3 smart phones targets consumers

In a blink of mere months, the mobile “smart” phone has been transformed from pricey corporate gadget to an affordable alternative for ordinary folk. Cingular Wireless has unveiled three devices priced as low as $200. The shift began in May with the ‘Q’ from Motorola that Verizon Wireless introduced for $200 and now sells for $100. But no carrier has gone as wild with consumer-friendlier smart phones than Cingular, which rolled out four such devices since September. I tried out three of them: Nokia E62, the Samsung BlackJack and the Palm Treo 680. Samsung BlackJack: The BlackJack stands out among the three devices, if only because it is compatible with Cingular’s new high-speed wireless Internet network. It’s small and weighs 3.5 ounces.

Despite the size constraints, the phone features a slot for removable memory to store music and photographs, as well as a 1.3 megapixel camera. One omission is GPS satellite capability for location-tracking.

Nokia E62: The E62 is the first mass-market smart phone in the US running on Symbian, a mobile operating system that’s far more common than Palm, Windows or BlackBerry everywhere but North America. The device struck me as very comfortable to hold, the keys as spacious for typing as any BlackBerry. One design complaint: When gripping the handset, we kept accidentally hitting a side button designed for quick recording of voice memos. The screen was big, measuring 3 inches diagonally. Other features include a memory slot. One major bummer: no camera.
Palm Treo 680: The Treo 680 is well within reach for the masses at $200 with strings attached. Palm also has done a nice job slimming the Treo some: At 5.5 ounces, the 680 weighs nearly an ounce less than other Treos.

On the downside, however, the resolution of the 680 camera is just a quarter of the 1.3 megapixels on the Treo 700. The Treo 680 also lacks compatibility with the speedier Cingular network.


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