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T-Mobile Pocket PC 2002 Phone: Microsoft's Pocket PC 2002 Phone platform puts the "smart" in smartphone.

In the ever-increasing world of device convergence, it's inevitable the phone and PDA should merge. If you think about it, there are really only two ways this can go: You either end up with a PDA that includes phone functionality, or a phone that includes some PDA functionality. Either scenario demands compromise because the two devices target different situations and uses.

Cell phone manufacturers have been trying--generally ineffectively--to incorporate some level of PDA functionality into phones for years. What if you could take the power of Outlook and merge it with the flexibility of a cell phone? That's exactly what Microsoft and its hardware partners are attempting with Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition. This "PDA with a phone grafted on" device exceeds expectations in some areas, and falls short in others.

The model I evaluated is manufactured by HTC and available from T-Mobile. Anyone familiar with the Siemens SX56 available from AT&T Wireless will recognize this phone--it's the same hardware because HTC manufactures both models; but, the software is individualized for each carrier. The version I reviewed was branded for T-Mobile, but didn't contain its specific additional software.

It was hard not to recall the old "You got peanut butter on my chocolate! You got chocolate in my peanut butter!" candy commercials (perhaps you're not old enough to remember?) while testing the Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition. Its screen is smaller than the screen on a standard Pocket PC, but it's much larger than a standard cell phone (at least, larger than any phone I'm willing to cart around). Is it a good Pocket PC? Is it a good cell phone? I'll cut to the chase: From my perspective, the device is an excellent Pocket PC. On the other hand, 1 found the phone functionality somewhat inconvenient, and would have a hard time using this as my only cell phone.

Basics

Let's start with the features: This device is a complete Pocket PC 2002 device, with no compromises. I set it up, had it synched with Outlook 2002, and made my first call in less than 10 minutes. The device includes an expansion slot for SD/MMC cards (I tried a 256MB Smart Media card loaded with MP3 files, with excellent results), but no other expansion opportunities. The screen is smaller than on my Compaq iPaq, but it's extremely legible bright. The device weighs about 7 ounces--a little more than a "naked" iPaq 3650 (which weighs 6 ounces or so). It's about the same thickness as the iPaq, although it's a little taller because of the "nubbin" antenna at the top.

The phone provides GSM /GPRS service, allowing for simple and relatively speedy Internet connectivity SMS, IM, and more. I use the word "relatively" in the most generous way here; relative to AT&T Wireless' pre-GSM browser access, which was slower than watching paint dry, GPRS is relatively speedy.

How about phone and PDA features? The Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition includes excellent convergence, in terms of software, between a Pocket PC and a phone. When you receive a call, the device displays extended information from your Outlook contacts list, if possible. If you're listening to music when a call comes in, the device lowers the volume on the music so you can hear the phone ring. When you answer the call, the device pauses the music, and restarts where it left off when you disconnect. While you're on a call, it's easy to take notes associated with the contact who's called, or add the caller to your list of contacts.

A question of balance

As a PDA, the Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition is equivalent to any other Pocket PC 2002 device, with the addition of phone-specific features, which add greatly to the value. No problems there. When you review any phone, however, you should consider three factors: the phone itself, the included software, and the phone service (which you really can't treat separately from the hardware because it's the antenna in the phone that helps determine how well the phone receives the signal from the carrier).

It's hard for me to rate the signal and its behavior. I tested the phone in both Los Angeles and Seattle, and in both cities, the signal from T-Mobile was generally unacceptable. Seattle fared better, but in my own home, just a few miles front downtown Los Angeles, I was unable to receive a signal much of the time. Many folks using T-Mobile are quite happy with the service, so I won't push this point.

The phone software--that is, the additions to the standard Pocket PC 2002 interface--is excellent. The software is simple to use, convenient (most of the time, using the phone doesn't require a stylus, and works well with your finger), and helpful. Personally, I rely on hardware buttons, as opposed to the soft buttons used on the Pocket PC device, to do my dialing, but that's just a matter of taste. Given the restrictions of having to add a phone to existing Pocket PC hardware, Microsoft did an excellent job here.

Using the device as a phone--well, that's another story. The Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition would be great for people who use their cell phone non-stop (or tend to have their Pocket PC always handy) or for those who use the device infrequently. My problem is that 1 can't get at the device quickly or easily because of its size (and where l have to store it--it doesn't fit in a pocket). For those who use their cell phones regularly, but only a few times per day (like me), it's just too big and inconvenient. Personally, I would be unhappy making the Pocket PC 2002 my only cell phone, and unscientific polling of several friends came up with similar results. On the other band, using GPRS to browse the Web on the device while waiting for a plane in a crowded Seattle airport bar drew several stares, and a long conversation with one interested waiter who wanted to know what the thing was. He was ready to rush out and buy one.

On the device I tested, the headset jack was broken, so the headset simply didn't work. I tried it with two headsets, and both failed. It's also important to note that the supplied headset is a complex tangle of thin wires, and each time I attempted to use it, it tangled itself up into a mess of knots. The jack not working was probably just a problem with this one device, but be wary--there might be an issue here.

UpShot

If you use your Pocket PC often, and tire of carrying both a Pocket PC and a cell phone, you should consider dropping those devices in favor of this phone. If, on the other hand, you're a cell phone user who occasionally requires a Pocket PC, I'd pass. A better alternative might be to wait for the "peanut butter in my chocolate" solution: the Microsoft Windows Powered Smartphone, due out next year in the U.S. (it's already available in the U.K.). This phone, with a reduced-functionality PDA, makes more sense to me.

In either case, Microsoft has done a great job merging phone and PDA. Now it's just up to the hardware manufacturers to release devices that make it work for as many users as possible.

ADVISOR EVAL

BUSINESS BENEFITS

There are bound to be some tradeoffs when you combine a phone and PDA. This device favors PDA functionality over a sleek phone-user-friendly design.

(+) Excellent Pocket PC, with a bright screen, phone, and browsing capability

(+) Reaching the Web is simple

(+) Much smaller than carrying both a Pocket PC and a phone

(-) Size is a problem if you're used to a small phone

(-) GPRS browsing is still slow

(-) Included stereo headset is a tangle of thin wires

(-) Very little expandability: no CompactFlash, no expansion packs, just one SD/MMC slot

T-Mobile

http://www.mobile.com

T-Mobile Pocket PC 2002 Phone

US$499 with a T-Mobile plan

DIMENSIONS: 5.1" height; 2.8" width; 0.7" depth

WEIGHT: 6.93oz

SCREEN SIZE: 3" height; 2.5" width

RESOLUTION: 240 x 320 pixels

DISPLAY: 4096-color display

BACKLIT SCREEN: Yes

BATTERY LIFE: 3.5 hours Talk; 180 hours Standby; 15 hours PDA

BATTERY TYPE: Li-Ion

OS: Pocket PC 2002

PROCESSOR: Intel StrongARM 206 MHz

RAM: 32MB

EXPANSION SLOTS: SD/MMC

PORTS: Headphone jack

INPUT DEVICE: Touch screen, dial pad,

VOICE RECORDER: Yes

INTERNET: E-mail, Web

TEXT MESSAGING: Yes

APPLICATIONS: Pocket version of Microsoft Office applications

SYNC: Microsoft ActiveSync

INFRARED: Yes

DATA SPEED: Up to 40Kbps

RADIO SYSTEM: 900/1900 MHz GSM/GPRS

CALL TIMER: Yes

CALL WAITING: Yes

CALLER ID: Yes

LAST NUMBER RECALL: Yes

MISSED CALL LISTING: Yes

RING OPTIONS: Ring, silent, vibrate

VOICE DIALING: No

VOICEMAIL: Yes

SPEAKERPHONE: Yes

Technical Editor Ken Getz is a programmer, technical writer, educator, and senior consultant with MCW Technologies. He develops custom applications and tools using ASP.NET, Visual Studio.NET, and Microsoft Office, and spends much of his free time researching and testing mobile hardware. He's been a Microsoft MVP award winner since the program began. Ken teaches ASP.NET, C#, and VB.NET for Application Developers Training Company, and is a frequent speaker at Microsoft events, Advisor DevCon, and other technical conferences. He's co author of ASP.NET Jumpstart with contributing editor Paul D. Sheriff (SAMS), Access 2002 Developer's Handbook series, and VBA Developer's Handbook (Sybex). http://www.developershandbook.com, keng@mcwtech.com.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Smartphone
Author:Getz, Ken
Publication:Mobile Business Advisor
Article Type:Product/Service Evaluation
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 1, 2003
Words:1576
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