Several Windows Mobile handsets are expected to hit the market, but Motorola's MPx200 is currently one of the most affordable models, in some cases retailing for less than $100 with a two-year service plan from AT&T Wireless. An impressive blend of design, features, and function, this smart phone, which runs on Microsoft's Windows Mobile Smartphone OS, is ideal for those who want to sync with Outlook on their PCs. Since it lacks a built-in keyboard, its usefulness as a wireless e-mail device is somewhat diminished, but unlike the Samsung SPH-i500, it features an expansion slot for adding SD/MMC media.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.
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Compact smart phone: Motorola's mobile won't leave a bulge in your pocket or your purse.
Adorning the left side of the phone is a scrollwheel that can be used to navigate the MPx200's menus or to adjust the volume while on a call. There's also an on/off button and an IR port. On the right-hand side, you'll find the aforementioned SD/MMC expansion slot (sorry, no SDIO support) and a headset jack. No card comes with the phone, but you'll probably want to purchase one with at least 128MB of memory.
Open the MPx200, and you'll find a spacious 12-line, 65,000-color display that's viewable in direct sunlight. In addition to the tactile numeric keypad, there's a four-way rocker key with a blue control in the middle that acts as the default OK button. Surrounding the nav key are six additional buttons: two soft keys, the traditional Talk and End keys, one with a home icon, and one with the image of an arrow pointing backward. As you might guess, the home button takes you back to the main screen. We used it often since you can't press the End button to quickly exit an application.
Although there's an IR port for beaming and wireless syncing (sorry, no Bluetooth), most people will use the included USB cable to sync with Outlook on their PCs. A cradle also ships in the box, and frequent travelers will appreciate that you can recharge the phone by plugging the USB cable into your PC, should you leave the power adapter behind. Also included are stereo earbuds for listening to music or taking calls, as well as a belt-clip case.
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Easy access: We appreciate that the OS easily finds any data stored on the SD/MMC media.
Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2002 has a look and feel that's very similar to that of the Pocket PC OS. Naturally, one of its main benefits is tight integration with Outlook--it's built to easily sync with your contacts, your calendar, and your e-mail on your PC, though Mac support is unavailable. You simply download ActiveSync 3.7.1 from Microsoft's site, install the app, follow the instructions, and sync.
The phone has 32MB of SDRAM and 32MB of ROM, 16MB of which are flash ROM, so you won't lose any data if the MPx200 powers down. If you use an SD card to store data such as MP3, WMV, or JPEG files, the phone will automatically find the data when the corresponding application (Windows Media Player, in the case of MP3s and JPEGs) launches. Unfortunately, Pocket Word and Excel aren't part of the Windows Mobile OS package, so you won't be able to view Word and Excel attachments on the phone out of the box, but you can download readers from Handango.
How about wireless e-mail? You can set up the phone to send and receive e-mail from a single IMAP or POP3 account (the 2003 version of the OS will allow for multiple accounts). However, for certain providers such as EarthLink, you'll need to get the correct mail server address from the company in order to complete the setup. As for corporate e-mail, if your company is running Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 or has Mobile Information Server with an earlier version of Exchange, you'll be able to send and receive messages wirelessly in real time with a little help from an IT professional.
The other corporate option is to run a redirector on you desktop. You set your phone to retrieve mail either every 15 minutes, every 30 minutes, every hour, or longer. Your PC back at the office must be left on.
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Simple sync: We appreciate the multiple accessories included in the box--among them, a collapsible cradle and multiple ways to recharge the battery.
We also tried out a few games. It's important to note that the MPx200, like other Windows Mobile phones, doesn't accept Pocket PC games; instead, it takes the Smartphone brand. We played several Hexacto Smartphone games, including Tennis Addict and Bounty Hunter Pinball, both of which looked good and played well, even though the screen is smaller than that of a Pocket PC.
We tested the dual-mode (GSM 1800/1900) phone in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area (a trimode, GSM 900/1800/1900 version of the MPx200 is available in Europe). When we actually got service, call quality was quite good. Callers said they couldn't tell we were using a cell phone, and on our end, we could hear them just fine. As for the speakerphone, it was crystal clear during calls and is on a par with that of Nextel and Siemens mobiles.
On a more critical note, battery life wasn't so good. We managed to get only 210 of the 316 minutes of rated talk time. Additionally, we hit about only 72 hours of standby time, compared to the company's rating of 112 hours. Suffice it to say that you won't want to leave the compact charger far behind when going on a trip.