Wireless Ticket To Roam

It keeps getting easier to stay in touch with your office when you're not there, via devices that don't need wires. And as the devices improve, so does your ability to travel without worrying about communicating.

Janie Chen, editor-at-large of the information technology Web site CNET.com, stopped by The Early Show to


They eliminate the need to carry separate PDAs, cell phones, e-mail devices and other life-organizing tools.

These items have been in the headlines, due to the hacking of Paris Hilton's handheld. But Chen says you should never send critical information with e-mail, whether it's with a wireless device or your computer.

Hackers can grab information from servers, she notes, no matter how that data got there.

One way to protect yourself when using these devices is to change your passcode often and keep the code to yourself.

Shopping for a new handheld can be daunting. There are so many flavors to choose from that making heads or tails of all the various capabilities, prices, and specs can make your head spin. So, suggests Chen, figure out what your main needs are, and focus on them: If you don't need to browse the Internet while picking up your coffee, for instance, look for a simpler product.

Among the handhelds Chen brought by:

Cingular OGO: Price: $100. A messaging device that lets you do instant messaging, text messaging, and e-mail. This could be a great thing for people who don't need a lot. There's no Web browsing or ability to make phone calls. With more than 53 million IM users in the United States, a device such as the OGO from Cingular Wireless seems like a sure bet. This is purely a messaging device, but you have your choice of text messaging, IM, and e-mail from the three big players: MSN, Yahoo, and AOL. There's a 500-contact book where you can store up to five numbers and an e-mail address for each name.

You can also pair contacts to one of 16 alert icons, which consist of a quirky animated icon and an accompanying sound. Other features include a vibrate mode and a help section that connects to a live support technician via -- what else -- IM. It's for young people looking to stay in touch with friends via IM, e-mail, and text messaging.

Dell Axim X50 - PocketPC with WiFi built-in: Price: $500. This is perfect for those who live in a WiFi apartment or those who work in a corporate environment where WiFi spots are located throughout the office building. PocketPC with WiFi built-in enables you to access the Internet from any WiFi hotspot (such as the ones at Starbucks, airports, or others' homes or offices). It uses Microsoft's PocketPC software, so it works a lot like Windows and synchronizes with Windows software (such as Outlook, Word, Excel) really easily.

The downside to this item is that you can't check your e-mail unless you're in a WiFi area. Not just an organizing machine, the X50 brings digital entertainment into the palm of your hand. It's for organizing your data, and connecting to the Web and other Bluetooth devices. It's good for professionals and consumers alike.

Verizon Wireless V620: PRICE: $200. A PC Card modem that you install in a notebook to give you a broadband Internet connection. It uses Verizon's EV-DO cellular phone network, which is currently the fastest cellular data network (so you can browse Web, send e-mails, etc., faster). The network is in 30 major metropolitan markets, but if you're outside of those, you can access Verizon's other networks as well.

Verizon xv6600 - $550 with a two-year service contract: A combination cell phone/PocketPC, perfect for those already using Microsoft software. This also currently has the fastest broadband connection. Also a smart phone, so you can use it as a cell phone as well. Keyboard slides out to make e-mail and messaging easier. Like the PC Card modem, it can use the fast EV-DO network.

PalmOne Treo 650: Price $550. A combination cell phone/PDA. Make phone calls, send text messages, e-mail, browse the Web, and manage your contacts. This is great for people who are already familiar with Palm software. This is more for business users. It doesn't have instant messaging capabilities yet, but you can send text messages with the cell phone features. Synchs with Microsoft Exchange corporate e-mail servers. It's for making calls and doing almost everything else. It's designed for on-the-go execs and smart phone fanatics.

T-Mobile Sidekick II: Price: $300. A combination cell phone/PDA. Make phone calls, send text messages, e-mail, browse the Web, and manage your contacts. This is very similar to the Palm product, in terms of function, but Chen says it's the style here that makes this a very popular item.

Boasting a slimmer screen and a built-in camera, the second version of the T-Mobile Sidekick is more of a refinement than a revamp of its predecessor. This bulky, but eye-pleasing smart phone is an e-mailer's and messenger's dream, and users of the older model will welcome the Sidekick II's thinner form factor and the addition of a speaker phone.

But the new device is still without some higher-end features, and won't access corporate e-mail. More consumer-oriented than the Treo, and great for e-mail and IM (supports both AOL and Yahoo). Comes with an e-mail account, and you can get e-mail from up to three more accounts. But doesn't support direct corporate e-mail access like the Treo (though, depending on your corporate e-mail, you might be able to access it via the Internet).

Motorola Razr V3: Price: $450. Cell phones that have support for text messaging, AOL Instant Messenger, wireless Web browser, and e-mail. This is a super-thin product that started out only as a cell phone. Chen calls this a perfect example of why these wireless gadgets are so popular: People are tired of carrying a PDA, a cell phone, and other life organizing tools. This cell phone also has a digital camera. It's for making calls, sending messages, taking pictures, and surfing the Web. Executives will appreciate the phone's Bluetooth and messaging capabilities.

BlackBerry 7100g: Price: $400. A combination messaging device/cell phone/PDA. We all know the BlackBerry brand name. BlackBerry was the first generation of these wireless gadgets. This latest generation is sleeker, not as wide in design as the original one. Research In Motion introduced the BlackBerry 7100g, changing not only the BlackBerry form factor, but expanding its target audience from business users to more-casual consumers. One of the most attractive features of the 7100 series is the compact form factor. Unlike traditional BlackBerry models, such as 7750, the 7100g looks and feels more like a standard cell phone (4.6 by 2.3 by 0.8 inches). Fortunately, the smaller size doesn't mean fewer features. For instance, you still get a vibrant, portrait-mode color display. Other goodies include support for up to ten personal and business e-mail accounts, a speakerphone, Bluetooth, and world phone capability. This one is built to be more consumer-friendly and have of a cell-phone design. BlackBerry die-hards might not like the keyboard, which takes some learning, but it still offers great e-mail and cell phone access, as well as IM.

Motorola A630: Price: $300. This is a cell phone, but if you're really into messaging, you'll like the built-in keyboard.