Motorola are the first major phone manufacturer to release a Microsoft Smartphone 2002 based phone; making the MPx200 a much anticipated entry to the Smartphone sector.
The MPx200 is aimed at "Prosumers" those of us with a keen interest in new technologies and want to use our devices for both business and personal use. I fall very firmly into this group and in addition this is the first true Smartphone that I have used - I suspect that many of the buyers of the MPx200 will be the same.
Motorola are renowned for great hardware design and excellent phone performance so this expertise combined with the MS Smartphone OS makes for a potentially great Smartphone - have Motorola pulled it off? Read on to find out...
The MPx200 is a clamshell or "flip" phone of the type that Motorola are famous for and do so well. I am a big fan of flip phones as they give you the best of both worlds; compact size when not in use and a big screen and keyboard when you need them. When you consider the power inside it, the MPx200 is a very compact phone indeed.
Externally the MPx200 has a really smart two tone finish with most of the phone being a piano black high gloss finish. The Sony Ericsson T610 has a similar finish but where that merely looks like shiny plastic the MPx200 has a much deeper finish that looks painted. As with the T610 the piano black shows finger prints like mad but if you are anything like me you won't mind regularly polishing your phone!
The contrasting colour running round the centre of the phone is a dark metallic grey which covers the inside of the phone and keyboard. On top of the phone is the external display which is surrounded by a blue metallic colour and a trim in the contrasting metallic grey. The external display has cool blue backlighting and two styles; one displays a standard digital clock and date while the other shows an analogue clock and the date looks like a page from a calendar - a bit different and rather cool. As you would expect the external display shows the Caller ID when you receive an incoming call.
Both the high gloss black and the metallic grey are very high quality finishes which seem to be wearing very well; the only slight hiccup is the clear plastic over the external screen which scratches rather easily. Below the screen are a set of holes which are behind the earpiece to allow rings and alarms to be heard with the phone closed.
The MPx has an internal antennae giving the phone very clean lines and allowing a compact but solid hinge. The MPx opens with a reassuring mechanical click; the hinge has a lovely feel almost as if it is damped.
The clean lines of the MPx200 extend to the controls and covers on the edge of the phone which are smoothly incorporated into the main shell. On the left of the phone you have the IR port, the power switch and a jog dial. I was very excited to see a jog dial on the MPx but was disappointed when I found that it just controled the earpiece volume and the record application.
On the right hand side of the phone is the SD Card slot which is covered by a hinged plastic cover and the headphone socket also with a plastic cover. The headphone socket is 2.5mm which limits the use of headphones; Motorola don't supply a 2.5 to 3.5mm adaptor as HP do with their 1900 series iPAQs. This is a shame as Windows Media Player combined with a good sized SD card would make the MPx200 a handy little MP3 player.
On the base of the MPx200 is a mini USB port which both syncs and charges the phone. This is a great move and something I'd like to see more manufacturers use as it will hopefully lead to the creation of after market charge and sync solutions; a Boxwave style retractable charge and sync cable would be great for this Smartphone.
The MPx200 is a very smart and stylish looking phone - in fact I've not had a phone that so many people have noticed or commented upon.
The inside of the phone is the nice dark metallic grey I mentioned with the screen and earpiece on the top part of the phone and a keyboard and joy pad on the bottom.
The screen on the MPx is simply fantastic! Big (176 x 220 pixels), clear and with very good colour saturation. Viewing pictures or movies on this screen is a pleasure.
The earpiece volume is very good - so good it can be used as a speaker phone or for music and video playback. In fact the volume is so loud that you only forget to turn it down for voice calls once! My right ear is still sore! ;-)
Above the keyboard are a two soft keys, a four way joy pad with central action button, dial and hang up buttons plus a back key and a home key. The keyboard itself is big enough even for my large hands and the keys have a nice tactile click to them when pressed. The keys have a very cool subdued blue backlighting.
The MPx200 is shipped with both a USB cable and a traditional mains adaptor. I've only used the USB cable to charge and it takes around two hours to fully charge the MPx200 - a full charge gave me between 1.5 and 2 days of use depending upon usage or how many times my daughter wants to watch the Monsters Inc. trailer on Pocket TV!
The MPx200 uses the same TI Omap 710 processor as the SPV and i-Mate Smartphones running at 132Mhz; coming from an HP 2210 iPAQ I expected the phone to be noticeably slower but in every day use there is little difference. Opening applications for the first time can take a moment but once open moving between programs is virtually instant.
I mentioned playing movies above and was blown away by the MPx's video playback ability. Using Pocket TV to play an MPEG file sized for the MPx200 it easily played full screen at 25fps!! Very impressive indeed. The MPx200 is a very quick Smartphone.
The MPx200 has 32Mb or RAM built in which is nore than enough for contacts and appointments and allows ample space for installing extra software and applications. Of course the SD slot allows you to add up to 1Gb of extra memory - assuming you can afford a 1Gb SD Card ;-)
Manufacturers using the Microsoft Smartphone OS are very limited to the changes they can make to the OS itself . Much of the work that Motorola has done is about making the OS and the hardware work together as seamlessly as possible. The fact that you don't see it means that Motorola have done a great job.
There are many detailed descriptions of Smartphone 2002 on the net so I don't intend to go into details about the OS itself but I will give a quick overview.
If you use a Pocket PC then the main programs will seem very familiar; Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Inbox and all sync with Outlook.
The main screen is the home screen which gives you a very useful overview of upcoming appointments, messages, profile and easy access to the last 10 programs used through a sideways scrolling menu at the top of the screen.
Calendar features day, week and month views.
Tasks - as you can see I'm already overdue on this review ;-)
Inbox combines SMS, MMS and Email messages into a single inbox an approach that I like very much. Email is either synced from Outlook over ActiveSync or you can configure your email account on the Smartphone. Once you have configured your account you can set the phone to check and download your email at regular intervals; very handy when you're on the move. One limitation is that Smartphone 2002 can only check one email account; I believe that this is be addressed in Smartphone 2003.
In addition to the Outlook/PIM programs there are other Microsoft programs on the phone.
Internet Explorer works surprisingly well on what is a relatively small screen; in fact I would go as far as to say that it works better than Pocket Internet Explorer on Pocket PCs even with the improvements in Windows Media 2003. It quickly renders pages and does a good job of resizing content to the smaller screen size.
Microsoft Messenger, Microsoft's instant message client, takes on a new life on a Smartphone. It's fantastic to be able to hold a conversation with a friend anywhere you might be! T9 predictive text entry is used on the phone which makes chatting very quick and easy. Instant Messaging on the move makes SMS messages look positively old fashioned.
The three "connected" programs email, IE and Messenger really show the value of a Smartphone over a separate PDA and mobile phone; there is no need to carry two units, no need to line up IR ports, no problems configuring the devices to talk to each other - IT JUST WORKS!
Other Microsoft programs include Media Player and Patience.
Media Player supports both audio and video playback.
In addition to the standard Microsoft programs Motorola supply some very useful extra software with the MPx200.
WestTek ClearVue Office Viewer - a nice package that allows you to view Microsoft Office documents (Word, Excel and PowerPoint) that you receive as email attachments or that you transfer to the phone.
Photos - a great image viewer that allows you to view images as thumbnails, zoom into single images and even view your images in a slideshow. With the quality of the MPx200's screen it's a great little program.
Task Manager - Microsoft Smartphone 2002 works like Pocket PC whereby when you close an application or move between them it doesn't actually close them they remain in the background. This very handy little app allows you to close those programs; great for freeing up memory.
As a Phone
The MPx200 has excellent performance as a mobile phone with very good reception and call retention; it is easily as good if not better than my T610.
Given the power of the MPx200 the battery life is good and with the option to charge over USB you should never be caught with a low battery.
The MPx200 has excellent audio with a high quality earpiece and exceptional volume. This earpiece also doubles as the "ringer"; the MPx supports polyphonic ring tones and comes with a great selection including one that lifts the "Hello Moto" phrase from the recent Moto advertising campaign - definitely my favourite :-).
You can select different tones for alarms, reminders, SMS, email, IM messages and much more.
This is one area where the Smartphone OS shows it computer OS genes. Whilst there are a great selection of tones the MPx lacks options such as ascending ring and vibration as well as ringing; selections easily configured on most mobile phones.
This is a minor point which doesn't alter the fact that the MPx 200 is a great mobile phone even without the Smartphone functions.
As a Smartphone
As I mentioned in my introduction this is the first Smartphone I have used and the MPx200 has converted me to the way of the Smartphone!
In the short time I used the MPx200 I found having my contacts, diary, task, email and even instant messaging with me in such a compact package utterly compelling.
As Microsoft's first "real" Smartphone OS 2002 is really very good. There are shortcomings such as the ability to check only one email account at a time and no Bluetooth support; both of which are being added to Smartphone 2003 due out next year.
I hope that as Microsoft works with phone manufacturers of the caliber of Motorola they will learn from their experience and incorporate developments into the Smartphone platform to make it better and better.
The Motorola MPx200 is an excellent mobile phone and great Smartphone.
Motorola have taken the Microsoft Smartphone OS enhanced it and wrapped it up in a high performance, superbly designed exterior.
The MPx200 is in my opinion the best Microsoft Smartphone and probably the best Smartphone currently on the market; if you are looking for a Smartphone you owe it to yourself to look at the Motorola MPx200.
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