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PocketPC Phone Edition Review

Highs

  • Great for business professionals on the run

Rating

Our Score 7
User Score 6

Lows

  • Only 32mb of memory
  • occasional lock-ups
The PocketPC Phone Edition is perfect for business savvy people who always need their information close and their e-mail available

Summary

The PocketPC Phone Edition is perfect for business savvy people who always need their information close and their e-mail available. While the PocketPC Phone Edition may be Microsoft’s first attempt in the mobile phone world, the idea and execution of creating a hybrid PDA/phone was an honorable one despite some complications. Including at least 64mb of integrated memory would have been a good idea as is the notion of making the system more intuitive to mobile phone users. As it is, it feels like they took the PocketPC operating system as they had it and then added the very basic phone functions.

Introduction

The PocketPC Phone Edition from T-Mobile is a product somewhat new to the market because it not only uses Microsoft’s PocketPC operating system but it is capable of being both a mobile phone and a PDA. While the operating system is from Microsoft, the phone hardware itself is the SX56 model from Siemens. Those who are used to carrying around a PDA with the PocketPC OS and using a modem add-in card for phone functionalities will find this phone appealing; those making the transformation over from a straight mobile phone will find this product somewhat lacking. You may be asking yourself, is the PocketPC phone more of a PDA than a phone?

Features

The PocketPC phone edition from T-mobile runs on the GSM 900/1900 MHz band and supports GPRS for true internet connectivity.  The 3.5″ screen supports a 12bit color and 320×240 resolution on a very bright reflective LCD display. Other standout features include POP 3 or IMAP4 e-mail support, built in paging, conference call support, full HTML or WAP browsing, SD memory expansion, IM messaging, Media Player and more. Remember, the OS is Microsoft’s PocketPC so you will have complete synchronization with most of your popular Microsoft Office applications.

Setup and Installation

Setup is pretty straight forward without too many tricks to remember. First of all, if you currently have a GSM phone with T-mobile, then you are in luck. You should be able to use your current SIM card in the new PocketPC phone allowing you to retain all of your contact information. Upon powering up the PocketPC phone, you will quickly be walked through a short tutorial which includes aligning the touch points on the screen and learning how to edit text. When you insert the software setup CD into your computer, make sure not to have the phone cradle connected to your PC until after the Active-Sync software is installed. If you plug it in before hand, the software could have trouble detecting when your PocketPC phone is plugged in.

Installing software updates is easy. Using your home computer you can download the PocketPC updates to your desktop. Make sure the phone in plugged into the cradle and connected to your computer. Run the software updates off your home computer and it will update your phone automatically through the cradle. At the time of this writing the only notable updates were for Windows Media Player.

If you plan on storing lots of information and content on the PocketPC phone, you will most likely want to install a SD card into the slot located on the bottom of the phone. The PocketPC phone only has 32mb of integrated memory, so expanding your memory should be a priority. You will be able to backup your system to this card as well as store any other data such as MP3’s.

Use and Testing

We were both extremely happy with the phone and very disappointed in. The idea of integrating a phone with a PocketPC PDA is a fantastic one and we really wanted the product to full-fill all of our needs. First off, the sound quality of the phone both in speaker mode and regular mode is among the best we have ever heard. The conference call feature it totally cool and you can conference someone in mid conversation with another person. When someone calls while you are talking, simply look at the screen and choose whether you want to ignore them, switch to speak to them or conference them into your current conversation. The speaker phone works great; it is loud from a reasonable distance. The microphone works great for recording and when talking with other people; both in regular mode and speaker mode.

Using GPRS to connect to the internet is revolutionary to cell phones in the US even though our overseas brethren have been spoiled by its availability for quite some time. The connection speed of GPRS is fast and works smoothly. There was a couple things which we felt weren’t true to the advertising of this phone. First of all, you are not always “connected” with GPRS. You have to connect to the network via a connection icon in order to use the GPRS connectivity. While you are connected, you cannot use the phone to talk at the same time. So if you are instant messaging someone using AIM or MSN Messenger, you cannot send or receive calls. And when you are calling someone, you are not connected to the internet. The good thing is that connecting with GPRS is actually somewhat fast, usually less than 30 seconds depending on signal strength.

If you want a complete list of the phones included applications, please go here for details. The MS Office suite worked very well and we did not have any issues with it. What we did have issues with was the operating system as a whole. Occasionally the operating system would lock-up on us both while in use and while sitting idle. There is nothing worse than having a message bubble appear on the screen and staying frozen to it. Or try being in the middle of a call when the phone mysteriously locks up preventing you from talking. It seemed like the more software or information we had on the phone, the easier it was to lockup. While the system uses Intel’s 206MHz Strong-Arm CPU, we are assuming the lack of more onboard memory really causes the phone to struggle while using its PDA features.

Battery life on the PocketPC Phone Edition is well above average for a phone of this size and features. We had no issues throughout the day with battery consumption. While the packaging states that the phone is capable of 5 hours talk time and 180 hours standby, we would have to say that the phone did in fact live up to its promise.

Using the phone in the car can be difficult due to the phone navigation. We were forced to try and navigate the phone book and call log using our thumbs while driving versus using the included stylus. After many hours of testing, we concluded that the PocketPC phone should not be used while driving in the car. Navigation with your finger is tedious and not very accurate on a phone of this type.

If you have a decent SD memory card in, the PocketPC phone can be used as a very adequate MP3 player. The included headphones are stereo and output it excellent. The included Windows Media Player is just like the one you use at home and supports the major audio and video formats. Speaking of audio formats, one feature we all liked was the ability to use .WAV files for your ring tones. This adds a cool touch to the phone and will certainly turn some heads while out in public.

Conclusion

The PocketPC Phone Edition is perfect for business savvy people who always need their information close and their e-mail available. While the PocketPC Phone Edition may be Microsoft’s first attempt in the mobile phone world, the idea and execution of creating a hybrid PDA/phone was an honorable one despite some complications. Including at least 64mb of integrated memory would have been a good idea as is the notion of making the system more intuitive to mobile phone users. As it is, it feels like they took the PocketPC operating system as they had it and then added the very basic phone functions. The PocketPC phone retails for around $499. We found ours at On The Go Solutions for only $299 with service; a true value for those who are interested in this cool phone.

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