We've been discovering what it's like to fall out of love with BenQ's P50 Pocket PC Phone. We've been eyeing this one since we first spotted it at CeBIT back in March, and its listed specs — mini QWERTY keyboard, Bluetooth, WiFi, 1.3 megapixel digital camera (with flash), a 2.8-inch LCD screen — got us thinking that maybe we'd happened upon a worthy successor for our trusty (and much loved) Treo 600. Apparently we were wrong.
Fast forward about ten months and the bloom is off the rose, as they say. The first strike against the P50 is its expected retail price. $800 isn?t completely out of line for a fully-featured smartphone, especially if it?s before any carrier discounts (Wes Felter notes that an unsubsidized Sony Ericsson P910 costs about the same), but by comparison an unsubsidized Treo 650 ? which is in many respects the P50?s closest competitor ? goes for $600. (And for everyone who thought they were going to be able to get one on the cheap, Expansys just jacked up their pre-order price to $925 ? thanks to Chris for the heads up on that).
Maybe we could be convinced to suck it up and pay that much, but not only is the phone still not out, it?s not even going to be available anytime soon. The BenQ rep we spoke to last week at CES said that the earliest we could expect to see the P50 even shipping would be more around the end of Q2/beginning of Q3.
It gets worse. Even when the phone does arrive it?ll have been in development so long that it?ll already be obsolete when it debuts. Barring a major revision of the phone?s specs by BenQ, the P50 won?t be able to run the new and improved 2005 version of Windows Mobile that is coming out, and even more frustratingly it?ll only have GPRS for data connections rather than EDGE or UMTS. You know how we like to roll here at Engadget ? we fully expect that by September (or whenever this phone actually hits) that GPRS will seem like a really quaint way to get online with your cellphone and we?ll be complaining about how using a phone with anything slower than a 3G connection feels completely intolerable (we?ve been rocking Verizon?s EV-DO laptop card, and it?s sort of life-changing).
Not that we want to unfairly single out the P50, or anything. To be perfectly honest, we?ve been disappointed by one aspect or another of every promising new smartphone with a QWERTY keyboard that?s been announced lately (the Treo 650, the Samsung i730, the Motorola MPx), so the P50 is definitely in good company. So what?s one to do? Well, we?re sticking with the Treo 600 until something comes along that actually seems worth dropping $500-$700 on.