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The Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002

by Todd Ogasawara
01/30/2004

The Motorola MPx200 is the first GSM/GPRS smartphone based on the Microsoft Windows Mobile Smartphone 2002 platform available in the United States. Generally speaking, the dual-mode (1800/1900) phone is available SIM-locked for service from AT&T Wireless (although you can probably purchase it SIM-unlocked from various retailers). Its list price is $299. However, its price can drop to zero ($0) with rebates and new service activation.

Hardware Information & End-User Features

Table 1 shows you some of the basic MPx200 hardware features.

Table 1. Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002
Wireless Capabilities GSM (Dual-band 1800/1900 MHz)
GPRS
Infrared
Size & Weight 3.50" H by 1.88" W by 1.06" D (89 by 48 by 27mm)
4 oz. (113 grams)
Screen TFT
65536 colors
176 by 220 pixels
1.375 by 1.75 inches (35 by 45 mm)
External Screen:
When flip cover is closed
Grayscale
96 by 32 pixels
Two text lines showing Caller ID, Time, Date, and Status Icons
Audio Speaker/Microphone
Headset Jack
Camera NA
Memory 32MB internal RAM
32MB Flash ROM
SD/MMC card slot
Power Battery: 850 mAh Li-Ion Battery
70 hours standby
3.4 hours talk time
2-hour charge time for Lithium-Ion battery (estimate)

Smartphone or PDA?

The first question that many people ask when looking at a Microsoft Windows Mobile, Symbian, or Linux-based smartphone is: "Can it replace my Personal Digital Assistant (Linux, Palm, or Pocket PC)?" I believe that you can answer this for yourself by asking a set of questions that are nearly the same questions you would ask when considering migrating from a notebook PC to a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA):

  • Are the applications you use on your PDA available for your smartphone?
  • Do you perform a lot of input tasks like entering contacts, calendar events, notes, and database entries? If so, does the smartphone have an external or thumb keyboard accessory available (or an integrated folding keyboard, like the Nokia 6800)? If not, do you find the smartphone's predictive input technology (such as T9) acceptable as your primary means of input?
  • Is the smartphone's screen size and font size large enough for sustained viewing work?
  • Does the smartphone provide enough storage for the work and personal files you need to have with you?

For some people, the answer may be indeterminate, and the solution is to adopt a two-device, best-of-breed solution. You can read my review of the Sony Ericsson T610 Camera Phone for one example of this compromise solution.

First Impressions: The MPx200 is a Phone First

When you think of mobile phones, Microsoft is probably not yet among the first companies you think of. However, Motorola is probably on that list. Motorola has a long history of designing and building mobile phones, and the MPx200 reflects this history. Motorola took Microsoft's already phone-centric Smartphone reference design and created a truly “mobile-phone-first” product. The MPx200 is a wireless phone designed for one-handed operation that also has other advanced information management features. This contrasts with Microsoft's earlier Pocket PC Phone Edition, which is primarily an information manager with wireless phone features that requires two hands (and a stylus) to operate.

You can see in Figure 1 that the soapbar-shaped, flip-cover MPx200 is small (3.5 inches long) and when closed, can easily and comfortably be stored in a pants pocket, belt holster, purse, or gadget bag.

Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002 closed
Figure 1. Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002

The first thing you notice when you open the phone is the large, bright TFT screen (Figure 2). The screen is reasonably easy to see and read, even in bright sunlight. The only readability problem you might find is when reading small fonts on web pages in bright sunlight. The next thing that draws your attention is the bright blue button at the center of the MPx200's navigation pad. This Action button can be used to select options after maneuvering the four-way navigation rose through horizontal and vertical menus. The left and right Soft buttons are assigned the functions displayed on the bottom of the window.

Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002 open
Figure 2. Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002

The green Talk (off hook) key takes you to a call history screen. The red End (on hook) key terminates a call. The Home key takes you back to the initial home window (see Figure 3) from wherever you are at the moment. The Back key goes back to the previous window when navigating through multiple option layers. It also serves as a backspace key when entering text.

Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002 SD/MMC card slot
Figure 3. Motorola MPx200 Start Screen

If you do not look at the screen, the MPx200 does what a mobile phone should do: offer no surprises. If you hear it ringing, you flip the phone open and start talking. If you are at the Home screen or press the talk button, you start tapping the keypad to make a phone call. You can press the End key or simply close the cover to end a call.

The MPx200 speaker has good volume. I made a call while standing near a live band in a business shopping center and was able to hear the person speaking to me clearly. And the person on the other end said my voice was clear, even though I do not think I was making an effort to speak extra loudly with the live band playing on. Interestingly enough, I found the speakerphone volume to be a bit low, but usable.

A Phone That Does Windows

The big difference between the MPx200 and other smartphones available in the United States is that it is based on the Microsoft Windows Mobile Smartphone 2002 platform. You can see in Figure 4 that it displays a program list with some icons and application names that are the same as what you see on a Microsoft-Windows-based desktop or notebook PC.

Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002 SD/MMC card slot
Figure 4. Motorola MPx200 program menu

The mobile phone, of course, is very different from a desktop PC or PDA. It is, in a way, a throwback to the early days of user interface design. You can select an application by scrolling up and down the screen using the navigation keypad and then pressing the Action key. However, it is far faster to just press the keypad digit associated with each program on the menu to launch an application.

The real Microsoft Windows and phone synergy lies in the integration of Microsoft Outlook Contacts with the dialer. Conventional mobile phones often only store a maximum of several hundred phone numbers; Pocket Outlook Contacts does not have this limit. I synchronized my entire desktop Microsoft Outlook 2003 Contacts list of about 600 contacts to the MPx200. Moreover, many contacts had several numbers, street addresses, email addresses, and notes associated with them. All of this information was available on the MPx200 after synchronization. Note that Microsoft ActiveSync does not synchronize custom fields in a Contact record to the Pocket PC or Smartphone.

You can see the power of the integration of Pocket Outlook Contacts with the phone dialer when you start dialing a number. The integrated software begins pattern matching against known telephone numbers, first names, and last names. For example, if the first three digits pressed are 764, both phone numbers beginning with 764, as well as names like Smith and Sohn (that happen to be in my Contacts list), are displayed on the screen.

In addition to integrated phone features, the MPx200 also delivers all of the other Microsoft Smartphone 2002 features. The availability of Internet Explorer means that you are not limited to WAP sites. You can view nearly any web site. However, because of the small screen size and the analog-modem-like GPRS data throughput, I recommend you try to keep most of browsing activities focused on sites formatted for PDAs. Figure 5 shows Media Player playing a video file originally created for use on a Pocket PC.

Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002 SD/MMC card slot
Figure 5. Motorola MPx200 Windows Media Player playing a WMV video previously encoded for a Pocket PC.

Issues and Missing Features

The MPx200 is a fine wireless phone; however, nothing is perfect. Here are a few issues and what I consider to be missing features I noted in the time I had it on loan.

  • No integrated camera. In the past year or two, we consumers have become conditioned to expect an integrated camera in high-end phones. There is a SD Camera card listed on the Motorola MPx200 United Kingdom accessories page (but not for the United States). However, I have found that add-on cameras are never as convenient as a camera built into the phone itself.
  • No Bluetooth. However, the phone can communicate with other devices using a USB cable or infrared (IrDA).
  • No Microsoft Pocket Word or Pocket Excel. You can, however, add Westtek ClearVue viewers for the Smartphone 2002 to view Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files on an MPx200.
  • Pocket Inbox can only work with one POP3 or IMAP4 email service. This limit increases to eight services with Microsoft Smartphone 2003.
  • No thumb keyboard or folding full keyboard. This, in my opinion, greatly reduces the practicality of entering information.
  • Short battery life. The MPx200 is rated by the manufacturer for 70 hours standby and 3.4 hours of talk time. However, my unscientific informal test had the battery fail after 22 hours and 30 minutes with minimal use. I made about four or five short (one minute or less) phone calls and a brief web browsing session (perhaps five minutes) during that period. This, fortunately, has an easy workaround: purchase a spare battery.
  • A calendar event alarm only has a dismiss and five-minute snooze options. There are times when you may want other snooze periods (10 minutes, one hour, etc.).

A Closer Look at the MPx200

Figure 6 shows you how small the MPx200 is compared to two other GSM phones, the Pocket PC Phone Edition and Samsung R225M. It is easy to understand how the folding flip-cover, antenna-less design makes transporting the phone easier and more comfortable. The flip-cover design also eliminates the possibility of accidentally pressing keypad keys.

Pocket PC Phone Edition, Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002, Samsung R225M
Figure 6. Pocket PC Phone Edition, Motorola MPx200, Samsung R225M

Figures 7 and 8 shows you the left and right sides of the MPx200. The reasonably easy-to-find 256MB SD cards (larger capacities are available) means that you can easily carry document, music, and video files right in the phone.

Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002 SD/MMC card slot
Figure 7. Motorola MPx200 SD/MMC card slot on right side. The headphone jack is seen covered to the left of the SD/MMC card slot in this photo.


Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002 SD/MMC card slot Figure 8. Motorola MPx200 left side. The black jog dial (top) chiefly serves as a volume control. It is also a record button for the sound recorder. During an incoming call, it can be used to mute the ring (press once) or ignore the call (press twice). The small silver button (bottom) is the on/off button. It also provides profile options, if depressed and released quickly. The infrared transceiver lens is right below the power button.

Figure 9 shows you the MPx200's exposed back. The GSM SIM card lies under the battery, secured by a small metal clip. Although the MPx200 battery life is a bit disappointing compared to other GSM mobile phones I have tested, there are several simple workarounds. The battery is very easy to remove and insert. So carrying a spare battery would insure that you have access to your phone when needed.

Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002 SD/MMC card slot
Figure 9. Motorola MPx200 back with battery removed

Additional Ring Tones, Theme Screens, and Software

The AT&T Wireless StartWindowsMobile.com site provides an over-the-air service for obtaining ring tones, theme screens, and software. You can also configure your email and Pocket Internet Explorer favorites from this site.

The Microsoft Smartphone Theme Generator is available for no cost from Microsoft.

You can find additional third-party software for the Smartphone 2002 listed in the Microsoft Mobile Application Catalog .

Developer Information

The Motorola MPx200 is based on the Microsoft Smartphone 2002 platform, which, in turn, is built on top of the older Windows CE 3.0. The current generation of Pocket PC 2003 devices (see my article " Microsoft Windows Mobile 2003 Software for Pocket PC 2003 ") and the next-generation Smartphone 2003 devices are based on Windows CE.Net 4.2. The Microsoft .NET Compact Framework 1.0 SP2 Redistributable package does not support the Smartphone 2002 (it does support the Pocket PC 2000 and 2002, which are also based on Windows CE 3.0). This means that you cannot use the .NET Compact Framework to develop applications for the MPx200 and other mobile phones based on Smartphone 2002. On a positive note, however, it also means that you can develop software using freely available tools from Microsoft:

The MPx200 is an application-unlocked device. This means that you should be able to develop applications for it without any special permissions. The exception to this rule may occur when you need to work with privileged APIs. You can find the Smartphone application security settings matrix on the Microsoft Mobile2Market Frequently Asked Questions page.

You can find information related to developing software for Microsoft Smartphone 2002 on the sites listed below:

Summary

I had the Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002 on evaluation loan from the local AT&T Wireless unit for four weeks. During that period, I found its most important aspects were:

  • Small size and low weight.
  • The ability to synchronize and contain my desktop PC's Microsoft Outlook contacts, calendar events, and tasks.
  • The availability of Pocket Internet Explorer to quickly browse PDA-formatted and conventional websites.

Tips & Hints

Here are a few helpful tips for MPx200 users.

  1. Pressing the power button then quickly releasing it brings up a Quick List that lets you quickly change operational profiles, including Airplane Mode (which turns off wireless phone radio while letting you use the other features). It also lets you set key lock or device lock. You can also access this menu from the default Start Screen by scrolling down to the last line labeled Profile:Normal and pressing the blue Action button.

  2. Press and hold the Call Key (the key with the green phone receiver icon) to turn on the speakerphone.

  3. You can answer an incoming phone call by just opening the flip phone. You also have the option to turn this feature off.

  4. The Jog Dial serves as a volume control. It works with the cover closed or open.

  5. Press the Jog Dial straight in (this is a bit tricky) to bring up the voice recorder. The flip cover must be open to give you access to the left soft button to actually start an audio recording.

  6. Both full-screen and pop-up menus are wrap-around menus. The default menu selection is the option at the top of the list. However, you can reach the last (bottom) menu item by pressing the navigation control up with a single click instead of using multiple clicks down.

  7. You can enter punctuation and other symbols -- underscore (_), for example -- by pressing and holding the # key until a Symbol Menu appears.

  8. You can copy your Internet Explorer Favorites entries from your desktop/notebook PC or Pocket PC to the MPx200. Pocket Internet Explorer can use these shortcuts as is.

  9. Soft Reset: Press and hold the blue Action Key and the Power Button at the same time for a few seconds until you see the Smartphone 2002 initial screen.

  10. Hard Reset: Keep pressing and holding the blue Action Key and Power Button past the Smartphone 2002 screen. You will see a Master Reset screen asking if you want to perform a hard reset. Note that performing a hard reset will erase applications such as the Task Manager and File Manager provided by Motorola. You will need to reinstall these Motorola-provided applications from the CD-ROM disc that is bundled with the MPx200.

  11. Microsoft provides a MPx200 support page .

  12. The Motorola Hong Kong unit provides a very useful MPx200 FAQ .

Where to Find More Information About the Motorola MPx200

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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