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PalmOne updates consumer PDAs

Zire 31 and 72 unveiled

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PalmOne has updated its consumer-oriented Zire range of PDAs, bringing colour to the budget end of the line and beefing up the specifications of its top-end model.

The changes had been widely anticipated and the source of much online rumour-mongering. As anticipated, the Zire 72 provides a higher resolution integrated digicam than its predecessor, the 71. The new model sports a 1280 x 960 (1.2 megapixel) model in place of the original 640 x 480 job. It also provides a 2x digital zoom, and 320 x 240 video capture.

The 72 runs Palm OS 5.2.8 and features a number of software enhancements developed by PalmOne itself. Most notably, it has tied the camera functionality into a broader range of apps. For instance, picture can be grabbed from within Contacts to add a snap of the individual concerned to a database entry. Photos can now be used as backdrops to app launcher categories.

The 72 features a new messaging app, Messages, which integrates text and multimedia messaging. The 71's key deficiency - no Bluetooth - has been addressed with the 72, allowing messages to be sent via a paired mobile phone. PalmOne provides a new Bluetooth set-up wizard which takes the pain out of setting up phone, PC and LAN connectivity. The 72's UI now includes a Bluetooth status icon.

PalmOne has updated its WebPro browser to version 3.5, adding a new thumbnail view of a page, allowing you to quickly zero in on the part of the page you want to read. The company's email app, VersaMail, has also been updated, to version 2.7, which adds a level of integration with Messages.

The 72 also provides a combined still and video player, Media, also written by PalmOne and which replaced the old Photos app and the bundled Kinoma Player. The 72 continues to bundle RealOne Player for MP3 playback. IBM's Java J2ME Virtual Machine is included for games.

Gone is the 71's slider mechanism, the better to make consumers realised there is a camera built in, says PalmOne, though it should also ensure the 72 is cheaper to make. The 72 also features a faster, 312MHz Intel XScale CPU, backed up by 32MB of RAM (24MB accessible to the user).

The 72 retains the 71's blue and silver styling, but now it has a matt, rubberised finish.

The Zire 31 also sports a blue hue surrounding its 160 x 160 colour display and new five-way navigator control. Again, the 31 boasts an updated CPU, this time a 200MHz Intel XScale, so as expected it runs Palm OS 5.2. It offers 16MB of RAM (14MB accessible to the user).

PalmOne has added an SD IO card slot, primarily to allow it to bundle RealOne Player for MP3 playback. RealOne mandates a memory card, and PalmOne has also taken the opportunity to equip the 31 with a headphone jack.

The Zire 31 and 72 cost £129 and £229 including VAT, respectively, in the UK. US pricing is $149 and $299. ®

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