Pocket PC Smart Phone: Smart Client

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2002-08-05

Microsoft Corp. has spent the last couple of years piling enterprise-friendly, network-dependent features into its Pocket PC mobile operating system, but these features do little good when devices lack network connectivity. T-Mobile USAs T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition provides that connectivity, enabling companies to make more of the Pocket PC operating system by pairing it with integrated voice and data functions across T-Mobiles GPRS wireless network.

The T-Mobile (also known as Voice- Stream Wireless Corp.) device, which became available last week for $549 with activation, runs a version of Pocket PC 2002 that Microsoft has extended to support phone functions. The device lets companies take advantage of Pocket PCs virtual private network, terminal services and server synchronization functions and makes the T-Mobile device a compelling enterprise client.

In T-Mobiles network service plan, users select and pay for phone and data plans separately, and data access is metered in kilobytes transferred. Monthly data plans range from $20 a month for 5MB to $60 a month for 20MB. This price scheme compares favorably to the 1xRTT-based wireless data plans offered by Verizon Wireless Inc., which are metered by the minute.

Verizon markets the Audivox Thera, which also combines phone and PDA (personal digital assistant) features in a Pocket PC device. However, the T-Mobile device is the first to ship with Microsofts Phone Edition of Pocket PC; the Theras phone software was written by Sierra Wireless Inc.

In eWeek Labs tests, the T-Mobile Pocket PC was impressive as an Internet-connected handheld computer. The units Intel Corp. 206MHz StrongARM processor and 32MB of RAM delivered snappy performance, and the device provides for peripheral or storage expansion with a Secure Digital card slot.

Connecting to the T-Mobile GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) data network typically took between 10 seconds and 20 seconds, and we enjoyed connection speeds of about 50K bps—plenty of speed for Web browsing and e-mail.

The T-Mobile unit functions capably as a mobile phone and offers good integration between its phone and PDA features, such as dialing from a contact entry.

Users can make calls either by holding the device to the ear in standard phone fashion or by using an included ear bud/microphone combo, and the T-Mobile device ships with a leather case with a flap that protects the units 240-by-320-pixel, 12-bit color, reflective thin-film-transistor display.

The unit is relatively large for a phone, measuring 5 inches long by 2.8 inches wide by 0.7 inches thick and weighing 6.8 ounces. Its about the same size as most other Pocket PC devices, but its much larger than rival Handspring Inc.s Treo.

In addition, the T-Mobile device lacks a hardware keypad for entering phone numbers, opting instead for a software-based interface that requires users to pull out their stylus (ingeniously stashed in the units antenna). If you dont mind smudging your display, the software keys are large enough for finger-tap dialing.

The T-Mobile device is powered by a lithium-polymer battery, which, according to officials, yields 4 hours of talk time and 100 hours of standby time.

For more information, go to www.t-mobile.com.

Technical Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at jason_brooks@ziffdavis.com.

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