On the Go with the Motorola MPx220 Camera Phone
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What's Missing

  • Backup Application: Microsoft does not provide a native backup-and-restore application for Pocket PCs or Smartphones. However, most Pocket PC manufacturers provide one in ROM to let the Pocket PC user restore from a backup without needing a desktop or notebook PC. In addition, a Pocket PC can be backed up to a Microsoft Windows desktop or notebook using ActiveSync. Unfortunately, Microsoft did not provide the ability for ActiveSync to back up a Smartphone. Motorola also does not include a backup application. However, Sprite Software sells Sprite Backup for Smartphone, which lets you back up Smartphone data to a storage card or a partnered desktop or notebook PC.

  • Pocket Excel

  • Figure 7. Microsoft Pocket Streets on an MPx220 Figure 7. Microsoft Pocket Streets on an MPx220

    Pocket Word: Lacking a simple text editor for note taking, I've been using the built-in Voice Recorder, taking still photographs, or using audio-annotated video recording for various kinds of note taking. There is also a free application named Vieka WordPad that lets you use the phone's keypad to type in notes. It even provides predefined HTML tags to let you format the text for later viewing on a desktop or notebook PC.

  • Notes: The one missing Outlook component is Notes. This means that there is not easy way to share simple text notes between a desktop PC running Microsoft Outlook and a smartphone. There is a commercial product called PhatWare PhatNotes Smartphone Edition that gives you a rich note-taking application that can synchronize with either its own desktop PC client or Microsoft Outlook. I use the Outlook Tasks component to replace the missing Notes feature. This lets me easily synchronize text information between my desktop PC and my MPx220. As an added bonus, email addresses, fully formed web address URLs, and phone numbers are all automatically hotlinked with their respective applications (Messaging, Internet Explorer, and the phone dialer), providing a simple way to collect all kinds of communication methods in a single place on the phone. Other people create and synchronize text notes by creating contacts attached to a special Notes filter category and entering information in the Contacts Notes field.

  • Microsoft Reader: The Microsoft Reader ebook application is not part of the firmware for Pocket PCs or smartphones based on Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. Microsoft provides a free add-on Reader application for the Pocket PCs based on Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. However, it does not provide an add-on Reader application for the Smartphone.

  • Terminal Services Client

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

  • Press and hold the * (asterisk) key until the input type indicator in the upper right-hand side of the screen changes. You can release and press and hold again to get to the next input type. The available input types are:

    1. abc: Standard multi-tap input

    2. abc: T9 predictive typing

    3. 123: Numeric entry

  • Press and hold the # key to get a table of symbol characters that can be used during text input.

  • Press and hold the top of the volume rocker button to start speech recognition for application launching or voice dialing.

  • Press and hold the bottom of the volume rocker button to start Voice Recorder to create audio notes.

  • Use the File Viewer application to read native file format Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Adobe Acrobat files.

  • If you find a good web site formatted for a PDA or smartphone-sized screen while web surfing on your desktop PC, just copy the Favorites files from the desktop to the MPx220 and revisit the site while on the road.

  • Buy a miniSD card and save all of your photographs and video files to it instead of the relatively limited available system RAM storage area.

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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