One feature common to all smart phone devices is the synchronisation. It's just too convenient to have the ability to edit a phonebook entry on your computer, and have that replicated to your phone upon connection. Most of the modern feature phones (the ones smart enough to run some Java programs, and maintain an address book and calendar) don't have a specific program to allow users to manage its content.
We had a look on a program that offers this and a little bit more. Mobiledit!, from Compelson Laboratories, provides an interface to the mobile phone's contents. It's flexible enough to allow for more features to be added as plugins (Compelson Laboratories even makes a free SDK available for download), and to have a communications layer that actually allows the same program to be used with different phone models. Change the program's configuration and a new phone can be in use pretty soon.
For our tests I've installed the Mobiledit! 1.68. The program comes with an update feature. From the Help menu you can check for new versions, and even download the program and install from there.
The program supports a long list of phones (available here), including Alcatel (lots of One Touch models), Ericsson (including the most common R520, T39m and some not so common like the R600 or A1018s). It also supports a huge range of Nokia phones (including the 7110 and others), Panasonic GD67, LG, Motorola (including Timeport and V series), Samsung, Siemens, Sony Ericsson (T68i, T600, T610, Z600 and others). The list is frequently updated, and includes columns indicating what connection methods can be used with each phone model (Bluetooth, serial cable or infrared). Reading the notes in each phone we find for example that the Sony Ericsson T610 "... does not internally store first and last name separated, but stores them concatenated and on query it makes its own guess what is the first name and what is the last one".
If using Bluetooth, just make sure to configure the program to "listen" the port defined as Outgoing or Client, since the connection will be established from your computer to the phone. If using a serial cable, simply select the appropriate port in use.
Mobiledit! configuration: selecting what phones are connected
Mobiledit! configuration: selecting connection mode (using Bluetooth in this case)
Microsoft Outlook integration
The user interface is very easy to navigate, reminding me of the Microsoft Outlook style. On the left side you can have a bar with most used "Folders", then a tree with Connected devices, Offline devices, and last a colum with the information contents.
Note that one of the "devices" connected is Microsoft Outlook. When Microsoft Outlook integration is enabled, the program accesses the .pst file and load the contacts database. From here I'm able to add, edit or delete Outlook contacts directly from here. Changes are not commited to your .pst file until the Write button is clicked, though.
The view is skinnable, and the program will actually show an image of the phone currently connected. On this view you can set some basic parameters on your phone, as well as check current battery and operator status. Once you connect a phone, the functions available will depend on features supported by the specific phone model. One very interestin integration allowed me to copy and paste an Contact entry from my Outlook list into the phone's Phonebook, all within the Mobiledit! window. It does make it easy to maintain contacts this way.
While maintaining the Addressbook, an Internatialization function is available. This will give the user the ability to format the numbers in the Addressbook, following a standard format for international dialing. Quite useful if you have lots of contacts and intend to take the phone on a trip to another country, where international dialing will required additional signs or digits (for example the + signal on GSM networks, preceding the destination country code).
A filter is available, and it can be handy (no pun intended for our German readers who call the mobile phone a handy) when you have a well populated contact list. In my case I have more than 800 names in my Microsoft Outlook contacts folder, so this function was used a little.
Another cool function available on the main window is the Set Time button, which does exactly that: keep the mobile phone in sync with the computer's time.
The main window when a phone is connected
Maintaning the phonebook
The program will give you access to the Microsoft Outlook contact folder (if Microsoft Outlook integration is active), to the mobile phone's Addressbook, and to the SIM card's Addressbook.
With Mobiledit! I was able to send and receive SMS from this T68i while connected. Sending the SMS is easy, and contacts can be selected from a dropdown list. On the right side of the window there are a few emoticons that can be automatically inserted into the message. Users can also define some control features, like expiration, delivery report request, and request reply. The interesting part is actually on the receiving side. If the phone is connected and a new SMS arrives, it'll show on your computer screen as a popup, and will be moved to the program's Inbox. This feature alone is good enough reason to have the mobile always connected to your computer.
Maintaining the SMS Inbox on your mobile phone is easy too. I've found that I can move items from the phone's Inbox to the Mobiledit! "Archive". This will move and keep the message on your computer, while cleaning up space on the mobile phone.
Sending a SMS
Receiving a SMS
Receiving phone calls is also quite easy with this program. Like the SMS feature, when an incoming call arrives, it's announced on your computer's screen with a popup. You then have the option to answer this call, or simply terminate it with a busy signal (which in most cases will transfer the call to your voice mail, depending on operator's configuration).
Receiving a phone call
The program will list Received Calls, Missed Calls and Dialled numbers, with each view reflected in a separate folder. The same applies to SIM card's contents, and it'll actually show the SIM card as a folder within the phone, at the same level as the phone's Addressbook, SMS and Phone numbers storage (check the main window screenshot for a better view of this feature).
There's also support for SIM card readers connected to a computer, in addition to mobile phones. I couldn't test this feature myself, but I understand it sees the SIM card reader pretty much like the phone, without the builtin features. I was told that this feature is actually replicating lots of the knowledge the developers gathered when creating their previous product, SIMEdit!
The program also offers a couple of "leisure" plugins. For example the default installation comes with a Chess game. You can invite a friend to play a game, and the program will show the current game status. When you move a piece, your move will be sent to your friend via SMS. You then receive a reply and execute the move - and so. This way you can actually have multiple simultaneous games.
A game for leisure times
Mobiledit! also gives a little peace of mind with a Backup feature. The phone memory's contents can be copied to a repository, and multiple copies can be made. If needed, simply restore the most convenient or up to date copy to your device. Since you can give a name to each device connected, it's easy to find out which backup corresponds to which phone.
For example, they're currently developing a couple of new interesting features (the screenshots below were supplied by Compelson from their internal developer's version). The first is a File System browser, which wil give users access not only to the basic functionality but also to the contents of a mobile phone's memory, like a file explorer. It looks like it'll make it easy to copy files from and to the mobile device:
Upcoming feature: File System explorer
Another future feature that will make life easier is the OTA Settings. It gives the user control over Connection settings on a phone (for those phones that include this of course), and it even allows the user to send the configuration to another user's phone via OTA SMS. Very handy for deploying devices on the field, for support, etc:
Upcoming feature: OTA Settings
Mobiledit! seems to be a step ahead of other good options currently available (like Float's Mobile Agent), not only because of its support to a wider range of phones, but because of the number of features supported. And since the program supports a features with plugin style, Compelson Laboratories seems to be updating the product quite frequently. They even have a poll where users can vote on a list of future features. The software is available for a trial download from their website.