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I remember the brief period of time when PDAs were touted as the next big thing in the technosphere, and then as quickly as they arrived on the market they disappeared as smaller, slimmer and more powerful phones quickly became the next big thing. I don't remember reading too much of the commentary around the demise of the PDAs, but I do recall comments such as being too large and cumbersome as well as trying to pack too much functions and features being some of the factors that contributed to its downfall.

I was wondering if anyone has read studies or analysis on why PDAs didn't work out the way marketers thought it would, especially given that smartphones now are trending towards being larger and even more feature packed. Is it just timing or perhaps the invention of tablets and netbooks also had something to do with people accepting larger size smartphones?

  • PDA + cellphone + pager + camera + DMP (i-Pod) + game console (Gameboy) + GPS – keys ≈ smartphone – Crissov Oct 18 '15 at 8:18
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PDAs were very succesful and worked out just fine.

A smart phone is simply a phone that's also a PDA. PDAs never went anywhere. They just turned into phones.

As for sizes, the PDAs I used to use are about the same physical size as the Android and Apple phones out there today. I don't think size was a particular issue.

  • Did you get PDAs as slim as smartphones? Those I had or saw (two or three) were not cumbersome due to their screen size, but to all the rest: thick, large prominent borders around the screen, requirement of stylus (that was an argument Apple used to advertise the iPhone, until they announced the ApplePencil...), ... And obviously, the UX of the late Windows for those was adapted to that era. I don't think it would have much success now that we are grown accustomed to the UX of our smartphone OSs. – Chop Sep 18 '15 at 6:00
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    @chop phones today are PDAs. The Palm Pilots were a bit larger but not excessively so. – DA01 Sep 18 '15 at 6:51
  • OK. I inherited one PDA from my father, but it was considerably thicker. The screen border was thick too. It was not comfortable to have it in the pocket, while I have no problem sliding a phone into it. When I saw for the first time a BlackBerry, I thought of PDAs indeed, but I was under the impression that today's phones were slimmer (though matching PDAs in "horizontal" dimensions). The UX of OSs have changed, that is undeniable, and that may be an element of answer too (PDAs were perceived as professional tools, while smartphones were designed to be sale-successes). – Chop Sep 18 '15 at 13:30
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    @Chop I guess the point of my answer was to refute the premise of the question. PDAs were succesful and there wasn't a demise of the PDA...the PDA simply morphed into the smart phone. – DA01 Sep 18 '15 at 14:36
  • OK, that I fully agree with. – Chop Sep 18 '15 at 17:35
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The entry into the market was not at the right time. Due to hardware constraints of the time period, innovative software was not able to run properly on PDA'S. Having too large of a device was annoying for users to deal with. Companies were also not clear on their target market. They should have focused on developing the technology to run on top of their product before building the whole product. Cell phones such as the iPhone came in at just the right time and thus gained huge market share.

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    Palm sold over 30 million palm pilots. That's not too shabby for the era. It wasn't a timing issue as much as it was simply a small market window...that period where hand held technology became affordable, but right before cell phones became 'smart'. – DA01 Sep 18 '15 at 4:18

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