Pocket PC, Palm, Symbian or Linux driven, personal digital assistants (PDAs) have been around for a good 10 years now, and nearly everyone is familiar with their functionality. The smartphone, however, is a newer and lesser-known member of the technology family tree. Rising in visibility over the last few years, in part aided by the increasingly robust data networks, smartphones take the application functionality of PDAs and add the wireless connectivity that allows users to browse the Web, send e-mails and file electronic time cards. Though certain PDAs can be equipped to access the Web via Wi-Fi access points, most are not hooked up. It’s with the availability of today’s 3G networks that data plans—and smartphones—are beginning to appear the darling in the eyes of CIOs and IT managers. Of course, choosing the right technology can be difficult, and in this case it boils down to the question: Is wireless—versus simply mobile—computing what I need?
This is a question one busy company recently answered for itself. Efficiency has been a principle tenet of the Atlanta, Ga.–based United Parcel Service since the company first began delivering packages in 1907. Committed to maintaining the high levels of service its customers have come to expect, UPS recently identified a need to perform more uniform evaluations of its drivers. One of the most difficult aspects of any company’s employee evaluation process, says Cathy Callagee, VP of information services for UPS, has been determining whether a supervisor is using enough objectivity during the review. Recognizing handheld PDAs and smartphones as stars of the mobile enterprise market, UPS considered the benefits of each and the true needs of its supervisors before deciding to purchase 800 HP iPAQ PDAs for use at 236 of its locations.
Supervisors now begin their shifts by logging into the company’s network via their PDAs, which quickly update them on overnight preloads and route information for that day and previous days. With this information, the supervisor can determine if a driver is consistently running late or missing pickups and drop-offs and may decide to accompany the driver on the route to look for driver actions or route problems that can be corrected.
The iPAQs, running Microsoft’s Pocket PC operating system, display a series of checklists that assist each supervisor through evaluations, guiding him or her through a list of duties the driver should be performing. The supervisor can now simply check off each duty as the driver completes it. Additionally, the checklists are uniform across the UPS network, so each driver receives the same evaluation, regardless of who is conducting the review.
Presently, UPS is satisfied with the iPAQs’ capabilities and doesn’t see the need to jump to wirelessly enabled smartphones yet. Many enterprises, however, are finding they do require the additional technology, and according to Dave Linsalata, a research analyst for IDC in Framingham, Mass., the number of “converged devices” in use—devices with PDA and telephony characteristics—will grow from 10 million in 2003 to 100 million in 2008.
The handful of manufacturers offering smart devices say that the market has yet to reach a saturation point, and the types of applications that can be run are nearly unlimited in their potential for the enterprise. The more a device can be used to accomplish business-oriented tasks—be it data collection or data transmission—the better the return on investment.
It’s with these factors in mind that Mobile Enterprise has rounded up, for your consideration, the latest crop of PDAs and smartphones.
Barely in the PDA market for 18 months, Dell now offers a full line-up of Pocket PC–based handhelds, ranging in options and functionality to suit everyone’s needs. The low end devices, such as the Axim X30, features an Intel 312Mhz processor, 32MB Flash, 32MB SDRAM, Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition software for Pocket PC and a USB Travel Sync Cable for $199.
Stepping up a bit to the X30 with integrated wireless adds 64MB ROM, 64MB SDRAM and 802.11b and Bluetooth connectivity for $279. The flagship of Dell’s handheld Axim series is the X30 612Mhz with integrated wireless, which includes a 612 Mhz Intel X-Scale Processor and a Microsoft Pocket PC 2003, 64MB SDRAM and 64MB flash ROM for $349. Rounding up the lineup is the X5, which features a 400Mhz Intel Xscale processor, 48MB RAM and 64MB ROM, all running on Pocket PC 2003.
While none of these offers cellular connectivity, the integrated 802.11 is a big step toward making these part of a wireless solution.
The Kyocera 7135, which debuted last fall, is believed to be the first third-generation device on the market, according to John Chier, spokesman for Kyocera Wireless Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kyocera.
“We’ve been out with smartphones longer than anyone,” says Chier, pointing to the PDQ smartphone, launched in 2000 as the first entry in the market.
Though the smartphone has access to 20,000 applications through the Palm operating system, the most important capability is still two-way telephone communications, Chier says. “Voice is the killer app.”
The 7135 can also connect with an overhead device to display PowerPoint presentations and offers expansion slots for additional memory and capabilities. Users prefer expansion slots to add capabilities when necessary, rather than carrying a device with a lot of features they don’t need, according to Chier, who sees only 5 percent of the handheld market opting for smartphones. As features become more available and affordable, some will eventually become available in mid-tier devices, Chier explains. Prices for the 7135 range from $299 to $499.
The Motorola MPx200 smartphone, the latest of the company’s Motorola MOTOPro handheld devices to feature the new Microsoft Windows mobile software, is expected to be available in the second half of the year.
The 4-ounce phone measures 1.90 x 3.5 x 1.06 inches, has an advanced flip-phone design featuring a 176 x 220 pixel internal Vivid Color TFT display, an easy-to-use interface, numerous control buttons, four-way Navigation Key, soft keys and a jog dial to allow for easy programming and navigation. A 96 x 32 pixel two line external display shows Caller ID, date and time, plus status icons at a glance You can also take files with you, with 32MB Flash ROM or 32MB SD RAM and SD MMC card (expandable up to 1GB).
Of course, this is a phone first, and it provides between 210 and 310 minutes of talk time and 70 to 100 hours of standby time when used with its slim battery. Additionally, it comes equipped with the usual bevy of calling features, such as call forwarding, multiple call timers, multiple key answer, quick access menu, ringer/vibrate suppress, call hold, call waiting and “vibracall” alert. The phone book holds up to 500 entries.
For now, the MPx200 is for use on GSM 1800/1900MHz GPRS networks. Pricing is undetermined.
At the moment, Nokia has one popular smartphone on the market, with another expected to come out this month and another later this year.
The Nokia Messenger 6820, which debuted in early 2004, looks like a standard handheld phone but has a keyboard that runs along the side of the device to allow typing of messages and of text within software programs. When the user turns the phone to use the keyboard, the screen changes its orientation by 90 degrees, so that the display is always “upright,” says Brannon Perkison, Nokia’s U.S. manager of market development.
The device offers three frequencies. Typically U.S. users have two U.S. frequencies and one European frequency, while Europoean users have two European frequencies and a single U.S. frequency.
The device is compatible with Microsoft Exchange and Lotus and offers a Web browser and a camera, but the most popular feature, according to Perkison, is the text messaging.
Instant messaging is less intrusive than calling another user and offers immediate group collaboration, Perkison says. Messaging allows one to know immediately if another party is online, an advantage that e-mail doesn’t offer.
Companies with worldwide offices like Nokia also benefit from text messaging because there’s no fear of waking someone halfway across the world with a phone call, Perkison says. Instead, any messages can be sent and accessed immediately when the recipient activates the device. Each side (even if there are several) has an ongoing record of the text messages.
The Nokia 6620 model debuts in July. The device offers the Symbian 7.0 operating system, streaming audio and video capabilities, and 130 MB of memory. The device is designed for users who need more advanced multimedia functionality than the 6820 offers.
Prices range from $200 to $225.
PalmOne has created a near best-of-breed device with the Treo 600 smartphone, which gives you everything you'd expect from a top-of-the-line mobile phone, plus a whole lot more.
It features a 144Mhz Arm Processor, a rechargeable lithium ion that provides up to 6 hours talk time and up to 240 hours (10 days) standby time for GSM/GPRS models, and up to 4 hours talk time and up to 240 hours (10 days) standby time for CDMA models. It measures 4.4 x 2.4 x 0.9 inches, weighs between 5.8 and 6.2 ounces, and boasts 24 MB of memory, accepting both SD and MMC expansion cards.
The organizer provides all the built-in productivity tools a mobile professional needs to make it through a busy day, including Calendar, Contact List, Memo Pad, To Do List, Advanced Calculator and more. It synchronizes with Microsoft Outlook and the Palm Desktop.
Mobile pros can read, write and send business or personal e-mail from virtually anywhere or send and receive SMS text messages. The built-in color Web browser provides fast access to nearly all the sites on the web. Lastly, the 600 also features a built-in digital camera, with VGA resolution at 0.3 megapixels.
By the end of the summer, all of the major U.S. carriers are expected to offer the device with various rate plans and discounts.
Pricing will be approximately $450 (after $150 rebate).
The BlackBerry 7700 series of devices—different service providers offer different models—includes functions that mobile professionals need, including compact design, second-generation color display and automatic sign on (linking is done in the background), says David Heit senior product manager of the BlackBerry enterprise business unit, Waterloo, Ontario. Another key factor is the end-to-end encryption model endorsed by the government and business users. The encryption secures the transmission on the front and back end with private key encryption on the device itself and on the server.
The data and voice-enabled BlackBerry 7730 features: phone, e-mail, SMS, browser and organizer applications; large, high-resolution screen; vibrant display supporting over 65,000 colors; available memory for application and data storage; Java development platform; integrated attachment viewing; and exceptional battery performance. Both CDMA and GSM/GPRS versions are available.
“It has more options than anything else we’ve ever made,” says Heit, pointing to a long battery life as one of the device’s favorite features. The battery can typically provide a full day’s use, even in heavy usage. That’s particularly important for mobile professionals who are in the field and away from charging devices most of the day.
Prices range from $249 to $400 depending on service provider and configuration.
The Voq Professional Phone from Sierra Wireless is a new class of mobile phone designed for business professionals. It’s a phone first, combining the features of a mobile phone, a messaging device and a PDA in one. The product’s unique flip-open QWERTY thumbpad enables users to sync to a Windows-based computer, offering the ultimate e-mail experience in a phone with secure, serverless, always-there e-mail and alerts, supporting standard, broadly deployed VPN and business e-mail systems including Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise.
Along with its cool, space-age design, it features: GSM/GPRS network compatibility; an Intel 200 MHz X-Scale processor; 48MB Flash Memory (20 MB available to store your data and software; 32MB RAM (16 MB available to run your applications) expandable to one gigabyte with memory card (D/MMC card slot for memory expansion); voice and digital calling; voice recording; secure corporate e-mail access without need for additional server; Pocket Outlook, Pocket Internet Explorer, MSN Messenger and Media Player.
This phone already possesses a “must-have-it” cachet that can only increase once it becomes more widely available later this year. Pricing and other specs still to come.
The P900, which launched in January, is the company’s top smartphone offering. The phone uses the Symbian OS version 7.0. Send and receive e-mails, download and share files and keep your calendar updated. Then connect via Bluetooth or Infrared to synchronize the data with your PC. Data input is aided by the on-screen keyboard and large, 65,000 color, 208 x 320 pixel touchscreen.
The P900 takes both still and video images, which can be shared via e-mail or MMS. Storing them on the device is easy, with 16 MB of user memory plus the 32MB Memory Stick Duo storage media.
Of course, what mobile professional doesn’t want to be entertained while on the road. The P900 is ready to tackle games, has an MP3 audio player, polyphonic ringtones and is open for third party applications.
It measures 4.5 x 2.2 x 0.9 inches. Talk time lasts up to 16 hours, and standby time can run up to 480 hours.
Price is about $799.99, depending on configuration.
Phil Britt is a freelance writer who covers technology.