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PDA Buying Guide

From managing contacts and scheduling appointments to sending email and instant messages, a personal digital assistant (PDA) can help you keep organized and stay in touch. Get ready to pick the perfect PDA and get a hold of the handheld of your dreams on eBay Canada.

Determine Your PDA Needs

Determine Your PDA Needs

All the latest and greatest features sound great, but what do you really want to do with your PDA? Before you start clicking through item listings, determine what you need out of a handheld device.

Contacts & calendaring

If you just want to keep a list of business/personal contacts and keep your schedule straight, you don't need a top-of-the-line PDA. An older Palm or Pocket PC with limited memory and a monochrome screen will work just fine.

Email & Internet

Send and receive email, browse websites, and organize your calendar and contacts with a more advanced Palm or Pocket PC. Communicate with other devices away from the computer with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or an IrDa port (infrared). Make sure the PDAs you look at support the features you desire most. You will need to sign up for service before using email and Internet features.*

Phone calls and more

A handful of PDA/cell phone combo devices, including the Palm Treo and RIM Blackberry, let you make calls, surf the Internet, instant message, email, and handle basic contact and calendar management. You will need to sign up for cell phone service before using cell phone features and Internet service before using Internet features.*

*Notes on service fees: Cell phone, data transfer (instant messaging and picture messaging), and Internet/email fees vary depending on your service provider, how much time you spend using a service, and the amount of data you send and receive each month. If you want cell phone service, expect to pay a monthly cell phone service fee as well as a monthly fee for Internet/email access.

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Choose a PDA Operating System

Choose a PDA Operating System

Deciding between a Palm OS device and Pocket PC was once the most critical decision a person had to make when buying a PDA. Now manufacturers offer comparable features and pricing for Palms and Pocket PCs. Base your decision on personal preference. If you want advanced features and a comfortable keyboard, the RIM Blackberry may also work for you.


Palm devices run the Palm operating system and include software to help you keep track of contacts and appointments. Most come with third-party software to synch with your Outlook email, but you'll need additional third-party software to have it synch with other Microsoft Office applications.

If you're not addicted to Microsoft, recent Palm devices boast as many additional features as their Pocket PC counterparts. The streamlined operating system doesn't take a lot of memory to run, and you can get them with monochrome or colour screens.

The Palm devices you'll see most often from sellers include the Sony Clie, Palm Tungsten, and Palm Zire. If you want a PDA with a built-in cell phone, look into the Palm Treo.

Pocket PC

Pocket PC handheld devices run a version of the Windows operating system. Older PDAs run Windows CE and newer devices run Windows Mobile. Pocket PCs come with Pocket PC versions of Microsoft Office applications including Pocket Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook, which integrate with your full desktop applications. They also come with Windows Media Player to play back audio and video files. If you want a PDA that immediately integrates with Microsoft Office applications, look into Pocket PCs such as the HP iPaq, Sharp Zaurus, and Dell Axim.

If you'd rather run Linux, look into the Sharp Zaurus and make sure sellers specify Linux as the operating system for the device.

RIM Blackberry

Bluetooth-enabled RIM Blackberry devices include an organizer, browser, keyboard, and most include speakerphone. You can access your personal email with it or, if your IT department supports the technology, access your corporate email from a compatible Lotus Domino or Microsoft Exchange server.

Rogers and Bell Mobility offer service to different Blackberry devices in Canada. Make sure the PDA you want works with the service you want to use. Sellers will usually include this information in an item description.

Certain models, such as the BlackBerry 5790, do not have integrated cell phone functionality.

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Select Your PDA Memory Requirements

Select Your PDA Memory Requirements

In general, Palm OS devices use memory more efficiently than Pocket PC devices running Windows. But no matter which operating system you choose, the more you plan to do with your PDA, the more memory you'll need.

  • 16 MB: 16MB is adequate to store contact information and perform basic calendaring.

  • 32 MB: 32MB is required to run additional programs such as PDA versions of Microsoft Office applications.

  • 64 MB: 64MB is recommended to play audio and view video files.

If you want to use your PDA to listen to music, store images, or play video, consider looking into a model with an external expansion slot. Expansion cards let you store information on the same type of CompactFlash, Secure Digital, or MultiMediaCard memory card you may already use in your digital camera or MP3 player.

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Evaluate PDA Screen & Battery Options

Evaluate PDA Screen & Battery Options

PDAs can come with either a monochrome or colour screen. Bright and colourful screens enhance your PDA user-experience, but the larger and brighter your screen, the more battery power you use. A few tricks can help you extend battery life:

  • If you buy an older PDA that runs on AAA batteries, make sure it has a monochrome screen.

  • A battery usually lasts 2 to 10 hours on a single charge. If you want to get the best battery life, don't use the brightest screen setting.

If you buy a later model PDA that runs on rechargeable batteries, and you want to use the brightest screen setting, look into models that have removable batteries and keep a spare battery handy.

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Get Cool Extra PDA Features

Get Cool Extra PDA Features

A lot of PDAs come with options that can make your life a little easier. Include these terms in your keyword search when shopping on eBay.

  • Bluetooth: Make sure to get a PDA with Bluetooth if you want to synch information with your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone or computer. Devices cannot be more than 30 feet apart.

  • Cell phone: If you want a PDA/cell phone combo device such as the Palm Treo, read the eBay Cell Phone Buying Guide to find out which services are compatible with the device you want.

  • Digital camera: Although the digital cameras built into PDAs don't ordinarily support high-resolution images, you might want the feature for quick snap-shots. If you'd rather buy a separate digital camera, visit the eBay Digital Camera Buying Guide.

  • Expansion slot: Some PDAs will let you use CompactFlash, Secure Digital, or MultiMediaCard memory cards, which work great for storing audio files and images. Certain add-ons, such as cameras and phones, can also connect via expansion slots.

  • Audio & video: Most Windows Mobile OS devices will let you play back audio and video files, including MP3s, in its version of Windows Media Player. The latest Palm devices also boast a lot of multimedia features, but you'll need to make sure the model you buy includes the right software.

  • Keyboards: Some PDAs include small built-in keyboards so you don't have to input information by hunting and pecking with a stylus. You can also buy a keyboard add-on to use at your desk.

  • Global Positioning System: Always know your locations with built-in GPS.

  • Wi-Fi: If you want to access your wireless home network or Wi-Fi hotspots at airports or coffee shops, look into models that include built-in Wi-Fi.

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Find PDAs on eBay

Find PDAs on eBay

Once you know what type of PDA Handheld you want, go to the Consumer Electronics portal, click the Handheld Units link under PDAs/Handheld PCs, and start searching for items on eBay.

  • Categories: The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down your listings by item type. You'll find links for Accessories and Handheld Units. As you dig deeper into the site you'll also be able to narrow down your choice by brand.    

  • Finder: Use the drop-down menus on the PDAs Finder to quickly narrow down item listings by manufacturer, model/series, installed memory, features, or condition.

  • Keyword search: Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find a Bluetooth-enabled Pocket PC with 128 MB RAM, type “bluetooth pocket pc 128 MB" (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Then if you want a PDA that's still under warranty, type "warranty" into the Search box. Click "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.

  • Let sellers help: A good item listing should include information about a PDA's manufacturer, memory, additional features, condition, operating system compatibility, included software, and any docks or cables that it may need to communicate with your computer. Listings should also include a clear picture. If you want more information about an item, click the "Ask seller a question" link under the seller's profile, and email your question. Sellers want you to buy their item and most will happily respond.

If you can't find exactly what you want, try shopping eBay Stores, tell the eBay Community what you want by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a match becomes available.

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Buy PDAs with Confidence

Buy PDAs with Confidence

Before making your purchase, make sure you know exactly what you're buying, research your seller, and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.

Know your purchase

Carefully read the details in item listings.

  • Figure delivery costs into your final price. If you spend a lot of money, make sure the seller will insure the item when it ships.

  • If you want more information, ask by clicking the "Ask seller a question" link under the seller's profile.

  • Always make sure to complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy It Now, or Best Offer). Transactions conducted outside of eBay are not covered by eBay protection programs.

  • Never pay for your eBay item using instant cash wire transfer services through Western Union or MoneyGram. These payment methods are unsafe when paying someone you do not know.

Know your seller

Research your seller so you feel positive and secure about every transaction.

  • What is the seller's Feedback rating? How many transactions have they completed? What percentage of positive responses do they have?

  • What do buyers say in their Feedback? Did the seller receive praise?

  • Most top eBay sellers operate like retail stores and have return policies. Do they offer a money-back guarantee? What are the terms and conditions?

Buyer protection

In the unlikely event that a problem arises during your transaction, eBay and PayPal are there for you.

  • Pay safely with PayPal: PayPal enables you to pay without the seller ever seeing your bank account or credit card numbers. In fact, PayPal protects buyers 100% against unauthorized payments from their accounts. Plus, with PayPal Buyer Protection, your purchase can be covered up to C$1,250.

  • eBay Security & Resolution Centre: Visit the Security & Resolution Centre to learn how to protect your account and use eBay's quick and efficient resolution tools.

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