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T-Mobile, HP Unveil 1st WiFi PDA Phones

Palo Alto, Calif. — T-Mobile entered into an exclusive deal with Hewlett-Packard to offer the industry’s first PDA phones equipped with embedded 802.11b Wi-Fi to deliver faster-than-3G data rates when used in public hot spots or in wireless networks in the home or enterprise.

The co-branded, co-developed iPAQ h6315, with built-in VGA camera, and the camera-less h6310 run on Microsoft’s Pocket PC-based Windows Mobile 2003 Phone Edition OS. They will be available to consumers and to enterprise customers in the third week of August through all T-Mobile direct and indirect channels, and through HP’s online store, at an everyday price of $499 with activation.

To go with the GSM-network PDA phones, T-Mobile will offer a data plan that offers unlimited data use through both its GPRS packet-data footprint and through its network of hot spots, which number more than 7,000. The device will also be able to connect to hot spots operated by other companies. T-Mobile didn’t reveal plan pricing.

In other PDA developments, HP unveiled a “digital entertainment” RX3000 PDA series featuring Wi-Fi and a new user-friendly interface that integrates music and imaging. New enterprise models were also unveiled.

Key features of the PDA-phones include embedded Bluetooth, redirection of POP3/IMAP4 and Microsoft Exchange email, and quad-band (850/900/1800/1900MHz) cellular operation, enabling them to roam in GSM/GPRS networks around the world and, potentially, in other U.S. GSM networks. T-Mobile’s previous PDA phones were triband worldphones operating in 900/1800/1900MHz networks.

To simplify data usage, the phones’ automatic “sniff-and-connect” feature connects the phone automatically to the fastest data network available, whether Wi-Fi or GPRS. The device will also switch automatically between GPRS and Wi-Fi networks when a data session is over. If a user sends an email via GPRS, then walks into a T-Mobile hot spot, the next email will be sent via Wi-Fi, said Scott Ballantyne, T-Mobile’s senior VP of business services.

The devices do not deliver voice-over-IP (VoIP) service via Wi-Fi, he noted.

The 4.7-inch by 3-inch by 0.75-inch phones, which weigh little more than six ounces, ships with snap-on keyboard to complement the pen-based touch screen. It also features widescreen 3.5-inch color LCD display,

In PDAs lacking cellular capability, HP plans a fall debut of a “digital entertainment” PDA series, all equipped with Wi-Fi and a more consumer-friendly user interface. Some feature 1.2-megapixel cameras. At an estimated street price of $499, the rx3000 series PDAs will be the first Pocket PCs to stream and display media from networked PCs and control the playback of PC content through networked AV systems. Audio can be heard through the built-in speaker or through headphones.

Some of the RX3000 series models will have built-in 1.2-megapixels cameras that are designed to function as typical digital cameras (including the manner in which the user takes a picture, edits photos and assigns photos to e-mail or a printer), said the company.