HP launches iPaq 510 with dual-mode phone capability

While the iPaq 510 seems focused on mobile professionals, a real test will be its voice clarity, analysts say

Hewlett-Packard announced Monday a dual-mode smart phone targeted at mobile professionals that allows voice calls and data connections both in Wi-Fi and cellular networks.

Called the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger in the U.S., the smart phone will ship with Windows Mobile 6 when that new operating systems is available in April or May, said Niraj Gandhi, a product marketing manager at HP. Pricing will be from US$299 to US$349, he added.

Features include 6.5 hours of talk time under best network conditions, with the ability to move across GSM, GPRS or EDGE cellular networks into 802.11b/g networks seamlessly, Gandhi said in an interview. "It does not drop calls when crossing the network edge," he said. The phone also supports Bluetooth wireless devices.

Dual-mode phones are catching on worldwide, with the Wi-Fi Alliance saying today that it has certified 82 such devices from about 20 vendors, including HP. More than 325 million converged Wi-Fi/cellular phones and 15 million single-mode Wi-Fi phones will ship in 2011, alliance officials said, citing ABI Research. Other dual-mode phone vendors include Nokia, Siemens and Motorola.

For end users, the long battery time and voice-to-text capabilities of the iPaq 510 could prove the most gratifying, Gandhi said. For example, software shipping with the phone will allow it to convert text e-mail to voice, and a VoiceReply feature will allow the ability to respond to e-mails by voice.

The phone includes 12 function keys, but no QWERTY keyboard as seen on some other smart phones. Lack of a full keyboard "may really hurt the device," said Ken Dulaney, an analyst at Gartner. But Dulaney said it is the first device he has seen to include the latest WPA2 security.

Gandhi said the phone will ship unhooked from a specified carrier's service, so it will be up to the user to arrange cellular service. But HP plans to also work with carriers that would bundle the phone with their services, he added.

Gandhi said the iPaq 510 is the first iPaq device to provide over-the-air device management capabilities, which HP acquired with its purchase of Bitfone Corp. An IT manager can diagnose and repair a smart phone over the air, send a software upgrade or wipe off all data from a stolen device.

With the dual-mode network capability, an employee can use the smart phone instead of a desktop phone while in the office and over the Wi-Fi network. To do so, the Wi-Fi network must interoperate with the office IP private-branch exchange voice switch. Gandhi said the phone has been tested to work with major IP-PBX providers.

Analysts said that while the iPaq 510 seems focused on mobile professionals, a real test will be its voice clarity. By comparison, Dulaney said in remarks at a conference last week that the recently announced iPhone from Apple will not be an enterprise device because he found the voice quality poor in his review. Dulaney has not reviewed the iPaq 510. The iPhone is also not going to connect to Microsoft Exchange and is designed more as a multimedia device, a sort or next-generation iPod, he and other analysts said.

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