Nextel ships first mobile Java phones

Integrating Java 2 Micro Edition, the $US199 Nextel I85s and $US149 I50sx phones let you download Java apps from Nextel's site or custom applications directly from your PC. Both phones are manufactured by Motorola. Preloaded on both models are specialised business calculators, an expense pad, and a Sega game.

The J2ME implementation of Java leaves room to grow, according Nextel. It affords a platform on which developers can write custom programs specifically for mobile communication devices. Accordingly, businesses can create applications that will let their employees access specific company data or perform other previously PC-only functions in the field.

More than 1200 developers have registered to develop wireless applications for businesses and consumers, Nextel says.

Both the Nextel I85s and I50sx work only on the company's IDEN network. They support common phone features such as caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, voice mail, vibration alert, and ring styles. The I85s features digital voice memo recording capability.

Talk, Send Data Simultaneously

The Java calculator suite includes a variety of calculation apps, including basic maths, decimal conversion, and gratuity conversion. Internal memory is needed to store and run additional custom J2ME apps. Each phone comes with 384KB, which Nextel says is enough to run any available application. And because the phones use packet data routing as opposed to circuit data routing, you can receive calls while you are accessing data.

Security is addressed with the inclusion of a Subscriber Identity Module Card, which requires you to enter a PIN each time you turn on the phone.

Both the I85x and I50sx have integrated speakerphone and voice-activated dialling, so you can dial a number by merely stating a name previously stored in the phone's address book. A datebook allows you to manage up to 250 events in a 13-month period. You can also associate alarms with entries so that your phone reminds you of important appointments.

Despite their inclusion of PDA functionality, these early combo PDA-phones are not full-featured enough to replace a Palm or Pocket PC device. With their small screens just larger than 1 square inch and their nine-key alphanumeric keypads, input beyond a few taps is impractical. But Nextel is offering its Java 2 Platform Micro Edition as a good start to at least offer some PDA capability in a device designed mainly for talking.

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Michael S. Lasky

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