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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 6569x
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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