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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 09:05 GMT
Smart phone battle hots up
By Geoff Lynn
BBC News Online

Followers of the latest gadgetry will be pleased to hear that the long awaited SonyEricsson P800 smart phone has started appearing in selected British shops and online stores.

P800: Features come at a price
Fresh from a cameo appearance in the latest Bond epic Die Another Day, the P800 has now "been shipped to sales channels" and is available in the UK on the Orange network at 250 with a monthly contract.

For many, the P800 has been seen as something of a Holy Grail in terms of mobile devices, promising a powerful palmtop computer, combined with mobile phone, digital camera and pocket gaming device all rolled into one compact and futuristic-looking shell.

The issue is whether consumers will swallow the relatively high price tag and give up their existing phone and/or PDA to get one.

And it faces competition from a range of new devices like the Palm Tungsten T, the Dell Axim and the HP iPaq H5450, not to mention SonyEricsson's existing mobiles like the T68i and the T300.

Packed with goodies

The P800 unquestionably boasts a tantalising array of features. It has a built-in digital camera, video player, an MP3 player, a personal organiser with a colour touchscreen.

Die Another Day
The P800 featured in the latest Bond movie
It boasts polyphonic sound, picture messaging, java and Bluetooth.

You can also play 3D games in "widescreen" format using the on-screen touch controls and you might actually forget it is a tri-band mobile phone that also supports high-speed data via GPRS.

It is the mobile equivalent of the Swiss Army knife. You almost expect it to have a tool for taking the stones out of horses' hooves.

The question is whether the P800's alluring feature-set can protect it from the competition it faces on the High Street.

SonyEricsson would no doubt argue that different horses suit different courses, and it would be hard to disagree.

Cheaper alternatives

Two other devices from the SonyEricsson stable - the T68i and T300 - both offer a combination of mobile communication, personal organisation and fun for considerably less money.

T300: Well-featured phone for a younger generation
The T300, for example, is a well-featured phone that fits into the younger end of the market. It offers really good java games - Alien Scum, mini-golf and Erix being particular favourites.

You can also personalise your phone with your own images snapped with the clip on MCA-25 camera.

It is very similar in features and functionality to the T68i and both have GPRS and are MMS capable, once you get the settings installed by your network.

The T68i benefits, in my view, from Bluetooth connectivity, which means that you can link it up to other Bluetooth-enabled devices.

I have used this to link to some friends with similar phones and swap image files and ringtones, which was quite useful.

Flexible connection

The T68i's Bluetooth connection also means that you can use it as a modem for a PDA or a laptop that has a Bluetooth receiver installed.

Tungsten T
Tungsten comes with Bluetooth
The Palm Tungsten T range of personal organisers comes pre-installed with a Bluetooth receiver, and I have been using the Palm and the T68i to surf the web and download my e-mail when on the move.

If you have ever tried using infrared to connect a laptop or a PDA and a mobile, then you can rest assured that Bluetooth is a lot more flexible.

Once you have the devices "paired", you do not have to worry about keeping still to maintain a connection using Bluetooth and can wander anywhere within 10 metres and still get a connection.

The Tungsten T - which is the latest Palm to hit the market and boasts a much faster processor than any previous Palm at 144mhz - has 16mb of onboard memory, a 320 x 320 pixel screen and has a slightly shorter and fatter case design than earlier Palms.

On the downside, a lot of my old Palm applications are not compatible with the new Palm OS 5 that comes with the Tungsten T.

Low-cost device

Dell Axim
Axim: Competitively priced
If you do not fancy a Palm, then you may consider either a Dell Axim or an HP iPaq H5450.

The Axim is US computer giant Dell's first foray into the PDA market and the Texas-based company has come in with all guns blazing in terms of price.

You can get an Axim - a robust Pocket PC device that comes with a choice of two fast processors, colour screen, and a minimum of 64mb of memory - all for as little as 200.

For its part, HP has launched a high-end version of its iPaq range with the H5450, which has an in-built wireless LAN card and Bluetooth receiver.

The ultimate in wireless PDA connectivity does not come cheap, though, with a price tag of over 500.

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