The Gadgets Page

October 2, 2003

Review: Toshiba 2032SP PocketPC phone

Filed under: PDAs and Phones,Reviews — Matthew Strebe @ 2:03 pm

PCS Pocket PC Phone Toshiba 2032 (Sprint)

The Toshiba 2032SP is among the first generation of actually useful PocketPC based smartphones. Palm devices, especially those built by Samsung, have been eating the Pocket PC platform’s lunch in the integrated phone market for quite some time, because the higher power requirements and larger form factor of the Pocket PC have made it difficult to build a competitive phone.

This phone is a 3G CDMA phone built for the Sprint network, which means that there’s a sprint logo on it and the radio is designed for Sprint’s network. You won’t be able to use the device with any other provider. Retailing for $269 with a one year service commitment, the device doesn’t cost any more than a typical Pocket PC without a phone built in.

Sprint’s minimum plan that supports this phone is a 300 voice minute service that comes with unlimited nationwide data use for $80/month. If you only plan to use the phone for data connections, this plan will suffice. The plan can be shared with another user for an additional charge of just $20/month, so multiple users can get a reasonably good deal and still have unlimited data service.


Firstly, the Toshiba 2032SP is actually built by Audiovox, so expect Audiovox quality—silver painted plastic rather than a metal case, and a slightly larger form factor than you might expect from a device actually designed and built by Toshiba. Our four foot drop test marred and slightly damaged the case, but did not affect the electronics or usability of the device. Expect the blue snap-on side rails that cover the case screws and the battery disconnect switch to fall off and break.

Battery life isn’t bad compared to other Pocket PCs (expect three hours of radio on time and about two days of typical Pocket PC use), but the battery dissipates over the course of a week by itself if you don’t keep it charged. Couple that with a lack of built-in flash memory, and you’ve got a PDA that looses its mind regularly unless it sleeps on its charge cradle. If you aren’t the sort of person who is religious about nightly charging, this is definitely not the device for you.

One of our two units shipped with a defective stylus that scratched the screen badly every time it was used. Replacing the stylus stopped the scratching, but the damage was done before we could do anything about it. As will all PDAs, purchase a screen protector and put it on before you use the device for the first time.


The phone is a Pocket PC and works like one, so everything you know about Pocket PCs applies to this device. It uses the standard Microsoft Pocket PC 2002 operating system (not the Pocket PC for smartphones variant) with a Sierra Wireless dialer application built in.

Unfortunately, the device has only 32MB of RAM built in and no internal flash memory, which means that you’ll have to install at least 128M of Flash memory in the included SD card slot. With an SD card and judicious installation of software only to the card, you’ve got a useful PDA, but without it you will quickly hit the memory limitations of the device.

The data transmission rate peaks at 144Kbps, and coverage is actually excellent where we tested it in Salt Lake City and San Diego. In these metro regions, we were unable to find any place that we couldn’t pick up a data signal to check e-mail and web. The phone is digital only, so voice quality is quite good.

The phone is only a speaker phone that can be operated with a headset for privacy. Unlike a typical cell phone, you must have a headset with you if you want a private conversation. The speakerphone quality is quite good however, so if you don’t mind treating everyone around you to your conversation, it might meet your needs. The lack of a privacy mode makes the phone unacceptable as a pure cell phone, and in our two month usability test we were never able to replace a standard cell phone with the device.

Dialing is performed via an application on screen. The buttons are large enough to dial by finger without using the stylus if you don’t mind getting the screen smudged with finger prints. Hard send/end buttons are provided along with the standard suite of Pocket PC hard buttons, and a switch is provided to turn the radio on and off to save power.

Although the voice mode is mostly useless, the data mode is exceptionally well integrated. Simply tap the web or e-mail icon in the start menu, and the phone will automatically dial a pre-configured data connection phone number and automatically connect. Within about 30 seconds, e-mail from you standard POP or IMAP e-mail accounts will start streaming into your PDA, or a miniature version of your favorite website will appear.

For e-mail, the device is unbeatable. Blackberries are not competition for the ease of use of this device. For example, you can actually download and view attached word and excel spreadsheets, JPEG images, and text messages without much hassle. The device works much like miniature version of Outlook when it comes to mail handling, albeit without the Exchange features that corporate users might be used to. Writing e-mail is simple with the standard suite of Pocket PC input methods, such as the tap keyboard or graffiti-style character recognition. I personally have never gotten use to the “thumb board” keyboards typified by blackberries, so if you need one of those you might want to skip this device since there are none available as of this writing.

For web browsing, all PDAs are lackluster. The small screen size is a serious limitation. It’s useful for what I call “emergency browsing” when you need to get online remotely to perform some immediate task, but it’s not pleasurable for typical browing, as you’ll have to use the horizontal scrollbar to read most sites. There is a “fit to screen” feature that tries to tell web pages that your screen is smaller, but the majority of webmasters ignore the input and format their pages for desktop machines.

The phone was a saving grace in two instances when we needed to download a file from the Internet to a PC but didn’t have a web connection. We were able to browse to the download site, download the file to an SD card, and then execute the file on a laptop from the SD card. For systems integrators who might be stuck without a web connection for a needed download, this device can be a godsend. In the second instance, we downloaded Microsoft’s ActiveSync software for a laptop using the PDA, then transferred the installer to the laptop and ran it, enabling us to install software on the PDA via the Infrared ports on both devices. This nifty capability means that you can travel without a laptop and still install software using anybody’s computer in a pinch.

There are a small but growing number of sites that format their web pages specifically for PDA users. Google, Bloomberg, CNN, and many others provide services that work well on phones like this if you know the special URLs. Numerous sites on the web list these sites, and once you’ve bookmarked them you’ve got a reasonably useful web browser.

Similar Models

The same smart phone is available in a model for Verizon networks. Verizon charges minutes off your plan for every minute connected to the data service, but has plans starting lower than Sprint’s baseline $80 plan.


The Toshiba 2032SP is an adequate PDA that is quite similar to an HP iPaq in features and functionality. It comes with a barely adequate 32MB of RAM and an SD slot for memory expansion. The integrated 3G CDMA phone provides 144kbps data service and voice for the phone over Sprint’s nationwide network.

As a Pocket PC, the device is adequate (hampered only by poor battery technology and a lack of built-in flash memory), especially considering the low price with activation. The built-in e-mail functionality is top-notch. If you want a device purely for e-mail, this is the gadget for you. As with all PDAs, web functionality is limited by the small screen, but useful if you visit sites designed for small screens.

Despite the built in phone, the device is a speaker phone with a headset jack. It’s no replacement for a typical cell phone due to the lack of a privacy mode and its large PDA sized form factor.

For those requiring a single integrated phone and PDA, the new Motorola smartphone is a better device. This unit should be considered a PDA with e-mail and web capabilities. The cell phone is useful for emergencies only in our opinion.


  1. It would be nice if someone would design a new driver/software for the Sprint PCS 2032sp, that would use the internal modem and cell phone range capability to connect to wifi locations from a couple of miles away. This can be done by bouncing the signal off of cell towers.

    It would also be great if there was software that would allow me to change cell phone service providers, since I could get better rates through Cellular One.

    Please keep me informed to new updates to the 2032SP Sprint phone.



    Comment by David — January 26, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

  2. I have lost my companion cd rom for my 2032SP toshiba. I can not find it avalible anywhere. It would be nice someome can help me to find it or the software in order to me to buy it.



    Comment by Humberto — March 29, 2008 @ 7:15 pm

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