[See related story: How Smart Should Your Phone Be?]
Several makers of Microsoft-based handhelds have been making their devices into mini-laptops. The AT&T 8525 not only has a touchscreen, but you can slide it open to use a full QWERTY keyboard. This can be used to work on documents with the full Microsoft Office Mobile suite of applications. For traveling attorneys, the phone offers service on three different wireless types, offering access in the U.S. and many European and Asian countries.
Other handheld designs combine business functionality with nonbusiness features. The BlackBerry Pearl was maker RIM’s first foray into consumer devices. The new BlackBerry 8800 Series is designed to take the best multimedia functions of the Pearl and combine them with the size and functions of its business models. The BlackBerry smartphone can roam globally, and comes with new features like global positioning for mapping, a multimedia player, expandable memory and voice dialing. However, the music and video player is much more limited than what you can find in many MP3-type devices.
Of course, some people may not care if they can work on their phone. The Apple iPhone has the smoothest interface of any mobile phone/handheld device, allowing users to surf the Web, check e-mail, watch movies or listen to music. But the iPhone doesn’t offer secure e-mail out of the box, which most business-oriented models do. A few third-party software companies are introducing technology to make this possible.
All the major service providers offer some form of 3G wireless service for high-speed data downloads. The newest technology for mobile and stationary broadband access is WiMax, but unless an attorney is watching streaming video or regularly opening large e-mail attachments, the new high-speed networks are probably unnecessary.
Before buying a device, lawyers should consider the types of documents they will be viewing, where they travel and whether they need to be entertained by their handheld device.