Vodafone New Zealand has been supporting Windows Mobile devices, Pocket PC and Smartphones, on its voice and data cellular network. But unlike the European Vodafone operations, the Vodafone VPA series didn't arrive in New Zealand until now.
For years Vodafone New Zealand users have been able to purchase i-mate branded Windows Mobile devices from Vodafone stores and it is only now that a Vodafone-branded Windows Mobile device arrives here. This honour goes to the Vodafone 1210, a budget Windows Mobile Smartphone designed and manufactured by ASUS.
Security concious organisations such as government offices, intelligence agencies or even private companies will like the idea of a fully functional Windows Mobile device, able to synchronise to their Microsoft Exchange servers, but without the camera. That's right, at last a business mobile phone without a built-in camera.
The Vodafone 1210 is a small candy bar style mobile phone, running Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphone. There is no word from Vodafone if an update to the recently announced Windows Mobile 6.0 for Smartphone will be available.
It connects to GSM (900/1800/1900) for voice and GPRS/UMTS (2.5G/3G) for data. It does not have Wireless LAN capabilities, but comes with Bluetooth, usefull for headsets and dial up applications.
The 2.2 QVGA (240 x 320 pixels) screen is nice and clear. Like othe Windows Mobile Smartphones it comes with two hard keys corresponding to soft keys, plus Home and Back keys. It also uses a 5-way navigation key to scroll through menu options and data fields.
In terms of memory, the Vodafone 1210 is well served: it sports 64MB RAM for program and OS execution, and 128MB flash memory for user data and program storage. Memory can be expanded with a Micro SD card, stored under the battery.
For fast messaging users, the keypad works with the traditional predictive text input T9, which can be easily switched to normal entry (where each key needs to be pressed a couple of times for different characters).
Because of the Windows Mobile 5.0 MSFP (Messaging and Security Feature) support it is possible to synchronise directly over the air to Microsoft Exchange Servers, and manage some security settings from the server, while enjoying native push e-mail.
However, like other Windows Mobile Smartphones (and unlike Windows Mobile Pocket PC), this device is application locked, meaning that companies running their own certificate authority servers will not be able to install their self-signed root certificate, required for a smooth and secure synchronisation to Exchange Servers.
I have contacted Vodafone New Zealand regarding this, and was soon contact by the local ASUS support line, who told me a signed application for certificate loading is in the works. This is what i-mate has created for their own Windows Mobile Smartphones and available on request. So far I haven't heard back with the application though, and the way to install my self-signed certificate was to "hack" the device with instructions readily available on the Internet.
In terms of software the Vodafone 1210 comes with ClearVue, a suite of office programs, including viewers for Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint and Adobe Reader. And no, you cannot edit the files.
The PIM data (including Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Inbox) can synchronise to data residing on either your Microsoft Outlook file, or to your Exchange Server account. There is also a MSN Messenger client built-in and ready for use.
For Internet browsing users will be happy to see a pre-installed copy of Opera Browser for Windows Mobile. Internet Explorer Mobile is still there, but buried under three levels of menus. The Browse button automatically opens Opera and goes to the Google search page.
The local synchronisation (used to load programs or synchronise to an Outlook file) is done via USB cable, which is also used for charging the device. Expected battery life is about 300 hours of stand by and it worked to be about right, if push e-mail is not active.
Voice calls are clear, providing you are in an area with good coverage (about 2 or more out of 4 bars). Initiating a phone call is easy from the Today screen, and you need only to start entering the number to call, or use the keypad to spell out a name from your Contacts. The smartdial will look for matching numbers/names from Contacts and your Call Log. Quite smart.
In terms of other visual clues, the Power button flashes blue when Bluetooth is active, a solid red when new e-mails or SMS are available, and blinking red while charging. Handy to know this.
Small, nice to carry, form factor
OTA sycnhronisation to Exchange Servers
Huge library of applications available
Budget but smart device
The restriction on self-signed certificate (though only impact some companies with their own CA) - see note below
Launched with Windows Mobile 5.0 just after Windows Mobile 6.0 was announced.
UPDATED: since this review Vodafone has released a firmware update that remove the certificate lock.