Kyocera gets "smart" with cell phone-PDA combo

The company officially unveils its Smartphone, a combo unit that succeeds Qualcomm's PDQ--the first product to combine a Palm device with a wireless phone.

Kyocera on Monday officially unveiled its Smartphone, a combination Palm handheld and cell phone that succeeds Qualcomm's PDQ.

As previously reported, the combo unit includes a built-in Web browser and can share data with a PC. Wireless service providers are expected to begin offering the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) phone early next year.

Japan's Kyocera acquired the PDQ when it bought Qualcomm's handset business in February.

At 7 ounces and nearly an inch thick, the Smartphone is bigger than most cell phones, although it is smaller and sleeker than its predecessor, the PDQ, which debuted in 1998. That unit was widely criticized for its heft, as well as its poor integration of a phone and handheld computer.

The Smartphone "is substantially smaller than the first one," Kyocera product manager Gary Koerper said. "It's small enough to be your primary phone."

In addition, the PDQ cost about $800--more than a cell phone and a Palm device purchased separately. Kyocera representatives said they expect the new phone, which will be priced by its wireless service providers, will sell for under $500.

Koerper concurs that the original PDQ wasn't up to snuff.

"The technology on the phone side was not there to allow enough integration to make it small enough to be your primary phone," Koerper said. Kyocera plans future Smartphones that will add additional phone and handheld features, although Koerper did not offer any details.

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Kyocera unveils its Smartphone
Michael Wallace, VP, Kyocera Wireless
The idea for the original PDQ may have been ahead of its time, but combining a handheld and cell phone is now becoming popular. Handspring unveiled its VisorPhone add-on cartridge in September. Earlier this month, Microsoft and Sagem announced a Pocket PC device capable of handling voice calls. In addition, Palm and Motorola are working together on a new type of integrated PDA-phone to debut in 2002.

The Smartphone allows three modes of Web surfing: The phone supports HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) browsers with Secure Socket Layer encryption, Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), and Palm's Web Clipping applications and WAP browsers. The Smartphone, which has a built-in version of Eudora for email, can also act as a wireless modem for a laptop PC through its charging cradle or an optional serial cable.

Kyocera's product has 8MB of memory and uses the latest version of the Palm operating system, version 3.5. A jog dial on the left side of the phone allows owners to shift between the contact list, call history, phone settings and messages.

The company will market the device to technophiles, as well as to corporate and industrial customers who already use the Palm operating system, Koerper said.

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