Good old PDA – PDA vs Smart Phone
Ah… The good old PDA’s. PDA’s? Some might wonder what the abbreviation even means! It stands for “Personal Digital Assistant”. These little palm-top machines were the pinnacle of portable computer device – they were a computer available from your pocket! Even now they can prove to be handy at times. These items were replaced since smart phones were introduced. Windows Mobile used to dominate the market.
I still use my PDA almost everyday. I have two: one running Windows Mobile 2003, and the other running Windows CE 5, which is newer. I usually use Windows Mobile 2003, because I’d like to wear that machine out before using Windows CE 5. These old machines are durable indeed. A mobile phone can probably last 1 year or 2, perhaps 3, but this machine is still going strong after 9 years.
Advantages of PDA over Smart Phones
I have iPhone 3GS, although it hit the floor a little harder than it should, and is now half-broken (but mostly usable). I loved my iPhone for its performance, multifunctionality, versatility, compactness, and quality. Then why am I still using my PDA?
1. Files without limit
I don’t use iTunes. In fact, I dislike that software. Synchronization by iTunes literally kills the device. I have more than one PC. I work with more than one PC. Synchronization with iTunes is a nightmare. Plus, I never found the interface intuitive.
I always use iFunBox instead. It is free, allows you to go through the raw files of all your APP’s and even iPhone itself, and file management is unlimited and a breeze. Thank God for the existence of iFunBox and its free charge, or else I would feel jailed for having to use iTune. Apple products would otherwise have been a tragic-joy mixture of simultaneous extreme love and hate.
The best part about PDA is that you can manage files easily with or without “ActiveSync“, a synchronization software by Microsoft (already discontinued but still available for download in different languages). Or, since the built-in storage space of PDA’s is almost always little (the most I’ve seen is 512MB), SD card is always needed, so managing files on the SD card is as easy as an external drive. Put in any file, and file association takes place just like in Windows, allowing you to view things simply by tapping on the file. The files can be accessed by the programs installed on the PDA, or through Windows Explorer, just like on Windows. You can put in any MP3 music file (copyright or not (oops)) or any supported files on it, and it will run it for you.
ActiveSync only works on Windows XP and older. To synchronize your PDA with Windows Vista or above (works on my Windows 7), you have to use Windows Mobile Device Center instead. It works similarly to ActiveSync.
Free software is getting less and less, since Windows Mobile is outdated for a long time, but a lot are still available to make the machine more versatile.
2. Adobe Reader Has Reflow Mode
I love PDF files. PDF files work everywhere, and the file will look consistent in any system. One useful function that the PC version of Adobe Reader retains is “reflow” mode (in View -> Zoom -> Reflow). Reflow mode is great for screens of limited size. It displays the PDF file as if plain text file, and when you zoom in, you increase the font size, but you don’t have to scroll left or right to read. You only have to scroll up and down and read it like an ebook. It is an immensely helpful function for portable devices.
Sadly, I really don’t know what’s going on with Adobe. They keep reflow mode on PC’s, which have the biggest screen, and they remove the function on iOS and Android devices. What’s up with that? The function that is optimally designed for the portable machines is removed on these very devices. I wish they would keep reflow mode available on all portable devices.
Fortunately, smart phones like iPhone and iPad have lots of Apps to choose from. I recommend using PerfectReader Classic for superior reflow function. They will make PDF-based ebooks so much more friendly to read. It’s a mystery why Adobe doesn’t include this function in their readers.
3. Decent Microsoft Office Suite
Another advantage with Windows Mobile is that it actual comes with a decent Microsoft Office suite. Word is limited, and so is PowerPoint, but they’re sufficient for such a small device. My favorite tool on the device is Excel. It is the most powerful and effective Excel software on any portable device that doesn’t cost you extra money. You can actually write Excel formulas and have them work as expected. The only free spreadsheet APP that can work with formulas and has decent performance on iPad is Google Sheet. You’d have to spend money on the others, or suffer performance issue.
Pocket Excel offers useful functions such as split window, frozen / locked rows and / or columns, highlight, etc. It supports the most common and useful functions. Excellent.
Windows Mobile Office Suite can save files as standard .doc or .xls formats, but it also has its own format. Word saves as ,PSW, and Excel saves as .PXL. These formats are much more compact and suited for portable devices.
Disadvantages of PDA
PDA’s are, after all, outdated devices. They do not have a lot of things that smart phone offer today.
- No phone. Obviously, they’re PDA’s, not cell phones.
- No camera. PDA’s weren’t built in an era where microlens on cell phones became popular. They cannot take pictures or record videos.
- Slow GPS tracking. Cell phones tend to be able to track the current location really quickly. PDA’s take time.
- Outdated browsers. Indeed, the browsers are outdated, and fewer and fewer websites are supported.
- Low performance for games. The available games are relatively limited, outdated, and they tend to run a bit slow.
- No SDHC for Windows Mobile 2003. SD cards are everywhere and used for almost every consumer electronics now. SD cards with space of 2GB or below are called SD cards. Go above that, and they’re called SDHC, or SD High Capacity format, which go from 4GB to 32GB. Go higher still, and it’s called SDXC, or SD eXtended Capcity, which go from 32GB to 2TB. Windows Mobile 2003 only supports SD, so you’re limited to 2GB at most. Mobile CE 5 can support SDHC with Microsoft’s support here. An easier solution to make your Windows CE 5 or Windows CE 6 support SDHC is found here.
- Only two decent Bible study tools. A great Bible software on PDA’s is Pocket e-Sword (no longer available for download on official website; download here). I’m a Christian, and I loved the software, but it is limited compared to eSword on iPad. The number of Bible versions available is limited, search function is slow, and extra literature is also limited. Fortunately, users make their own versions of commentary and sometimes the Bible itself, so there are still a few extras.
Sword also makes its software available for Pocket PC called Sword Reader. It is still available for download and the Bible modules and Commentary modules work on it. Dictionaries, extra books, and devotionals do not work. It is a less powerful software than Pocket e-Sword, but it also has a pretty functional search function. The best thing is that it is more resourceful in terms of the Bible versions available. Another great part is that ESV and a few other versions also come with footnotes.
- Buggy System. Again, much like most systems labelled “Windows”, Windows Mobile is buggy and crashes a lot. iOS and Android don’t do that so frequently. Every week or two, I find the need to press the reset button on my PDA. It doesn’t happen with my iPad.
Overall, smart phones win in almost every arena imaginable. But with an extra PDA available on me, I can surely do a lot of useful tasks without draining the battery of my smart phone. The resistive touch screen also allows you to use the device with gloves on. It is old, outdated, underpowered, but still a joy to use.Written on December 16, 2014 at 4:33 pm