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REVIEW: Windows Mobile 5.0 AKU 1.1 Hands Free Bluetooth Profile
Posted by Arne Hess - on Monday, 28.11.05 - 16:36:46 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 42029x
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On Saturday, I've written about Microsoft's latest Windows Mobile 5.0 AKU 1.1 (Adoption Kit Update) which brings the Bluetooth Hands Free Profile along.
With AKU 1.1 for Pocket PC Phone Edition and Smartphone, new Bluetooth profiles were added, namely hands free (beside headset which was already supported) as well as supporting phonebook transfer to a variety of car manufacturers Bluetooth car kits.

Until AKU 1.1 for Windows Mobile 5.0 and on all the previous Windows Mobile versions, the Bluetooth car kit experience was weak since it basically worked in headset mode only (which means your car kit had to support the headset profile beside the hands free profile also):

Headset Profile (HSP)
This is the most commonly used profile, providing support for the popular Bluetooth Headsets to be used with mobile phones. It relies on SCO for audio and a subset of AT commands from GSM 07.07 for minimal controls including the ability to ring, answer a call, hang up and adjust the volume.

Hands Free Profile (HFP)
This is commonly used to allow car hands free kits to communicate with mobile phones in the car. It uses SCO to carry a mono, PCM audio channel.

However, the hands free profile provides way more than just the plain voice communication between the mobile phone and the car kit, including initiating, answering and hanging up calls but also exchanging network related information as well as exchanging phone books between the car kit and the mobile device.

For my review here I've used the following equipment:

  • Parrot CK3100 Bluetooth Car Kit (with the latest firmware)
  • Samsung SGH-i300 Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition Smartphone
  • Eten M600 Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC Phone Edition with AKU 1.1
  • Vodafone Sharp 902 UMTS Mobile Phone

I've tested all three mobile phones one after one with a fresh Bluetooth pairing and watched what happened on the devices as well as on the car kit.

Samsung SGH-i300
The i300 is running the "oldest" software in this comparison since it is powered by Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition only which means it will never get the benefit of AKU 1.1 because it is developed for Windows Mobile 5.0 only.
After searching for available car kits, the i300 found the CK3100 without any problems and offered me to pair with the car kit as hands free device. Yes, you read right, hands free, not headset! After entering the car kit standard PIN, it connected seamlessly and offered the following functionalities:

  • Dialing a call from the device as well as from the car kit
  • Hang up a call
  • Reject a call
  • Control the call volume
  • Push contacts from the device to the car kit

However, even if Windows Mobile offers me to connect with the car kit in hands free mode, the functionalities I got are the basic headset functions only, similar to what you get if you use a headset (except contacts push for sure).
Nevertheless, at least I can push my contacts, one by one to the car kit; so I can transfer the most important one since Windows Mobile isn't allowing me to push the whole phonebook and for sure I will not push around 450 contacts one by one.

Eten M600
The M600 is already running the lately released AKU 1.1 Windows Mobile 5.0 enhancement and therefore it should provides, according to Microsoft, a native hands free profile.
After searching for available car kits, also the M600 found the CK3100 without any problems and offered me to pair with the car kit. But now, a new setup screen followed, where the device asked me for the profiles I wanted to use:

Please note that Eten is using the standard Microsoft Bluetooth stack while Eten replaced the standard Microsoft Bluetooth GUI with its own Bluetooth wizard. Therefore you get more information as you might get with another AKU 1.1 device which uses the Microsoft Bluetooth wizard. Anyway, as you can see above this connection offers, beside OBEX Object Push, a Headset connection only but also the announced Sync functionality:

  • Dialing a call from the device as well as from the car kit
  • Hang up a call
  • Reject a call
  • Control the call volume
  • Phonebook sync between the device and the car kit
  • Push contacts from the device to the car kit

During the phonebook-sync, the circle, right from "Network OK" is rotating which indicates the phonebook is synchronized between your device and the car kit. This circle disappears as soon as your phonebooks were snyced.
If this is done, you can access the transferred phonebook from the car kit and don't have to take the device out of your pocket anymore. Also, if you get a call, the car kit will shows the name instead the number, if the contact is in your phonebook:

This works pretty good and stable, even if the first sync took around 10 minutes or so but I have around 450 contacts in my Outlook contacts and most of them have more than one number only which was all transferred.

Vodafone Sharp 902
Not a Windows Mobile device but the reference device for this test was a "full featured" mobile phone with Bluetooth and hands free support as well.

Also with the 902, searching and finding the CK9100 wasn't a big deal at all and also the pairing process went smooth. However, here I hadn't had to select any additional profiles but it simply connected with the car kit. After it paired I got the following functionalities:

  • Dialing a call from the device as well as from the car kit
  • Hang up a call
  • Reject a call
  • Control the call volume
  • Phonebook sync between the device and the car kit
  • Push contacts from the device to the car kit
  • Indication of the signal strength

As you can see above, you get the same circle during the phonebook synchronization but on the right side of the display you also get the signal strength of the mobile phone. This is pretty handy because it means you can completely leave the device in your pocket since the car kit display offers you basically all the information you need. As with the M600, you can access the transferred phonebook from the car kit after synchronization and don't have to take the device out of your pocket anymore. Also, if you get a call, the car kit will shows the name instead the number, if the contact is in your phonebook:

However, even if the Vodafone Sharp 902 is doing the job pretty good, also the 902 isn't showing you all the information some other devices can provide:

As you can see above, the CK3100 is able to even show you the carrier name as well as the battery status of your device!

Final Conclusion

While Microsoft's AKU 1.1 for Windows Mobile 5.0 is a serious improvement to the initial Bluetooth implementation and I really appreciate the phonebook sync, I have to admit that I'm still a little bit disappointed that the so called "hands free" implementation in AKU 1.1 is still that weak, compared to what other mobile phones can do. Showing the carrier name is pretty handy if you are roaming (for instance as a German O2 customer you can use the O2 network as well as the T-Mobile network in Germany and therefore it is good to know in which network you are at the moment since it costs different) and also the signal strength is a useful information, not to mention the battery status.

There is still a lot of room for Microsoft to improve their Bluetooth implementation and I hope somebody in Redmond is picking-up a standard feature-/smart-phone from a non-Microsoft vendor to identify the differences between Microsoft's way of implementation and how other GSM and UMTS terminal vendors implement this bred and butter features.

Cheers ~ Arne


 

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