Use of wireless handheld devices on the up

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Managers across government are continuing to accelerate the use of cell phone/personal digital assistant hybrids, smart phones and wireless messaging devices. And many users say wireless handheld devices are central to their job performance, a GCN telephone survey found.

In the survey, 40 percent of managers said they use a wireless handheld device in the course of doing agency business. That's up 9 points from a GCN survey last year, when 31 percent of the managers reported wireless handheld use.

The next year should see another bump up in use, if the current pace is an indication. In the latest survey, 10 percent of nonusers said they planned to acquire a wireless device in the next 12 months.

A hefty majority of managers, 69 percent, said that their handhelds were supplied by their agencies.

Most users, 93 percent, said the devices are important to some degree to doing their jobs. Nearly half, 45 percent, said handhelds were very important to job performance. Nearly half of users reported having BlackBerry devices from Research in Motion Inc. of Waterloo, Ontario. Far fewer used Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Ipaq Pocket PC Phone Edition (19 percent) and the Treo smart phone from Palm Inc. of Milpitas, Calif. (17 percent).

Overall, communications features proved far more critical to users in the survey sample than more trendy add-ons.

E-mail (76 percent) was by far the most important feature for users in the survey. Bluetooth and WiFi capability were important to a third of users. On the other hand, few cared about having an MP3 player (5 percent) or a built-in camera (5 percent).

Substantial battery life (48 percent) and security features (43 percent) were vital features to managers, the survey showed.

The GCN survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey on wireless handheld devices is based on a telephone survey of 100 federal readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as IT managers.

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