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Handspring offers free VisorPhones

The handheld maker has begun offering for free the VisorPhone, a cell phone module that cost $299 when it hit the market late last year.

Handspring on Tuesday began offering its cell phone module, the VisorPhone, for free, with the purchase of a Visor handheld.

The add-on for Handspring's Visor line of handheld computers cost $299 when it was released in December. In addition to telecommunications, the VisorPhone enables wireless functions, such as Internet access.

The move is meant to increase VisorPhone shipments, which have not lived up to company expectations, and help spur Handspring sales. It's the latest in a string of marketing maneuvers from the Mountain View, Calif.-based company.

In mid-July, the company cut the price of the VisorPhone module to $49, with cellular service activation. The $49 promotion, which does not require that consumers buy a new Visor handheld, will continue.

Before that price cut, the company had been running a promotion that sold the unit for $99, when the phone module was purchased at the same time as a high-end handheld.

The promotion announced Tuesday has similar conditions. To receive the module for free, a consumer must purchase a Visor handheld and activate a service plan from the company's Web site. The promotion is for a limited time. However, the company has not determined an ending date for it, according to a Handspring representative.

Service plans range from around $30 to $200 per month.

In a conference call July 18, Handspring Chief Executive Donna Dubinsky said the company will continue to develop wireless communications products and will make new announcements before the end of the year.

On Monday, rival Palm received regulatory approval for the i705, an upcoming handheld with built-in wireless communications.