IS IT THE RIGHT TIME FOR A PDA/CELL PHONE COMBINATION?

It seems that the "hot technology" item for this year might just be the new cell phones that also have the Palm-based operating system (Palm O/S) built right in.

The attraction of this technology is that rather than having to carry both a cell phone and a Personal Digital Assistant, (PDA) you now may be able to carry one device that functions as both.

The three such hybrid Cell Phone PDA (CP-PDA) units that are commonly discussed are the:

Each of these units has a unique set of features that would likely appeal to different users. The soon to be released Handspring is a PDA first, and a cell phone second. The Kyocera seems to be more functional as a cell phone and the Samsung is somewhere between the two.

Because both availability and pricing for these devices depends on the cellular phone companies that service your market, there isnít much need to discuss the models in great detail because you may not have a choice.

The more pressing issue is whether you should consider any of these Cell Phone PDA combination units at all.

While opinions vary on whether the CP-PDA represents a good example of what I call "efficiency through convergence" the technology in general is being applauded by many, yet shunned by others at the same time.

Is this Right For You?

Whether youíre better off carrying two separate devices or just one CP-PDA is not really technology decision at all, but a personal one, instead.

The technology behind these new units works, the question at hand is whether or not they work in a manner that makes sense for you. Since we donít all use technology the same way, there is no one simple answer.

If you're the type of person who carries a notebook computer during business hours, and you use it frequently at various locations throughout the day, then a CP-PDA is likely to be a great choice for you personally.

Odds are that youíll continue to use your notebook for most of your portable computing needs, but can use a CP-PDA when you simply need "quick access" to basic information - phone numbers, addresses, appointments, etc. and waiting for your notebook to "boot up" really isnít desirable, or necessary.

In this case, carrying just one piece of hardware instead of two separate devices will be a very welcome change that will simplify your life while lightening your load.

On the other hand, if you don't own a notebook (or seldom use it "in the field") then you will likely prefer to carry a cell phone and a separate PDA, but not a combined CP-PDA unit.

The difference in this particular situation is that if you don't carry a notebook, then the PDA will then be your primary access to portable information in the field, and needs to more fully functional than what these new CP-PDA hybrid units can currently offer.

What Are Your Expectations?

In making the decision to carry a CP-PDA you should also carefully consider your expectations.

If your goal is simply to carry less hardware with you, and to occasionally send and receive email or browse the web, then a CP-PDA will probably meet your expectations quite well.

However, if you are planning on accessing the Internet and email extensively using one of these units, then youíre probably setting your sights too high.

While any of these CP-PDAs will suffice for online interaction on an occasional basis, slow bandwidth, spotty cell coverage and small screens will likely leave you dissatisfied if your expectations are set too high.

Further, if your primary interest in a CP-PDA is to access your local MLS database of listings, then your very next call should be to your MLS support department.

Not all MLS systems are compatible with such cellular solutions, and many may very well support other options that are not only superior in functionality, but that may not require a cellular phone connection at all. For instance, the current offerings from both Supra (www.supra-products.com) and Pocket Real Estate (http://www.pocketrealestate.com) are prime examples of mobile MLS solutions that do not require such cellular access.

The bottom line is that many agents will find these new CP-PDAs to be just the solution they have been looking for. At the same time, many others will not be very enthusiastic about the technology, and for good reasons that are based on the way that they personally use the technologies they already have.

Regardless of which side of the fence you ultimately end up on, the one thing that I believe everyone can agree on is that the CP-PDA will be one of the most talked about technologies of the year.

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Copyrighted with all rights reserved by Stephen M. Canale