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There's no question that the market for PDAs has shrunk over the last few years and is shrinking further. On the one hand, smartphones can do the same basic jobs and handle all mobile communications. On the other hand, the new wave of mini-notebook gives you access to PC level applications in a highly mobile form. All the same, there are still plenty of people out there who just want a simple, powerful device to take care of business, and plenty of companies who want to deploy mobile computers but want something more robust, less flashy and less open to abuse than the average smartphone. This is the target market for mobile computing specialist Socket, and its SoMo 650 is aimed directly at it.
To be more specific, Socket is pushing the 650 at an area that sits between consumer/enterprise PDAs like the HP iPaq 214 and fully ruggedised devices like the TDS Nomad 800L. The SoMo isn't designed to weather monsoons or survive freezing temperatures, but it is designed for 'grey-collar' workers who spend their time between the office, the road and the labs, factory floor or workshop.
The body is made of a tough dark grey plastic, with rubberised sides to improve handling and durability and rounded corners designed to minimise wear and tear. All the sockets, bar the proprietary PDA to USB connector at the bottom, are covered in tough flaps of the same material, and the whole thing feels extremely solid.
The specs claim that you can drop the SoMo from 1 metre onto vinyl-covered concrete multiple times, and our tests would certainly confirm this. Given that it's not a proper ruggedised PDA we've held off the abuse we might normally employ for such devices, but this is certainly a PDA you could lug around with you from workspace to workspace without worrying about the odd knock.
Otherwise, the physical design is generally fine without being particularly innovative. The proprietary USB connector is a bit of a menace and it would be nice to have a standard 3.5in headphone connection, but given the industrial leanings of the device the SDIO SD and CompactFlash memory card slots at the top and the 2.5in hands-free headset socket should suffice. The SoMo also ships with a nice, weighty desktop charging cradle, complete with a spot to charge a second battery. The wall-wart power adaptor can plug straight into the PDA itself, but most users will probably be leaving this one in the dock at the end of every hard day at work.