MDA
T-Mobile
The new MDA phone has a great slide-out keyboard and a screen you can use in either horizontal or vertical position.
By Columnist
msnbc.com
updated 1/31/2006 5:01:36 PM ET 2006-01-31T22:01:36

With the BlackBerry court case heating up attention is turning to other phones/PDAs that might make workable replacements. I’m getting lots of e-mails asking what to do if Blackberry service is really turned off in the near future.

Today, T-Mobile announced the release of two new cellular devices that could help nervous BlackBerry users get through the next few months.

Both new GSM phones, the MDA and the SDA, run on the Microsoft Mobile 5.0 operating system — but are very different in looks, feel and basic operations.  (MSNBC.com is a Microsoft – NBC joint venture.)

The MDA is in the Pocket PC tradition. In the cellular industry that means it looks and feels more like a traditional PDA that also functions as a phone. The SDA, on the other hand, is the same size and shape as many other cell phones, but with lots of added functionality.

I’ve been playing with both of them for the past few days and they're both terrific. Which one fits you best is likely a matter of personal preference.

MDA
The MDA looks and feels like a PDA. It has a touch screen and a small stylus. You can move from program to program just like you can on other PDAs. You can also use the provided buttons to navigate around all the features.

It measures 4.3 by 2.3 inches and weighs 5.29 ounces. It is a quad-band world phone which operates on the 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz bands and is GPRS/EDGE enabled for wireless data.

Dialing a phone call means pressing one of the phone buttons on the front and using the stylus or your finger to dial a soft keypad on the screen. Talk time is stated as 5.5 hours with five days of standby reserves.

The 2.8-inch screen has 65,000 colors and is 320 x 240 pixels. When you slide the screen out of the way you’re greeted with a small but very usable QWERTY keyboard. The MDA also comes fully loaded with features including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a 1.3 megapixel camera, an MP3 player, and a Mini SD memory slot. Retail price is $399.99, presumably with a service contract.

SDA
The SDA looks and feels like a cell phone with lots of features.

SDA
T-Mobile
The SDA has buttons right beneath the screen which control MP3 music playback.
It does not have a touch screen or a stylus. Everything is controlled by the buttons on the front of the handset. Most of those buttons are for telephone dialing and those same buttons act as your alphabet input system.

The SDA measures 4.53 by 1.82 inches and weighs a scant 3.74 ounces. It also supports 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz bands operation, GPRS and EDGE data services and can be used nearly everywhere on the planet.

The SDA has a 2.2 inch, 320 by 240 pixel screen which provides 65,000 colors and is 320 x 240 pixels. It also has Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a 1.3 megapixel camera, an MP3 player and Mini SD memory slot. The SDA is priced at $299.99.

The competition
The MDA is almost an exact clone of the Sprint/Verizon 6700 phone I told you about recently . Only differences I can see are the two buttons on the MDA that take you directly to your preferred e-mail program and to Pocket Internet Explorer. Both are located right near the earpiece, above the screen.

The MDA has some stiff competition. The Palm 700w has some innovative features but also has the worst QWERTY keyboard of the bunch. The Sprint/Verizon 6700 has a larger, easier to use slide-out keyboard.

While the MDA has the best keyboard of the bunch, its EDGE data network is just not as fast as the other phones’ EV-DO capabilities. For instance, Slingbox Mobile works on the MDA but looks somewhat better on the other, faster networks. On the other hand, the MDA, unlike the other CDMA-based phones, can be used nearly all over the world.

I intend to take the MDA with me to the 3GSM cellular technology conference in Barcelona, Spain in a few weeks. It will be interesting to make and receive calls plus watch my home cable TV from 3,000 miles away. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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