You’re sitting in your office, and it’s quiet. Almost too quiet. Suddenly in walks your vice president of sales and marketing. He reaches into his pocket—insert suspenseful music here—and pulls out a brand-new PDA/cell phone combination device. Your mind races: What kind of support questions will he have? Will he want to interface with the corporate e-mail server or maybe play Solitaire on his next flight? Will I have the answers to his questions?

It’s difficult to support products that you aren’t familiar with, especially ones that won’t work well with your systems and applications. A good way to save yourself some headaches and make sure mobile users get the most for their money is to recommend devices that will perform the tasks they need them to and that work with the company’s systems. To help you make recommendations about the latest space-saving mobile device, the PDA/cell phone, here is a list of available products and their features.

Kyocera (formerly Qualcomm) produces the SmartPhone, the first Palm/cell phone combination device. The trimode cell phone allows you to connect over CDMA digital PCS, CDMA digital cellular, and analog connections. It also includes speakerphone, voice memo, and voice dialing. The Palm component comes with 8 MB of memory and the standard suite of Palm applications. HTML, WAP, Short Message Service (SMS), and SSL for secure online transactions are supported. The SmartPhone retails for under $200 with activation.

Handspring recently released their first PDA/phone combination, the Treo. There is currently only one model on the market, the Treo 180. Retailing for $399 with service activation on the Cingular or VoiceStream network, the Treo offers a 16-MB Palm device along with e-mail, SMS text messaging, and wireless Internet. Two input options are available, either a graffiti area or a QWERTY keyboard. All the basic phone features are built in, such as the three-way calling, call logs, and speed dial. Because the phone and organizer are integrated, you can dial right from your organizer phone book. A hands-free headset and speakerphone are also included.

The Treo 270 will be released sometime this year and will offer the same features as the Treo 180, only with a full-color screen. It will retail for $599 with activation.

Audiovox’s Thera is an integrated Pocket PC and dual-band 800-MHz CDMA/1900 MHz PCS phone. Like the Maestro, the Thera also comes with 32 MB of RAM, color TFT display, and Pocket PC application suite. Thera gets its functionality from the integrated SB555 module from Sierra Wireless (makers of a variety of cellular modems). Thera’s retail price is currently $999. While the Thera has several hands-free accessories available for purchase, the basic unit is held much like a standard cell phone. The only drawback here might be the propensity for “face goop” on the screen, since there is no cover for it. Just make sure you have some cleaning wipes handy.

Nokia will be releasing their 9290 Communicator series in the Americas sometime in 2002. This state-of-the-art phone will use the Symbian operating system and an active matrix color screen to allow users to send and receive images, sound, and video clips. It will include wireless Internet access via WAP and HTML, and PC application support for editing of Word and Excel documents and for viewing of PowerPoint presentations.

Motorola offers the V200 Personal Communicator for $299 without service activation. Service is available over the Verizon network. With the included headset and lighted QWERTY keyboard, the V200 allows you to talk and type at the same time. Other features include voice dialing, musical alerts, and a voice recorder.

Another offering from Motorola is the Accompli 009 Personal Communicator. The price of this device is significantly higher, retailing for $649 without activation on the Cingular network. The Accompli features a full QWERTY keyboard and a 256-color TFT display. It comes with a plug-in speakerphone, conference calling, and call blocking. Also, SMS, WAP browsing, and POP3 e-mail access are all supported.

Microsoft’s Pocket PC
One of the recent developments that will bring increased functionality to combination phone/Pocket PC devices is Microsoft’s new version of their Pocket PC operating system, Pocket PC (PPC) Phone edition. Originally code-named Stinger, this operating system will be the basis for many new devices. PPC Phone edition includes many popular features:

  • Finger or stylus dialing
  • Caller ID
  • Integrated SMS messaging
  • Conference calling
  • Customized ring settings for different occasions
  • Speed dial
  • Speakerphone
  • Call notes (the ability to take notes about a call during a call)

Look for many new devices to be released in the next year that use the Pocket PC Phone Edition.

The bottom line
IT departments are responsible for an increasingly wider array of devices, so be sure to keep up with the latest offerings and their features, make recommendations to users, and if you can, set a corporate policy as to which devices you will support.

Let’s play the name game

Now that integrated cell phone/PDA/pager devices are moving into the mainstream, I think it’s time the IT community classified the species these technical marvels belong to. I’ve heard these devices called Palm-phones, combination PDA-cell phones, fusion phones, etc. But I don’t think any of these terms does this species justice. So I call on the TechRepublic members to weigh in with their opinions on the subject. Heck, to make this interesting, I’ll even throw in a TechRepublic coffee mug to the member who submits the most interesting, descriptive name. Submit your suggestions here. Good luck.
Bill Detwiler
Community Editor, Support Republic