Palmtops don't have stellar reputations as communications devices, but their Internet capabilities are improving. Just take a look at the Palm VII series, which features small, retractable antennas. Subscribing to the Palm.Net wireless Internet service is necessary to use the VII's capabilities. Service plans start at $9.99 per month for 50KB of data on up to $44.99 for unlimited use. Your Web browsing is limited to the several hundred Web sites that subscribe to Palm's Web clipping protocol.
For those who are mainly interested in e-mail, there are some clever third-party solutions designed for the Palm line. The $99 PocketMail BackFlip (www.pocketmail.com) is a hardware device that attaches to the bottom port of any Palm III, IV or VII series handheld. It can send and receive e-mail by being held up to any phone receiver. Unlimited e-mail costs $9.95 per month. One drawback is that all your e-mail has to go through your designated @pocketmail.com account.
Pocket PC users needn't worry about getting left off the Web. Pocket Internet Explorer and Pocket Inbox come to the rescue, closely simulating the Web browsing we're all familiar with. The HP Jornada 548, for example, can be hooked up to either a landline phone line or through a cell phone for Internet access. Modem options include the Pretec CompactModem ($149, www.pretec.com) for landline connection or the Socket's Digital Phone Card (pricing varies, www.socketcom.com) for hooking up through a mobile phone.