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Handspring unveils PDA phones

Handspring has launched a new product range which integrates phone capabilities with PDA functionality.

Due to be released in the first quarter of 2002, the Treo range will complement the company's existing line of Visor handheld computers, said Mark Dadger, a product manager at Handspring.

Previously, if users wanted to add wireless data capabilities to Handspring's Visors, they would need to purchase a "Springboard" module, which would attach to the back of the device. The new devices have a windowed flip-up cover in which the window is the size of the display on the unit, Dadger said.

Handspring unveiled two Treo models: the Treo 180, which uses a small keyboard for data entry, and the 180G, which features Palm's Graffiti handwriting recognition, Dadger said.

"We really feel strongly that the keyboard adds advantages for integrating the device with mobile phone capabilities," he said. "On the other hand, we realise that people like Graffiti."

The Treo 180 and 180G will both be enabled for wireless communication using GSM, and the software will allow users to upgrade to GPRS service in the future, Dadger said.

The device also has several on-screen features, including memory for as many as 50 one-touch dialing entries, a phone keypad, an address book viewable by first name or last name, an integrated Blazer Web browser and SMS capability. "We've also gone pretty far out of our way to make sure these phones are usable with one hand," Dadger said. "You never use two hands to use a regular cell phone."

The Treo also features a headphone jack and a switch that allows people to choose between two ring tones.

Handspring is also planning to release software for the device that would let users check e-mail from ISPs. In addition the company plans to release a version with a colour display towards the middle of next year.

Wireless carriers for the device will be Cingular Wireless and VoiceStream Wireless and Rogers Communications, AT&T Canada and Microcell Telecommunications, Dadger said.

The Treo, powered by Motorola's DragonBall VZ processor, has 16Mbytes of memory. The battery allows for up to 2.5 hours of talk time, or 60 hours of standby while the phone unit is switched on.

The Treo 180 and 180G will both be priced at $399 (£276), and the color version is expected to cost about $599 (£414).

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