For Geeks on the Go - InformationWeek

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11/16/2004
12:05 PM
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For Geeks on the Go

Mobility rules, so don't leave home without these gadgets.

Coolness and Value Factor Sure, your company might only spring for a basic cell phone model, but it's worth a shot to try and persuade the bean counters that the IT department needs Hewlett-Packard's h6315 Pocket PC Phone Edition. HP has clearly put a lot of thought into its first "converged device," making for a dramatic entry into the mobile/wireless data market. Its partnership with T-Mobile, the only service provider to have a strong presence in both the cellular and Wi-Fi hotspot markets, coupled with the fact that HP has successfully bundled the Bluetooth, GSM/GPRS, IrDA and Wi-Fi wireless technologies into a single device, makes the versatile smart phone quite appealing. But what makes the product unique is its ability to switch among networks and virtually maintain state of the connection. Combine all this and you've got a real geek magnet.

Now, maybe you're skeptical of these claims. I know I was, so I took the h6315 for a spin and was quite impressed with the results. First, I started an FTP session with my home server through the GPRS network while the Wi-Fi radio was turned off. When I came within range of a T-Mobile hotspot and turned the radio on, the session transferred seamlessly from the GPRS network to the Wi-Fi network. And when I moved out of range of the T-Mobile hotspot, the connection switched from Wi-Fi to GPRS while maintaining the FTP transfer. To put this ability in an enterprise perspective, the need to synchronize your mobile workforce's e-mail, calendar and contact info is not limited to one access technology.

HP h6315 Pocket PC Phone Edition
HP h6315 Pocket PC Phone Edition
Click to Enlarge

As a phone, the h6315 performed well, though call quality is highly dependent on T-Mobile's coverage. The antenna is reasonably sensitive: The device could establish a GPRS session when the signal strength was more than two bars. Its internal speakers were plenty loud, and it supported conference calls well. The h6315's built-in Bluetooth adapter let me use my Bluetooth hands-free earpiece.

The h6315 runs on the Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Phone Edition platform and features a native 802.1X supplicant that kicks in whenever a T-Mobile hotspot with the hidden SSID "tmobile1X" is discovered. If you opt not to use the 802.1X wireless network, the device gives you the option of associating with the regular "tmobile" network and authenticating through a Web portal.

In terms of hardware performance, the h6315 lags behind most handhelds. For example, its TI 200-MHz OMAP1510 processor is not the best in class, though it is sufficient to support multiple interfaces at the same time. I could simultaneously set up a cellular call, run FTP with the Wi-Fi interface, transfer files with the Bluetooth interface and take pictures. An advantage of having a slower processor is the extended battery-life--HP says the h6315 supports talk time of 4.5 hours and standby time of 210 hours in phone mode. So if you want to be on top of things, the h6315 meets the requirements, but avoid hardware-intensive applications.

T-Mobile let me set my e-mail account to send alerts via SMS every time something dropped into my mailbox. I could get e-mail from my POP3 or IMAP account pushed to the handheld's Inbox application. The h6315's inbox combines SMS, MMS, POP3 or IMAP e-mail and messages in one application, and it can synchronize contacts and calendars from Exchange 2003 servers as well.

The detachable QWERTY keyboard took some time to get used to--it's similar to a BlackBerry's--but once I got the hang of thumb-typing, I was more productive with it than with the virtual keyboard and handwriting recognizer. The detachable keyboard is hot-pluggable, and though it covers the call button, special keys on the board facilitate dialing.

The h6315 might not stand out of the crowd in terms of performance in the PDA market, but it definitely gets five stars as a truly converged device. HP has done a great job balancing phone and PDA capabilities.

h6315 Pocket PC Phone Edition, $599. Hewlett-Packard Co., (888) 999-4747. www.hp.com

--Frank Robinson

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