Sierra Wireless Ships SmartPhone

Sierra Wireless has marked its entrance into the Smartphone market with the launch of the Voq phone, which runs Microsoft's Smartphone 2003 operating system.

The Voq phone resembles nothing in the current market for Smartphones, with its cover that flips open to the left to reveal a traditional keyboard layout. When closed, the device looks like an ordinary cell phone, with a dialing keypad and several other menu buttons visible.

The Voq phone is designed as a high-end unit, and will most likely cost between $300 and $400, says Andrew Harries, Sierra Wireless senior vice president of marketing. Pricing has not yet been finalized, he adds, noting that Sierra is talking with U.S. and European carriers that might market the phone.

Carrier subsidies could bring the price down by as much as $150 by the time the phone is rolled out around the middle of next year, says Ken Hyers, senior analyst with In-Stat/MDR.

Phone Features

The phone weighs 4.73 ounces, and when closed measures 5.32 inches long by 2.28 inches wide by 0.88 inches thick. The 2.2-inch color screen is 176 by 220 pixels.

"I thought it was a pretty creative idea to put a [traditional] keypad on the base. They've certainly done something innovative with the flip-phone design," analyst Hyers says.

The phone is a tri-band GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile Communications/General Packet Radio Services) phone. It supports 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, and 1900 MHz, and will be sold in both Europe and North America to start, Harries adds.

It uses a 200-MHz PXA262 XScale processor from Intel, and comes with 48MB of ROM and 32MB of RAM, says Larry Zibrik, product line manager for the Voq phone.

Sierra was trying to strike the best balance between performance and battery life with the XScale processor, Zibrik adds. In ROM, which can be accessed more quickly than other types of memory, users will be able to store more data than they can on competing Smartphones, he says.

Supports 'Push'

While the Voq phone is like other Smartphones in that it features both personal digital assistant capabilities and voice and data communications over advanced networks, Sierra also added "push e-mail" support to the device, Harries says. Push e-mail technology delivers e-mail as it is received by the server directly to the client device, without the user having to access the server and download the e-mail messages in batches.

Other popular push e-mail devices such as Research In Motion's BlackBerry require businesses to install special software to deliver corporate e-mail to mobile devices. Sierra installed client-side virtual private network technology that works with a company's existing VPN software to connect the Voq device directly with existing e-mail servers, Harries says.

The first SmartPhones shipped last year.

Sierra Wireless is best known for its Air Card products, which connect notebook PCs to GSM/GPRS or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) networks with PC Cards. The company reached a point where it needed to find other areas of growth, and identified the Smartphone market as a prime opportunity, Harries says.

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