Phones for the upwardly mobile
    This month's crop includes joy sticks and world phones

    by Alan Zisman (c) 2002 First published in Business in Vancouver ,  Issue #679  October 29- November 4, 2002 Gearguide  column

    Depending on whose statistics you look at, somewhere between 38 and 50 per cent of Canadians own a mobile phone. Either way, that's a lot of users. Phone providers have switched marketing strategies, from trying to convince users to buy a first mobile phone, to getting existing users to move up to a model with more bells and whistles. All are promoting hardware and services that combine voice phoning with Web access (for getting brief but instant news headlines, weather, stock prices and the like), e-mail, text messaging and other data access. Here's a sampling of some of the latest offerings.

    Fido meets Sony/Ericsson

    Fido's Vtech A700For a mere $100 (after assorted activation credits), Fido users can get Sony/Ericsson's new T200. Ice blue, with GPRS-standard world-wide usability, this model features backlighting and picture messaging. Fido notes that with this or other world phone models, customers can use their handsets in 109 countries.

    Alternatively, Canadian company VTech Telecommunications worked with Fido to develop their A700, Fido's lightest-ever handset. With a one-touch joystick, predictive text input, and a unique icon interface, it sells for $75 after a $50 activation credit.

    Rogers presents Motorola

    Motorola V70 is small and classyLike Fido, Rogers AT&T uses the GSM/GPRS standards. Among its newest models, Motorola's V70 stands out for its twist-around styling, enabling a pocket-sized phone to become big enough to use with ease; it's much smaller than it appears in the ads: 9.4 cm tall and weighing in at a svelte 83 grams. Like other GPRS phones, it's always connected for mobile Internet access and e-mail. Its text messaging can connect to computer users running the popular ICQ instant messaging program.

    A classy package, but priced like one: prices range from $349 to $549, depending on monthly plan selected.

    A few months ago, this column looked at Handspring's Treo 1800, an innovative cross between a Palm-compatible PDA and a Rogers- supported mobile phone ($599). Upgrades to Rogers' network now allow Treo owners to access the Web and e-mail, following a simple software upgrade. The Treo's larger screen and keyboard make this Internet access a much more pleasant experience than on standard cell phones.

    Bell Mobility offers Sierra Wireless

    Audiovox Thera is a Pocket Windows PDA with built-in phoneLike the Treo, Audiovox's Thera blends a cell phone with a PDA, in this case, one running Pocket Windows. Built-in is the SB555 embedded modem module from Vancouver's Sierra Wireless. The Thera is marketed by Bell Mobility in Canada and Sprint in the U.S., running on their CDMA 2000/1X networks. Thera combines wireless data and voice features with Pocket Windows features, including a voice recorder and an MP3 player, all with 32 MB of memory and a bright, 65,536-colour screen. A secure digital memory card slot allows for data backup, memory expansion, or adding peripherals. It works as a phone either in speaker phone mode, or using the included headset.

    Like other Pocket Windows devices, it offers more functionality than Palm-powered devices, and costs more. Bell is charging $1,149, including a $100 credit on a two-year contract.

    Not to be left out...

    Telus Mobility offers Instant Messenger, letting users communicate both with other Telus users or ICQ or MSN Messenger contacts either using any of Telus's Internet-ready phones or a PC. The company's Wireless Web Surf Sampler plan is a pay-per-use data plan, appealing to potential customers who are unsure whether they will make enough use of data access via cell phone to want to make an ongoing monthly commitment. Of course, Telus would be happy to upgrade users to one of its other plans, including Surf-Business.

    Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator and computer specialist. He can be reached at

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan