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The Motorola MPx220 is a 3.88-ounce, portable multimedia tool cleverly disguised as a mobile phone. The ROM-based Microsoft Windows Media Player can play back MP3 and WMA audio, as well as WMV video files. The integrated camera can record 1.3-megapixel still photos. It can also record tiny 176-by-144 pixel, 10-15 second long 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) video files (with sound) common to all of the video-recording-enabled mobile phones I've tried. The miniSD slot lets you add up to 1GB of storage, giving you as much space as an Apple iPod shuffle. You play games and applications written for the underlying Microsoft Windows Mobile architecture. The Motorola-supplied Java runtime also lets you play games or run applications written in Java.

The Motorola MPx220 camera phone is the second camera phone from Motorola based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform. I reviewed the first-generation, camera-less MPx200 model last year in "The Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002." Although the MPx220 is a single hardware generation away from the MPx200 model, it skipped a Microsoft Windows Mobile generation, bypassing the short-lived Windows Mobile 2003 platform and skipping to Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. Its list price is $399.99; however, its price drops to $199.99 with rebates and new-service activation.

In Figure 2 you can see the MPx220 in between a first-generation Pocket PC Phone Edition (left) and a first-generation Smartphone 2002 (right).

Figure 1. Motorola MPx220 Figure 1. Motorola MPx220
Figure 2. Pocket PC Phone Edition, Motorola MPx220, and Orange SPV Figure 2. Pocket PC Phone Edition, Motorola MPx220, and Orange SPV

You can see in Figure 3 that the MPx220's flip-phone form factor lets it have both a relatively large LCD screen and large, easy-to-press keys and navigational system.

Figure 3. Motorola MPx220 open Figure 3. Motorola MPx220 open

What's New?

After reviewing the The Nokia 3650 camera phone and the Sony Ericsson T610 Camera Phone, my biggest disappointments with the older Motorola MPx200 model were its lack an integrated camera, lack of a Bluetooth radio, and poor battery life. The MPx220 addresses all of these issues and more. Table 1 summarizes some of the major differences between the MPx200 and MPx220.

Table 1. Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002 & MPx220 Smartphone 2003 Second Edition Compared
Model Motorola MPx200 Motorola MPx220
Platform Microsoft Windows Mobile Smartphone 2002 Microsoft Windows Mobile Smartphone 2003 Second Edition
Wireless Capabilities GSM Dual-band
     1800/1900 MHz

GPRS
Infrared
GSM Quad-band
     850/900/1800/1900 MHz

GPRS
Infrared
Bluetooth
Size & Weight 3.50" H by 1.88" W by 1.06" D
(89 by 48 by 27mm)
4 oz. (113 grams)
3.13" by 1.89" by .95"
(99.9 by 48.0 by 24.3mm)
3.88 oz. (110 grams)
Screen TFT
65536 colors
176 by 220 pixels
1.375 by 1.75 inches (35 by 45 mm)
TFT
65536 colors
176 by 220 pixels
1.375 by 1.625 inches (35mm by 42 mm)
External Screen:
When flip cover is closed
Grayscale
96 by 32 pixels
Two text lines showing Caller ID, Time, Date, and Status Icons
CSTN 4096 colors
96 by 64 pixels
Variable information including graphics
Audio Speaker/Microphone
Headset Jack
Speaker/Microphone
Headset Jack
Camera None 1.3 megapixels (1280 by 960 pixels)
Video with sound (176 by 144 pixels)
Flash for photos
Memory 32MB internal RAM
32MB Flash ROM
SD/MMC card slot
32MB SDRAM
64MB Flash ROM
miniSD card slot
Power 850 mAh Li-Ion Battery
70 hours standby
3.4 hours talk time
1000 mAh Li Ion Battery
140 to 260 hours standby
5 to 7 hours talk time
Internet Explorer Single default view mode Default view mode
One-column view mode
Desktop view mode
Inbox One POP3 or IMAP4 account (but not both) Up to eight POP3 and IMAP4 accounts
Speech Recognition & Voice Dialing None Yes

Here's my summary of the MPx220 features that I think will matter to you:

Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition Software

Figure 5. Windows Mobile Smartphone default Home Screen. Figure 5. Windows Mobile Smartphone default Home screen

The MPx220 has applications provided by Microsoft for all Windows Mobile Smartphone systems, as well as additional applications provided by Motorola for its customers. The MPx220 has the following applications burned into its firmware:

  1. Messaging: Includes Text Messages, Outlook email (sync), Multimedia Messages (MMS), and POP3/IMAP4/SMTHP email.

  2. Contacts: These can be synchronized with Microsoft Outlook on the desktop or Exchange Server.

  3. Calendar: Synchronized with Microsoft Outlook on the desktop or Exchange Server.

  4. Internet Explorer: Web browser. The favorites list uses the same file format used on the full desktop version. You can copy and paste shortcuts between the desktop PC and your MPx220.

  5. ActiveSync: Can synchronize with a partnered PC using a USB cable, infrared, or Bluetooth.

  6. MSN Messenger: For instant messaging.

  7. Camera and PhotoAlbum: To create, view, and manage photos on the MPx220.

  8. Video Camera and Video Player: To create and view 3GP-MMS-formatted video files.

  9. Windows Media: To play MP3 and WMA audio files, as well as WMV video files.

  10. File Viewer: Can display Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Adobe Acrobat native file formats.

  11. Media Center: To help manage images, videos, audio, and ringtones used by the phone.

  12. File Manager: To work with files on the phone.

  13. Games and Apps: This is an area for Java-based software.

    Figure 6. A MPx220 Start Menu screen. Figure 6. A MPx220 Start Menu screen
  14. Resource Manager: A one-stop utility to check on battery levels, flash memory storage (both system RAM and miniSD), system RAM use, and processor and operating system versions.

  15. Speech Recognition: For launching applications and voice dialing.

  16. Speed Dial: For managing speed dial numbers assigned from Contacts.

  17. Tasks: Synchronized with Microsoft Outlook on the desktop or Exchange Server.

  18. Voice Recorder: To create audio notes.

  19. Calculator: An extremely simple text-line-based calculator.

  20. Modem Link: Lets you use the MPx220 as a GPRS data modem for a notebook or desktop PC using either a USB or infrared connection.

  21. Jawbreaker: An addictive item-removal puzzle.

  22. Solitaire: Would any Microsoft Windows platform product be complete without this classic card game? The irony is that the XBox game console does not have it built into firmware.

Figure 5 shows an example of the default top-level home screen.

Figure 6 shows one of the Start Menu lists on the MPx220. Note that you can select an application or option by either pressing the single digit number next to it or using the navigation buttons to move the cursor up or down to the item.

What's Missing

Figure 8. Connected Bits Weather for Smartphone application. Figure 8. Connected Bits Weather for smartphone application

Other Software

There's a rich variety of applications, utilities, and games for the Microsoft Windows Mobile Smartphone platform. Native applications can be installed either from a partnered desktop or notebook PC using ActiveSync, or directly on the MPx220 using a CAB installation file format. The MPx220 can also run Java-based applications (Java is not natively supported by Microsoft Windows Mobile).

The Pocket Streets application seen running in Figure 7 is bundled with Microsoft desktop mapping applications such as Streets & Trips. The desktop applications can export map formats that can be used by Pocket Streets on smartphones or Pocket PCs. Pre-made Pocket Streets maps for selected cities in North America and Europe can be found at Microsoft's Download Maps for Pocket Streets 2005 site.

The Connected Bits Weather smartphone application seen in Figure 8 is a great example of free software available for the smartphone.

Bluetooth

Having a Bluetooth radio on a phone gives it all kinds of opportunities to work with other devices. In the screen shot in Figure 9, you can see that I've paired my MPx220 with a Plantronics M2500 Bluetooth headset, two Pocket PCs (Dell Axim X50v and HP iPAQ 2215), and an Apple Mac Mini.

Getting the MPx220 to work with a Bluetooth headset involved a bit more testing that I anticipated. I started with a Motorola headset but found that this particular headset did not connect reliably to the MPx220 during an incoming call. I returned it and bought a Plantronics M2500 Bluetooth headset that maintains a stable connection during incoming and outgoing calls. Neither headset, however, is able to initiate an outgoing call using a voice dialing profile. I also found that if my body is in between the MPx220 (in my left hand) and the Bluetooth headset (in my right ear), then I hear a lot of static and or have my session dropped. People with Bluetooth-enabled automobiles are reporting that the MPx220 is not reliably pairing with their cars' hands-free Bluetooth phone profiles.

Figure 9. Bluetooth paired devices list. Figure 9. Bluetooth paired devices list

The MPx220 easily exchanged files with the two Bluetooth-enabled Pocket PCs I tested. However, neither was able to initiate an internet connection over Bluetooth to use the MPx220's GPRS data facility. This particular task was easy to do, for example, on the Sony Ericsson T610 camera phone.

A Bluetooth-equipped Apple Mac Mini easily paired itself with the MPx220 and was able to exchange files. Unfortunately, the MPx220 is not in Apple's list of iSync supported Bluetooth devices. So I was not able to sync the MPx200 with the Mac's Address Book or iCal.

The MPx220 As a Phone

The strength of a Microsoft Windows Mobile-based smartphone has always been in its mobile phone functions. The addition of voice dialing to the predictive text dialing in Contacts brings the MPx220 up to the level of other smartphones that have voice dialing features. In fact, I found the voice dialing features provided by the MPx220 to be easier to use and more flexible than other smartphones I've tried.

I do have a bit of an issue with what seems like low volume levels during a conversation. The volume seems too low whether using the phone's speaker or a Bluetooth headset. Interestingly enough, the speakerphone mode volume is quite good.

MPx220 Camera

The MPx220 is the first camera phone I've tried that has a megapixel camera (1.3 megapixels, according to Motorola). Pixel density alone doesn't define a camera, however. Figure 10 shows a side-by-side comparison of photos taken using an MPx220 (left) and Canon PowerShot SD200 ultracompact 3-megapixel digital camera (right). You can see that the MPx220's photo is not nearly as sharp as the SD200's photo. And, the color shifts toward red, making everything brown despite the fact that the photographed area is actually quite green and healthy.

Figure 10. Comparing photographs taken using a Motorola MPx220 (left) and a Canon Powershot SD200 (right). Figure 10. Comparing photographs taken using a Motorola MPx220 (left) and a Canon Powershot SD200 (right)

Don't despair, though! A phone camera's value lies mostly in the fact that it goes everywhere you go and gives you the ability to take a picture when you aren't carrying a conventional digital camera. Moreover, the MPx220 has some white balance features that can help under different lighting conditions.

Unlike other camera phones I've tried, the MPx220 actually seems to take better photos indoors under artificial light than outdoors in sunlight. The white balance settings do help indoors (but not outdoors, it seems). You will still want to use some kind of photo editing software to produce a better print-worthy image though.

Figure 11 shows a side-by-side comparison of an indoor photo I took with the MPx220. The image on the left is the original image (resized but otherwise unmodified). The image on the right is the result of a minute or two of photo editing using the relatively inexpensive JASC Paint Shop Pro 9. You can read more about the simple techniques that can be used to bring out the best in a camera phone photo in the hack I wrote in Digital Photography Hacks by Derrick Story. Check out Hack #75: "Live with a Less-Than-Perfect Camera."

Figure 11. Comparison of original MPx220 photograph and a corrected version Figure 11. Comparison of an original MPx220 photograph and a corrected version

The photo of children and the Chinese Lion Dancers (two martial artists in that single costume) in Figure 12 was captured using the MPx220's camera. The costume was almost a single dark color in the original photo. However, a minute or two of photo editing brought out the details nicely and lets me enjoy a moment captured forever.

Figure 12. Capturing a Chinese New Year moment with a MPx220 camera phone Figure 12. Capturing a Chinese New Year moment with a MPx220 camera phone

Three photographs taken with the MPx220 were stitched together to create the stitched panoramic image seen in Figure 13. Although there are some noticeable imperfections (such as the dark bands at the stitch points), I still feel that the resulting image captured the scene I saw better than a single photo could. You can download and read " Hack 82: Get the Big Picture with a Little Camera Phone" from Digital Photography Hacks to learn more about the simple techniques required to create a panoramic image using a camera phone.

Figure 13. Three photographs taken using a MPx220 stitched together and corrected Figure 13. Three photographs taken using a MPx220 stitched together and corrected

Final Thoughts

The Motorola MPx200 was already a pretty good phone when I wrote about it in 2004. The MPx220 takes it up a notch or two by adding a 1.3-megapixel camera (still and video), Bluetooth, and voice dialing. Its Bluetooth profiles could probably use a little more tweaking and documentation support. The 1.3-megapixel camera has similar issues to sub-megapixel camera phones, but can produce digital photos that you will want to keep and maybe even print. The flip-phone form factor provides it with a small footprint when not in use, and prevents the accidental dialing and other issues common with non-flip phones. I'm satisfied with the overall MPx220 phone experience and plan to continue to use it as my main phone for the near future.

Tips and Hints

Smartphone Product Information

Technical Reference Information

Digital Photography Hacks

Related Reading

Digital Photography Hacks
100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools
By Derrick Story

Todd Ogasawara is the editor of MobileAppsToday.com. He has been named a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in the Mobile Devices category for the past several years. You can find his personal website focusing on Mobile Device Technology at www.mobileviews.com.


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