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THOUGHT: Synchronizing Mobile Devices like Mobile Phones and Pocket PCs
Posted by Arne Hess - on Thursday, 30.01.03 - 16:01:00 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 6458x
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Since I'm using the Orange SPV I'm thinking more and more about synchronizing mobile devices with the data on the PC, especially about synchronizing PIM data and I wonder if I'm the only one.

Let me jump back some years ago or better 10 years back. In two days (first of February) I have the 10th year's anniversary of owning a GSM mobile phone. On February the 1st I've subscribed my first GSM contract with "unicom" (a German GSM Service Provider which is history today and since 1996 part of Talkline). When I got my first SIM card and my fist GSM phone, I found it pretty clever to store all my data like phone numbers/contact names on the SIM card because this enabled an easy exchange of the phones. Doesn't matter which phone I've used, I took all my contacts with me as they was stored on the SIM, not on the device.

In the beginning, GSM phones weren't able to store that kind of data anyhow and therefore I had never to think about where to save my contacts. During the time, the SIM cards enhanced its storage capacity up to 150 contacts and more today but in the meantime also the phones got more functionality and let you also store the contact names and phone numbers right on the device. While this wasn't enable to be synchronized in the beginning, today most phones can even synchronize/exchange this data with the PC.

The most important feature was introduced by Nokia first with the 7110. This phone allowed storing more than only one phone number per contact but I've never used it because synchronization between the Nokia 7110 and the PC wasn't as easy as I thought it should/could be. Also the phone didn't come with a cradle or a cable but with infrared only. While this worked pretty good for mobile data between my Notebook and the phone my main PC was a Desktop PC without infrared and therefore I didn't synchronized both clients.
While I used a mobile phone which still wasn't synchronized I also used my Windows CE PDAs as well as my Rolodex REX which was up to date all the time. Thanks to a more or less easy integration of ActiveSync which just worked with Outlook I was up to date even on the run and had all my contacts and appointments with me.

When I got my xda, it was clear for me - for sure - that I also sync this device with Outlook, as I did before with all my other Pocket PCs but I've noticed an interesting change in my usage. I didn't access the SIM card contacts anymore but used the Pocket Outlook Contacts only. Interesting to see was also that I've figured out that my SIM card contacts and my Pocket PC/outlook contacts was different. I never stored Carrier related phone numbers like the Customer Care in Outlook nor did I add contacts to Outlook, where I had a phone number from only. But also I never used my mobile phones as a calendar.

Now, since I'm using the Orange SPV as my main phone, it's clear for me that I synchronize it with Outlook to have all my contacts with me as well as have all my appointments stored on the phone. So I wonder and thought back while I never did it before with a "normal" GSM phone and the answer I found - for myself - is pretty easy: it's "the convenience of synchronization"!

The convenience of synchronization includes two parts: hardware and software.

First reason I've never synchronized my data before was because most of the cell phones came without a cradle or at least a cable. This is something you always need to buy as a separate accessory and doing it through infrared is so inconvenient!

Second reason was the software integration. I love plug and play and if you think about ActiveSync (even if it still has some weaknesses) it's pretty much PnP. Install and go. While most of the cell phone manufactures doesn't add a synchronization software to the mobile phone package (or if it is available in many cases you need to download it from the web), all Windows CE devices came with an ActiveSync CD-ROM. But even if sync software is available for the mobile phone, most of it was pretty inconvenient (except Starfish's TrueSync which I used with my Rolodex Rex and some Motorola mobile phones) and didn't fit into Outlook. Don't know the reason for it, maybe it's because license fees or simply because a bad product design, but most of that software didn't synchronized what I expected.

So based on this thoughts, the requirements for all my new mobile phones is that they will come with a USB(!) cradle or at least USB(!) cable as well as with some intelligent synchronization software which doesn't reformat the data back and forth.

So how about you!? Do you sync your mobile phone with your Desktop PC and which data do you sync? Is it convenient for you and which connections do you use? Infrared, cable/cradle, Bluetooth? Am I the only one who never synced his GSM devices with the PC before? Please see also my Poll on the left.

Cheers ~ Arne


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Posted by Phil Linttell on 31.01.03 - 00:00:00

Arne, you've discovered something that Nokia 9210 users have known for a couple of years....the utility of the device is hugely enhanced by the ability to take all your contants, calendar, tasks, and e-mail with you.

But you're on the wrong path with USB.  A Bluetooth connection with the PC is far more useful.  Users of Sony Ericsson and Nokia phones that hold 500 contacts are routinely using Bluetooth - for sync, for dial-up networking, exchanging business cards, etc.   We're now to the point where it's beginning to cost less for the device manufacturer to integrate Bluetooth, than ship a USB cradle.

Why aren't you raving about the Bluetooth capabilities of the SPV?  Because Microsoft is behind in the development of an operating system platform for smartphones. 

Perhaps, if Microsoft doesn't withdraw from the smartphone market, we'll see some articles from you in a couple of years that rave about features that others take for granted today.

Posted by Steve Whitaker on 31.01.03 - 00:00:00


I started my phone syncrnisation attempts with a Nokia 7110. It was hard. The 9210 was pretty awful too, and the ericsson R520 and T68 were very unfriendly and tended to sync once and then never again. I always get confused on the Ericsson site about which bits of software I need to download and what they are going to do. As A Notes user (my company's decision, not mine!) all these phones have been hopeless, with the worthy exception of a short timeusing an Ericsson R380 which was quite good.

In the end, despite its many drawbacks - terrible keyboard, hopeless battery etc - the Orange SPV is a clear winner because its sync of contacts and calendar, and its excellent email client are utterly irresistible. If only I could have an SPV built like the new Samsung clamshell cameraphone my life would be perfect. As for the Notes issue, there is a superb and largely unknown program called Cadenza from which was my favorite PocketPC app, and is coming soon for the SPV and P800 - Nirvana!

And I love the 'skins' from



Posted by Arne Hess on 31.01.03 - 00:00:00

@Phil Linttell: Phil, thanks for your input and it looks a little bit as you don't know me well! I'm a strong fan of Bluetooth (since the first minute of the Bluetooth SIG) and I wrote about it when most people thought I was writing about teeth brushing… ;-)

I'm not on the wrong path not to write about Bluetooth (beside this, in addition to my first thoughts I'm currently writing on a follow-up story about the best technology for synchronization ;-)) but please let me explain why I think so:

Bluetooth is great and I hope to see that all "PAN" enabled devices will include it sooner or later but three reasons why I don't think Bluetooth is the best solution for "Outlook" synchronization today:

1. A handful Mobile Phones only includes BT today and these phones are mostly in the high end while USB cables are so cheap that even the lowest Nokia phones could include it as standard.
2. Mostly no Desktop PC includes Bluetooth today which forces you to buy additional hardware like Bluetooth dongles.
3. Bonding/Pairing devices isn't as easy as it should be/could be, something that even the Bluetooth SIG figured out.

Because of this reasons I don't think that Bluetooth is the best connection type for "Joe User" but for advanced users only. It's the same for me like fiddling with difficult sync software, it might work, it might work pretty well but you have to know how to do it.

Funny, while I'm writing this comment I'm chatting with a guy how to enable Running Voice GSM via Bluetooth on his Loox to talk with his Ericsson T68. He is an experienced Pocket PC users as well as mobile phone user but he ran into the same problems every Bluetooth user runs, bonding/pairing, connecting, etc.

Again, I love Bluetooth and use it with my mobile phones since the first BT enabled phones became available as well as I'm using it with my Notebook since the first PC and CF cards became available. And yes, I hate it also that the SPV doesn't includes Bluetooth as well as the xda but why I'm not raving about it has nothing to do with Microsoft nor with O2 or Orange. It's simply because I don't think that Bluetooth is the best solution for dump synchronization today!
If you ask me if I can live without Bluetooth on my SPV in general I will give you a clear "NO". I hate it that I have to use a cable headset and can not use a Bluetooth headset as I used to use it with my Ericsson phones or that I'm forced to use IrDA or a cable to connect my Notebook with my SPV to dial into the Net.

But back to the thought of this column, simply putting the SPV into the cradle and get it synced automatically is what I'm looking for in this case. I don't want/need hancy fancy solutions which get me into trouble only and don't provide me any real benefit.

Posted by Arne Hess on 31.01.03 - 00:00:00

Steve, thank s for your feedback! You numerated the same devices I came from and I made the same experiences. From hard with the 7110 to unfriendly with the Ericsson's and also I never really figured out which Software to download.
Also you are right with your thoughts about the SPV and the column wasn't intended to praise the SPV but to show how easy synchronization with a mobile phone could be. Also I don't think that ActiveSync is the ultimo ratio and if there would be a Palm powered mobile phone I'm pretty sure it would do it as good with HotSync as it is great with ActiveSync.
Also you are right with Cadenza, a fine 3rd party software for synchronisation but thankfully my environment is Outlook…

Posted by angelseye2000 on 10.02.03 - 00:00:00

Arne Hess wrote:

@Phil Linttell: Phil, thanks for your input and it looks a little bit as you dont know me well! Im a strong fan of Bluetooth (since the first minute of the Bluetooth SIG) and I wrote about it when most people thought I was writing about teeth brushing…

You were one of the few who saw the importance of Bluetooth Arne. A lot of the so-called tech experts didn't even saw the differences between wifi and bluetooth. They just compared the 2 "different fruits: apples and peers" and said that wifi would win out. Isn't/wasn't that great!!!!!! There are still some people who think this be it. But a lot of these people have written doom ang gloom about bluetooth from the start. And that's a pity because a lot of readers are still think the same way....and that's difficult to repare imho.

I found this interesting article on the internet....

Intel takes Manitoba phone chip to 3GSM

Intel, like Microsoft, isn't a player in the phone business; and like Microsoft, it is starting to realise that the phone business is at least as big as the PC business; so it has designed an integrated processor and DSP chip for the market. It will be shown at the 3GSM Congress in Cannes in two weeks' time.

At an informal meeting in London last night, Intel executives said that the new chip would incorporate the ARM processor variant - the XScale - plus a high performance digital signal processor, together with a substantial chunk of flash memory, all on a tightly integrated "sandwich" construction.

The motivation for this isn't just the perception of a new market for Intel silicon; it's also an attempt to avoid any more embarrassments of the sort that have surrounded Microsoft's Pocket PC Phone Edition and Smartphone launches, which couldn't have Bluetooth integrated into the designs.

Key to the design is a 16 by 16 way interconnect, one of the most parallel connections known in the embedded processor business, and designed to ensure that there is always a pin - or set of pins - ready to carry signals from one half of the Manitoba chip to the other.

According to EE Times the DSP side of the chip was designed by Analog Devices, using a part ADI calls the "Othello" direct-conversion radio unit, plus a DSP circuit Intel and Analog Devices developed together.

The lack of multiple links between RF/DSP and computer halves of the Microsoft designs has meant that it isn't possible to use a standard Bluetooth headset with these phones. The processing delay in shifting the data from the phone side to the computer side was sufficient to take the designs beyond what was permissible in a GSM phone, if it was going to be approved for use on GSM networks.

Intel will reveal more details of Manitoba on February 13th, next week; and will have a massive presence at 3GSM in Cannes the following week, as it prepares to make an impact on wireless.


"The motivation for this isn't just the perception of a new market for Intel silicon; it's also an attempt to avoid any more embarrassments of the sort that have surrounded Microsoft's Pocket PC Phone Edition and Smartphone launches, which couldn't have Bluetooth integrated into the designs."

So Intel seems to going to solve this? I hope so. The lack of Bluetooth support by Microsoft's Pocket PC Phone Edition and Smartphone was a BIG minor imho.


Posted by Tvo on 24.02.03 - 00:00:00

@Phil Linttell: The thing you obviously haven't noticed is that it is very easy to add bluetooth functionality to the spv.(pop in a mm.card..) IF you want it. For me, the cradle is fine, and if I saved a bunch when buing the phone im just fine. (in Denmark where I'm at, the phone cost 40% less than the only competitor 7650.)  The key to the SPV is the ease of upgrade. Ive  installed the newest update, which was very simple. I've NEVER done that with neither my Ericssons or Nokias... And the world-view - which you apparently subscribe to - that Microsoft is about as bad as Al Qauda, I'm just not buying. So, I'm not placing any bets in the war of the phones yet - lets have a look and see before we declare a winner...

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