Do More, Carry Less With Latest Mobile Phones

New features make phones even more practical for doing business in the field.

August 1, 2004

If you could only carry one piece of mobile equipment, what would it be?

Recent product introductions make a strong case for carrying a full-featured cell phone as a mobile all-in-one solution. The last month has seen the unveiling of three new models that demonstrate how far the mobile phone has evolved beyond basic voice calling.

Two of the phones feature improvements in camera capabilities that make them more practical tools for taking photos in the field, and the third is the most feature-rich smartphone seen yet. All three come equipped with Bluetooth wireless technology for easy transfer of data so you can move pictures, text, or contact and schedule information from your handset to a computer or printer.

First we’ll take a look at a new product from Sprint, followed by the latest handsets from Motorola and Sony Ericsson.

Sprint PCS Vision Picture Phone PM-8920. First out in the coming wave of high-resolution camera phones, the Vision is manufactured by Audiovox for Sprint. Its digital image sensor is rated 1.3 megapixels (MP)—a significant improvement over the low-resolution VGA-level sensors found in early camera phones. That’s a high-enough resolution to view images taken with this phone on any computer screen or to produce standard-sized photo prints. Camera functions also include a built-in flash, self-timer, video clip recording, an 8X digital zoom, a macro mode for extreme close-ups.

Another novel feature of this phone is its dual LCD screens, making it possible to review images or text whether the clamshell phone is open or shut. The handset supports Sprint PCS Picture Mail for sharing images and SMS text messaging. It can function as a speakerphone for hands-free operation.

Software applications include a built-in alarm clock, calendar with scheduler, memo pad, and a phone book for storing up to 300 numbers. There’s also a customizable photo caller-ID system: You can take pictures of friends and colleagues and then attach those images to the people’s listing in your phone book. When you receive an incoming call from these people, their picture appears on the screen along with their number.

The PM-8920 carries a suggested retail price of $299 but it’s currently available from Sprint for $149.99 after rebates.

Motorola V710. Debuting in August through Verizon Wireless, this camera phone features a 1.23MP image sensor for capturing images to share by phone, view on a computer, or print. It has a built-in flash and can record a brief segment of video with audio. For playback of images or movies on the handset, or for browsing the Web, there’s a large 2.2-inch LCD color display. There’s also a second, smaller screen on the clamshell’s cover for identifying incoming calls or reading messages.

In addition to standard voice-calling features, the unit supports text and multimedia messaging. The V10 has 16MB of internal memory and a SecureDigital card slot for additional memory. The internal phone book can store up to 500 numbers. It supports WAP (wireless access protocol) 2.0—a standard for accessing the Web from wireless devices, including cell phone handsets, and includes software for synchronizing information between the phone and a computer.

Calling features include a built-in speaker phone, voice recognition technology, and caller ID with picture.

This model should be available from Verizon Wireless this month for $249 after rebates and a commitment to a two-year service contract.

Sony Ericsson P910. This latest take on a smartphone offers a multifunction solution for Web browsing, mobile e-mail, text and photo messaging, digital imaging, and basic handheld computing.

It includes a VGA low-resolution image sensor for capturing still images or video clips. A fold down mini-QWERTY-style keyboard can be used to compose long e-mail messages or enter detailed notes while in the field. Users also can enter data using an electronic stylus or software keypad, a touch-sensitive LCD screen version of a keypad with graphic representations of keys.

As a PDA, it runs the Symbian operating system and can synchronize calendar and address book entries with a PC via USB, infrared, or Bluetooth. The unit ships with 64MB of internal memory and includes a Memory Stick card slot for additional memory.

Bundled applications include the Opera Web browser and software for offline browsing and printing to Hewlett Packard Bluetooth-enabled printers. There’s also a navigation program that can provide users with turn-by-turn directions when the unit is used with a Bluetooth GPS receiver.

Pricing and carriers haven’t been announced but it’s expected to begin shipping in September.

One final note: If you’re ready to trade up to any of these, you may do well to wait a month or two after they appear before buying. The models I’ve described here are examples of the latest sophistication in cellular handsets. Other vendors are sure to respond with variations of their own, driving the competition that always brings better deals.

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