Motorola this week announced the MC9500, a new rugged handheld computer that is designed to extend the functionality of the company's best-selling MC9000 line.

"The 9500 is the evolution of the MC9000 family," Sheldon Safir, director of product marketing for Motorola's enterprise mobility business, said during an interview with Urgent Communications. "We've taken the best features out of the MC9000 and incorporated them into the 9500, plus introduced new functionality in what is a smaller, lighter form factor that retains the rugged construction, so the product can be used in more extreme environments."

While the MC9000 allowed connectivity to 2.5G commercial wireless networks, the MC9500 provides connectivity to 3.5G WAN technologies like HSDPA or CDMA-EVDO Rev. A, as well as LAN access to 802.11a/b/g networks, Safir said. The MC9500's 3.7-inch touch screen has been upgraded to a VGA color display with four times the resolution of the MC9000, and a 3.2 megapixel camera and GPS also are integrated. The device also features the Marvell XScale PXA320@806 MHz processor and Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.1 operating system, he said.

In terms of ruggedness, the MC9500 has been tested to withstand being submerged in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes or a 6-foot drop to concrete, Safir said. In addition, the MC95000 uses interactive sensor technology (IST) to detect and log device drops and to improve power management by automatically reverting to sleep mode if the display is face down.

Ergonomic features include four — soon to be five — swappable keypads that can be changed by users in the field, Safir said. In addition, Motorola has placed the most-used keys in more accessible areas of the device to enable easier one-handed use for some applications.

Other highlights of the MC9500 are its backroom features, which Safir described as "game changers." Charging and storage of the new devices can be done in 30% less space, and power-indicator lights on the device display both the level of the charge and the lifecycle of the battery, so users can accurately estimate whether the battery will have the power necessary to keep the device operating throughout an entire shift, he said.

Motorola officials anticipate the MC9500 to be used by mobile and field workforces in the transportation and logistics, parcel/post, direct store delivery, field service and public-safety industries. Safir said that public-safety users should find the MC9500 to have superior functionality when executing e-citations in the field.

"The 9000 did not have camera functionality, so there's now the capability of snapping a license plate or, if there's an accident, even capturing some of the damage," Safir said. "And, with the ability of HSDPA to do simultaneous voice and data, they can send … a scan of the license back to home base while they are talking on the phone."

Available immediately in North America, the MC9500's list price ranges from $2495 to $3195 per unit.