Maxwell Smart was a man ahead of his time. Not only did the 1960s secret agent have a mobile phone, it was an integrated technology: part phone, part shoe.
Fast-forward almost 40 years, and wireless integration is all the rage. True, we’re not checking our voice mail with our Hush Puppies, but the idea of combining functionalities is as attractive for us now as it was on television for Maxwell Smart and Agent 99.
This attraction, according to Aberdeen Group’s Boston-based analyst Nicole Nicas, is culturally based.
“It’s basically an American theme or a North American theme of streamlining,” Nicas said. “We’re always wanting to get down to one device. We want to minimize hassles and problems with keeping our devices straight. You’ve got your watch, your wallet, phone, PDA, and your laptop and you want to try to combine as much as you can.”
Kyocera Wireless Corp. is trying to capitalize on this desire to combine devices by releasing its Smartphone – an integrated digital phone, Palm handheld device and a wireless modem. Currently available through Bell Mobility, the Kyocera QCP 6035 Smartphone is smaller than your average size 8 shoe, but still bigger than most cell phones currently on the market, measuring in at 14.2 cm by 6.4 cm by 2.2 cm.
“People’s first reaction is that it’s so big,” Rob Plume, business development manager for Kyocera in Toronto said. “I tell them to pull out their Palm and their phone and put them on top of each other. There’s a functionality that you’ve got to meet somewhere in the middle. The screen can’t be too small or there’s no functionality, and then the phone needs to wrap around that. Because both networks support text messaging, your phone number becomes your pager ID, so you eliminate the need for a pager as well.”
The Smartphone’s 8MB Palm includes standard organizing tools such as an address book, a date book, a memo pad and a to-do list. Other Palm features include the ability to send and receive e-mail with wireless Web access, a support for SSL encrypted HTML browsers for secure online transactions, support for the installation of Palm OS software, and support for multiple wireless data technologies including HTML, WAP and SMS. The Smartphone also supports Palm OS Web clipping applications and enables a connection to corporate network and enterprise-wide applications using third-party applications.
The wireless phone features voice services including speakerphone, voice memo and voice dialling, 11 ringer types, vibrate alert and tri-mode capabilities, working in CDMA digital PCS, CDMA digital cellular and analogue.
Brownlee Thomas, a Montreal-based senior industry analyst for Giga Group, is not convinced that the combination of all of these functions in one device is necessarily warranted, particularly when the price of cellular phones has dropped considerably.
“These phones are really expensive,” Thomas said. “The Kyocera phone is a deluxe model, so the challenges are going to be: now we have the network and we have the handset, but where are the services and the content? What am I going to do with this phone? Kyocera’s pricing their phones the same as global satellite phones. What’s the market for that? The market will be there for the high-end users, maybe. This type of phone will sell when the price comes down. This is an early adopter price. If you’re a gadget person and you’ve got to have it, where are the services that are going to go with it? What’s the point?”
The point, Plume said, is that by bringing the Palm and the phone together, Kyocera has created a productivity tool that is able to take advantage of existing, practical applications. And according to Plume, word of mouth has brought these gadget lovers scrambling for the Smartphone.
“Most people are really excited about it,” Plume said. “My partner and I did a show at…a sidewalk sale the week before [they came out]. The next week, as soon as they got them in the store they sold out, basically from word of mouth.”
The Smartphone OCP 6035 retails for $799.