Ericsson R380s

In the meantime, we have the Ericsson R380s. This incorporates an Internet-capable PDA (portable digital assistant - a small computer that handles notes, addresses, calendars and the like) as well as the functions of a normal GSM phone.

The R380s is the same size as a standard mobile, but flips open to reveal a 360x120 pixel monochrome touch screen, the 9cm width of which takes up most of the front panel. A plastic stylus which clips to the battery is used to control the PDA and Web functions, either by choosing items from a menu or by writing characters which are recognised by the unit. The R380s runs on Symbian's EPOC operating system using 2MB of RAM, though the documentation doesn't go into great detail on the specifications. The important thing is that it works well enough to perform its tasks.

One of those tasks is mobile Internet access via WAP (wireless application protocol). Setting up a Telstra WAP account (not supplied with the phone) was easy - I just rang the help line and, following instructions, connected to Ericsson's utility Web site (mobileinternet."ericsson.se). There I used the WAP Configurator, into which I entered my country, mobile phone number, and service provider.

Minutes later, an SMS (short message service) arrived with the technical information required to set up Internet access for the R380s. Simply tapping on this message with the stylus launched an auto-configuration script, and three easy clicks later I had painlessly acquired access to the Internet. This is a simple but impressive ease-of-use feature - manual configuration of Internet connections is something most consumers would be glad to avoid.

It proved possible to browse the relatively limited Web available to WAP devices from most areas I visited; where signal strength was poor, it seemed that the Net connection would sometimes be lost, even though voice and SMS continued to work. Reading Web news and exchanging messages on the bus provides a glimpse into a future where we can be connected anywhere, anytime - but the low data rates available with present technology means that roaming wireless access will not displace fixed Internet computers for some time to come.

The Ericsson R380s is designed to be an electronic Swiss Army Knife for the executive on the move. It can keep a schedule, tell the time, send and receive e-mail and SMS text, take notes, surf the Web and, of course, make phone calls. While the future may hold brighter and better things, the R380s performs a number of essential functions well, and is available right now.

Ericsson R380s

Price: $1445

Supplier: Ericsson

Phone: 1300 650 050

URL: www.ericsson.com.au

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Aldis Ozols

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