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September 25, 2000
Phone module signals new generation

Today Handspring announced its new Visor Phone, a module that integrates a GSM phone into your Visor. Operation is simple, you plug it in and the software is loaded. You can use the included headset or simply hold the Visor up to your ear like a regular phone. Yes, the Visor's built-in microphone finally has a use. The first model is a GSM phone, but that allows for some pretty cool features, including 9.6Kbps modem functionality and compatibilty with any modem software. You can use the Visor's other programs while making calls, even holding conference calls. Speed dialing is done easily with the push-button interface, and calls are logged, including missed calls. There's even a short message service for chatting with your buddies no matter where you are.

Price will be US$299 and it will only available on Handspring's website. Orders can be taken early, but the phones won't be available until late November. There is a possibility of future phones that will be compatible with CDMA and other standards; whether those will come from Handspring or other vendors is unclear. Service will be through Bell South DCS, Pacific Bell Wireless, Powertel, and VoiceStream. Jeff Hawkins mentioned at PC Expo that he thought the future of handheld devices was voice, and he clearly meant what he said.

A similar phone was announced last Friday by Palm, Inc., probably in anticipation of Handspring's announcement today. This phone will also be available only on GSM networks, with a list of simliar features, and at the same price of US$299. It is designed for the Palm V. Release of this unit is expected in early 2001, and it will be made by RealVision. Arrival of the Handspring Visor Phone looks to be considerably more imminent, since I've seen a working model of the Visor Phone, and only mockup drawings of the as yet unnamed phone for the Palm V. Either way, it looks like there might be an integrated phone in your future. -Shawn Barnett

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