heavyweight to wafer in 20 years
1983 the first mobile phone weighed 8kg and cost $4,000
by Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #700 March 25-31, 2003 Gear Guide column
is celebrating 20 years of mobile phones. In 1983, the world's first
cell phone, Motorola's DynaTAC 8000x weighed almost eight kilograms,
let you talk for 30 minutes, and could go a full eight hours between
charges. Oh yes, the price was some $3,995 in 1983 dollars.
Twenty years later, its newly-released T720, compatible
with GSM services from Rogers/AT&T or Fido,
weighs in at a svelte 101 grams, and allows up to eight
hours of talk time, with up to 190 hours between charges.
Features include SMS Messaging, colour display,
downloadable games (such as the popular Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4), and
optional GPRS Internet access. The cost: $229.
a long way: Motorola's original DynaTAC (inset) was
the size of a small lunch bucket; its new T720
weighs a mere 100 grams and lasts 90 hours between charges
flip-phone is bridging the gap between simple mobile phones and PDAs;
it uses Java-based technology allowing users to download additional
features, and includes a standard POP3 e-mail client. It can be
synchronized with your computer, PDA, or Web-based services to keep
phone numbers and calendars up to date. There's even an optional MP3
player and FM radio add-on.
T720 might be described as a mobile phone morphing into a
PDA, from the other direction, PDAs have been morphing into phones,
adding wireless communication features.
Windows-based Audiovox Thera runs versions of Word,
Excel, and Outlook; and oh yeah, it's a phone too
columns, we've seen how fans of the Palm operating system (and
GSM subscribers) can opt for Handspring's Treo, available in
both monochrome and colour-screen models. Competition to the Treo, from
Palm's Tungsten-W is coming soon to the GSM phone networks (which will
be grist for a future GearGuide column).
prefer Microsoft's Pocket Windows-powered PDAs, you needn't
feel left out of this tech-trend, however. Telus Mobility
(along with Bell Canada Mobility east of Alberta) is offering
subscribers the Audiovox Thera. A full-featured Pocket Windows
PDA, it offers a crisp colour screen and scaled-down versions of
Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.
built-in SB555 modem (from Vancouver's Sierra Wireless)
gives it network and Internet access at speeds ranging from 60 to 144
Kbps (easily comparable to land-line modems) along with a full range of
CDMA network mobile phone features. It can be used as a speakerphone or
via the bundled earphone/mike. Like the Palm-powered models,
Web-browsing and e-mail are much more satisfying with the larger screen
and better text-input of a PDA than on cell phones, even models with
PDA-pretensions like the T720.
the Treo and Tungsten-W models, there's no mini-keyboard on the Thera.
As with most other PDA models, be prepared to enter data with a stylus.
Battery life is not great: 10 hours if you're just using the PDA. Turn
on the phone or modem and it plummets to three hours talk-time, closer
to 1983's DynaTAC than Motorola's current T720. The phone book displays
all the names and phone numbers stored in the PDA Contact list, but you
can't dial directly from the Contact application.
is the PDA to beat; with keyboard, camera, MP3
player and wireless connection, it's all the
portable computing power you'll need -- for now
all, Thera is a good Pocket Windows PDA with excellent data
communication features (watch the cost of data services!) but the phone
features are more awkward than in dedicated cell phones (or
don't need something with phone capabilities, but want the ultimate
Palm-powered PDA (at least for now), the current model-to-beat is from Sony,
the $1,299 Clie PEGNZ90. Featuring a 200 MHz processor and Palm's new
OS 5.0 (only currently available in a single model from Palm itself),
it also opens up into a two-part case with a built-in keyboard for
easier text input. Other features include a high-resolution colour
screen, MP3 player and a built-in two-megapixel digital camera (with
flash), for photos as large as 1600 x 1200 pixels. Built-in Bluetooth
connectivity lets you connect it to Bluetooth-enable cell phones or
computers, and an optional wireless networking card offers the ability
to hook into the wide range of WiFi base stations for Internet access
or even access to your local area network.