|By Bruce Armstrong||
|January 1, 2005 12:00 AM EST||
Awhile back I wrote about why I had switched from an iPAQ Pocket PC to a Motorola SmartPhone, and how I was excited about the introduction of smart phone support in version 2.0 of PocketBuilder (formerly Pocket PowerBuilder). At the time, I was looking forward to upgrading from a Motorola MPx200 to an MPx220.
Well, "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley." I'm now using an AudioVox SMT5600 instead. If you're looking for a smart phone, I can give it a guarded recommendation. It has 64MB of memory (more than enough for PocketBuilder to run in), a built-in video recorder/camera with zoom and support for Bluetooth. That's pretty similar to what the MPx220 offers, and a definite improvement over the MPx200. It's not a clamshell device though, so I'm relearning to remember to lock the keyboard before sticking the phone in my pocket. I still find the five-way rocker pad hard to adjust to. Up and down are fine, but left and right are difficult and pressing is nearly impossible to do without inadvertently pressing one of the other directions as well. The slot for the mini-SD card (not the more readily available SD card) is behind the battery, so it's a rather nontrivial operation to insert and remove it. (Note that the MPx220 also uses a mini-SD card rather than an SD card.)
I'm learning to appreciate Bluetooth quite a bit more now. I used a Bluetooth headset with the Bluetooth-equipped cell phone I had before the smart phone, but a Bluetooth-supporting smart phone opens entirely new avenues. I had already abandoned the Sierra AirCard I had used for Internet access for my laptop and was using the smart phone while it was connected to the laptop through the USB cable instead of using the modem link. That meant I had to carry around the cable and that the smart phone had to remain on the cable while I was browsing the Internet. It also meant that I had to manually activate the modem link anytime I wanted to use the smart phone as a modem. Given that ActiveSync generally wants to automatically start a synch anytime the USB cable is connected to the smart phone, enabling the modem link could be a tricky operation. However, I've just acquired a Bluetooth dongle for my laptop and have paired it with the AudioVox. Now when I want to surf the Net on my laptop, I just do a dial-up network connection using the AudioVox via Bluetooth. No cable to carry around, no unreasonable restrictions on where the cell phone is located, and transitioning into data mode is all done automatically. I've also just managed to configure ActiveSync over Bluetooth and reinstall PocketBuilder onto the device over that Bluetooth connection.
Of course, a number of PDAs now support Bluetooth as well, but unless they also have cell phone capability (e.g., the iPAQ 6315 or similar Pocket PC phone edition) you aren't going to be browsing the Internet through them. Speaking of which, Verizon is now launching their EVDO (Evolution Data Only) service. EVDO is a next-generation network that is truly wireless broadband. Note that Sprint and Cingular are preparing to launch their own wireless broadband networks in the near future as well. That increase in bandwidth should facilitate SmartVideo, which makes television programming available for mobile devices.
Also a sign of the maturation of the smart phone as a platform is that Opera has just announced a version of their browser for the Windows Mobile SmartPhone. Browser wars are now coming to your cell phone. Cingular has also just recently announced their expanding support for Microsoft OS-based phones through 2005. The main obstacle I see is user input; the menu system and multi-key press for a single character just won't cut it for significant data input. One way to solve that issue is voice recognition, and Nokia just recently introduced a non-Windows Mobile-based voice recognition SmartPhone. Another option is a separate keyboard. Well, a couple of months ago I mentioned the Bluetooth-enabled mouse for smart phones, and it turns out that ThinkOutside also has a Bluetooth-enabled portable keyboard as well.
That's the long way of saying (again) that I expect the smart phone platform to be the growth platform of the future, and find that PocketBuilder is well poised to take advantage of that growth.
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