Hold the phone. The PDA hotline is ringing. New PDAs are coming from Lenovo, HP, Acer, and others. Personal Digital Assistants, popular in the 1990s before the smartphone, are making a comeback thanks to LTE and a renewed love of small keyboards.
Hold the phone
The PDA, first piloted by Sharp in 1994, then popularised by BlackBerry in the late 1990s and early 2000s, were a huge success before the smartphone. Personal Digital Assistants didn't have internet access, but combined a calendar, address book, To Do list, rolodex, notepad, and other features. Some included a stylus for jotting notes or tapping on small on-screen keyboards or dates in calendars.
Green text on a grey background, or later, black text on a light grey background, were commonplace. PDAs could be plugged in to your home computer and synchronised with a calendar app (but not Outlook), and some PDAs would let you beam information from one PDA to another over an infrared link.
BlackBerry took the PDA to new heights in the late 1990s. An excellent physical keyboard sat below a square screen on a handheld device, with great security software and the ability to back up everything to your computer. Large companies fell in love with BlackBerry's, issuing them to lawyers, real estate agents, and high level employees, with secretaries able to set up appointments, contacts, and notes, and have them sync across a fleet of devices.
When BlackBerry updated the PDA with the ability to make phone calls, send text messages, and collect email... well... it's popularity sky-rocketed.
The rise of BlackBerry was unceremoniously killed by another fruit of the forest, Apple, with the release of the iPhone - anything BlackBerry did, Apple did better.
The return of the mighty PDA
In 2018, we will see the return of the PDA, this time with a colour touchscreen, LTE internet, email, calendar, To Do list, games, and more. Bringing back a small physical keyboard will be the key to the love-affair. Whether the keyboard slides, flips out, or unfolds from a case-cover, will be up to each manufacturer.
First off the rank will be Lenovo, who shyly showed off their prototype at CES 2018, where it lingered in the background behind more interesting tablets with Qualcomm inside. (Screenshot coming soon).
Joining Lenovo will be HP, who could revive the popular Palm brand from the 1990s for added nostalgia.
Expect Asia to follow suit, led by Acer and others which may include HTC, Huawei, and Oppo.
While Samsung could join the fray, we suspect Samsung will choose to remain a top-tier player in the Android space.
No doubt TCL would love to get in on the action - TCL now owns the rights to the BlackBerry brand.
Nokia might even surprise us with a resurrection of one of their 1990s keyboard-driven phones.
The red and the blue
While I doubt infrared will make a storming comeback, we are likely to see Bluetooth LE, NFC, and Bluetooth PAN make a comeback for device-to-device transfers of contact info, moving digital business cards from one PDA to another wirelessly.
iOS and Android
Well, Apple wont even be part of the action, so we can safely say that Android will be the operating system of choice for the modern PDA. Windows Phone OS is dead, Apple wont join the party, and Tizen wont swim across the ocean from Asia.
The last remaining contender was webOS from Palm. HP new owns what's left of Palm, and webOS was sold to LG, now used in their smart TVs. I very much doubt LG will bring webOS back to the handheld PDA/phone market.
Expect your shiny new PDA to run Android, have a USB-C port for charging and synchronising, sport a touchscreen, a physical keyboard, LTE, Bluetooth, Wifi, NFC, and more than likely a Qualcomm chip.
Until next time,
XYZ Media Group
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