Motorola offers more rugged handhelds running on CDMA, GSM

Devices would be able to run on all U.S. carrier networks

Motorola launched two new rugged handheld computers today, bringing to three the number of handhelds it makes that support both CDMA and GSM wireless technologies.

A device that can handle both standards would be able to operate on all U.S. wireless carriers' networks.

Motorola launched its first dual GSM-CDMA device, the ES400, in June; it's a smartphone-size handheld that sells for $750. A related phone, the MC65 announced today, is roughly the same size as the ES400, but it's described as "rugged" because it's reinforced in various ways and is better able to withstand being dropped than some other devices. The MC65 retails for $2,295. The third member of Motorola's dual GSM-CDMA suite is the new MC959B; it's a more traditional rugged handheld that's longer and thicker than other devices and won't fit in a pocket. It sells for $3,295.

All three are more rugged than standard consumer devices, and the two newest devices are built to be even more rugged than the ES400, which Motorola now describes as "durable."

Steve Schmid, senior director of product management for Motorola's line of rugged handhelds, called the MC65 a "truly rugged, sexy crossover" from a consumer grade smartphone. He said it's designed to appeal to management-level professionals who want devices with longer life spans than many popular smartphones can offer. The MC959B is a more traditional rugged device; it's for people who work in fields like logistics or shipping.

Explaining why it decided to offer the smaller ES400 and MC65, Motorola said that it found that its enterprise customers want devices that are about the size of smartphones but are rugged enough to last three to five years, which is substantially longer than a consumer-class smartphone lasts. "The total cost of ownership and return on investment with a rugged device is compelling," he said. "We're seeing tremendous growth in demand for WAN-enabled field mobility" technology.

Schmid said a major distinction of the MC65, when compared to a device like the Intermec CS40, which was unveiled Monday, is that the MC65 will provide dual-band wireless connectivity via GSM and CDMA networks. The CS40 will support only UMTS, which builds upon radio concepts in GSM. Both devices are Bluetooth- and Wi-Fi-ready, but the MC65 has 802.11a/b/g support, while the CS40 has 802.11b/g.

Both have 2D bar-code scanners and cameras with 3.2 megapixel resolution. The touchscreen on the MC65 is slightly larger, at 3.5 inches, while the CS40 has a 2.8-inch touchscreen.

The MC65 is 6.4 by 3 by 1.3 inches and weighs 12.5 oz. with a battery. That makes it more than an inch longer than the CS40 and nearly twice as heavy.

The larger MC959B is able to support both CDMA and GSM because it is equipped with Qualcomm's Gobi chip; it's the first mobile computer to do so. Other devices require separate radios for each band.

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Tags Motorolaconsumer electronicsHandhelds / PDAs

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)
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