Sprint to Turn Handspring Computer Into Cellphone

Sprint to Turn Handspring Computer Into Cellphone


Sprint PCS customers who own Handspring Visor hand-held computers will soon be able to use the devices to make phone calls and surf the Web on the Sprint PCS network from anywhere in the United States.

Sprint PCS Group, the No. 4 U.S. wireless telephone operator, and closely held AirPrime Inc. on Thursday unveiled Digital Link, an add-on module for Handspring Inc.’s hand-held computers that converts the devices into cellular phones.

The news comes on the heels of Handspring’s recent announcement that it has slashed the price of its VisorPhone Springboard module, a Digital Link rival, to $49 from $249. Service for the VisorPhone is available through Cingular Wireless, Powertel and VoiceStream.

Makers of hand-held computers, led by Palm Inc. (NasdaqNM:PALM – news) and Handspring, have been hurt in recent months by a slowdown in consumer spending, oversupply and heavy discounting that has trimmed sales prices for the devices.

Sprint PCS said its module, made by AirPrime, will begin shipping in September and will sell for $250. The module will be offered at Sprint stores and on its Web site.

Kansas City, Missouri-based Sprint PCS, a unit of Sprint Corp. (NYSE:FON – news), said it believes consumers will buy its product, even though it is more expensive than VisorPhone Springboard, because it comes with the widest coverage yet for a Visor hand-held computer used as a cellphone.

A Digital Link buyer who already owns a Sprint PCS cellphone can put his Visor computer and his cellphone on the same phone number and service plan for an additional charge of $10 to $20 a month, it said.

Sprint PCS spokeswoman Nancy Sherrer said another reason consumers are likely to buy Digital Link is that the product is ”third-generation-ready” (3G-ready). Third-generation wireless service promises high-speed, always-on access to the Internet as well as high-quality video and audio.

Sprint PCS is expected to launch 3G service next year. Consumers who own 3G-ready devices will be able to take advantage of the service with a simple software upgrade.

Sprint PCS said the Visor module, whose battery provides seven hours of talk time and 11 to 13 days of standby time, will have 11 hours of talk time and more than 20 hours of standby time on 3G networks.