Pocket PC Phone Edition-Based Device is Smart Client

T-Mobile smartphone is about the same size as most other Pocket PC devices.

T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition
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 OS by pairing it with integrated voice and data functions across T-Mobiles GPRS wireless network.

The T-Mobile (also known as VoiceStream) 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 allows companies to take full advantage of Pocket PCs virtual private network, terminal services and server synchronization functions, and makes the T-Mobile device a compelling enterprise client.

Under T-Mobiles network service plan, users select and pay for phone and data plans separately, and data access is metered in kilobytes transferred. T-Mobiles 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, which are metered by the minute.

Verizon markets the Audivox Thera, which also combines phone and PDA 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.

In eWEEK Labs tests, the T-Mobile Pocket PC performed impressively as an Internet-connected handheld computer. The units 206MHz Intel Corp. StrongArm processor and 32MB of RAM delivered snappy performance, and the device provides for peripheral or storage expansion with a Secure Digital card slot. (The device was built and designed by the Taiwan-based firm High Tech Computer, the same firm that manufactures HP/Compaqs very good iPaq Pocket PC devices.)

Connecting to the T-Mobile GPRS 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 or automatically pausing MP3 playback upon answering a call.

Users can make calls either by holding the device to the ear in standard phone fashion or by using an included earbud/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 TFT display. This is important, because phones often get tossed about more aggressively than do PDAs.

The T-Mobile unit is relatively large for a phone, measuring 5 inches long by 2.8 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick and weighing 6.8 ounces. Its about the same size as most other Pocket PC devices, but its a good deal larger than rival Handsprings 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 up your display, the software keys are large enough for finger-tap dialing.

Wed like to see future versions of this device add a thumb keyboard, like those now offered on the Treo, the Sharp Zaurus and RIMs Blackberry products.

The T-Mobile device is powered by a lithium polymer battery, which, according to company officials, will yield 4 hours of talk time and 100 hours of standby time. This will vary depending on use of its PDA features.

The battery is not removable, but T-Mobile offers an optional external battery that clips to the back of the device.

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

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

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