Wireless Web

Cell phones expand to provide easy Internet access

Let’s face it. Everyone is in a rush and no one wants to do without that instant Internet hookup, whether at home or in the office. There’s nothing worse than missing an important e-mail or not being able to keep track of your stock portfolio because you are trapped on a train, bus or some other mode of transportation.

Have no fear. Wireless Web access is here. Most highly wired professionals have a Palm organizer or some other personal digital assistant (PDA) that allows them to send and receive e-mail, access the Internet and manage personal schedules. For those who are Palm-free, there’s another pocket device that offers wireless Web surfing and other services-the cellular phone.

Now accessing the Net will be as easy as placing a cell phone call. The world’s three largest manufacturers-Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson-include microbrowsers in their latest lines of digital phones. Telephone carriers are partnering with content providers to fill their wireless channels. For instance, Sprint PCS has established a portal agreement with Phone.com and Yahoo! that enables Sprint customers to access their e-mail, calendar and address book as well as get customized news, weather and stock updates. Sprint PCS also has deals to offer information from Bloomberg.com, InfoSpace.com and MapQuest.com.

For now, Sprint is the only carrier offering national wireless Internet service. Others, including Bell Mobility, Nextel Online, AT&T Wireless, GTE Wireless, Vodafone/AirTouch and Bell Atlantic Mobile, are rolling out their service city by city. Excite@Home, in a partnership with AirFlash, has created personalized content and e-commerce applications for the new wireless phones.

Most carriers offer one of two ways to connect to the Internet: phones that act as modems when hooked up to a portable computer or PDA, or smart phones equipped with microbrowsers that connect to limited Internet-based content and browse text-only versions of Websites. One problem is that wireless Internet connections run pretty slowly at 14.4 kilobits per second. But then again, they load mostly text, which makes them faster than an equivalent PC modem. Most carriers plan to roll out smart phones with data speeds of up to 56Kbps by the end of 2000. Another problem with Web phones is a shorter battery life.

Sprint customers basically have their pick of two new PCS versions: the dual-band TouchPoint Phone and the Sprint PCS Phone NP 1000. These phones have some handy little features, including the ability to scroll up and down a display menu with a mouselike navigation button. The retail price for the TouchPoint is about $200. For a couple of hundred dollars more you can get the NeoPoint 1000 smartphone; retail price is about $400. Sprint PCS customers can add a wireless Web option to their current price plan of $30 (and up) for $9.99 a month for 50 wireless Web minutes (from $59.99 to $179 for 300 minutes up to 1,200 minutes).

If you already own or you are in the market for a Palm VII, chances are you don’t need a specialized Internet phone. You can also get some information-such as

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