Monday, January 8, 2007

Pharos Launches GPS Smartphone

GPS firm Pharos launched its first hybrid GPS/cell phone, a Windows Mobile smartphone called the Pharos GPS Phone. The GPS Phone is a pull-out-all-the-stops Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC, with a top-notch SirfStar III GPS chip and a range of high-end features. It's a quad-band GSM world phone, with high-speed Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR, 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi, and an EDGE cellular modem. You can take pictures with a 2-megapixel camera, or listen to a built-in FM radio. The device has a 2.8-inch, 320-by-240 touch screen, but no built-in QWERTY keyboard.

Pharos has made the unusual choice of selling the GPS Phone unlocked, letting users pop in an existing Cingular or T-Mobile SIM card. While this keeps the price high, at $699.95, it lets Pharos bring the phone to market without the drag of carrier approval processes—so it will be on sale next month.

There are a bunch of other GPS/PDA/phone combinations available, but the Pharos model is unusually high-spec. The HP iPAQ hw6925, sold by Cingular for $359.99 with contract, has an even smaller screen and a lower-res camera. Several Blackberry models on Sprint, Nextel and Alltel (but not Verizon Wireless), most notably the 8703e, have built-in GPS and work with the Telenav driving-directions service. You can also get Bluetooth GPS receivers for most Palm and Windows Mobile PDAs, and Sprint offers GPS and driving directions on many of their non-smartphones. None of those other options matches the Pharos' full set of features, setting the Pharos at the high end of the market right now. The Pharos GPS Phone will sell for $699.95.

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