Distributed by Dubai-based developer i-Mate, the $850 PDA2K and PDA2 cell phones come equipped with voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a software that shifts phone services from the highly regulated and taxed traditional local phone networks onto the unregulated Internet. The VoIP software comes from , a popular Europe-based Net phone provider.
The i-Mate phones are based on a Microsoft operating system and contain radios capable of using both cell and--the latter inexpensively distribute Internet access over short distances and are commonly found in cafes, transportation hubs, hotels and retail outlets. When you're in a Wi-Fi "hot spot," the Internet phone software lets you dial other Skype users for free, or pay 2 cents a minute for calling traditional phones.
Analysts have long suggested that the Net/cell phone tandem could prove a potent weapon that Net phone, cell and broadband providers could use to steal customers from the nation's major local phone companies.
But a new study projects it will be a number of years before Wi-Fi phones manage to fulfill expectations. Analysts at Infonetics Research say that while Wi-Fi phones are taking hold in hospitals and businesses, were negligible last year. According to estimates, revenues from the sale of such devices will grow to $4 billion by 2009, a relative pittance when compared with overall cell phone sales.