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How to select a mobile device – Part #2 (Laptops vs. PDA’s)

How to select a mobile device – Part #2 (Laptops vs. PDA’s)

How to select a mobile device – Part #2 (Laptops vs. PDA’s)

November 6, 2009 ClickSoftware 0 Comments

We continue our ‘How to select a mobile device’ guide and in this part of the guide we will cover the main differences between PDA’s (or smartphones) and laptops (or tablets of course).

Of course, one group includes big computers while the other includes smaller handsets, but with the mess in today’s mobile devices, the size is no longer a factor as we see some gigantic PDA’s which are almost bigger than tiny laptops, netbooks or UMPC’s.

So it’s not a matter of size then. It’s a matter of operating system, user experience, and how well it can support your business needs. In this guide I will try to relate to those aspects and how they can affect your organization.

How portable do you need your mobile device to be?

No matter how you try – laptops & tablets simply cannot act as PDAs.

First of all – most of them cannot fit a pocket, which means – someone has to carry them. Secondly, they cannot act as phones. The third reason is that they have a long boot time which means that waking them up, and loading applications is a long painful process.

Besides, if you really want to operate a laptop, you must place it somewhere, on a steady surface, which leads me to the following statement: If you are looking for a truly portable device, one that can be used everywhere, and by that I mean – while climbing, bending, scanning stuff behind equipment and other strange positions – PDA’s or smartphones would fit you better than a PC based device like a tablet or laptop.

How flexible is your organization for ongoing changes? Reacts almost in real-time? Completely static?

By their nature, PDA’s and smartphones will act better in a dynamic environment where the users should react almost in real-time to ongoing events (new jobs, changes in priorities, emergencies). Those devices are always awake, they are truly portable and they can trigger good alerts when needed.

How complex are the field activities? How many applications are used by the field resources in parallel?

Remember that even the strongest PDA with the best multiple threading model might end up being too clumsy. In most cases, it’s not that simple to switch between applications and when combining heavy applications (like GPS navigation etc.) running simultaneity – performance might even become an issue.

What will be the most common 2-3 tasks when using the mobile device?

The number of applications is important, but also their nature: lot’s of typing will hint towards a full QWERTY keyboard, but will a small one belonging to a tiny smartphone be enough for your users? Worth checking.

Drawings will probably require a touch screen, but will a small PDA screen be enough? For signature capturing – sure, but for maps & redlining – might become a problem.


It’s important to make sure the requirements are well defined and that the device supports the nature of the activities and needs.

In today’s endless options, the differences between each option become blurred. Laptops now have a shorter boot time, PDA’s are much stronger and bigger than they used to be, UMPC’s are actually very small and some of them are even running 2 operating systems in parallel, and the differences might be smaller to identify.

Still, a healthy process that starts from defining the requirements, business procedures, workflows, frequency of each activity, importance of each process – will clear the picture in terms of what’s a mandatory demand and what’s nice to have.

Visit our previous posts in this series:

How to select a mobile device – Part #1 (Keyboard)


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