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If nobody else, at least all the lawyers in the technology practices will appreciate this bit of news: The next generation of cellular phones has finally arrived. They began creeping over the horizon a couple of months ago: phones with sharp, full-color screens, phones that display and transmit digital photos, phones elegantly integrated into sleek handheld computers. By next year they will run rampant through pockets, purses and briefcases everywhere, and it’s about time. Sprint PCS is responsible for this particular escalation of the cellular phone wars, introducing several new models to complement its much-touted, long overdue high-speed wireless network. Such networks are a boon to lawyers and anyone else often outside the office, but the real assets are the physical ones. Sprint is putting out some formidable entries. Eventually, many of these devices will be available for all wireless carriers. For now, however, Sprint has exclusive distribution rights, so anyone wanting to use the �berphones must sign up for Sprint’s “PCS Vision” service. It’s a bit of a strong-arm tactic, but Sprint has a solid network with nationwide coverage, so switching carriers is more an annoyance than a worry. Then users can get their hands on what really matters: the phones themselves. Are they expensive? Yes. Individual dealers might cut the price for an especially lucrative sale, but be prepared for phones that cost $300 or more. To send digital photos a user must also purchase the PCS Vision Camera, sold by Sprint for $100. Handheld computers with cellphone functionality can run as high as $800. Those are steep startup costs; lawyers who spend most of their time in the office should seriously consider their real need for these phones, when a desktop personal computer already does much of the same work. THE CELLS NOW FOR SALE But litigators looking to upgrade that cellular clunker they’ve had since 1998, or who spend long stretches on the road or in court, have some powerful new choices to ponder: The Samsung A500. This model is one of two currently available that can handle digital photos. With a suggested price of $299, it’s among the most expensive, but the color screen is bright and sharp and the interface is easy to read. The Sanyo 4900. The 4900 is not camera compatible, but does use three-dimensional menus on its screen to let users scroll through options quickly; the high-resolution screen is only 1.7 inches in size, but possibly the best of the bunch. The 4900 also can serve as a wireless modem for a laptop. Cost: $179. The Handspring Treo 300. The Treo is a tight package: a small handheld computer that fits snugly into the palm of the hand and flips open into a phone. It includes a keyboard that can be operated with a stylus, and it manages e-mail and Web browsing with few headaches. Making calls involves a few more steps than a regular cellphone, but lawyers who want fewer gadgets with more power might consider this $500 machine. The LG 5350. The 5350 boasts all manner of rings, tones and musical sounds for games — not quite what a lawyer needs to convey gravitas, but it can be amusing. It has a large full-color screen, but can’t handle digital photos. Some users might find the A500 or the Sanyo 4900 more appropriate for their needs if they intend to spend this kind of money; the 5350 costs $230. The PCS Vision Camera. Sprint sells this camera to work with the A500 and another model, the Samsung N400. It’s small and simple to use, and connects to the phones with a special cable. Image size isn’t stellar; at 0.3 megapixels, it can send small photos suitable for e-mail and Internet posting. But it can store as many as 15 images, useful enough to snap a quick picture on the road and to e-mail it to associates at the office or those carrying their own camera-compatible phone. Aside from color and computing strength, these phones — and many others, from Sprint and other carriers — now offer a wide range of new services such as e-mail, Web browsing, short message service and memory to keep hundreds of contacts handy. Until now, those features have been little more than cellular curiosities, but high-speed wireless networks will let professionals start getting their money’s worth. It’s also important to remember that while Sprint might have a lock on pretty colors and digital photos at the moment, competitors are coming. For example, Verizon Wireless and Motorola offer the Timeport 270C-monochromatic and unable to handle photos, but an otherwise powerful device. And it’s only a matter of time before other carriers offer full-color screens that can handle digital images.

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