Saturday, January 1, 2000

QUALCOMM’s pdQ 1900 Smartphone

PRODUCT REVIEW

By Jason Perlow

I learned about QUALCOMM's plans to build PalmOS functionality into a phone over a year ago. QUALCOMM announced in the summer of 1998 that they were going to license 3Com's PalmOS for use in their phone products. Incredibly excited about the prospect of a new, non 3Com-built Palm device in a phone, I made incessant inquiries to QUALCOMM over the next few months.

Before I knew it, it was the summer of 1999. Sure enough, at the June 1999 PC Expo in New York City, I found a few of these new gadgets on display at Palm Computing's partner pavilion. Unfortunately, the Sprint PCS (Personal Communication Services) CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) mobile network that the pdQ was designed to run on wasn't ready for the pdQ's Internet access capabilities. So I had to continue to wait some time until the whole thing was ready for review.

Finally, in late November of 1999, QUALCOMM began to ship limited amounts of the pdQ to Sprint PCS stores, and I was able to get a hold of one in December. Needless to say, the product has an impressive first showing. Reactions to it are mixed, however, largely due to the somewhat dated Palm technology that's in the phone.

[On December 22, 1999, QUALCOMM announced it was selling its phone division to Kyocera Corporation. Based on the press release details, it appears this phone may also go to Kyocera. However, no mention was made of the pdQ phone specifically, nor the Palm license. Stay tuned to PalmPower News each day at http://www.palmpower.com/news/news.html for the latest information on this interesting development. -- DG]

It's a Palm... no, it's a phone!

The QUALCOMM pdQ is large for a cellular phone, although it has the advantage of large buttons and an oversized display. It's not the kind of phone you can just shove in your pocket or purse. It's more suited to briefcases and large pocketbooks, and it's about twice as heavy as your average PCS phone. If you intend to carry it around as your primary PCS phone and PDA, you'll want to invest in QUALCOMM's pdQ leather case with belt clip or a 3rd party belt pouch to hold it.

When the pdQ is in phone mode, as shown in Figure A, it exposes about 50 percent of the Palm display, with the cellular phone keypad/flip cover obscuring the remaining half of the display, the Palm computing buttons, and the Graffiti area. The keypad buttons are oval in shape, covered in a rubber material, and have good spacing between them. The unit is constructed of a rugged ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) plastic compound and should hold up well to heavy phone usage and general knocking around.

FIGURE A

When the pdQ is in phone mode, it exposes about 50 percent of the Palm display, with the cellular phone keypad/flip cover obscuring the remaining half of the display, the Palm computing buttons, and the Graffiti area. (click for larger image)