Palm impressed us last year with the Palm i705, which delivered wireless e-mail and messaging to the already-robust PDA platform. Now comes the next logical follow-on: voice calls in addition to wireless data. Although competitors like the Handspring Treo and the T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone beat Palm to market, the Palm Tungsten W ($549 list) is strong competition.
A PDA first and foremost, the Tungsten W incorporates a QWERTY keyboard, a SecureDigital IO slot, and a fine 65,000-color, 320-by-320 display. Oddly, it does not use the faster processor and Palm OS 5.0 that debuted late last year on the Tungsten T. Instead, it uses Palm OS 4.1 and lacks the Tungsten Ts multimedia capabilities, voice recorder, and integrated Bluetooth radio.
The Tungsten W comes with Palms standard suite of excellent productivity applications, plus DataVizs Documents to Go 5.0 Professional Edition (to create and edit Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Word files). The bundled Jot application lets you use the whole screen for character recognition.
The 6.5-ounce unit measures 5.4 by 3.1 by 0.7 inches (HWD). Compared with the 6.8-ounce T-Mobile device and the 5.4-ounce Treo 300, the most noticeable difference is the Tungsten Ws added width. The device is comfortable to hold, however, and easy to operate.
Wireless data service plans from AT&T Wireless range from $29.95 per month (for 10MB of data) to $99.95 (for 100MB). An optional voice plan starts at $19.95 a month. To use the phone, youll need the included earset, since you cant talk into or listen with the device itself. As with other PDA-based phones, weve found that design less appealing for frequent phone users, since youll need the headset handy to avoid missing incoming calls.
Theres no speakerphone or voice dialing, but integration with Palms Address Book is excellent, including a connection feature that lets you highlight a contact and then make a call or send a fax, e-mail, SMS, or IM. Battery life is an astounding 10 hours continuous talk time or 250 hours standby.
We found the Tungsten Ws separate WAP and HTML browsers easy to use, as was the Palm.net application for accessing PDA-formatted Web content. Downloading Web site components was similar to a phone modem connection. Within minutes of turning on the device, we were able to check eBay auctions and access our Yahoo! e-mail account via the bundled VersaMail application (used for POP3 and IMAP4 mail accounts). Several third-party applications are available for redirecting corporate e-mail.
Compared with the Handspring Treo 270 and 300, the Tungsten Ws tri-band GSM coverage is a big plus, ideal for world travelers. And the battery life is so good that many users will need to charge their phones only once a week. The most noticeable downsides are the need for an external earset and the lack of a speakerphone. Still, the Tungsten W is an impressive combo.