Originally, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) were a distinct category of technology that encompassed small hand-held devices. These devices were designed to keep track of appointments, memos and address books in an electronic format that could easily synch with the user's personal computer. As technology has improved, various phones and other hand-held devices have taken on the typical PDA functionality, minimizing the need to carry multiple devices.
The Pocket PC is a Windows platform for mobile devices such as hand-held PDAs and smartphones. It incorporates Windows mobile operating system software with various other applications to produce an environment that is familiar to almost any PC user. Pocket PCs include the mobile version of Word, Excel, Outlook and Internet Explorer, as well as several other applications designed specifically for the hand-held environment.
The Palm OS was one of the original hand-held device operating systems. It has been used in a variety of smartphones. Palm OS contained several applications to help users keep a daily schedule such as a datebook, address book, to-do list, and memo pad. The software also synchs with Windows- and Mac-based emulators that could be used to enter, delete and view information on a personal computer.
Smartphone is a general term used to describe any mobile phone that can run a complete operating system such as Windows Mobile or Palm OS. Smartphones contain a variety of features and applications. Although almost all smartphones contain basic organization applications such as address books and calendars, not all smartphones are really PDAs. Some smartphones are designed to be communication devices, Internet browsers or music players.
The BlackBerry is a specific smartphone designed primarily for sending and receiving email. It was the first device that allowed users to access their work and personal email without needing a separate email address just for the phone. BlackBerries also contain Internet access and a full suite of organizational software. Because of the popularity of the BlackBerry, a large number of after-market applications are available to fit the specific needs of the user.
The iPhone by Apple is a high-end smartphone that provides users with a true Internet experience. With the Safari browser, users can integrate their phone and their Internet productivity tools. The iPhone offers many features, including a touch screen, camera phone, text messaging, visual voice mail and a portable media player.
As many PDAs have gained the capacity to store and play music, MP3 players have expanded their range to include features consistent with those of many PDAs. For instance, the iPod Touch has most of the features included in the iPhone, including Internet access and a dizzying array of applications.