More than 12 months ago, Pocket Presence introduced the first version of Running Voice GSM, a GUI for Pocket PCs which lets you control your GSM devices. At that time it was mostly interesting for the Nokia Card Phone 2.0 which worked - thanks to Nokia's CE driver - also with Pocket PCs. Later with Running Voice 1.1.1 it became also interesting for Bluetooth enabled phones as it lets you also control you mobile phone wireless - without any cable connections or instable infrared connectivities.
Now Pocket Presence published the first Beta of the follower, Running Voice GSM 2.0 and I had the chance to give it a closer look during the last couple of days.
What's new in Running Voice 2.0
First off all a lot of things in the background changed, even if the front-end - the GUI - still looks more or less like Running Voice GSM 1.1. So please have a look for the functional overview of Running Voice at my previous review, where I explain all the front-end functionalities which aren't changed at all with version 2.0.
So the major new features for Running Voice 2.0 are:
- it works together with Bluetooth headset
- it has a much improved Bluetooth phone support
- it includes a brand new connection manager called "Flexport" which provides:
- data communication statistics
- simplified data connection configuration
- easy switching between voice/SMS/data (using Flexport GSM)
- first time a signal strength indicator in the navigation bar
- the long awaiting syncing of SMS between the phone and Pocket PC
- more supported GSM devices
The focus of Running Voice 2.0 is the Flexport and the better GPRS integration while providing a better support for more GSM devices.
Connecting a GSM device to Pocket PC
Running Voice 2.0 supports now more or less every connection type: from the classic IrDA connection to Bluetooth up to the new available PC card phones.
|Connected through IrDA
with a mobile phone
|Connected through Bluetooth
with a mobile phone
|Connected with a
Supported Bluetooth cell phones:
- All Ericsson Bluetooth enabled phones
- Nokia 6310 (only!)
Supported GSM/GPRS PCMCIA cards:
- Option Globetrotter PC card
- Novatel Merlin GSM/GPRS PC card
- Sierra Wireless AirCard 750 PC card
- Nokia Card Phone 2.0
Supported Bluetooth Pocket PCs/accessories:
- iPAQ 3870 (built-in Bluetooth)
- Socketcom (driver 120D)
- AnyCom (driver 1.4)
- TDK BluePaq for iPAQ
Pocket Presence did a hard work to try to support every available device (GSM cell phone/PC card and Pocket PC/Bluetooth accessory). Unfortunately Nokia is always going its own way that the Nokia 6310 is the only supported Finnish mobile phone today, beside the Nokia Card Phone.
Flexport - the main item
The core piece of Running Voice 2.0 is the Flexport engine. This piece of software lets you connect to the Internet, even if you are currently connected to the voice interface of Running Voice. With the version before you wasn't able to switch seamless from voice to data as the port was blocked and Pocket PCs doesn't support simultaneous connections through the same port. The result was that you had first to close Running Voice 1.1 to connect to the Internet later through the original Pocket PC Connection Manager.
|Connected to the voice interface
||Connected to the GPRS modem
But the Flexport provides you also statistics of your data connections. So it gives you an overview of your total send and received data amount as well as an overview of the data amount of your current data session.
To setup the Flexport - which is included in the Connection Settings - Pocket Presence included an own connection manager which lets you setup a GPRS connection very easy and convenient. From here you can add all required parameters like APN and DNS settings.
|Setting up a GPRS connection with Flexport connections
Signal strength indicator
While you had to have Running Voice 1.1 the whole time running in the foreground to see the signal quality Running Voice 2.0 adds a signal meter into the top bar, whenever RV 2.0 is running in the background. Here Pocket Presence has borrowed the idea of the triangle for GPRS indication from Ericsson. With this signal meter you get an overview, doesn't matter which application is in the foreground, how good you GSM connection currently is and if GPRS is available.
By tapping the signal meter you come back directly to the Running Voice 2.0 interface from where you can send SMS messages or setup voice calls. If you get an incoming call while RV 2.0 is working in the background only, it comes automatically to the foreground and provides you the caller identity - if available.
Upgrading from Running Voice 1.1 to 2.0
I spoke with Pocket Presence how the upgrade for existing users could looks like and here is the feedback you might not be amused about:
Are there any plans for an upgrade path for current 1.1.1 users?
No, I am sorry to say that there will not be an upgrade path for current 1.x users. Running Voice GSM 2.0 is really a new product, with a completely new communication core. 1.0 was released more than one year ago, and too much has happened since then.
This might disappoints you but in fact it's true. Running Voice 2.0 is completely new, even if the GUI still looks like the old one but everything in the background changed. While Running Voice 1.1 was a stand alone application, 2.0 supports more intelligence like starting data connections while connected to voice or the Bluetooth handover from the Pocket PC to a Bluetooth headset.
Running Voice 2.0 is again top of the technology. It supports everything I was waiting for before. While RV 1 was very focused on the Nokia Card Phone and later on infrared connections version 2 is focused on Bluetooth and GPRS. It gives you a convenient interface to setup a GPRS connection, even if you are not a techie and lets you dial-in to GPRS within seconds.
Flexport in general is a very tricky tool as it allows you to stay connected to the voice interface but also lets you starts data connections without closing Running Voice 2.0 first. Also the handover from the Pocket PC Bluetooth connection to the Bluetooth headset connection is what a lot of people was waiting for for a long time.
Even if Running Voice 2.0 is indeed a completely redesigned application and not a bug fix only I'm a little bit sad too, that there is now upgrade path for existing Running Voice customers. Anyway - that's the technology lifecycle and I understand this.
I've used Running Voice 2.0 during my trip to Italy as the interface to my Ericsson T68 which I use in my car (see also my column "How Bluetooth changes the way we are using devices") with a wired headset and it's a great addition. I can leave my mobile phone in my Scott eVest while I can setup and receive calls.
But not only wireless, Running Voice 2.0 works great but also with PCMCIA sized GSM/GPRS cards. I've used it a long time now with my Option GlobeTrotter GSM/GPRS card which doesn't includes a voice interface today. So if you want to use your Option card for voice call too, RV 2.0 is the must have application. Not only for voice but at least for the signal indication and network selection also. So I was able to change the current network when I roamed in Italy. With RV 2.0 you can use you Option card, in conjunction with your Pocket PC, like a mobile phone. However I miss two features today: 1st I have to use the original Option driver to enter the PIN, this is something I would like to see included in Running Voice like it also does for mobile phones and - even more important - I would like to see that Running Voice could be used to change the band from 900/1800 MHz to 900/1900 MHz. Currently this can be done with the Option Notebook software or with an AT command on Pocket PCs only. This is something I would like to see that RV 2.0 automatically recognize the device and provides this feature in that case.
However - Running Voice 2.0 is even more the top phone application for Pocket PCs now! Running Voice GSM 2.0 should be available within the next 14 days. A price isn't given today.
Cheers ~ Arne
UPDATE: I just got the feedback from Frederik KÃ¤mmerer, the CEO of Pocket Presence, after I sent him an E-Mail with all your input you sent me and here is his reply:
Thanks once again for your valuable input! We have decided to introduce Running Voice GSM 2.0 with a 50% discount during a period of 30 days from the launch date. Information about this introduction offer will be sent to all registered users.
I think that's fair for all existing Running Voice GSM 1.x users as you get a complete new software with tons of additional features! Stay tuned for an update, I will publish the launch date here for sure!
Cheers ~ Arne
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