Best Buy: Smart phones

(National) Aug. 16, 2004 - For Dr. John Siegal keeping in touch meant keeping track of too many devices, "A beeper. I would have a PDA and a cell phone, and invariably I would leave one of these devices at a hospital or at home."

To make life easier he switched to a combination mobile phone-PDA. It handles phone calls, e-mail and his appointment calendar all in one.

Consumer Reports Chris Bucsko just tested this latest technology. He assessed seven different phone-PDA combos that work with the major carriers. Prices ranged from almost $400 to more than $800.

First Chris looked at how easy they are to use. Some were not great, "The problem is that to enter data with this phone you have to use a normal telephone-like keypad instead of a typewriter-type keypad for typing in letters, and that's difficult."

Another had an awkward design. The number keys are on either side of the display screen, which makes it hard to dial a number.

The phones that use the Palm "graffiti" handwriting system are far better. So are the ones that have a mini keyboard similar to a computer's.

In the end Consumer Reports found two combination mobile phone-PDAs that are easy to use. For Sprint customers the Samsung SPH-i500 costs $600 and is very compact.

If you're a Verizon customer, the Kyocera 7135 is a good choice. It goes for $550 and can accommodate an external memory card. Either can simplify staying in touch.

Consumer Reports also tested battery life and says you can expect about three hours of talk time from these two phones.

posted 6:00pm by Chris Rees

All Consumer Reports Material Copyright @ 2004 Consumers Union of U. S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED