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Handspring to charge for support calls

Following on the heels of rival Palm, the handheld maker decides free over-the-phone tech support no longer makes sense--though there are exceptions.

Owners of Handspring's handheld must start paying for over-the-phone tech support as of Jan. 2.

Under the new policy, device owners are required to pay $19.95 per incident, starting 90 days from the date of purchase. Device owners won't have to pay for e-mail support, Handspring spokesman Brian Jaquet said Wednesday. And if the problem is deemed to be covered by the warranty, he said, the phone fee will be waived.

Prior to the 90 days, the calls will still be free.

Handspring joins Palm as the only major handheld makers to charge a fee for tech support via the phone. On July 30, Palm began charging $25 per incident, starting 90 days after purchase.

Handspring's policy change was necessary for financial reasons because the customer base has grown, Jaquet said. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is No. 2 in market share for handhelds and has more than 2 million customers, Jaquet said.

"When we began our first technical support was important to offer free support to help establish our product line and trusted relationships with our customer base. As a larger and more established is financially and operationally prudent to manage the cost of these programs as they grow in scale," Jaquet said, reading from a company statement.

Handspring has been looking for ways to cut operating expenses as it tries to reach profitability. According to Handspring, the company remains on track to do so by the middle of next year.

Slowing Handspring down is a price war with rivals, such as Palm and Sony. However, Handspring is hoping that its new Treo line, which incorporates cell phone and organizer capabilities, will help give the company a leg-up on its competition.

Treo devices are expected to come out early next year.