BenQ-Siemens P50 Late to the Party


When BenQ acquired Siemens’ handset business in September, a year and a half had past since the Taiwanese company unveiled a supposed ‘Blackberry’ killer, the P50. The once eagerly anticipated—and now no longer so unique smartphone—has finally started shipping; under the BenQ-Siemens banner.

At the time of introduction - March 2004 - the quad-band (850/900/1800/1900) GSM/GPRS P50 stood apart as a compact, 4.7 x 2.4 x 0.8-inch (122 x 60 x 20 millimeters), and light, 5.3-ounce (170 grams), Pocket PC Phone with a QWERTY thumb-keyboard, in the mode of Palm’s Treo and Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry handhelds. Today, Palm even has Windows Mobile smartphone, the Treo 700w, and there are a whole slew of additional Microsoft-based handsets with similar specifications on the market and coming soon.

A brief run down of these device include the Sprint PPC 6700, Fujitsu-Siemens T800 series, Samsung SCH-i830, Motorola Q, T-Mobile MDA, Samsung SCH-i730, Hewlett-Packard iPAQ hw6500 series, etc. And then there are the devices—including Palm’s Palm platform Treos and RIM’s BlackBerrys—that wrestle in the same weight class as the P50, but run other operating systems (e.g. Sony Ericsson’s P990, Nokia’s E61 & 9300; both Symbian).

Not a small group of smartphones by any means. Many of these devices integrate 3G, notably absent from the P50, while the HP hw6500 adds a GPS chip for location-based services and navigation, for example.

The P50 does offer 802.11b Wi-Fi, unlike the new Treo 700w, by contrast. Forthcoming models, like the Fujitsu-Siemens phones, will include the faster 802.11g variety, however.

A smallish 2.8-inch display helps keep the smartphone’s dimensions small. Although the screen runs at the Pocket PC standard 240 x 320 pixel resolution, it supports 18-bit color (262,144 colors)—more than many other handheld and smartphone displays.

Inside is a Intel PXA272 416MHz processor, 64MB or RAM, and 64MB of ROM. The P50 runs Windows Mobile 2003 rather than the newer 5.0 edition of the platform, with all its accompanied advantages.

Additional features include a 1.3-megapixel digital camera with 4x digital zoom, USB, Bluetooth for wirelessly connecting to headsets, an SDIO-enabled Secure Digital slot for memory and peripheral expansion, plus a battery with specifications for 4 hours of talk and 120 hours of standby time.

If BenQ had released the P50 when it was originally supposed to, it would have been quite distinctive for a Pocket PC Phone. Now, the P50 is simply one of several new and upcoming smartphones - a slightly dated one at that -offering similar features in a compact form factor. It goes for about 500 to 550 Euros. There’s no word about possible American availability.

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