I have been using Pocket PC devices for years, but was always inclined to have an all in one device for PIM management and communications. I have experimented with Pocket PC Phone Edition devices, but I still think they’re too big to be comfortably used as a mobile phone – although the latest versions, including the i-mate PDA2k (GSM/GPRS) and TNZ Harrier/Verizon XV6600 (CDMA EV-DO) include some very appealing functionality, including better Bluetooth support (headset, dial-up, networking) and high-speed internet access (on the CDMA EV-DO version).
Because of this search of an all-in-one device, I have been using the i-mate Smartphone2 for a while, but always having a Pocket PC handy. The main reason was really the Internet speed - either wireless LAN on my iPAQ h4150 or CDMA EV-DO on my Telecom New Zealand Harrier (read our review).
But, I have found that it is hard to beat the Smartphone when it comes to size, ease to use, and the fact that it can be always around, even when I don't have a laptop case or man bag with me. And since I have installed my own Exchange Server, over-the-air synchronisation and push e-mail made the platform even more attractive to me.
I was using the i-mate Smartphone2 for some time, but I was quite happy when the Motorola MPx220 arrived for this review. It is a new form factor, updated OS, higher spec camera, and more built-in software.
The MPx220: small mobile phone
The MPx220: good balance
The MPx220 with the Smartphone2 (left): much smaller
The MPx220 form factor is very comfortable. Measurements are 48mm (h) x 99.9mm (w) x 24.3mm (d) and it weighs only 117g (4.1oz). It is so smaller than the Smartphone2 that I can easily carry it in my shirt pocket. It also looks good. The clamshell design hides its screen, but an external secondary LCD will keep you informed of current date and time, signal strength, and any incoming message (e-mail, SMS or MMS). It will also show caller id including name, if the number is found on your Contact database.
You can select your own image background for the external LCD by dropping a small JPG image (96x64) on a folder called \My Documents\ExtLCD.
Configuring the external LCD
As for the phone call quality, I am using the MPx220 with the latest ROM update, and it works without a problem. Early users complained about low volume during calls, but with this ROM version my experience has shown that both sides of the call have clear sound, with adequate volume.
The phone runs on a 200MHz TI OMAP 1611 CPU with Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphone Second Edition. Despite having a faster CPU than then one used on the i-mate Smartphone2 (TI OMAP 132MHz) it actually feels a little bit slower when opening some built-in applications.
The standard configuration comes with 64MB ROM and 32MB SDRAM. Of course this is just enough to run the phone, and the first thing I have done was to install a mini SD card with the maximum addressable memory: 512MB. It is advisable to install all applications to the external card to keep the maximum memory available for the phone’s operation.
Memory configuration (with mini SD card)
The quadband (850/900/1800/1900MHz) phone connects to GSM/GPRS networks, and the specification says its rechargeable battery can provide something between 140 to 260 hours of standby. The factors that impact its power performance are the environment temperature, signal strength, features in use (digital camera, Bluetooth). Expected talk time is between 300 and 440 minutes. I have noticed that even with Bluetooth on I didn’t have to recharge the Motorola as many times as I was used with my previous Smartphone.
Users can benefit of the profile manager which allows different profiles (including sound and vibrating alerts) with different settings for normal, silent, meeting and outdoor uses. There is also an automatic profile that will switch between normal and meeting if the calendar indicates the current time is busy.
The phone offers a good balance when open and its backlit keypad offers good tactile and sound feedback when keys are pressed. The keys are almost flat on the surface, with a large directional keypad with a blue action button.
The 2.0” 176 x 220 pixels LCD screen is actually smaller than the one used on the i-mate Smartphone2 (2.2”), but it is much brighter and it looks better with crispier colours.
Resolution is the same but MPx220 is much brighter and easier to read
The built-in 1.23 megapixel camera comes with flash (just strong enough for a very close subject) and the camera software can be configured to store captured images either on the internal memory or on the mini SD card. You can control the image size and select between different image sizes (1280x960, 640x480, 320x240, 176x144, 160x120 and 128x96). The software provides features like 3x digital zoom and a burst mode that will capture images in sequence when the shutter is pressed.
One interesting feature is the external LCD being used as a camera viewfinder, instead of the phone having those tiny mirrors used for self-portrait, present in other camera phones.
The camera can also be used as a video recorder. The software will store MPEG4 (3gpp) video files, that can be played back using the built-in video player software, or Apple Quicktime on desktop and laptop computers. The video player software also supports MPEG4 streaming from the mobile network. These are examples of 1280x960 and 640x480 pictures taken with the built-in camera.
The camera application
Camera modes include single snapshot and burst mode
Selecting storage and image resolution
The Motorola MPx220 comes with the standard Windows Mobile applications, including Pocket MSN Messenger, Pocket Inbox (for e-mail, SMS and MMS), Contacts, Calendar, Windows Media Player (as of the time of this review still on version 9), and Pocket Internet Explorer.
Like all other Windows Mobile devices, PIM information can be synchronised to a Microsoft Outlook store (.pst file) via ActiveSync. There is also the option of synchronising information (e-mail, calendar and contacts) directly to a Microsoft Exchange Server, including a push e-mail option that will automatically notify the Smartphone of any new e-mails and start the synchronisation automatically (read more about it in our article Windows Mobile Always-up-to-date (AUTD) ActiveSync with Exchange Server 2003).
A small, but important thing I've noticed is when selecting New message, the Pocket Outlook no longer presents a list of accounts to choose from, instead using the account currently in use. This change makes creating SMS and e-mail much easier, with one less step needed to complete the task.
ActiveSync: synchronise with an Outlook storage or over-the-air to an Exchange Server
The MPx220 comes with a file viewer application that supports a variety of file formats, in special Adobe Acrobat, Word, Excel and Powerpoint, plus some image formats like JPG, GIF, PNG. Combined with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync it turns the phone into a powerful business tool.
File viewer: Word document (left) and PowerPoint presentation (right)
Users will be happy to know the phone supports T9 predictive text input (in English only) for easier data entry. The data entry is still limited to the phone keypad but quite comfortable to enter data with.
Pocket Internet Explorer allows users to access not only WAP pages but also full HTML websites, supporting DHTML, CSS and some basic Jscript.
Three different Pocket Internet Explorer layouts (from left): one columm, default and desktop
Although the browser itself does not support Java applets, the MPx220 comes with a Java VM, supporting CLDC 1.1, MIDP2.0. It even comes with two sample game applets.
One of the most useful built-in applications is the Speech Recognition program. With it you can dial a contact, lookup information or start a program. It is easily accessible by pressing and keeping the Volume Up button down for a second. There is no training required, and we can control sensitivity versus speed of recognition. The software also has a special list mode, and will ask the user for confirmation with a list of alternatives when recognition is not entirely accurate.
Using the Speech Recognition program
The Bluetooth software supports headset and handsfree profiles, file transfer, PIM exchange and dial-up. The MPx220 can be used as a Bluetooth modem to connect a laptop, desktop or even a Pocket PC to the GPRS network, and from there to the Internet. The MPx220 can also connect to ActiveSync over Bluetooth, making it a perfect wireless device match for any Bluetooth equipped computer.
It can also be used as a modem via USB or Infrared, and drivers are supplied on CD. After installation we just need to run the Modem Link program. Very handy if your computer does not have Bluetooth.
Sending a file via Bluetooth
Services available to other Bluetooth devices
It is quite handy to have it charged from the USB cable without the need of an external power cord (the phone does come with an external power cord though, great to have as a second charging option).
Over-the-air synchronisation with Microsoft Exchange 2003 Server
Very handy when equipped with a 512MB mini SD card
External LCD with useful information
USB cable a little flimsy with frequent disconnects
Had to reset the external LCD a couple of times by power cycling the device