Image: HTC's TyTN
HTC's TyTN phone is not sold by a U.S. carrier — but can you use it here anyway?
By Columnist
updated 9/27/2006 3:05:16 PM ET 2006-09-27T19:05:16

Smartphones. Why are they so smart? And which one is the perfect choice for you?

Mark Stevens of Portland, Oregon asks:

What category or type of cell phone allows me to review spreadsheets and access the Web, in the field? Whenever I go to the store, the sales help seems friendly, but I am not sure they know all there is to know.

And, from Houston, Texas Richard Carter — The Struggling IT guy (his designation, not mine) wants to know:

I am in search of an all-in-one type device for cell, PDA, and music. The e62 from Nokia comes as close as ever to what I am looking for.

I do not care about a camera. I would like e-mail, RSS feeds, the ability to download podcasts and/or audio books, to make phone calls, surf the Web (usually news), and view the occasional office document.

This will be a personal purchase so price is a factor, as well. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi would be nice.  In your professional opinion, would it be best to wait a year or jump on the bleeding/cutting edge?

Both Mark and Richard are describing a category of cellular devices known as smartphones. A smartphone is called smart because it’s not only a phone, but also a handheld mini computer.

Today’s smartphones can do a lot of things that used to be the dominion of desktop computers such as send and receive e-mail and instant messages, browse the Web, create and read word processing documents and spreadsheets, play games and record and play music and video.  Some sport Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity and even GPS devices.

Not all smartphones can do all things, however. Some can do only Internet e-mail, others can sync with your mail server at work.  Some have cameras. Others can handle VoIP calls as well as regular cell phone calls. Some smartphones are embraced by teens — others are favorites of business people. You get the idea.

You have to do your homework before you buy anything. Start by reading the reviews (there are plenty right here on this site) and decide which features fit your needs best. Narrow the list and then check to see if your cellular provider sells those handsets.

The final step is to go to a store and check out the phone in person. You may find that the phone you liked on paper is too large or heavy — or that the keys are too small or too close together. Insist that you get a 30-day (or longer) money-back trial period — so you can return the phone if you really can’t stand using it after using it for awhile.

Wayne, who hails from Austin, Texas, has a question that utilizes lots of letters in the alphabet:

Does the HTC TyTN PDA phone work now on Cingular’s UMTS with HSDPA connections? How comprehensive is the U.S. coverage with this 3G access? What about T-Mobile?

First, an explanation is in order. HTC is a company that’s been making terrific cell phones for years — usually without the HTC name on them. For instance, T-Mobile sells both the MDA and SDA Windows Mobile smartphones made for them by HTC.

HTC’s new TyTN device is a 3G Windows Mobile smartphone which is currently not marketed in the United States. It’s a quad-band, worldwide GSM phone which supports tri-band UMTS (high-speed data network) and HSDPA (very high-speed data network in Europe), Quad-Band EDGE (slightly slower speed data) as well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Cingular has begun rolling-out their UMTS network across the U.S. Check with them to see if your area in included in their service area. T-Mobile is expected to follow in the near future.

While the TyTN handset should work when you install your Cingular SIM card you’re on your own when it comes to making sure all the TyTN’s features work. 

When Cingular or any other carrier sells you a phone it’s supposed to work right out of the box. They should make sure all the settings are correct. If you buy what is called an “unlocked” phone it’s up to you to figure out how to get everything configured properly. Good luck!

Mario of Illinois wants to help his sibling but isn’t sure how to make the connection:

How can I access my brother’s IP address without being at his computer?

You didn’t mention which operating system you and your brother are using but if it’s Windows XP – then what you need to find is the Remote Assistance feature.  Do a search for it in the Help and Support section. A shortcut is available when you press the Windows Start tab. 

Remote Assistance allows a user to invite someone they trust (in this case you) to help with their problem. When both using an Internet connection, anyone running Windows XP can chat with someone else running Windows XP — and with your permission view your screen to help work on the computer in question.

If both of you follow the instructions you should be able to help your brother from wherever you're located.

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