A communications system that fits in your hand.

    Let's face it; if you have been in the financial services profession for any length of time or plan to be in the future, at some point you are going to have to confront the concept of multitasking. There are simply too many demands on today's financial advisor to ignore ways in which to make more efficient use of your time. A growing trend among some advisors is to create common communication portals through which a variety of different types of communications can be funneled.
    A fairly recent example of this is the so-called "smart phone." The smart phone is given its name for its ability to funnel a variety of tasks into a single portal (or device). In essence, the smart phone is both a wireless digital cell phone and a personal digital assistant (PDA). But because of the combination of both types of devices, the smart phone can be so much more. It becomes an effective device for capturing and handling e-mail, managing your schedule on the road, accessing contact phone numbers and other information, accessing the internet and, in some cases, even acting as a global positioning satellite (GPS) device for maps and directions.
    In its early introduction, the smart phone gained the reputation as a "jack-of-all-trades, master of none" type of device. It had the features of both the cell phone and PDA, but failed to live up to the hype. With the latest generation of these devices, all that is now in the past. Smart phones are finally starting to live up to their promise.
    There are essentially five models of smart phones that appear to have the features most needed or wanted by financial advisors. (There are many more models available than just five, but these five stand out among the rest, bearing in mind that model numbers and availability may change without prior notice)
    The first is the HP IPAQ HW6500 Mobile Messenger (to be offered in the United States through Cingular Wireless, www.hp.com). The price is approximately $450 to $500 after any rebate. The HW6500, currently available overseas but to be introduced in the United States in the near future, is taller and wider than comparable models, such as Palm One's Treo. But it is also considerably slimmer and light at under six ounces. It uses a quad band GSM/GPRS/Edge network that provides voice and high speed data in almost any country. It also has Bluetooth capabilities to connect with a wireless headset, for instance. GPS is built in, and your model may be bundled with software to use it. Because the IPAQ uses the familiar Microsoft Windows CE operating system, it interfaces effortlessly with other Microsoft products such as Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This model synchronizes data with MS Outlook using Microsoft ActiveSync software. In all, the HW6500 model represents a powerful addition to the Smart phone choices now available.
    The second model is Palm One's Treo 650 (http://web.palm.com/products/smartphones/treo650/). Offered through Verizon Wireless, Sprint and EarthLink Wireless, this is a popular model. Pricing is carrier-dependent and ranges from $299 to $599. The main difference between the different carriers appears to be what gets bundled with the Treo, such as document handling software or Bluetooth capability. The Verizon version has disabled the feature that would allow you to use the Treo as a laptop modem, but they sell a PC card for your laptop that accomplishes the same. The Treo sports the best keyboard of the five models, and on the 650 it is enhanced with a five-way navigation button and colored buttons, along with the usual quick-set buttons. This model also permits conference calling of up to 6 people. Depending on the carrier, though, unlimited data access could be costly.
    Third in the lineup of five models is the Blackberry. The model called RIM Blackberry 7100G  (http://www.blackberry.com/products/blackberry7100/blackberry7100g.shtml), offered through Cingular Wireless, T-Mobile and others, sells for approximately $199 with a two-year contract and rebate. (Deals may differ from one provider to another; be sure to check your cellular provider for current information). The Blackberry has been adopted by many corporations for its nearly flawless worldwide access to voice and data. However, this model does not use the widely available EDGE network and may not be as universally available (or as fast) for data and voice as other models. Another model, RIM Blackberry 7290 (http://www.blackberry.com/products/blackberry7200/blackberry7290.shtml), is offered by T-Mobile at approximately $399 with a two-year contract and rebate. This model includes popular features such as Bluetooth for wireless headsets, among other uses. The Blackberry earned its reputation on its unparalleled e-mail support. This particular model is capable of handling multiple e-mail accounts with ease. Instead of forwarding e-mail to a business address, you can directly send and receive for up to ten different accounts.
    The fourth model is the Samsung i730, offered by Verizon Wireless at an approximate cost of $599 with a two-year contract and rebate. This Samsung model has a really cool slide-out keyboard that allows for a much larger display than other models. It includes Bluetooth support for wireless headsets, and boasts fast data transfer rates over the EV-DO and WI-FI network protocols. One drawback to this model appears to be that you cannot receive a phone call when the WI-FI feature is activated.
    The fifth model is the Nokia 9300, coming soon from Nokia (www.nokiausa.com/phones/9300); it will probably be offered on Cingular and T-Mobile networks. This may be the priciest model at approximately $799 (price not published at press time). Looking like something out of a James Bond movie, the fold-out Nokia (folds out like a hot dog bun) with a huge screen inside (smaller screen on the outside) and large keyboard is the most interesting design of the five. The Nokia uses the EDGE network for fast data transfers. It contains office tools such as document, sheet, presentation editor and viewer, Web browser and e-mail with attachments. It also has an integrated camera with video capability, and offers Bluetooth wireless technology that can not only be used for a wireless headset but also to direct printing jobs to a local or network printer that also has Bluetooth capabilities. This model handles e-mail with attachments and instant messaging.
    The key to making the most efficient use of any of the above models is the extent to which you can integrate your client relationship management (CRM) program and access to e-mail, schedules, contacts and other data. In choosing one of the above smart phones, be sure to check with your software manufacturer to be certain your new phone is going to be able to share data with your office CRM database. With new services available, such as those that can convert voicemails to text messages on your new smart phone, the compliance headaches in keeping track of client communications may be a thing of the past.

David Lawrence is a practice efficiency consultant and is president of David Lawrence and Associates, a practice consulting firm based in Lutz, Fla. (www.efficientpractice.com). David Lawrence and Associates is an approved sponsor of CFP Board of Standards continuing education credits and offers CE programs on a variety of topics, including the financial planning process.