Mobile Action Handset Manager 9.0 (USB data suite) review: Mobile Action Handset Manager 9.0 (USB data suite)

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Easy to use; wealth of features; comes with USB charging capability; modem functionality.

The Bad Capability and performance varies by handset; installation can be tricky; can't multitask between features.

The Bottom Line Mobile Action's Handset Manager 9.0 is functional and easy to use, but it could be fine-tuned.

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7.0 Overall

Mobile Action Handset Manager 9.0

A plethora of cell phones include PC syncing in their features lists, but the actual syncing process isn't always so accessible. If you aren't using a Palm or Windows Mobile smart phone, you must install software on your computer to perform the process. And even then, you usually have to purchase it separately from the mobile's manufacturer, and the software's capability can be limited to transferring contacts and calendar information only. The news isn't all grim, though. With its Handset Manager, Taiwan-based Mobile Action offers an alternative. Available in versions compatible with almost every cell phone on the market, it not only transfers contacts between your mobile and your PC, but it can also move camera phone pictures, videos, games, other files, and even ring tones--a wise addition, considering that much more than phone numbers are stored on cell phones these days. Priced at $39 for the USB cable version (see below), it's a useful accessory for cell phone enthusiasts. As we discovered, though, not all features work on every mobile, so you may wind up with a not-so-convenient piece of software.

We tested the newest version, 9.0, on the Motorola Razr V3. We connected our phone to our PC with a USB cable, but Mobile Action also sells an infrared data suite that comes with a USB infrared adapter ($49), a Bluetooth data suite, and a USB Bluetooth dongle ($49) for wireless data transfer. Alternatively, you can download the software directly from Mobile Action's site. One advantage of the USB version is that the phone can charge via the computer when connected.

After inserting the software CD (make sure to do this before connecting the phone), we were guided to the step-by-step installation. The process was simple enough, but we encountered a few hiccups. Since the plastic plug surrounding the PC end of the USB cable was relatively fat, we could insert it into only a port that had no other cables on either side. As a result, we needed to use a USB adapter hub. Once we plugged in the cable, it took a few tries to find a driver, but the software finally succeeded in detecting the Razr. The overall software interface was pedestrian, but the menu navigation was easy to understand and use. That said, it was bothersome that we couldn't have two Handset Manager functions open at the same time. For example, it's not possible to have the contact-syncing and text-messaging features open simultaneously.

When using the contact-syncing feature, we found that creating new contacts on a full computer keyboard was much easier than tapping away on the phone's numeric keypad. You can assign up to six phone numbers and an e-mail address to each contact, then designate whether they should be stored in the handset's memory or on the SIM card. Contacts can also be moved from the phone to the PC for editing, and they can then be saved to the computer for safekeeping. Our only complaint is that each time you open the phone book feature, the program automatically downloads contacts from your mobile anew. It's not a huge deal, but it's still time-consuming.

Using the text-messaging feature, we could type and send messages on the PC, but we were disappointed that the reverse transfer process wasn't possible. Mobile Action says Motorola is the only brand of mobiles that doesn't support the downloading of texts from the handset to the computer, and the company assures us it is working on a solution. Moreover, the calendar-syncing function isn't available to the Razr V3 when used with USB sync cable. Instead, you must go through the Bluetooth data suite--not the most convenient arrangement.

A new feature on Handset Manager 9.0 is the ability to create your own ring tones from scratch. If you're not musically inclined, the software also comes with a selection of MP3 and polyphonic tones that can be edited to your own creative whims. The only limitation is that a phone's included ring tones can't be transferred in any way. On the other hand, we could download all pictures and videos on our handset for saving and editing. While it's no Photoshop (and camera phone images aren't the best quality anyway), it's still a fun feature. Additionally, it might help you circumvent the fees your carrier charges for sending or transferring your photos from your phone.

A useful feature that we didn't expect was the modem capability. If you're ever without an Internet connection, your cell phone can act as a modem with the help of Handset Manger. To do this, you'll need your ISP information (this varies from mobile to mobile, so contact your provider for details), and a data plan from your carrier. Also, data speeds will vary among carriers, and any minutes you spend online will be deducted from your monthly plan.

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