Data-to-go-go: get the skinny on three smart phones

Get the skinny on three smart phones

Blending form and function to transform a phone into a complete personal assistant has always been risky alchemy, but perhaps never more so than with smart phones. These combine mobile phone, PDA and e-mail features, with other ingredients tossed into the mix. Consider the features on each of these three gadgets: colour screens, quad- or tri-band calling for global travel, e-mail and other messaging options, document viewing, web browsing and alphabetic QWERTY keypads. But there are plenty of differences. First, consider form. Voq looks like a small TV remote that uses a toggle stick, and its number keypad flips open for the full keyboard. The 7100r, meanwhile, functions with the BlackBerry toggle wheel on the side, and a new semi-QWERTY keyboard with two letters per key–flat and often mishit–but its slick software discerns and learns what you type. The Treo 650 has a full keyboard with raised, but tiny, keys, plus a four-direction navigation pad and a stylus. For screen brightness and size, the heavy Treo 650 has an edge; for total size and weight, though, the 7100r is the clear winner.

But size isn't everything. The three each use different operating software: BlackBerry has its homegrown OS, the Treo 650 uses Palm OS and Voq uses Windows Mobile 2003 platform. Palm offers nearly endless additional applications; Voq offers an easily accessible mobile-web store; RIM keeps extras to a minimum. Are any as good as gold? Not yet. But the mad scientists continue to stir the pot. Andrew Wahl

Voq from Sierra Wireless

Power: up to six hours talk time, four days standby
Memory: 48 MB storage, with memory card expansion, and 32 MB operating memory
Features: personal and corporate e-mail connectivity; Windows Media music and video player
Cost: $399, no contract

BlackBerry 7100r from Research In Motion
Power: four hours talk time, four days voice & e-mail usage
Memory: 32 MB
Features: Bluetooth, up to 10 e-mail accounts
Cost: $399.99, after mail-in rebates, with three-year contract from Rogers Wireless

Treo 650 from PalmOne

Power: up to six hours talk time, 12.5 days standby
Memory: 23 MB, including Flash memory
Features: Bluetooth, three-megapixel camera, RealPlayer MP3 playback and audio books
Cost: $899.99 with no contract; $549.99 after mail-in rebates, with three-year sign-up with Rogers Wireless