PalmOne has announced two new handhelds, both in the Zire range. The Zire 31 is a step up from the entry-level Zire 21, while the Zire 72 follows on from the successful multimedia-oriented Zire 71, whose innovative sliding mechanism protects a built-in digital camera. The two new models bring the number of handhelds in this more consumer-focussed side of PalmOne’s product line to four: least expensive is the Zire 21 (with a suggested retail price of £79 inc. VAT); next comes the new Zire 31 (£129); then the Zire 71 (£179); and finally the new Zire 72 (£229).
The Zire 31 incorporates features requested by owners of the (very basic) Zire 21. These include a backlit colour STN display (resolution: 160 x 160 pixels), 16MB of internal memory as opposed to the Zire 21’s 8MB (although only 14MB of the former is available to the user), and an SD card slot for extra storage capacity. The Zire 31's ARM-based processor runs at 200MHz. The hardware has a blue fascia -- the colour used in the rest of the Zire range except the Zire 21, whose styling is a distinctive white.
The Zire 72 is a more upmarket device with a 312MHz ARM-based processor and 32MB of RAM, of which 24MB is available. It has a 320-by-320-pixel colour TFT screen, an SD card slot and a voice recorder. Like the Zire 71, this is a multimedia device: one of the application shortcut buttons is dedicated to playing digital music files, and there's a built-in digital camera. The camera (which loses the sliding mechanism seen in the Zire 71) is a 1.2 megapixel unit that can capture video at 320 by 240, has a 2x digital zoom, and provides special effects such as sepia and black-and-white. For wireless connectivity the Zire 72 provides Bluetooth, and PalmOne includes a wizard designed to help you connect to mobile phones, a PC and a network. An icon on the application launcher screen makes it easy to turn Bluetooth on and off. Both new devices run version 5.3.8 of Palm OS, one of whose enhancements is the ability to overlay customised photos onto the application launcher screen. During our previews this worked much more effectively on the Zire 72 due to its higher resolution and higher-quality TFT display. The software provided with the Zire 72 includes PalmOne Messages (a unified SMS and MMS client), Web Pro 3.5 (a Web browser that caters for uploading images to the Web and which offers a full-page view of any Web page miniaturised to fit into the screen, making it easy to zoom into a selected area without the need for scrolling). The Zire 72 also supports Java, opening up access to a range of software on top of that written specifically for Palm OS. This is the first product announcement from PalmOne since it absorbed Handspring (originally formed by ex-Palm staffers) and abandoned the name Palm. Handspring’s last device, the Treo 600 remains in the PalmOne stable, but the widely rumoured upgrade to this popular device has not yet materialised. The new product range also includes a complete navigation solution, comprising the Tungsten E plus navigation software and a GPS receiver from Kirro. This bundle has a suggested retail price of £299 (inc. VAT).