On other pages of this site we have discussed programs for reading
email on your computer, and web based services for reading email.
Here we focus on hand held devices for reading email, including cell
phones, PDA's, and combined devices.
BlackberryThe Blackberry was one of the earlies devices marketed to provide email access wirlessly, using the cell phone network. In its origoinal form it was not a cell phone, though there are now version that combine the Blackberry functionaility with a phone. The Blackberry offers significant more functionaility than simply using the short message service (e.g. Text Messaging) with an existing cell phone, providing a better user interface for storing and managing messages that are received, and by allowing general email rather than the limited length text messages.
iPhoneApple's iPhone starts as a cell phone, combined with a PDA with an advanced web browser, comes about as close as it can to providing the full internet experience in a small package. It uses the cell phone 3G data network to provide high speed internet access in most locations, while cell calls are routed using AT\&T's voice cell phone network. For many, this is the device to get if you want full internet access from your PDA/Cell phone combination. There have recently been competitors introduced including Google's android, paired with T-Mobile, and the Verizon Blackberry storm.
PDA'sMany personal digital assistants, such as the iPaq or Palm systems can download email from your computer and store it for viewing when you are away from your desktop system. Many PDA's also support wi-fi internet access and are capable of downloading new messages in much the same way as the iPhone or blackberry do. The typical user interface is not at nice as on the iPhone or storm, but the capability is as effective. Note that such remote access works only when in range of a public or individually subscribed wi-fi hotspot, unlike the iPhone or Blackberry which use the cell networks, providing wider coverage.
SMSSMS, the Short-Message-Service offered on most cell phones does not compare with the full email functionaility of the devices listed above. However, if all that you need is text messaging, it might be sufficient for your needs. It is possible to configure mail filters to forward email via text messaging, but only the first few characters of the message makes it though. However, some of the alert services describe on the Feeders page of this site can be configured to send messages in the SMS format.