New Service Simplifies Wireless Surfing

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ATLANTA--If you've ever tried to find a movie theater schedule or search the Yellow Pages on a Web-enabled cell phone or connected handheld, you know how difficult it can be. Handmark's new Express service is designed to tackle this problem.

Launched this week at the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association's annual trade show here, Handmark Express packages and delivers Web-based information to Palm- and Windows Mobile-based, Internet-connected devices. The service provides news, weather, movie listings, stocks, sports, phone book lookup, and map information in as few as two clicks.

Handmark Express is a subscription service, which means the interface is not cluttered with (nor is the service slowed down by) ads. It is available for $6.99 per month from the Handmark Express Web site, which also offers a selection of handheld games and productivity applications.

In a few weeks, Handmark plans to offer a retail package at Best Buy stores, offering a year's worth of service for $69. That package will include a CD with the Express software, which you can sync to your handheld via your desktop PC. (Those who purchase the service at Handmark's site can download the software for free.)

Paying the Price

The $6.99 monthly (or $69 annual) fee may seem pricey for information that is available for free on any number of Web sites. But accessing those Web sites on a handheld browser can be irritating in the extreme, especially if your connection is a poky cellular hookup. You have to wait while the device downloads pages intended for much larger screens--pages that usually include several ads served up from sites other than the one you've queried. Formatting tends to be messy, at the very least; sometimes it's difficult to find the information you requested.

Handmark Express eliminates those drawbacks. Once the software is installed, you simply launch it and click on the appropriate category to enter your request and download the information. For news, sports, and stocks, you just click on an update button.

I tried out a beta version and was impressed by both its speed and the simplicity and clarity of its presentation. Judging from my experience, I'd say the service would be well worth checking out for someone who had reason to use it regularly, especially a frequent business traveler.

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