Nokia Adds Wi-Fi to Communicator Series

Nokia Adds Wi-Fi to Communicator Series

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Written By Eric Sandler

By James Alan Miller

February 23, 2004

Nokia’s new handset is a tri-band GSM device that integrates two color screens, a keypad, a keyboard and, most significantly, Wi-Fi.

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At the 3GSM World Conference in Cannes, France today, Nokia announced the 9500 Communicator series, the long-awaited successor to the 9200 series. The new smartphone is aimed at business users.

The tri-band GSM/GPRS EDGE 9500 series, which will be available in 900/1800/1900 MHz and 850/1800/1900 MHz models, is one of the first handsets to integrate 802.11b. This means users will be able to leverage Wi-Fi hotspots to get on the Internet or a corporate intranet, and to download e-mail.

These hotspots are becoming increasingly common in such places as airports, book stores, cafes, and other locations. While you can perform similar functions on the GPRS/EDGE cellular network, 802.11b is much faster and it won’t eat into your cellular data plan (carriers often charge by the megabyte).

In addition, the integration of Wi-Fi makes the 9500 a no-brainier as a potential voice over IP (VoIP) phone. VoIP allows users to bypass standard phone lines by using the Internet, potentially saving users and companies, in particular, a lot of money. So employees may be able to use the 9500 as their standard phone in the office and as their cell phone when out of the office.As for other features, the 9500 is a significant upgrade over the 9200 series. The device runs the latest version, 7.0, of the Symbian operating system, the most common operating system found on smartphones. It has two color displays that support up to 65,536 colors. The main screen, found on the top half of the mini-laptop-like device, has an excellent resolution of 640×200, which would allow users to display nearly a whole Web page. The other screen is located on the top back of the 9500; its resolution is 128 x 128. A standard phone keypad is situated below the smaller display.

Nokia has developed a number of interfaces that run on top of the Symbian OS to use on its phones, as well as those of licensees. These interfaces, of which Series 60 is the most well-known, are designed to make the devices more user-friendly. The 9500’s main display, as with past communicators, uses the Series 80 interface, while its smaller screen uses the Series 40 interface. Unfortunately, the Series 80 interface was first developed three years ago and doesn’t include pen input. A new interface, the Series 90, first introduced last fall, reportedly offers better menus as well as pen input. The forthcoming Nokia 7700 will be the first Series 90 smartphone.

The 9500 includes a large thumb-keyboard like the earlier Communicators, and adds a VGA (640×480) digital camera, which can be used for taking snapshots, short video or MMS (multimedia) messaging. In addition to Wi-Fi, it integrates Bluetooth, a wireless personal area networking technology that allows users to connect to other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as printers or headsets.

The 7.83-ounce smartphone supports the J2ME Personal Profile environment and offers USB connectivity via Nokia’s Connectivity Cable DKU-2. In addition, Nokia unveiled a desk stand for charging and synchronization; Mobile Holder, which holds the 9500 in place in the car; and the Antenna Coupler, which provides a connection to an external antenna.

As for the 9500’s e-mail client, it supports IMAP4, SMTP, POP3 and SyncML. The smartphone’s browser supports HTML/XHTML and JavaScript 1.3, while Nokia offers SSL/TLS and Ipsec for security. As with any handheld worth its salt, you can view documents, spreadsheet and presentations in a variety of formats.

According to Nokia, a number of companies have committed their support to the Nokia 9500 Communicator series, including:

  • Cap Gemini Ernst &Young with its @Anyplace Mobility Offerings
  • Cisco Systems with wireless LAN infrastructure interoperability
  • Computer Associates with streamlined management of the mobile device
  • Fujitsu with its IT services and solutions
  • HP with its mobile printing solutions
  • IBM with WebSphere Everyplace being optimized for the Nokia Communicator
  • Oracle with access to the Oracle Collaboration Suite – email, files, calendar, web conferencing, faxes etc.
  • SAP AG, which intends to investigate opportunities for SAP solutions for mobile business arising from Nokia’s Communicator platform
  • Symantec and its mobile device Internet security solutions, including firewall and antivirus

The Nokia 9500 Communicator is expected to be available in the fourth quarter for about 800 Euro ($1000).

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