Samsung launches first GSM phone to use Palm OS 5

CeBIT: Samsung has been showing off a smartphone running on Palm's latest OS

Equipped with a colour screen, camera and MMS client, the Samsung SGH-i500 is the first phone (for the European market) to use the latest version of PalmSource's OS, which runs on ARM-based chips such as Intel's Xscale.

While Palm OS smartphones have been available for some time, they've virtually all been for the US CDMA network standard, the only exception being Handspring's Treo series of phones. The Treo hasn't yet been updated to use Palm OS 5 and still uses the Motorola Dragonball processor.

The SGH-i500 is a clamshell design phone with a 320x320 pixel, 65,000-colour TFT touch screen. A 333,000-pixel digital camera is also included, and a small sub-display on the casing allows you to see a preview when taking a photo of yourself. There's also a built-in fill flash for the camera, unusual for a camera phone. Other features include a SD card slot, USB Hotsync connection, and a WAP 2.0 browser.

The SGH-i500 has around 200 hours standby time and 200 minutes talk time.

Albert Chu, vice president business development for PalmSource, the developers of Palm OS, said that while "Palm OS-based smartphones have a 75 per cent market share in the US," the penetration into European markets was far less. PalmSource is aiming to remedy the dearth of GSM-compatible products based on its OS by setting up a European research and development centre in France. This centre will focus on wireless systems such as GSM and GPRS.

Chu added that Palm OS 5's great strength was that running on ARM-based processors meant there were multiple chip manufacturers who could supply vendors of Palm OS 5-based devices. PalmSource has no prescriptive reference designs, so designers were free to innovate with different form factors for their products. One such example is the Fossil PDA watch.

Negotiations with UK networks are still taking place, so Samsung was unable to give details of availability or pricing for the SGH-i500 at CeBIT. Details of services available for the SGH-i500 were similarly thin on the ground, although Chu commented "Many different network services are possible, such as network HotSync, or over-the-air application delivery."

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