How smart is your phone? Today's multi-functional wireless devices boost productivity.

Author:Ortiz, Ben
Position::Samsung SCH-i600, Samsung SPH-i700, Kyocera 7135, and BlackBerry 7750 - Product/Service Evaluation

Powerful portable devices that let us stretch time and erase physical boundaries are 21st century realities, not sci-fi fantasies. These lightweight "pocket computers" are enhancing efficiency of virtually every type of business and reducing the number of must-carry electronic tools.

If you haven't shopped recently for a wireless phone or personal digital assistant (PDA), prepare to be surprised--and impressed. Gone are the one-dimensional versions used solely for voice communication or record keeping--so last century.

The latest models are memory-rich pocket PCs that receive and send text messages, work as data entry notepads and have Internet browsers. Many wireless phones available today also include digital cameras that transmit crisp images right from the device.

Users are quickly realizing they needn't lug a laptop on field trips or to conventions, client visits or meetings. Do-it-all wireless devices are smaller, lighter, less costly cousins to notebook computers and can exchange data with hardware back at the office. Speaking of traveling lighter, there's no reason to carry a phone and a PDA and a pocket camera since many devices serve all three functions.

The same sophisticated gear that dazzles technology buffs may seem daunting to newcomers who are wary of user-unfriendly programs or fearful that today's essential breakthrough may become tomorrow's outmoded novelty. Relax--there's no need for sweaty palms over palm-size electronic friends.

It's easy to choose one that fits your needs and computing ability level. And whatever you pick won't wind up next to a Betamax video recorder or laser disc player, since many service providers encourage upgrading by offering incentives.

Here is how to evaluate the most useful all-in-one devices, which come ready for high-speed Internet access while also serving as phones and PDAs.

Samsung SCH-i600: If you plan to use your smart phone more as a phone than a PDA or if you're new to using a PDA, the Samsung i600 is a good choice. It serves as a phone first with a powerful PDA. It features Microsoft's new phone operating system that is set up just like Outlook e-mail, Internet Explorer and Media Player.

Samsung SPH-i700: If you're a more advanced PDA user or seek more of a handheld computer, you'll love the Samsung i700. This device features Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system. You can edit e-mail attachments and send them to someone else or pass data back and forth with your desktop PC. The...

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