View Full Version : I need recommendations for a smartphone or other PDA-like device

08-10-10, 05:50 PM
Should probably introduce myself, since this is my first post. I'm a 27 year old college student with autism and ADHD. I had hyperactivity as a child but am now primarily inattentive. I have a lot of issues with executive function from both things, and who knows what comes from where, since I've only got one brain?

Anyway, I'm sick and tired of missing appointments all the time, forgetting to do things, forgetting to eat... seriously... The only solution I've found so far is to actually wear an alarm system. It can't be in a pocket, or I'll wash it; can't be in my backpack, because I'll leave it in the backpack. So I sewed a belt pouch for a cell phone where I could set an alarm. It works great, especially since it has a "snooze" function on it--I can shut it off temporarily. If I shut it off permanently, I'd forget about it.

The problem is... it's an alarm, as in one alarm. Which means that I have to choose between remembering to eat lunch, or remembering to go to class, or remembering to go to bed... and that's no good.

So I'm looking into a smartphone or some other kind of PDA-like device (I know some mp3 players have that kind of functionality). I need to be able to program multiple alarms into it, something like thirty to fifty alarms, and it needs to have a snooze button. It also needs to be small enough to carry in a belt pouch, and have a "vibrate" function for when I can't disturb anybody else with my alarms. I need to be able to set single alarms months in advance (medical appointments and such), as well as setting alarms to go off once a day, once a week, or Monday/Wednesday/Friday, etc.

I do not want an iphone, partly because they are expensive, and partly because Apple is so resistant to people who want to program their own apps, and I think I'd like to give that a try if I can't find what I need.

At the very best, I'd like something I don't need to use as a phone, but I know that they no longer sell PDAs by themselves. I've looked into the iPod Touch, but that has the same problems as the iPhone (you can't program your own stuff).

I'm on Medicaid and social security disability (for the autism, not the ADHD). I'm trying to get through school so I can support myself. Therefore, I don't have a lot of money; but I managed to land an internship this summer. Thanks to the stupidity of the Social Security rules, I'll lose the money from the internship (a small stipend) if I don't spend it before the month is up (they basically take your SSI if you earn too much, and will continue to take it if you keep the money saved up). So I thought, hey, I'll just spend it on something that might be helpful. But that also means I can't pay for an expensive monthly data/phone plan, because once I'm back in school I won't have the income from the internship...

So yes.
I need:
--PDA-like ability to set alarms, with very flexible parameters
--"Vibrate" function
--Very low (<$15) monthly expenses, none if possible
--Mid- to high-range initial cost ($150-$300), less if I can get the functions I need for less money
--Small enough to fit into belt pouch.
--Doesn't need to be usable as a phone or Web browser.

Any advice?

08-10-10, 06:13 PM
I can set two calendar alerts per event (example 30 minutes before then 15 minutes before) on my iPhone. Here's some screenshots of what it looks like (there's an alarm sound and vibration, too). There are also numerous apps for alarm clocks. The iPod Touch should have the same features since you don't want a phone.

Edit: I have the combination of ADHD and autism too. (high functioning autism, though)

08-10-10, 06:40 PM
Is it possible to avoid getting an iPod Touch? Are there other mp3 players with similar functions? Or do I have to get a smartphone?

If only they still sold PDAs that didn't come with phone contracts...

08-10-10, 07:01 PM
You're definitely not going to be looking at a smartphone if you don't plan on paying for the monthly data plan. Those are at least $50 and up per month. Do you currently have a cell phone? Most cell phones should be able to do that. I have an older cell phone that I can add events and there is a recurrence option to set for daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly. I can set the alarm to ring at that time or earlier to remind me. The software is from Verizon so if you have a Verizon phone or know someone with a Verizon phone, you could check it out.

08-10-10, 07:17 PM
I have a cell phone, but I got a cheap one because I really don't talk on the phone much, nor do I need text messaging or anything of that sort (I communicate mostly by e-mail or in person). The one I have only has one alarm; but it did make me realize just how useful a portable alarm could be. My mom pays for the phone on a family plan. I just recently got the phone, about two months ago.

I think I'd also like some kind of notepad function, to write down ideas and reminders. I'm always thinking of things I need to remember, or new ideas for things I'm working on, and then forgetting them.

08-10-10, 07:48 PM
If you don't want a phone, there are still numerous options for a PDA. Dell, Acer and HP produce some that are fairly well reviewed and well priced. You can do an internet search for “PDAs” or “PDA reviews,” (just make sure they’re recent) or check out online reviews at,, or even at Amazon. At these sites you can see what the PDAs look like and read what features they have.

BUT, with all the WiFi spots cropping up and the versatility of the iPod touch—with its calendar, alarm functions, organizational apps, music,...etc—my vote is for this gadget.

<O:p</O:pI have an old iPod shuffle, a not-so-old iPod touch and an iPhone 3G and couldn’t live without them. And the 3<SUP>rd</SUP> generation touch has dropped in price—especially the 8GB. It’s a helpful tool, and best of all no one can call you on it! You could set all the alarms you want—both with the included “clock” function as well as the included “calendar.”
My iPhone keeps me on track pretty well (I set several alarms every day) but it’s not the only option. The internet will have the info on all your other possibilities, too.<O:p</O:p

08-10-10, 08:00 PM
Is it possible to avoid getting an iPod Touch? Are there other mp3 players with similar functions? Or do I have to get a smartphone?

If only they still sold PDAs that didn't come with phone contracts...

Smartphones with no cellular service/sim card will function as PDAs. That could be an option. I just looked on craigslist in my city and most used recent smartphones would fit your budget but prices might differ in your area.

An iPod Touch 8Gb should set you back around $200 plus taxes and replacement plan if you opt for it. Maybe pick a store with a money-back guaranteed return policy if it ends up not being the right device for you?

edit: the advantage to choosing a smartphone over a PDA would be that you won't have to switch devices (or carry more than one) when you're ready to pay for a plan with a carrier. Also, I'm pretty sure that there's carriers that will allow you to use your own smartphone as a prepaid phone.

08-10-10, 08:11 PM
I think I'd also like some kind of notepad function, to write down ideas and reminders. I'm always thinking of things I need to remember, or new ideas for things I'm working on, and then forgetting them.

Couple screenshots from the iPhone/iPod. For the record I don't work for Apple, haha. I just think that it's a great device to help organize your life.

Default Notes application that comes with the iPhone/iPod:

Free application from the app store called SeizeTheDay that lets you write down tasks and sort them by priority and due date:

08-10-10, 11:01 PM
Do you use any sort of calendaring system on your computer? If you buy the cheapest possible version of Outlook (in Microsoft Office), you can then sync your phone with your Outlook calendar and have alarms set for every appointment and task that you want to have an alarm for. This is what I do. You can then set the phone to use the vibrate feature as the notification for "reminders."

I have an HTC HD2. That'll be too big and too pricey for you, and frankly, it isn't what I was hoping it would be. You can get a much less costly smartphone and then just skip the data plan. All you need is for the phone to be able to sync with Outlook. My guess is that even fairly inexpensive phones will do that. The expense will be in purchasing Outlook for your computer.

As a bonus, though, Outlook is relatively useful for managing emails, etc. You can keep them in folders, have your appointments all entered, move things around as needed, etc. This is how I manage my law practice. It won't cost you an arm and a leg to do it.

Good luck to you. What are you studying in school, if I may ask?

P.S. The syncing can be done with just a cable. You don't need to have access to a server or anything.

08-10-10, 11:22 PM
I'm studying biomedical engineering. It's pretty cool. I want to design technology for people with disabilities.

I don't use anything on my PC except for an alarm clock that'll play media files, which is useful.

Entering alarms into the phone would be much better than syncing from the PC, because I would be able to enter appointments as soon as I got them. Wait until I got home, and they'd be lost for sure.

Is there no alternative to an iPod Touch for non-phone PDA-like gadgets?

08-10-10, 11:30 PM
You can enter them into the phone with an Outlook-syncing phone. Then you connect your phone to the computer and it enters them into your Outlook. I enter appointments on my phone all the time.

08-11-10, 12:16 AM
Is there no alternative to an iPod Touch for non-phone PDA-like gadgets?

There are some PDAs listed on amazon ( but modern ones seem to be more expensive.

I just remembered one thing though -- I had an iPod before my iPhone and I'm pretty sure that the iPod doesn't have vibration.

08-11-10, 10:44 AM
I'm going to be switching to Verizon in probably about a month, and I'll have a (kind of beat up, but still very useable and still looks halfway decent) blackberry curve 8900 just sitting around. I would be more than happy to send it to you, if you're still looking then. I love the calendar function on it, I can set alarms for something every hour on the hour, I can make those repeat daily, weekly or monthly if I need to. The theme I have it set on also displays any and all appointments I have in the imminent future on the screen when you hover over the calendar, which I have in the first spot so it's always naturally up on the screen. I can even set appointments that overlap, and it will just say they overlap but still let me set them. So.. if you like, when I have my new phone, if you're still looking, it's yours.

Edit: And it does vibrate.

08-11-10, 11:46 AM
I may have a friend who also has an old phone (and wouldn't have to bother with shipping it); but can you use calendar functions and such without activating the phone?

08-11-10, 12:19 PM
You sure can. Any native applications, such as calendars etc. are completely functional and do not require any sort of cellular service to be useable.

08-24-10, 07:35 AM
I know you say you don't want a phone and wanna pay <$15 per month.

BUT if you use a phone anyway, then you may as well have a smartphone so that the PDA and phone are incorporated into the same device so it is more portable, no?

I have an HTC Legend which is great. lots of free apps to download for anything you can think of and I just downloaded something that update my google calendar on my email account whenever I enter something in to the calendar on the phone.

I can also get all me emails sent to my phone too. so much easier to be organised this way.

ALSO....If you have been with a phone network for a while then you can haggle with them on the price of the contract like I did.

Standard price was 35 per month for 24 months and you get free HTC desire (not the one im using now cos im still waiting for it) with 900 minutes and unlimited texts and internet. I haggled them down to 20 per month for 18 months with the same mins, texts and internet and same free phone.

The phone is worth about 360 so by paying 20 per month for 18 months I am basically just paying for the phone!! (texts ,mins and internet are effectively free)