you don't have an extra cell or if your PDA's batteries aren't user replaceable, then invest in a travel charger. Most manufacturers supply wall chargers with their devices, but some are too big to ever leave the house. If you spend a lot of time in your car, a car charger may be the best solution for adding juice to your PDA.
Considering the multimedia prowess built into handhelds, it's a shame that so many models come with subpar earbud headphones--or none at all. The good news is that many handhelds today come with standard stereo jacks so that you can plug in better 'phones to really hear what your PDA can produce. Some models, such as the Etymotic ER-6 Isolator
, are designed to passively block ambient noise so that all you hear is the music. Still others feature active noise cancellation, a technique that can subdue outside sounds. Check out our editors' top headphones
to see which models we liked best.
Plug in and listen to your favorite tunes with a pair of headphones such as the Etymotic ER-6 Isolators.
If you want to send e-mails from your PDA or take notes during class, adding a keyboard is a good option. There are several types
to choose from: plug-in minikeyboards to foldable models to ultracool virtual keyboards. However, if you plan on typing out a lot of e-mails or notes from your device, a handheld with a built-in keyboard may be better suited to you.