Four World Phones
RESEARCH IN MOTION BLACKBERRY PEARL
Both T-Mobile and Cingular offer the BlackBerry Pearl by Research in Motion, although only T-Mobile has the new white Pearl. The Pearl is an 88 gram quad-band device with a 240×260 color display. It supports GSM/GPRS and EDGE (Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution) and includes a memory expansion slot for a MicroSD card. It supports BlackBerry e-mail, public instant messaging via AOL, ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo, corporate instant messaging (Lotus Sametime), an HTML browser, and uses RIM’s SureType keyboard technology. Phone features include voice activated dialing, a speakerphone, simplified call management for conference calling and smart dialing, and Bluetooth wireless technology.
Unlike other BlackBerry devices, the Pearl has a modified QWERTY keyboard with shared keys in many positions (i.e. E and R and U and I). This gives it a more phone-like form factor although typing suffers slightly (keep in mind that most people do not type out War and Peace with a handheld device anyway).
The Pearl is my personal favorite due to the combination of the candy bar mobile telephone form factor with PDA functionality. The pearl-like trackball allows for very easy navigation and the display provides sharp clear text.
In short, it’s a better mobile phone with no compromises.
PALM TREO 750
The brand new Palm Treo 750 is available from Cingular at $399 and unlocked from Palm at $649.
The Treo 750 is the first Palm five-band device I’ve tested. The UMTS service from Cingular supports simultaneous use of phone and Web or e-mail. If UMTS is not available, the 750 will fall back to EDGE. The Treo 750 will, for the time being, arrive enabled for UMTS with a free upgrade, scheduled for later in 2007, to Cingular’s high-speed HSDPA technology.
It runs Windows Mobile 5.0 with Direct Push Technology, and supports e-mail, messaging, Web browsing, productivity tools, as well as many other applications. The 750 features a full QWERTY keyboard (an improved design), 1.3-megapixel camera, a 240×240 touch screen, and support for Bluetooth stereo headsets. The built-in 60 Mbytes of user-available storage can be expanded to 2 Gbytes via a miniSD slot.
This is not your ordinary Windows Mobile: Palm has greatly enhanced the interface, adding a new messaging application with threaded chat for text and MMS message; Today Screen enhancements, including a fast dial-by-name feature; support for call and voicemail management from the Today Screen, including VCR-like controls such as rewind, fast forward, and delete for voicemail; and my personal favorite, the ability to “ignore” a call while simultaneously sending a quick text message to the caller such as “in a meeting – will call back soon” directly from the incoming call screen.
I was skeptical on the robustness of Windows Mobile as the Treo 700w I’ve used crashed frequently (compared to the Treo 700p, which uses the Palm operating system and didn’t crash at all) but the Treo 750 did not share this trait.
I was happy to see that the 750 has a hidden aerial, a design trait started with the Treo 680, with which it shares its basic form factor. The 750 has an elegant soft-touch exterior (no need to purchase a case) and despite its size, feels comfortable in your hand. If you want 3G service and a standard QWERTY keyboard, this is an excellent choice.
PALM TREO 680
If your mobile telephony needs don’t require broadband, the Treo 680 is worthy of consideration.
The Treo 680 is a GSM/GPRS/EDGE quad-band mobile device. It supports e-mail, Web browsing, messaging, multimedia, calendar, and contact management. It has an internal antenna and slim form factor, with a 320×320 color screen and full keyboard. It also supports Bluetooth 1.2, which includes support for multiple Bluetooth connections.
It’s available from Cingular for $199; an unlocked model from Palm is available at $399. The twist: the unlocked version is available in four colors: crimson, copper, arctic, and graphite.
The Treo 680 uses the time-tested Palm operating system. Compared to older Treos, including the 700 family, it’s faster to use (thanks to an improved phone application) and feels more comfortable in the hand. It also has a much improved keyboard (the buttons are redesigned, making thumb-challenged typists less clumsy). Similar to the Treo 750, calls arriving at an inconvenient time can be ignored while sending out a quick text message to the caller. It also supports the display of threaded chats.
Mobile business travelers can access various Cingular-enabled wireless e-mail solutions as Cingular Xpress Mail, Microsoft Exchange Active Sync, and Good Mobile Messaging from Good Technology, as well as e-mail from POP3 and IMAP accounts.
If you’ve lusted after a Treo and price is a consideration, you need go no further than the Treo 680.
SONY ERICSSON W810i
A slightly different path is taken by Sony Ericsson, with its line of Walkman phones. The W810i is a small, candy bar form factor mobile that has a large, high resolution color display and a very clear, easy-to-use user interface.
Its design is reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite mobiles, the Sony Ericsson T610. The W810i allows the business traveler to take his own music with him, whether it’s from CDs or music stored on the computer. It supports MP3 and AAC formats. You can also purchase new music from mobile operator specific over-the-air download services. Music is controlled by the dedicated Walkman button (which sometimes can be inadvertently pushed, the only downside I found in testing the device).
The W810i also has a 2 megapixel camera built in, which is really good for a mobile phone (most still have 1.3 megapixel sensors at best). You can share photos with your computer or other devices including Bluetooth-enabled printers using Bluetooth.
What impressed me most about the W810i is the form factor – it feels great in your hand and doesn’t take up much pocket space. If you are listening to music and a call comes in, the music pauses. You can also operate it in a music-only mode for air travel. This is the only mobile in our review that isn’t a smart phone. If you want a great phone and music for your business trips that will work in 190 countries, look no further.
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.