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Buy and Cell

Which cell phone is for you? We pick the best
Steve Morgenstern
From the Print Edition:
Dennis Hopper, Jan/Feb 01

(continued from page 2)

How Smart Is Your Phone?

You need to carry a cell phone for communication. You need to carry a personal digital assistant -- a Palm, Pocket PC or what have you -- for information. What if we could duck into Dr. Frankenstein's lab and merge the two into a single multifunction gadget?

Carrying one device instead of two sounds like a good idea at first blush, especially when the different functions can share a single phone number list. Early attempts in the category, though, were big, hulking things -- carry one in your jacket pocket and it looks like you work for Tony Soprano. Recently, though, so-called smart phones have improved tremendously. The Kyocera Smartphone and Ericsson R380 are slim and stylish but still offer pocket-size access to your contact information, calendar and to-do list. Unlike the other phones in this survey, the Kyocera even offers access to the full-blown Internet instead of the wireless Web. Both phones come with software and cables that let you transfer information from your computer to the phone, so you don't have to retype anything. And unlike their predecessors, these new smart phones don't feel like a brick when you hold them to your ear to make a call.

The Next Big Thing

Seems whenever you make a high-tech purchase, a new development is just over the horizon. Right now it's Bluetooth, a technology that will be widely available in 2001. Basically, Bluetooth is a short-range radio system that lets the devices you're carrying talk to one another. For example, your Bluetooth-enabled phone could wirelessly share a phone list with your Bluetooth-equipped desktop computer or PDA. Ericsson will offer a cordless headset able to make and receive calls via the Bluetooth-enabled phone placed in your pocket, using voice commands.

Bluetooth technology is supported by essentially everyone on both the computer and telecommunications sides of the industry. What's more, the radio transmitter/receiver required to provide Bluetooth support in a device adds only about $20 to $35 to the cost, so expect plenty of interesting uses. Does it pay to buy one of the first Bluetooth-enabled phones? As always, that depends on your appetite for the cutting edge. With full bragging rights come the rough edges and high prices of first- version technology. As more people embrace Bluetooth technology, add-ons for existing phones will appear, and prices will plunge. You may want to choose one of our other favorite phones and wait it out.

Steve Morgenstern writes often on technology.

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