Palm finally catches up with Bluetooth - Tungsten launches

by Guy Kewney | posted on 01 November 2002

Palm may have the first fully-Bluetooth compatible phone-enabled PDA - beating PocketPC or SmartPhone - but the American market seems to be unimpressed by a device which, on paper, outmatches the PocketPC in several areas.

Guy Kewney

The Tungsten "W" wireless Palm is a phone and a PDA - very like the HP Jornada, but a lot nicer in some ways. Alas for Palm; the phone edition doesn't ship till next year, and doesn't use the new Palm 5 OS, so it doesn't count as any sort of breakthrough in the public eye.

So in the meantime, enthusiasm for Palm's new Tungsten "T" model - with "Slider Design" is all there is. And it has proved to be somewhat muted. Yes, the model T has Bluetooth - and wonderful things are promised for add-ons (two slots!). Yes, it has colour and it's thin and fast, and it has the "slider" which covers the text entry area with a joystick-like controller. And battery life is a whole week. What more could one ask?

<1/> Tungsten slider ... open

But critics have been unimpressed with the Slider. "Unfortunately, though Palm's sliding design move has a nice 'wow' factor, it does not yield much practical benefit," moaned Jon Fortt in the Mercury News. He liked the bright screen, he liked the Bluetooth, and he liked the speed of the new OMAP processor (an ARM derivative from Texas Instruments) - but he found compatibililty problems - "glitches" he called them. Software had to be re-installed.

And where, he asked indignantly, is the Secure Digital card for extra memory You have to buy it? No; for Fortt, if he had to pick a Palm 5 based machine, it would be the Sony Clie NX60, which includes MP3 playback and a keyboard, and (he thinks) looks nicer - for the same price. Europeans (he sniffed) might like the Bluetooth, which Sony doesn't provide.

At eWeek, Carmen Noble noted that the model T and W were both launched "with an eye on the enterprise." She was impressed with the wireless model's ability to access the Internet over GPRS, but luke-warm about the stainless steel model T, noting that it had only 16 megabytes of storage capacity.

<1/> ... and slider closed

ComputerWire described the Tungsten strategy as "woolly around the edges" - a bit like a pot-scourer, perhaps?

Larry Garfield at Infosynch liked the look of the Slider, but complained that "Unfortunately, all of that metal makes the device a bit heavier than it would appear from the size, weighing in at 158 grams. That puts it towards the high end of weight, about the same as the Sony CLIE PEG-NR70v."

But he loved the high-resolution 320 by 320 pixel TFT display: "The screen itself is, in a word, gorgeous. Colors are bright and vivid, and the backlight is very bright. At first we had it set down to only 33% and thought it was at full."

However, at least one source was enthusiastic: "Mobile professionals with a taste for innovation and excellence are expected to upgrade or switch to a Palm Tungsten T handheld for business-critical functionality in an industrial-strength handheld computer," they said. "The Palm Tungsten T handheld is the most compact Palm branded handheld on the market today and is built for what matters most to handheld users. The Palm Tungsten T handheld's design and software integration deliver smooth, one-handed data management, while new processing power and a new operating system supercharge applications -- making them faster and more efficient."

Enthusiastic, indeed! Who can this be? Ah - Palm itself ...

It was, oddly, the only source to focus on the Bluetooth aspects, with details. It's there, simply, to talk to Bluetooth phones for Internet access, or to PCs with Bluetooth for sync operations. "The PalmTungsten T handheld includes a suite of phone drivers for the most popular Bluetooth phones on the market, so wirelessly connecting to a Bluetooth-enabled phone now becomes much easier than before."

In a separate release, Palm announced the Palm Ultra-Thin Keyboard, a full-size, collapsible touch-typeable keyboard. The keyboard remains rigid when in use and then collapses smoothly into a compact stainless steel package. A complete list of Palm expansion cards and add-ons is available at

The Palm Tungsten T handheld comes bundled with 19 productivity, communication and entertainment applications. A complete list and description of applications is also available another part of the web site.