Samsung Palm-Powered Cellphone
Samsung Converges Communications
by Jim Bray
Korean electronics giant Samsung has come up with a gadget that could
make even me spring for a Personal Digital Assistant.
I like the idea of PDA's. They can help keep your life organized almost
as well as having a professional nag with you at all times, but the last
thing I need is another gadget to haul around. In fact, at Comdex last
week I ended up taking all the show and appointment information I'd stored
in a Palm I was reviewing and copying it onto a piece of paper so I could
free up a pocket and have one less metallic device to set off the detectors
at the show entrances.
Then, at one of those Comdex meetings, the people from Samsung showed
me a doohickey that really turned my crank.
It's called the SPH-1300, a cellular telephone that's also a fully functioning
Palm 5 PDA. Not only is the whole shebang scarcely larger than the cell
phone I use right now, but it also ups the ante on the Palm I put away
in favor of pen and paper: it has a backlit color LCD screen that's far
easier to see than the dim and monochromatic one on my Palm tester.
Could this be the way communications technology is headed?
Yessirree, and isn't that great?
The SPH-1300, which sells for about $499, uses Palm OS (operating system)
version 3.5 and comes with standard applications like Address Book, Date
Book, Expense Report, Calculator, Mail, To Do list, Memo Pad, HotSync
(which lets you upload/download to and from your personal computer) and
even a couple of games.
Oh, yeah, it also has an integrated Web Browser for those times when
you need to access your e-mail or surf while you're away from your primary
As with other Palm units, you can use the plastic stylus to work the
features (Samsung even throws in an extra one, which is a great idea since
they're so easy to lose), and you can either type in your data via a little
onscreen keyboard or use the Graffiti handwriting recognition features.
Besides the stylus, you can navigate through the unit's abundance of
features using four buttons and an up/down cursor control thingy on the
As a phone, the Samsung gives you full duplex speakerphone capabilities,
which means both parties can talk and hear at the same time. You can also
mess with the Palm features while using the speakerphone, which is darn
handy. To make it even more flexible, there's a headset jack that lets
you use the phone hands free, though the headset isn't included in the
You also get call display, voice memo (capable of recording something
like 60 ten second reminders), ten ringer tones and a vibrate setting.
Vibrate is wonderful because it lets you turn the ringer off; the only
downside I've found to it is that when it first went off when I was carrying
a phone in my chest pocket I thought I was having a heart attack.
There's also a really thoughtful feature called "Keyguard" that locks
the phone when you aren't using it so you won't call the other side of
the world by mistake.
I haven't actually tried the PDA phone yet, but the Samsung representatives
who were making me salivate over the prospect said that the Palm and phone
functionalities are completely integrated, so not only can you use the
Palm pull down menus to access phone features but you can look up contacts
in your address book and then phone them right from there.
The unit comes with a desktop battery charger (batteries are also included)
and HotSync cradle, and you can also swap data using the built in infrared
The screen only displays 256 colors, but that should be more than adequate.
The only other drawback, at least right now, is that the PDA phone is
only available to Sprint wireless customers. My sources hinted that this
may only be temporary, however, and that other providers may be signing
on before long. Good.
Taking such completely separate gadgets and turning them into a whole
that's better than the sum of the parts is such a great idea I'm surprised
nobody thought of it five years ago. And, while it isn't really a technological
innovation, it's a wonderful idea just the same.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.