HP Adopts Trim Styling for iPaq 500 Smartphone

Hewlett-Packard is taking a new approach to smartphones with the launch of a slim new handset with 3G Internet connectivity, moving away from the clunky styling of its previous series of powerful PDA (personal digital assistant) phones.

The iPaq 500 smartphone, unveiled this week at the 3GSM World Congress 2007 in Barcelona, will run on the new Windows Mobile 6.0 platform and come with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) compatibility, push e-mail, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Outlook Mobile. It is scheduled for release this spring, according to the company.

Business Use

Designed with business users in mind, the iPaq 500 can be accessed remotely so IT managers can control data from stolen or lost phones, as well as provide updates and fixes to users on the road.

The new phone connects to the Internet via the GSM/GPRS/EDGE network protocols, as well as through WiFi connections. It is also expected to give companies the option of dropping desktop phones and unifying the office phone and the mobile phone all in one device.

“Busy professionals are constantly flooded with e-mail and looking for ways to quickly and easily manage it and move on with their day,” said HP’s Dave Rothschild, vice president, handheld business unit. “Our HP iPaq Voice Messenger smartphone gives mobile users an easy way to manage all types of communications.”

The phone also features more than 20 voice commands for hands-free operations. With the voice commands, users can reply to e-mails, listen to e-mails and text messages, and navigate through the phone.

Jumping In at the Deep End

Although HP is a relative newcomer to the smartphone space, that doesn’t mean the company can’t jump right in and compete against devices such as Samsung’s BlackJack and Palm’s Treo, says Bill Hughes, a wireless analyst with In-Stat.

“The good news for them is that there is not a lot of loyalty to the manufacturers of these devices,” Hughes told TechNewsWorld. “However, that is also the bad news.”

Hughes said loyalty is primarily to the carriers, followed by the operating system of the phones.

New Design

The new design is very different from previous iPaqs, a brand HP picked up with the acquisition of Compaq in 2002, which more closely resemble other traditional-looking wireless phones. The slimmed down 12-key iPaq 500 looks similar to phones popular with business users, such as RIM’s BlackBerry, for example.

The shift comes after a tough year in the smartphone market for HP. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company captured only 1 percent of the entire smartphone market in 2006, according to research firm IDC.

Technology Leaps

The iPaq 500 series uses text-to-speech technology to let users listen to e-mail messages and then respond to them with voice recordings.

The phone features Bluetooth, 64 MB of memory and 128 MB of storage with a micro SD card slot to expand memory. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery offers about six hours of talk time and over seven days of standby, HP said.

The iPaq 500 also allows users to play music and videos, store photos and play games on the device.

The phone will retail in the US$300 to $400 range, with carriers giving the usual discounts for contract signing, according to the company.

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