Image:Tungsten W
The first Palm with a phone - and the first with a keyboard instead of a Grafitti writing area - the Tungsten W is a headset-only phone with a clever workaround.
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msnbc.com

It’s about time. Palm’s largest competitors have had cellular phones on the market for years. Some are producing second and third-generation phones that work on the Palm OS. Today, Palm introduces the second device in their Tungsten line — the W.

InsertArt(1797266)FOLLOWING THE SUCCESS of their ultra-cheap Zire and the snap-open Tungsten T Palm now has a cellular phone to call their own. The Tungsten W is a PDA with a phone inside. That means the device is as large as a full-sized PDA on the outside. That’s opposed to a phone with PDA functions inside - such as some of the new offerings from Motorola, SonyEricsson and Nokia.

The “W” is large, heavy and solidly built. It has a nice metal feel to it. It’s 4.8 inches by 3.07 inches by 0.65 inches. The little antenna on top adds almost another inch. You’ll be aware of it when it’s in your pocket. The W weighs 6.4 ounces. That makes it bigger than its main competition, the Handspring Treo. You’ll notice from the picture that this is the first to come from Palm with a keyboard on the bottom - a la Treo and Blackberry e-mail devices. Grafitti fans shouldn’t worry - you can install the Jot program from an included CD and have the entire screen to write on.

A PEEK UNDER THE HOOD

Inside is a Palm PDA which runs on OS 4.1.1. That means there’s a now old-fashioned 33 MHz Dragonball processor in it. Other new Palm devices run on a later OS, version 5.0 which supports faster/newer processors. There’s a sharp 320 by 320 pixel color touch screen, a SD/MMC card expansion slot and 8 MB of flash memory along with 16 MB of SDRAM. There’s also a very well integrated, multi-function GSM/GPRS world phone inside.

The monster rechargeable battery requires special mention. The battery is said to provide you with up to 10 hours of talk time and days worth of standby life. That’s a big difference from Handspring’s Treo where battery life has been a concern of some heavy phone users. The W’s batteries seem to last for days at a time. The Treo spends a lot of time attached to its charger.

THE HEADSET MINDSET

The Tungsten W has no speaker or microphone built-in. That means you must use a headset to use it as a cellular phone. When Palm showed me a prototype a few months ago I suggested they not release it. Not because it didn’t work - but because other headset-only phones were not huge successes. Palm listened very carefully.

When they showed me the final production model a few days ago I was asked to look carefully at the leather flip-case on the outside. What they’ve done is to integrate a speaker, microphone and a control button into the little case. It actually plugs right into the headset jack and works perfectly. They’ve come up with a fantastic, elegant solution. Too bad they plan to sell their Audio Flip Cover as a $40 optional accessory.

AN A-OKAY PDA

The PDA functions of the W worked flawlessly. I found Palm’s keyboard a little easier to use than the Treo’s - and finding the home screen is a welcome one-button task on the Palm versus a confusing two-button affair on the Treo. The phone and data functions are also superb. Service on AT&T’s network has been rock solid. Browser download times, while not speedy, seemed perfectly suited to the slower-speed processor inside. Both the HTML browser - and the text-only WAP browsers work exactly as promised.

Palm mentions on one of the included discs that you can buy and install third-party VPN (Virtual Private Networking) software for the Palm. That’s one of the ways I connect to my office from outside locations. Pocket PCs come with that feature built-in - and it’s about time that Palms had that functionality too.

Palms run on PC’s and Macs and the Tungsten W is no exception. The W currently runs on the AT&T Wireless network. Monthly service charges vary for both voice and data. You should probably sign up for the largest amount of data you can afford - because once you begin using the W - you’ll find you’re using it a lot. For the record, Palm says the W is capable of 5-way calling - something I admit I did not test - but it’s there if you want it.

The suggested retail price for the W is $549 - and can be ordered at Amazon.com, CDW.com, Comp USA.com, FranklinCovey.com, JandR.com, MicroWarehouse.com, OfficeDepot.com, PCConnection.com and Staples.com, and soon at store.palm.com.

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