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May 31, 2006

Putting it all together: The search for a Pocket PC Phone

Filed under: Articles, pda, pocket pc, pocket pc phone, smartphone — dugancom @ 1:28 pm

Putting it all together: The search for a Pocket PC Phone by Michael Keenan

 When I decided that I needed to replace my terribly out of date mobile phone – an old Nextel i1000plus – my thoughts eventually wandered toward a pda phone.  For those that know me this probably seemed like a no brainer.  I have a long history of pda dependence going back years to a Palm 3X.  However, I already had a pda that I was quite happy with.  For the last year and a half I had used my HP iPAQ 2215 for everything from a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), an e-book reader, an MP3 player, a photo wallet, an alarm clock, a mobile web browser(utilizing a compact flash wifi card), among many other things.  Trying to cram a phone in to all of this seemed overwhelming, but curiosity – and my need for a new gadget – got the better of me.  My search was twofold – look for a new mobile phone and a new provider.  With my current cellular provider I didn’t get any reception in my home so I needed to find a carrier that did.
Through various unscientific means such as my own opinion polls of friends and work associates in conjunction with some internet research I whittled my way down to either Cingular or Verizon.  Both tended to get high marks from the users I polled and the from internet research.  With this part of the equation worked out I went online to see what kind of phones each had to offer.  I was willing to go with a 2 year commitment in the hopes of getting a better deal on phone and plan pricing.  In addition I wanted to get a group plan where my wife and I could share minutes. 
So, now I’m looking on each company’s respective websites for their state of the art Pocket PC phones.  I’m not talking about the Smart phones – these are the phones with Pocket PC software jammed into a tiny little screen that isn’t even a touch screen – that just wouldn’t satisfy my needs.  I’m talking about the full blown, “why are you talking into your calculator?” Pocket PC phones – the uber-geek, pocket protector included kind of micro computer powerhouse.  After all, I’m married now and I’m really not worried about public opinion or impressing anyone with my sleek, stylish, sexy new cell phone.
I’m hoping to spend around $300.00.  I figure I can sell my iPAQ 2215 on eBAY for $200.00 and $100.00 for a new phone seems like a pretty good deal.
So, what I find is one heck of a price tag.  Verizon has the much talked about Treo 700.  This is the first Treo with the Pocket PC operating system – Windows Mobile 5.0.  This comes in at $500.00.  Way too pricey for me and it doesn’t even have Wifi. 
Cingular’s best price on a PocketPC phone wasn’t much better.  I could get an HP iPAQ hw6510 for $400.00.  Again, no wifi.  This is a real sticking point for me.  I don’t see any reason why a device designed for communication would leave out this major specification.  Being able to connect to an 802.11b/g wireless network when it is available is a necessity.
Okay, back to the drawing board, maybe I can try this from a different angle – Ebay.
Looking up “Pocket PC phone” on Ebay gets you quite a lot of hits with a good assortment of newer and older Pocket PC phones.  At this point I’m thinking that I could get something maybe slightly used that would meet all of my requirements.  This would also give me a good cross section of exactly what is out there and what features are available in this type of gadget. 
After going through quite a lot of auction descriptions and cross referencing manufacturer web sites I had set my sites on a particular phone, the Siemens SX66.  This particular phone/pda combo had been offered by Cingular until recently and it no longer showed on their website.  It seemed to fit my wish list:  a fast 400mhz xscale processor, wifi, Bluetooth, SDIO slot and it had a slide out keyboard for text input.  So, I watched a few auctions and kept an eye on the prices.
But, sometimes you just have to get off of the internet and hit the brick and mortar.  I went to my local Verizon and Cingular stores and talked to the sales reps about what plans I was looking for.  I wasn’t impressed with my long wait at the Verizon Wireless store or the pushy salesman that I got.  He seemed to think he knew just what I needed and kept showing me phones and plans that I just wasn’t interested in. 
I had a different experience at the Cingular store.  The sales rep showed me a map of the cell coverage around my home, he talked to me about the plans that I had seen on the website and when I mentioned to him that I had been looking at a Siemens SX66 Pocket PC phone on Ebay he went into the back of the store and came out with the last SX66 that they had.  I signed on to a 2 year deal with Cingular that night with a heck of a good deal on a Pocket PC phone that had all the specifications that I had been looking for.
And you know what?  I can even talk on my Siemens SX66 sitting in my living room.

Michael Keenan is a Project Manager at DD&C (http://www.dugancom.com) and contributes to  product research for their ecommerce web store at http://dugancom.com/catalog/ and personally helps to maintain their computer support forum at http://forum.dugancom.com
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