Can a PDA change your life?

Written by Andrea Szego
Sign me up €¢ Days 4 to 15 €¢ Days 16 to 28 €¢
More power for your pocket

DAY 16 — Finally: wireless Internet

After hours of help from my service provider’s customer support department and the techies in-house, I finally gain wireless access to the Web and my company e-mail account.

However, the first execution disappoints. It takes a long, long time — perhaps three or four minutes — before my e-mail is served up. Later on, I realize my expectations were high: I’m used to working on a high-speed network, which is a lot faster than even a high-powered handheld; worse, people are sending me large file attachments. As with spreadsheets, Web surfing on a low-speed connection with a 2.3-by-3-inch screen is something to be avoided.

DAY 17 — Beaming with excitement

As long as I’ve had the H3850, I’ve relished the opportunity to beam my digital DNA to a fellow human. However, PDAs can be highly parochial; in order for two handhelds to beam information to one another using their infrared ports, they must share the same operating system (the H3850 uses PocketPC).

At a networking breakfast, it’s a long while before I find a PocketPC user in a sea of Blackberries and Palms. We shake hands and talk a few minutes before I pop the question: will you beam with me? We point our devices at one another like ray guns, push a couple of buttons and — voilà — we’ve captured each other’s contact details in our address books. No business cards to lose, and the information is organized and searchable.

DAY 18 TO 28 — Addicted to e-mail

I’m out for coffee with a colleague when he gets up and heads for the cash counter. I pull out my H3850 and start checking e-mail. A couple of minutes later, he’s back — but I’m not finished! We converse while I finish messaging; he’s not happy about it.

As the days go by, I use wireless e-mail more and more. I eventually start to check e-mail every chance I get. A business owner who prides herself on being responsive and looking for every opportunity to expand her business might think being constantly in touch and exploiting every moment of downtime is a good thing. I couldn’t help but feel that my wireless love affair was robbing me of the opportunity to reflect and to connect with other people.

The results:

In my one-month test, not a single instance arose where having such a multifunction machine saved my bacon. (Compared to a CEO, my position doesn’t entail many emergencies.)

However, I’d argue that merging my address book, calendar and the like into a single electronic device increased my productivity by 5%. Throw in all the downtime that wireless e-mail turned into uptime, and I’d guess that using a PDA faithfully boosted my output by 10%. Being able to use the computer while talking on the phone was handy; having pocket access to spreadsheets, websites and the like was not.

Where this PDA disappointed was in its portability. Stripped down, the H3850 is larger than Palm Pilots and Blackberries (which, for the record, are much less powerful). All-dressed, the H3850 is too bulky and heavy to be a “pocket” PC; after all the add-ons, you might as well settle for a laptop. But, hey, PROFIT wanted it that way.

Is it worth the climb up the learning curve? After a month, I had integrated the H3850 into my daily routine and was learning each new function in a flash. All that and about $1,500 for 10% more productivity? Sign me up.

Sign me up €¢ Days 4 to 15 €¢ Days 16 to 28 €¢
More power for your pocket

© 2003 Andrea Szego

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com