SAN FRANCISCO--This may come as a surprise to those of us who have been using fully featured, multimedia-capable smartphones for a while now, but the idea of connecting one's cell phone to a computer isn't entirely natural for many consumers. At least, that's what SanDisk is banking on with its Media Manager pack, which the company showed off during MobileFocus at CTIA Fall 2010.
Although the term Media Manager may automatically associate with software in your mind (and you're not wrong), there's a reason I call it a pack. The product, which will be sold in AT&T retail locations, includes a a USB reader, an SD adapter, and a microSDHC card--in your choice of 16GB and 32GB--preloaded with the Media Manager app. What's really nice about this setup is that it doesn't require you to actually install any software on your PC, as you can run the program directly from the microSD card (though SanDisk does recommend installation in case the app gets accidentally erased). It also means that there's no need to connect your phone to your computer, since media is transferred directly to the card.
The objective of SanDisk Media Manager is to make it exceptionally easy to get music and photos off of your computer and onto your phone (and vice versa, in some cases). Rather than having to deal with the often clunky software required by many mobiles, you simply plug in the USB reader with the microSD card inserted and the preloaded app will search selected folders on your hard drive for compatible media.
Upon first connecting the product, it will prompt you to select from a list of supported devices. All of the major brands are represented, though the number of phones is relatively limited given the vast array of devices on the market--we counted 67 in all. (Though that may seem like a lot, there does seem to be a leaning toward some older models, which makes sense given the fact that the corresponding software was even worse before now.) Still, even if your phone isn't represented on the list, selecting a model with similar specs by the same manufacturer seems to work well. Or you can elect to not optimize your card, which means any content selected will be transferred "as is."
I gave SanDisk Media Manager a test spin and was not disappointed by the results. It's a bit slow, though this could be because I ran it directly from the card. However, it is exceptionally simple to use, and I think that's the main point. The interface is clean, with straightforward language that most newbies should be able to grasp.
Music files transferred to an old Samsung Blackjack played without a hitch, whereas some photo types had problems. Of course, as this isn't a technically supported device, I can't fault SanDisk much. I'm a bit disappointed to note that video is not handled by the software, since that's one of the more difficult media types to work with. But--again--considering the market, we're probably looking at phones that aren't made for video anyway.
One final note: despite the fact that SanDisk is rolling this out with an AT&T partnership, the product compatibility is not limited to AT&T devices.