Once upon a time, your options for portable computing were either a Palm PDA or an early Pocket PC. Now, solutions for handheld power include smartphones, ultramobile PCs and stand-alone PDAs. Even some MP3 players are evolving into smart devices.
The evolved media player of the hour comes from Apple. Although equipped with a somewhat skimpy 16GB memory and no memory card support, the $399 Apple iPod Touch's nifty multitouch screen and built-in Wi-Fi make it much more ready for work than your average MP3 and video player. But HTC's iPod-like Touch is the first of what is bound to be many competitors. Available on Sprint, it runs Windows Mobile and features a touchscreen interface, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and a 2-megapixel camera. It's an affordable $249--with rebates and a two-year contract.
Smartphones make a lot of sense for mobile professionals. You can get calling, a calendar, contacts, to-do lists, access to documents and web browsing all in a single compact device. LG's $299 (with contract and rebate) Voyager VX10000 is a standard-bearer for smartphones with a touchscreen, qwerty keyboard, Bluetooth, integrated GPS and EV-DO support on Verizon. The BlackBerry Curve 8310, which costs $200 with a rebate and a two-year contract, is an attractive smartphone option for AT&T users. The 8310 adds GPS to a mix that already includes Bluetooth 2.0, EDGE network support, a 2-megapixel camera and a sub-4 ounce weight.
The $250 LG CU515, available through AT&T, isn't as flashy as some smartphones, but it has the capacity to share real-time streaming video with other users. If you want more pizzazz from your phone, look into the $400 T-Mobile Sidekick LX. It's not just for Hollywood starlets--the full qwerty keyboard is a must for text messaging addicts, while the 1.3-megapixel camera with flash and Bluetooth are handy features.
I-mate is relatively new on the scene here in the U.S. Its line of Windows Mobile smartphones means business. The Ultimate 8502 offers up Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a 2.6-inch touchscreen, qwerty keyboard and integrated GPS. Mobile professionals will like the direct-video output for handling displays and projectors. This powerful device costs $725 and is available as an unlocked phone for GSM networks.
UMPCs appeal to a certain early adopter crowd that wants a powerful, tiny computer but not the bulk of a laptop or the skimpiness of a PDA or smartphone. If that's the case for you, consider a device like the Fujitsu LifeBook U810. This 1.56-pound convertible-style UMPC with 5.6-inch screen comes stocked with a small keyboard, 1GB memory, a 40GB hard drive, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Starting at $999, it's not cheap, but business-friendly features include a fingerprint sensor and Vista Business.
We've barely scratched the surface of your options for portable, handheld power. A bouquet of Palm Treos, iPhones, and smartphones from Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson want your attention. In the end, it may come down to that extra-special feature like GPS, video sharing or Vista.