Excuse Me, Your Handheld Is Ringing

The Sprint PCS Wireless Web Digital Link lets you use your PDA as a cell phone

By Alan Stafford

Ride public transportation, and you often encounter troubled souls who claim to hear voices. With the advent of Sprint PCS's Wireless Web Digital Link, however, mass transit may soon be filled with oddballs who are speaking into their PDAs. And when they aren't answering the voices within the devices, they could be e-mailing them.

The Digital Link is a $200 Springboard expansion module from AirPrime that fits any Handspring Visor PDA; with it you can place cellular voice calls and get wireless Internet access. You pay for the data access as part of a Sprint PCS service plan that includes data capability.

The Digital Link is really a kludge--it adds 3.4 ounces (about two-thirds the weight of a Handspring Visor Platinum) and considerable bulk, so you'll want to remove it when you're not using it. You can recharge it with the included recharger or while it's attached to your PDA (if you own a rechargeable Handspring model).

Currently, Web access over Sprint's CDMA network is limited to 14.4 kbps, but the module is supposed to work with Sprint's third-generation, 144-kbps wireless service, due next summer. Sprint, though, says the device won't work with faster service iterations, scheduled to hit 288 kbps only six months after the 144-kbps service starts.

I tried a preproduction Digital Link and found it useful for sending and receiving e-mail, doing instant messaging via ICQ, and pulling up specially formatted Web sites. At its current speed, however, it is still slow, and I received the equivalent of a busy signal during some peak usage periods.

The module has all of the regular features of a mobile phone, including three-way calling. You can store phone numbers in your PDA and dial them on the screen, and the speak and listen functions work as well as those on a typical wireless phone.

From the November 2001 issue of PC World magazine

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