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New Verizon phone links up with the Palm Pilot system

Lots of companies are talking about phones that combine the power of a personal digital assistant with wireless phone capability.

But Verizon Wireless is the first on the market with a phone that combines with Palm Pilot's operating system. Sprint PCS says it won't be far behind.

It's the size of a Palm Pilot, but Verizon's latest phone offers a taste of how several worlds can converge.

Technically, it's a Kyocera 6035 Smartphone. But it's really a new generation device, a Web-ready, Palm-powered PDA that's also a wireless phone and wireless modem, all integrated without requiring a bunch of add-on units. And it hit the market just this week.

Combining PDAs with wireless phones isn't a new idea. Some, including Handspring's Visor, allow expansion to include a phone that plugs into the unit. But this one's built in, fully integrated.

While people who want an itty-bitty phone might find it cumbersome, it's hard to argue with the excellent screen, courtesy of the PDA features. And it supports three modes, including CDMA digital PCS, CDMA digital cellular and analog.

The Smartphone costs $499 with a one-year contract. The air-time cost depends on which calling plan the customer selects.

Among the features are an electronic organizer, ability to send and receive e-mail and conduct secure online transactions, games, mapping programs, e-book capability and picture viewing with an electronic camera. Users can edit and read spreadsheets and word processing programs, too.

But one of the nicest things about the phone, which the Deseret News took for a test drive, is the phone itself. It has a speaker phone function, so you can set it on the desk or even the car seat beside you and be truly hands-free. You can also opt to use the hands-free earphone.

There's a voice memo capability, a dialer function and the ability to dial directly from the Palm-based address book. All the standard Palm Pilot programs are available, as well.

It is, in a word, a very versatile piece of technology, all smaller than most mini-cassette recorders. It weighs 7.3 ounces — certainly more heft than most cell phones or PDAs, but it's a nice combination.

The Internet browser will download full-text versions of Web pages. Most current Web-enabled phones have very small screens and download sparse versions of Web content as a consequence.

You can also hotsync it with desktop programs or other PDAs, using the infrared beaming capability.

It promises to be the first in a long line of devices that will work their way to the marketplace this year. But it's a very nice first.