In this golden age of wireless, paying per kilobyte is just plain crazy. That's where Palm Computing dropped the ball, requiring users of its wireless modem-equipped Palm VII to subscribe to Palm.net, whose service-plan pricing is based on the amount of data you send and receive.
Thankfully, Novatel Wireless and OmniSky have now teamed up to bring flat-rate, $49.95-a-month wireless access to the exquisite Palm V.
The third Novatel modem built for the Palm platform, the sleek aluminum and black plastic OmniSky MinstrelV is a perfect symbiotic twin for the Palm V (or the Vx). While it doubles the thickness of the slim Palm V, the combined weight of 8.5 ounces is light considering the myriad wireless capabilities that the 19.2Kbps cellular digital-packet data modem provides.
With service from AT&T; wireless, users of the Minstrel V can best access Web-based content in two ways: through Web "clipping services" for handhelds, like those provided by Palm.net; or by accessing the free AvantGo channels optimized for organizers. AvantGo's browser can directly access any Web site, although page layouts get scrambled on the Palm's small screen.
Access to most standard e-mail accounts is seamless replies look as if they've come straight from your desktop. Filters and the headers-only download function prevent e-mail overload.
Shortcomings are minimal. The battery only cranks out three hours of surf time. And the OmniSky's configuration software is painfully difficult, an annoyance only partially excused by the fact that the whole program is still in beta.
But charter subscribers who do sign up during the public beta program, and pay $299 for the modem and unlimited service through April 2000, can take solace in the company's rate. A 15-percent discount is offered on the standard wireless rate $49.95 a month, with no roaming charges when it goes into effect. David Pescovitz
Score (1-5):Utility: 4; Design: 5
Est. Lifespan: One year (expect competitors soon)
Price: $299 for a charter membership including the Minstrel V modem, unlimited service through April and 15 percent off standard subscriber rates $49.95 a month when they go into effect
Requirements: 3Com Palm V series connected organizer and Windows PC