Friday, January 14, 2005

Further SmartPhone Adventures…

A while back I wrote about why I had switched from an iPAQ PocketPC to a Motorola SmartPhone, and how I was excited about the introduction of SmartPhone support in version 2.0 of PocketBuilder (formerly Pocket PowerBuilder). At the time, I was looking forward to upgrading from a Motorola MPx200 to an MPx220.

Well, "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley". I'm now using an AudioVox SMT5600 instead. If you're looking for a SmartPhone, I can give it a guarded recommendation. It has 64MB of memory (more than enough for PocketBuilder to run in), a built in video recorder / camera with zoom and support for Bluetooth. That's pretty similar to what the MPx220 offers, and a definite improvement over the MPx200. It's not a clamshell device though, so I'm re-learning to remember to lock the keyboard before sticking the phone in my pocket. I still find the 5-way rocker pad hard to adjust to. Up and down is fine, but left and right are difficult and pressing is nearly impossible to do without inadvertently sending one of the other directions as well. And the slot for the mini-SD card (not the more readily available SD card) is behind the battery, so it's a rather non-trivial operation to insert and remove it. (Note that the MPx220 also uses a mini-SD card rather than a SD card).

I'm learning to appreciate BlueTooth quite a bit more now. I used to use a Bluetooth headset with a Bluetooth equipped cell phone I had before the SmartPhone, but a Bluetooth supporting SmartPhone opens entirely new avenues. I had already abandoned the Sierra AirCard I used to use for internet access for my laptop and was using the SmartPhone instead using the Modem Link while the SmartPhone was connected to the laptop through the USB cable. That meant I had to carry around the cable and that the SmartPhone had to remain on the cable while I was browsing the Internet. It also meant that I had to manually activate the Modem Link anytime I wanted to use the SmartPhone as a modem. Given that ActiveSync generally wants to automatically start a synch anytime the USB cable is connected to the SmartPhone, enabling the Modem Link could be a tricky operation. However, I've just acquired a Bluetooth dongle for my laptop and have paired it to the AudioVox. Now when I want to surf the net on my laptop, I just do a dial-up networking connecting using the AudioVox via Bluetooth. No cable to carry around, no unreasonable restriction on where the cell phone is located, and to transition into data mode is all done automatically. I've also just managed to configure ActiveSync over Bluetooth, and managed to reinstall PocketBuilder onto the device over that Bluetooth connection.

Of course, a number of PDAs now support Bluetooth as well, but unless they also have cell phone capability (e.g., the iPAQ 6315 or similar Pocket PC phone edition) you aren't going to be browsing the Internet through them. Speaking of which, Verizon is now launching their EVDO (Evolution Data Only) service. EVDO is a next-generation network which is truly wireless broadband. Note that Sprint and Cingular are preparing to launch their own wireless broadband networks in the near future as well. That increase bandwidth should facilitate SmartVideo, which makes television programming available for mobile devices.

Also a sign of the maturation of the SmartPhone as a platform is that Opera has just announced a version of their browser for the Windows Mobile SmartPhone. Browser wars now come to your cell phone. Cingular has also just recently announced their expanding support for Microsoft OS based phones through 2005. The main obstacle I see is user input, the menu system and muli-key press for a single character just won't cut it for significant data input. One option to solve that issue is voice recognition, and Nokia just recently introduced a non-Windows Mobile based voice recognition SmartPhone. Another option is a separate keyboard. Well, a couple of months ago I mentioned the Bluetooth enabled mouse for SmartPhones, and it turns out that ThinkOutside also has a Bluetooth enabled portable keyboard as well.

That's the long way of saying (again) that I expect the SmartPhone platform to be the growth platform for the future, and find that PocketBuilder is well poised to take advantage of that growth.

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