Mountain View, Calif. - Handspring announced today it will ship cellular phone modules for Palm OS devices by the end of the year.
Called the VisorPhone, it is an expansion module that snaps onto a Handspring Visor, allowing it to act as a cellular phone.
Heating up the race to convert handhelds to smart wireless devices was Palm Inc., which yesterday reported that Motorola will offer a co-branded, triband GSM wireless phone by early 2002. It was joined by Kyocera, which is expected to offer a Palm OS smartphone by the end of the year, and Nokia, which is slated to offer a similar phone by 2001.
The VisorPhone will offer access to cell functions such as conference calling, caller ID, detailed call history, and speed dialing, which it said will be simplified by its larger screen and simple user interface. Handspring claims the phone will provide seamless integration with the Visor's personal information manager (PIM), so when the VisorPhone is snapped into the Visor it can instantly access the phone numbers stored in the PIM. These can be dialed simply by tapping on the number and then tapping on the "dial" icon.
The VisorPhone can also be used for short message service (SMS), text messaging, and wireless synchronization with a desktop computer and when combined with third-party software, wireless access to the Internet and email applications. (Users must download a Web browser, the company said.) Users can also multitask, by using the Visor's PIM functions while on the phone.
The VisorPhone will be available by the end of the year for $299 with activation of a service plan. It will be offered only through handspring.com initially, for those who want to purchase just the VisorPhone and service, or the Visor and VisorPhone plus service. It should be available through retailers and in Europe during the first half of 2001. Four GSM carriers will provide service for the VisorPhone, including Bell South DCS, Pacific Bell Wireless, Powertel and VoiceStream.
The VisorPhone module contains a battery, speaker, antenna and three buttons, including an on/off button and two buttons for switching between voice and text message functions. It also comes with a headset.