the Internet Using your PDA
Note that this article covers wireless solutions, both
WAN (wide area networking) and LAN (local area networking). It doesn't
cover using a 56k dialup modem over a land line (that's the phone
cord that plugs into the wall). There are several solutions for dialup,
including Palm's modem for many PalmOne brand PDAs, CF modem cards
for Pocket PCs (and the Sony Clié NX & NZ PDAs using special
drivers) and external modems that connect to your PDA using Bluetooth
or IR (see the ENR Tech IR and Bluetooth
There are many ways to connect to the Internet for
web browsing and email. There are two kinds of solutions:
1) Wide area networking (WAN), which means accessing
the Internet from most anywhere in the metropolitan US by connecting
to cellular or pager networks and paying the provider a fee for either
time spent online or the amount of data downloaded.
2) Local area networking (LAN) which allows you to
connect to the Internet only when you're in range of an access point
(typical range of 300 feet). The most common wireless LAN solution
is WiFi 802.11b, though there are also Bluetooth access points which
are generally used in work or home environments and not public locations.
WiFi connections are free if you're connecting to your own access
point at home or one at work, and are available for nominal fees
from Starbucks, McDonalds and other venues. Some venues and individuals
also provide free public access via WiFi.
These are devices that are both PDAs and mobile phones
rolled into one. Some run Palm OS, others run Pocket PC Phone Edition,
and there are some that run Symbian OS as well. You'll have Internet
access anywhere a digital mobile phone connection is available, and
you can also use the device as your mobile phone. When accessing
the Internet with CDMA providers like Verizon Wireless and Sprint
PCS, you'll generally pay for the amount of time you spend online
(minutes used on your plan). With GSM/GPRS providers like AT&T
Wireless, Cingular and T-Mobile, you usually don't pay for connection
time but rather for the amount of data you download. Voice calls
are billed in the manner you're likely already accustomed to when
using a traditional mobile phone for calls.
Most of these devices use either GPRS or CDMA2000 (1xRTT)
connections for data:
GPRS, a high speed data service that averages 45k transfer
speeds, is offered by GSM carriers, and it's widely available in
Europe and parts of Asia, which have been GSM areas for quite some
time. It' also now widely available in the US from carriers such
as AT&T, T-Mobile and Cingular, though their GPRS coverage is
mostly in metropolitan regions. If you use a GPRS provider, you generally
pay for the amount of data you download rather than time spent online.
CDMA2000 (also called 2.5g and 1xRTT) runs on the current
CDMA network that drives most cellular services in the US, parts
of Canada and Mexico. Verizon and Sprint already have most all cities
online and the data transfer rates range from 50k to 70k.
our page of SmartPhone Reviews to
Most recent model mobile phones made in the past year
can act as a modem for your PDA. Using your mobile phone requires
the least up-front money to get online most anywhere with your PDA.
Depending on your cellular provider's services, you can either connect
to your cellular provider or your home dialup ISP using your phone
and IR (if your phone has IR) or a cable made to connect your model
phone to your model PDA. These cables cost from $30 to $70 dollars. www.thesupplynet.com is
one of the biggest suppliers of these cables and supports most all
popular phones and PDAs including Palm, Handspring, Clie, Pocket
PCs and Psions. www.gomadic.com is
another vendor that sells these cables.
An alternative to these cables that won't cost much more
is the Socket Digital Phone Card for Pocket PCs. It's a CompactFlash
card with a permanently attached cable whose connector fits
your phone. It's available for several popular phones such
as the Motorola v120, v60, 270, and many Audiovox, Siemens,
Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung phones.
We tested the Digital Phone Card with an iPAQ and Motorola
v120c and v60c phones on a CDMA network and it worked like
a charm. Setup is simple and the driver is easy to use.
Why is this a better solution than the cable? It will work
with any Pocket PC that has a CF slot. This means if you
upgrade to a new Pocket PC, you won't have to buy a new cable.
The software and driver make using your phone as a modem
on the Pocket PC easy. It's turn-key, works with any Pocket
PC and it's reasonably priced at $99. You can also get an
upgrade kit that allows you to use the CF card with your
notebook PC which will save you some money if you're a road
warrior who uses both a notebook and PDA while traveling.
If your phone and PDA have Bluetooth, you can get them
talking to each other via Bluetooth, and use your phone as a modem.
You'll need a Bluetooth enabled mobile phone (no so common in the
US, common in much of Europe and Asia). GSM carriers offer a better
selection of Bluetooth enabled mobile phones that do CDMA providers.
Using Bluetooth, you won't need a cable since Bluetooth is a wireless
technology referred to as a PAN (personal area networking) when used
to connect devices that are in a 30-foot range of each other together
wirelessly. You can connect the phone to any Palm brand PDA that
runs OS 4 and has an SD slot using the optional Palm
Bluetooth SD card. The Palm
Tungsten T and T2 have built-in Bluetooth, as do the Sony Clié TG50, NZ90 and UX40/UX50.
You can also connect to the many iPAQ models which have built-in
Bluetooth, or buy a Bluetooth
CompactFlash card for Pocket PCs.
our Bluetooth article and reviews here.
These cards work with Pocket PCs, but
not Palm OS PDAs. They run on your mobile phone provider's network,
and are available from a variety of carriers. Most are PCMCIA cards,
which means using an iPAQ 3000 or 5000 series Pocket PC with a PCMCIA
card expansion sleeve, since these iPAQs are the only Pocket PC that
can use PCMCIA cards. If you own the now discontinued Jornada 560
and the PC Card sled, you can also use these cards. Note that you
must choose a card that comes with Pocket PC drivers! The most popular
cards include the following:
Sprint 2031 CF
Wireless Card for Pocket PCs and notebooks
For more info on this CF type II card, read our complete review here.
This card works with both Pocket PCs and notebook PCs. It uses Sprint's Vision
Network and offers 1xRTT (2.5g) connections to the Net anywhere Sprint has
coverage. This is a wide area solution, which means you don't have to be near
a WiFi access point and etc.
Our Review of the Sprint
2031 CF Card
There are AirCards for Verizon, Sprint and other CDMA
network cellular providers, as well as GSM/GPRS providers. These
run on the newer high speed networks (CDMA2000 or GPRS) and offer
speeds between 40k to 70K. I've been using an iPAQ with the AirCard
555 for CDMA2000 high speed networks with Verizon as the provider
and this has been an awesome solution! The transfer rate is faster
than a 56k modem, the connect to network time is fast and reliable.
Using this card, the iPAQ also doubles as a cell phone, though you
can only use it with a headset.
Our Review of the AirCard
PalmOne has moved on to the Tungsten
W, which uses AT&T's GSM/GPRS network, but the Palm.net
service is still available for users of the now discontinued Palm
VII and i705. Palm.net is the one of the easiest services to use
since the wireless service is highly integrated into the operating
system. Web access is provided by Web Clipping Apps which reduce
the byte transfer and thus improve speed making the 9.6k service
much more usable than you'd think. The service is available for
the now discontinued Palm VII and
the Palm i705, both of which have
a built-in wireless radio and antenna.
Your Palm VII and i705 can access e-mail, and many
web sites that have provided little doorways to their sites in the
form of a Web Clipping Application (WCA) also known as a PQA (Palm
Query Application). Yahoo, E*Trade, ESPN.com, USA Today and many,
many other companies have issued PQAs, which you can find on the
CD that comes with your Palm, and on palm.net's web site. Palm.net provides
you with a wireless access account, and you can choose from 2 price
plans ranging from $20 for 100k of data transfer/month to $40/month
for 1 meg of data transfer per month ($35 if you're willing to sign
up for a year). Because PQAs are specialized apps that pull optimized
content from web sites, the amount of data transferred is quite small,
so your charges may not be that high. A web page generally equals
a 1 to 3 K file-- that's pretty small. So what's the catch? You can't
do traditional web browsing with this service and things like frames,
work. The majority of sites do work however. Palm.net used to offer
an unlimited plan for $40/month, but sadly that's been replaced with
the $40 for 1 meg plan for 2003.
Palm.net service, when used with the i705, is the only
service (other than BlackBerry devices) to offer always connected
instant access. It can notify you of incoming mail and AOL instant
messenger messages. The older Palm VII does not have this capability.