Some technophiles believe that the PDAs, cell phones, digital cameras, and other small devices we now find ourselves burdened with will eventually merge into a single device. Handspring already builds an attachment port, a Springboard cartridge that can turn their handheld into a phone.
The Visorphone module retails for $249 when purchased with a service plan: the cost of the phone service will depend on what plan you choose. Visorphones can be used with plans from VoiceStream Wireless, Cingular Wireless, and Powertel.
The earpiece speaker of the phone is located in the module, and your words are picked up by a tiny microphone that was built into the main body of your Visor all along. This makes it possible to hold the module just as you would a phone.
Because the software comes preinstalled, installation is instantaneous. And since the phone's software integrates seamlessly with the Palm OS's default address book, users can slide in the module, select a name from their virtual Rolodex, and immediately start dialing. It's truly elegant.
The module's preinstalled software imitates the features often available on standard cell phones, allowing you to set speed-dial numbers and view a list of incoming and outgoing calls. When you need to dial, you can pull up a pixelated touch screen replica of a standard telephone keypad; simply use your stylus to press the buttons. Users can also send SMS e-mails and access the Internet through their own ISP.
Unfortunately, holding a handheld as one would a phone remains awkward. It is too wide, and you may worry whether the screen will pick up oil or make-up from your face. Handspring provides a headset for people who prefer to look like they're talking to themselves, or who want to access information while talking on the phone.
This device is hard to recommend for individual users since far more people have cell phones than handhelds. The device might be useful, however, to companies whose employees only occasionally need cell phone service.
Finally, keep in mind that carriers' phone service coverage differs from place to place. Ultimately, the actual usefulness of the phone is limited by the service, not the piece of hardware being used to access it.
HANDSPRING VISORPHONE MODULE
MANUFACTURER: Handspring; 888-565-9393; www.handspring.com
CONFIGURATION: Preloaded telephone and messaging software; phone service through VoiceStream, Cingular, or Powertel; 2.4 by 2 by 0.6 inches; 2.9 ounces; 3.7V rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery
PROS: Software comes pre-installed on module; phone integrates seamlessly with Palm OS address book application
CONS: Replaces a device you probably already own; a handheld is too wide and bulky to be used as a phone