FutureDial isn't alone--other apps such as Mobile Action's Handset Manager 9.0 and Susteen's DataPilot Universal Kit do similar work. But as with those other products, FutureDial's usefulness depends entirely on which kind of phone you're using. With a Motorola V600, for instance, we were able to transfer our contacts and calendar between our phone and our computer, but we could transfer pictures only one way and were unable to transfer text messages at all--not quite worth the software's $50 price tag. To get your money's worth, be sure to check with FutureDial's Web site to see if your phone supports all features.
In our tests, FutureDial was much easier to install than Handset Manager and DataPilot. The written and onscreen instructions are very clear, and we had no trouble understanding the onscreen commands. We especially like that the prompts for installing the USB driver (a necessary step before you can plug in your phone) are built into the software itself. Instead of installing the driver separately from the software, you're instructed to do so immediately upon starting the CD. The prompts made the whole setup process more seamless, and the software recognized our phone right away. Though not terribly attractive, FutureDial's interface was serviceable and easy to follow. A big plus: FutureDial lets you keep two functions open at once--so you can, for instance, have your contacts list open while editing pictures.
Start up FutureDial, and it immediately prompts you to import your Outlook and phone book contacts. While the easy access to Outlook is a nice touch, the software has to transfer the contacts from your phone to your PC each time you open the software. This can take a few seconds, depending on the number of on-phone contacts you have. Export your contacts to an Excel file, and the software organizes your phone numbers into separate columns by type (for example, home or work). It's a nice touch and something that competing products don't do. Also, if you'd rather print your phone book, DataPilot prepares a printer-ready sheet.
We also had no trouble creating or editing a contact on our computer, then transferring it to our test phone. Plus, when transferring a number to the phone, FutureDial let us designate it as a particular type: work, home, mobile, and the like--a big bonus. FutureDial lets you move as many or as few contacts at a time as you like, and it can transfer them to a second phone if you have one hooked up. You can also access the SIM card directly though the software, but as with all SIM cards, phone numbers can't be given categories for home, work, and so on. Another upside: FutureDial displays your phone book next to your Outlook contacts, making it easier to transfer information between the two. The same thing goes for the calendar function. Syncing between the phone, the computer, and Outlook worked without incident. We would have preferred, however, that FutureDial didn't require an end time for all events entered into the calendar.
FutureDial's picture-transfer process was a bit limited. With the Motorola V600, we could upload images only from our PC to our phone, not the other way around. Other handsets allow full functionality, but it's a pretty big deal when you can't access any photos taken with your camera phone. FutureDial has some photo-editing options, but they're not as plentiful as in the other syncing software we tested. Worse, there are no ring-tone editing options at all, and we were disappointed that unlike its competitors, FutureDial didn't come with any sample tones. Be advised that you can't download ring tones from the phone to the computer using FutureDial, but such is the case for all syncing software (due to copyright restrictions).
Unfortunately, because our phone didn't support the feature, we weren't able to use FutureDial's text-messaging options, which allow you to compose, send, and edit text messages on your computer. You can also use the software to transfer important messages to your computer for safekeeping, but since not all phones support this feature either, you'd be wise to check that yours does.
FutureDial also includes modem capability. If you're ever without an Internet connection, your cell phone can act as a modem with the software's help. 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. Data speeds will vary from carrier to carrier, and any minutes you spend online will be deducted from your monthly plan.