It's been around in one form or another for more than 10 years. That's like a millennium in human years. One of the first-generation handsets is actually on display in the Smithsonian.
The first smartphone I ever wrote about was the Nokia 9000iL -- a huge design.
Literally!The phone was closer to the size of a paperback book - with black-and-white screens inside and out. I think its weight was displayed in pounds -- not ounces. Fast-forward to this nifty new model -- now called the E90 Communicator -- which is now a lot smaller, faster and modern. The E90 is a quad-band GSM world phone with support for the 2100 MHz WCDMA/HSDPA data band. It is a long, clamshell design that measures 5.2 by 2.2 by 0.8 inches when closed. It weighs 7.4 ounces. The operating system is Symbian's S60, third edition, Feature Pack 1 OS along with some Java and Flash thrown in for good measure. Connections are handled through the built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, MiniUSB and infrared ports. There's also a proprietary Nokia A/V connector. The handset has two, nontouch sensitive color screens -- inside and out, a 3.2 megapixel video/still camera, support for every kind of popular messaging format and system you can think of -- including Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) Exchange server and Research In Motion (RIMM) BlackBerry mail. There is all sorts of software inside too, which lets you write handle gazillions of tasks from text documents, to calendar appointments, to browsing the Web, making video calls. You get the idea. This is a smartphone to the max. The E90's best feature its keyboard. You can make calls and send text messages, etc., with the handset closed -- but if you only do that you'll miss the largest QWERTY keyboard of any smartphone on the market. I love the size. The keys themselves need to be broken in. Just out of the box, the keys are a little stiff. After some use, though, they've been getting more compliant to the touch. I find that I can type very accurately and quickly on the E90's keyboard. The only other thing to mention is the phone's size and weight. At first glance, it's not as slim and sleek as most other modern-day smartphones -- but that is the price you pay for a very usable keyboard and all the functionality crammed inside. The E90 is a wonderful "portable office" device for the connected road warrior. And I hope those people who are attracted and interested know, upfront, the price of admission. The E90 is available in all black or a cool red color -- only on the Nokia Web site -- at the mind-numbing price of $1,099.89. I understand that because neither U.S. GSM cell-phone company ( AT&T (T - Get Report) or T-Mobile (DT)) has decided to market the phone and help subsidize the price (through overpriced service plans), the end user has to pick up the entire bill. But, at that price, it's nearly three times what an 8GB Apple (AAPL - Get Report) iPhone sells for. But that's nuts! It's really a shame. If the E90 Communicator could be sold at a competitive price, I think you'd see a lot more of them being used worldwide.