Handspring to launch two PDA-cell phones

The company has received regulatory approval for two personal digital assistants that combine cell phone, Web browsing and traditional organizer functions, CNET News.com has learned.

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Handspring on Tuesday received regulatory approval for two handhelds that combine cell phone, Web browsing and traditional organizer functions, CNET News.com has learned.

Code-named the Manhattan, one of the units has a built-in keyboard similar to Research In Motion's BlackBerry e-mail pager, according to documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission. The other unit, code-named Shea, relies on the Grafitti handwriting-recognition program and software keyboard that are a standard part of the Palm operating system.

Handspring licenses the Palm OS.

In a letter to the FCC submitted Aug. 20, Handspring said it would market the Manhattan as the Treo k180 and the Shea as the Treo g180.

Both devices can surf the Internet using Handspring's Blazer browser and have phone features similar to Handspring's VisorPhone attachment. They also feature a 33MHz Dragonball VZ processor, 16MB of DRAM and rechargeable batteries. Both can connect to a PC using a USB or serial cable. The cover of each device flips up and acts as the earpiece for the phone, while a microphone is located at the bottom of each unit.

A Handspring representative declined to comment on the approval or provide any details about the devices. In a July conference call, however, Handspring CEO Donna Dubinsky said the company would announce new wireless products before the end of the year.

Handspring Treo g180 Earlier Tuesday, Handspring began offering its VisorPhone for free with service activation and the purchase of a handheld--a move that could clear inventory ahead of the launch of the new products.

The approval of the Handspring devices comes a day after the FCC approved the i705 wireless handheld from Palm. That unit features always-on e-mail access and the ability to get corporate data. But unlike the new Handspring models, the i705 does not appear to have the built-in ability to make phone calls. A Palm representative said the company does not comment on unannounced products.

Like the VisorPhone, Handspring's new products appear to be designed for GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks given that they feature the ability to send SMS (Short Messaging Service) text.

Staff writer Richard Shim contributed to this report.