Socket to Me Mobile Style

By Lauren Simonds
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Socket Mobile has spent the better part of 10 years building a range of wireless peripherals for traditional PDAs used in a mobile business system – and hearing from its customers about the various shortcomings of those PDAs. Those deficits drove the company to develop a handheld mobile computer of its own, the SoMo 650.

A business mobility system consists of a number of wireless handheld devices paired with different peripherals such as bar-code scanners or magnetic stripe readers. Applications include, for example, sales force automation, inventory management, patient care and merchandise or asset management.

Although it looks like a traditional PDA, the SoMo 650 was designed to bridge the gap between bulky, uber-industrial handhelds and consumer-style PDAs that, according to Peter Phillips, vice president of Socket Mobile, fall short in durability, performance and longevity, characteristics he said their customers deemed crucial in a mobile business setting.

Employees carry these mobile devices and use them repeatedly throughout their workday. "Durability is a big issue," said Phillips. "The SoMo 650 meets a drop specification of six, one-meter drops onto vinyl-over-concrete flooring. You'd be hard pressed to find a drop spec for a consumer-style PDA -- if it even exists."

When it comes to performance, Phillips claims that they've built a very high-quality 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi radio into the SoMo 650. He explained that in a consumer setting, typically a person using a PDA connects wirelessly to one access point. If the customer should move between locations, Phillips maintained, "It's no big deal to drop the connection."

The SoMo 650
Mobile for Business: Socket Mobile's SoMo 650 is a traditional-looking alternative to consumer PDAs.

However, a business situation calls for something more reliable. For instance, he said, consider a medical situation where nurses use mobile devices to verify patient identity prior to dispensing medication. "Nurses move between wireless access points -- from room to room or floor to floor, and dropped connectivity is not acceptable," said Phillips. "SoMo 650 maintains that connection without downtime. A consumer-based PDA can't do that."

Socket Mobile places a lot of faith in the SoMo 650's wireless capabilities. So much that Phillips claims the device can run a VoIP application and produce good performance. VoIP is one of the most demanding network applications because the data packets must arrive and depart intact and in the right order or else the resulting conversation is choppy and garbled. "Our lab testing results and other third-party testing indicate that the Wi-Fi radio we built into SoMo is better than those found in consumer-based models," said Phillips.

Another area Socket Mobile addressed is product longevity and ROI. According to Phillips, consumer PDAs have a life cycle that ranges between 12-18 months before a model changes, and that doesn't give businesses enough time to evaluate and deploy new hardware or software.

"The evaluation period could take up to a year before a company even deploys the new equipment," said Phillips. "And the deployment often happens in stages. By the time they're done, the consumer-based PDA has reached end-of-life. That drives up costs and time delays. SoMo 650 has a three-to-five year life cycle which allows for complete deployment and an increased ROI."

Based on the Windows Mobile 5 operating system, the SoMo 650 weighs in at 6.3 ounces and measures 5- by 2.94- by 0.81 inches. It features a 624 MHz Intel PXA270 processor, 128MB SDRAM, 256 NAND Flash memory, Bluetooth, and a 3.5-inch TFT display with 240 by 320 resolution.

The SoMo 650 sells individually for $695 and also comes in two bundles that offer various accessories. Socket Mobile also offers a wide range of optional peripherals such as bar code and RFID scanners. You'll find more information, including links to download PDF data and spec sheets on the SoMo 650 product Web page.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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This article was originally published on August 07, 2007
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