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PDA/Phone Hybrids Lighten the Load
Originally delivered as an AICPA Tech Alert sent February 11, 2002
By Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA, CITP

Ever-present communication and instant knowledge access are paramount for business. The need to be "connected" has caused many professionals to carry more than just cell phones and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants). A number of add-on products, as well as batteries and chargers, are an absolute must if professionals are going to take these communication tools on the road Ė often for days at a time.

To minimize the amount of "stuff" needed to effectively communicate, a number of vendors have created hybrid solutions that combine the best features of our phones and PDAs.

While the majority of products are built on the Palm OS platform, they will integrate information from the major personal information managers. In addition, products have built-in speakerphones (except the Motorola, which requires a cable or add-on speakerphone), can dial from existing contacts and use serial connections (except the Handspring, which uses a much faster USB connection).

A note of caution: Hybrids use a variety of phone standards and services that could impact the viability of these products as a possible solution, depending on the location and mobility of the user (as well as the cost of the service and features you use).

Kyocera QCP Smart Phone        One of the first products out of the gate in 2001 was the Kyocera QCP Smart Phone (approximately $400). The Kyocera uses the CDMA phone network through companies like Verizon. While the unit is heavier and slightly larger than the other units, it supports WAP, SMS and HTML for full-blown Web browsing and Internet functionality, as well as voice-activated calling.

Samsung SPH-i300 Samsung followed this at the end of 2001 with the SPH-i300 using the Sprint PCS network. Cost for the 6.2-ounce unit with a 256-color backlit display is approximately $500, and includes a second battery for extending the life between charges. The SPH-i300 also has voice-activated calling and full-featured Web browsing, but at 14.4Kbps, it can be slow and eat up service plan minutes similar to the Kyocera if you are not paying attention and forget to turn the browsing off.

Handspring Treo While promised, the $400 Handspring Treo is just now being delivered to the US market. The clamshell design allows for a very compact size and the lightest weight of the four products. While it does not have voice-activated dialing or a color screen (expected to be delivered the latter part of this year), it provides users the option of using the traditional Palm OS Graffiti handwriting or a thumb keyboard (similar to the Blackberry/RIM units). The Treo phone uses the GSM phone standard, so you can expect them to work with VoiceStream, Cingular and other GSM providers (the principal standard when traveling internationally).

Motorola Accompli 009 The final product in this review is the Motorola Accompli 009, which is very different from the units above because it uses a pager form factor with PDA capabilities and a built-in phone instead of a phone factor with a built in PDA. While the other units can work just like a standard handheld phone, the Accompli requires a hands-free earpiece/microphone cable to make calls, or a $50 add-on speakerphone. Because of its form factor, it will be very attractive to mobile professionals that currently use a pager and would like Blackberry-like capabilities. In addition, it is a tri-band GSM phone, which makes it usable internationally.

Mobile professionals who want the functionality of their PDA and a viable phone solution without carrying two devices will find these are good solutions. However, each of these products have their limitations. Prioritizing the userís phone, PDA, browsing and messaging needs, as well as evaluating the mobility required and service plans available, will ensure users make the best decision.

Roman Kepczyk, CPA, CITP, is president of InfoTech Partners North America, Inc. Contact him at roman@itpna.com

Editorís Note: Opinions of authors and the AICPA staff are their own and do not necessarily reflect policies of the Institute of the Information Technology Section. Any hardware or software products mentioned do not in any way represent an endorsement by the Institute or Section.

 ©2002 InfoTech Partners North America, Inc.
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