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Whatever Happened to PDAs?

Original Palm PilotHere at ProfHacker, we’ve written about many different digital tools that help you keep track of a great deal of information. Many of those tools synchronize across devices: desktop to laptop to smartphone.

Recognizing that smartphones are becoming more and more common, Amy asked if you prefer iPhone or Android for your OS. Julie upped the ante by writing about “using super smartphones for productivity.” Of course, a paper-based planner is still fine for some people, as Jason has acknowledged, and not everybody necessarily needs to maintain an online calendar. I’m curious, however, about that space in between the smart phone user and the pen-and-paper devotee. For me, the holy trinity of digital productivity tools — the three functions I could not do without — are probably an email client, a calendar, and a to-do list app. I love the convenience of being able to access the information these tools contain regardless of where I am or which device I’m using.

However, using a smart phone brings with it a fairly significant monthly data plan cost. Lately I’ve been thinking about what it would be like to use a regular cell phone—you know, just for phone calls!—alongside a small, non-phone digital device like an iPod touch. This would, in effect, be a practice taking me back to the 1990s, when the concept of the PDA (“Personal Digital Assistant”) was first introduced. I have an iPod Touch, and I could easily load the most-used apps from my iPhone onto the Touch, instead. There’s a wireless Internet network almost everywhere I go, which would allow me to be online with my Touch without paying my cellphone service provider a monthly fee.

Hmm…

How about you? Do you use a non-smartphone in tandem with a non-phone PDA? If so, please use the comments below to tell us about your experience. Alternately (if you’re a smartphone user), would you be willing to switch to using a non-phone PDA, instead? Why or why not? Let us hear from you!

[Creative Commons-licensed flickr photo by swanksalot]

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