VisorPhone: Talk to the Handspring

From Handspring Visor: Visual QuickStart Guide by Jeff Carlson

When you leave the house in the morning, do you wear a Batman-style utility belt of dangling gadgets? Visor, pager, cellular phone... even though our modern organizational tools continue to get smaller and more portable, it's still a problem to juggle them all.

Although you could just get rid of the gadgets entirely and hole up in a cabin (a tempting alternative some days), another solution is afoot: keep the functionality, but reduce the number of devices. Back when Handspring began developing the Visor, they also conceived the VisorPhone: a Springboard module that turns your handheld into a cellular phone.

It's time to ditch your phone's wimpy little screen and talk to the Hand(spring).

VisorPhone Basics

The VisorPhone uses the GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) network, which is predominant throughout much of the world and is finally gaining ground in the United States (the land of competing cellular standards). In addition to making and receiving calls, GSM phones can take advantage of SMS (Short Message Service) text messaging and create data connections like a regular modem.

Since the VisorPhone uses the Visor's built-in microphone, you can hold it up to your ear like any other phone. Or, better, plug in the included headset to talk hands-free and continue using the Visor's other applications.

The VisorPhone includes a rechargeable battery to power roughly three hours of talk time and 70 hours of standby time. Like other GSM phones, it includes a SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card that identifies your service account.

Physically, the device is fairly sparse, with buttons that launch the built-in phone applications, an LED to indicate status, and a slider that toggles between two settings. The surprisingly loud speaker is accompanied by a headset jack on the left side (not shown) for hands-free operation (Figure 1).

Figure 1 The anatomy of a VisorPhone (yes, this will be on the test).


Making Calls

Instead of going through the process of setting up the VisorPhone (which is explained in the manual), let's jump to making calls. You'll likely use the Speed Dial screen most, but a trusty Keypad screen is also available.


Speed Dial

At the Speed Dial screen, you can assign up to 50 buttons for your most-dialed numbers (Figure 2). Simply tap an assigned button to start dialing its number.

Figure 2 You can assign up to 50 speed dial buttons.

To set up speed dial numbers:

  1. If a button is empty, tap it to display the Edit Speed Dial Buttons screen; or, select Edit Speed Dial from the Edit menu, then tap an empty slot (Figure 3).

    Figure 3 Drag names to any available slot to organize placement.

  2. Write the button name, number, and any extra digits to be dialed in the corresponding fields. Or, tap the Lookup button to get the name and number from the Address Book (Figure 4).

    Figure 4 If the person is already in your Address Book, tap the Lookup button to choose a number.

  3. Tap OK or Done (depending on which screen brought you to the editing screen) to return to the Speed Dial screen.



Although it's possible to dial numbers by writing them in Graffiti, we non-aliens prefer the numeric keypad (Figure 5).

Figure 5 All thumbs? Forget those teeny buttons on most cellphones.

To dial from the Keypad:

  1. Tap the Keypad icon in the lower-left corner of the screen.

  2. Tap the numbered buttons to dial. The back-arrow button clears the last-entered digit. The plus-sign button turns into a CLR button when you start adding numbers; pushing the CLR button clears the Dial box at the top of the screen.

  3. Tap the Send button (designated by a phone handset icon) to place the call.


Dialing from the Address Book

What's the point of having a phone attached to your Visor if you can't use all those numbers stored in the Address Book?

To dial from the Address Book:

  1. In the Address Book, find the person you wish to call, then tap the Dial button.

  2. Select which number to dial, and tap the Dial button again (Figure 6).

    Figure 6 In the Address Book, tap the Dial button or just the number from the address list to begin dialing.


Multiple Calls

When you're in the middle of a call, the Phone application displays the recipient's phone number (and name, if it came from your Address Book), the status and time of the call, plus buttons for actions you can take depending on the call (Figure 7). In addition to offering obvious commands like Hang Up and Hold, the VisorPhone makes it easy to juggle multiple callers and establish 3-way conference calls.

Figure 7 Look at those big buttons! During a call, the Visor's comparatively large screen offers lots of information.

To make a 3-way call:

  1. Call the first party ("Bruno," for example), then put him on hold by tapping Hold.

  2. Tap the 2nd Call button that appears, and call the second party ("Clive").

  3. Tap the 3-way Call button to begin the conference (Figure 8).

    Figure 8 Keep two people on the line either by swapping between them or by enabling a 3-way call.

During the call, use the following options (Figure 9).

Receiving Calls

Just as Christmas isn't only about giving, using a cellular phone isn't just about making calls. When your fans start calling, the VisorPhone can help you out. If your cellular service plan includes Caller ID, the VisorPhone compares the incoming phone number with your Address Book and displays the caller's name if it finds a match.

To answer an incoming call:

Call History

The VisorPhone records details of the previous 1,000 incoming or outgoing calls, which are accessible from the Call History list. Tap the third icon in the lower-left corner of the screen to view your calls (Figure 12).

Figure 12 See where your talk time is going at a glance.

The triangle to the left of each item indicates outgoing ( ), incoming ( ), and missed ( ) calls. To dial a number (if present), select an entry and tap the Dial button. Or, tap the Details button to view information about the call (Figure 13).

Figure 13 The Call History records details of each call, and provides a Dial button to quickly get that person on the horn.

SMS Text Messaging

I don't mind a good long conversation now and then, but sometimes I need to keep things short. Using SMS, you can send brief text messages to other GSM-capable phones or to Internet email addresses.

To send an SMS text message:

  1. Press the SMS Message Manager button on the VisorPhone, or launch the SMS application. It acts much like the Visor's built-in Mail program, with mailboxes for new, sent, saved, and pending messages.

  2. Tap the New button to create a new message. Enter the recipient's phone number in the To field, or tap the popup menu to view a list of recent numbers.

  3. Begin writing your message in the Text field, or tap its popup menu to access a list of frequently-used phrases. Some templates provide more options for customizing a frequently-used note, such as "Call my mobile." Tap OK to accept the text (Figure 14).

    Figure 14 Use included templates to quickly write text messages.

  4. Tap the Send button to dispatch the message immediately, or tap Save to store it for later (Figure 15).

    Figure 15 Messages can be sent immediately, or saved for editing later.


To send an SMS email message:

  1. Create a new message just as you would for sending to a phone, but select SMS E-Mail Center from the To field popup menu.

  2. In the Text field, enter the recipient's email address, followed by a space, then the text message (Figure 16).

    Figure 16 Send text messages to email addresses.

  3. Tap Send to zap it on its way, or Save to keep it for later (Figure 17).

    Figure 17 A saved message is ready to be edited and sent, or easily deleted.

Internet Access

As long as you're making phone calls, why not transfer a little data too? The VisorPhone can act as a 14.4 Kbps modem, enabling you to send and receive email, access the Web, or anything else via the Internet.

To enable Internet access:

  1. Go to the Visor's Prefs application and select Network from the popup menu in the upper-right corner of the screen.

  2. Enter the dialup information you use for your Internet service provider.

To connect to the Internet: