Enfora GSM/GPRS Compact Flash Card GSM0110— for
Pocket PCs and Windows Notebooks Posted Feb. 26, 2005 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief
Looking for a way to turn your Pocket PC into
a phone? Want to surf the web and get email anywhere GPRS cellular
service is available? Check out Enfora's CF card which
turns Pocket PCs with a CF slot into a phone and wireless data
device. There are very few CF cellular cards on the market,
and Enfora's card is sure to please. This quad band (850/900/1800/1900MHz)
card will work anywhere where GSM service is available, and
you'll supply your own SIM to use the card. Unlike many cell
phones which are sold and subsidized by carriers, Enfora's
card is sold by electronics retailers and is unlocked for use
with any carrier. The card offers GPRS class 8 for data but
doesn't support EDGE or 3G.
To use the card, you'll need a Pocket PC with
a CF slot and an activated SIM card from your wireless carrier.
You can use your mobile phone's SIM: simply take it out
of your GSM phone and put it in the slot in the CF card. You
can also use the card in a Windows notebook and Enfora includes
a CF to PCMCIA adapter in the box. The card requires no external
power and draws current from the CF or PCMIA slot, as do other
network cards. Since celluar wireless network cards have relatively
high power requirements, Enfora sells an optional rechargeable
1,000 mAh battery pack which snaps onto the card's head.
The Enfora is a type II CF card, and all Pocket
PCs with CF slots other than the long discontinued Jornada
line have type II slots. It has a tray on the top face of the
card where you'll insert your SIM, and a small swivelable antenna
and activity LED on the edge that protrudes 1" from the
top of the PDA. Enfora ships the card with a software CD containing
software and drivers for Pocket PCs running Pocket PC 2002,
Windows Mobile 2003 and Windows Mobile 2003 SE. In addition,
they include software and drivers for notebooks running Windows
2000 and Windows XP. The software is made by BVRP who also
make the Bluetooth to mobile phone connection software shipped
with the HP iPAQ hx4700. We
tested the card on a Dell Axim
X50v Pocket PC running Windows Mobile 2003 SE, and an Electrovaya
Scribbler Tablet PC running Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005.
The optional battery and the Enfora CF card
The card inserted in the Axim X50v with optional battery attached
We found that the card had middle of the pack RF with
the antenna extended: it got 3 bars out of 5 on the signal strength
meter on the 1900MHz band using Cingular and T-Mobile. The card was
10 feet away from our 1900MHz cellular repeater where other phones
such as the iPAQ
6315, palmOne Treo 650 and the Audiovox
SMT5600 get 70% to 90% reception. On the 850MHz band using
an AT&T Wireless SIM, the card fared better, though it still
got a weaker signal than those phones. If you plan to use the card
in areas with good reception, don't worry. Even in poor reception
areas, data transfer rates were a tad slower but the card never dropped
voice or data calls. The card did get decent data transfer rates
with 1 to 2 bars, and voice quality was exceptionally good.
Getting Connected: Pocket PC
Insert the included CD into your PC's CDROM drive and install
the Pocket PC software. It will be ActiveSynced to your Pocket
PC and you'll be ready to configure your connection settings
for voice, data, SMS and more. Be sure to put your SIM in the
CF card's tray before inserting the Enfora GSM/GPRS card into
your Pocket PC. Then run Pocket Phone Tools from the Programs
group to start. The software will walk you through the setup
process. It will first attempt to read your SIM and automatically
detect your carrier and the appropriate settings for that carrier.
Throughout the setup process, you'll see the settings the software
has chosen, and you can change them if needed. The process
is very user friendly and painless. In many instances you need
not even know the correct settings for your carrier as the
software has a large database of settings for the major carriers.
In addition to configuring voice services and SMS, including
setting the voicemail number and SMS call center number automatically
for T-Mobile, Phone Tools knew the right settings to use for
GPRS and filled them in for us. It then created a new connection
under Settings-> Connections in the Windows Mobile built-in
Connection Manager under a new group called pocket Phone Tools.
The app walks you through additional settings for SMS (validity
period, message type, transfer messages to Pocket PC from SIM
option), Dialer settings (on when app is loaded checkbox, and
you can set the ring sound), My Text (10 canned text entries
which you can edit), Advanced Settings (log events, re-initialize
modem at each connection) and Security (set the SIM's PIN code
so only those who know your
SIM code can use it). You can revisit these setup items at
any time should you need to modify them.
Once you've set up your connection settings, you'll be greeted
by the main Phone Tools screen. When first launching the application
there will be a few second delay as the program checks your
SIM card to ensure that nothing has changed (i.e.: you're using
a different SIM card). The app won't do that
check again unless you exit the program (not just minimize
using the X at upper right to close the app) and re-launch
Most of the screen is used for SMS: the top row of icons open
up your received and sent SMS mailboxes and your SIM's phonebook.
Sent or received SMS messages are listed
below, with a pane showing the body of the
message that's currently highlighted. The bottom row of icons,
which we've labeled in the screen shot on the right, allow
you to send an SMS, receive an SMS, open the phone dialer screen
and connect via GPRS to the web. You'll see a signal strength
meter in the top menu bar when Phone Tools is running (even
when minimized), just as you would on a Pocket PC Phone Edition
Surfing the Web using GPRS and the Pocket PC
Once you've got your connection set up, you can open a GPRS
connection by tapping on the globe symbol at the bottom of
the Phone Tools screen or by using the Windows Mobile Connection
Manager icon on the top taskbar. BVRP's software will
take over and establish the connection and you'll be ready
to surf the web, download email, IM and more. The software
made a successful connection the first time about 90% of the
time. When it failed the first time, it was able to establish
a connection the second time. Here in California, T-Mobile
and Cingular share the same towers and have been doing some
tower migration recently, which understandably sometimes confused
the card into thinking we were roaming or had changed carriers
when we were not.
Connection speeds over GPRS averaged 35kbit/sec
with T-Mobile, a slow GPRS carrier in the US.
We tested using the DSL Reports mobile speed test at www.dslreports.com/mspeed with
their 50 and 100k tests. 35kbit/sec is average for T-Mobile.
Using Cingular we got 46kbit/sec.
Using the Pocket PC as a Phone
Like most cellular cards, the Enfora has a standard 2.5mm
headset jack which you'll use for voice conversations. The
Pocket PC's built-in speaker and mic are not used in phone
mode and phone audio is not routed through the Pocket PC's
audio circuitry, so you'll have to use a headset plugged directly
into the CF card.
You'll use the dialer screen to make and receive voice calls.
The user interface is quite good, and you'll see a window that
tells you the current carrier's name, shows phone status and
mimics a cell phone LCD screen, displaying numbers as you enter
them in the dialer and showing incoming phone numbers. The
dialer has large finger-friendly buttons for the on-screen
number pad, call send and end buttons, as well as buttons to
open Contacts for dialing, speed dial (15 numbers) and call
log. There's also a volume control slider and buttons to mute
incoming and/or outgoing voice. The dialer screen displays
signal strength and battery level at all times.
Voice quality was excellent! Generally these cards are data-centric
with voice support added as a secondary feature.
But the Phone Tools dialer, contacts integration and large
feature set combine with excellent voice quality to make this
a viable phone solution if you don't mind using a headset for
Above: the setup screen. Below.
the main Phone Tools window which you'll see once you've completed
Below: the phone dialer
Using the Card with a Notebook
Nothing beats a card that does dual duty. If
you travel with both a notebook and Pocket PC then this card is
a real bargain since you'll be able to unwire both devices with
a single solution. The card comes with drivers and software for
Windows 2000 and Windows XP machines, and a PCMCIA adapter so the
card can be inserted into a notebook's PC Card slot. The
Enfora card works as a wireless modem on a notebook and offers
voices services. As with the Pocket PC, you'll plug a standard
mobile phone headset into the jack on the card, since audio isn't
routed through the notebook.
Install mobile Phone Tools from the CD, put the CF
card in the PCMCIA adapter and insert it into your notebook's PC
Card slot (make sure you've put your SIM into the CF card first!).
Double-click on the mobile Phone Tools icon on your desktop to get
started creating a connection profile. Before connecting over GPRS,
you'll create a new connection and enter your carrier's APN name
as necessary (i.e.: internet2.voicestream.com for T-Mobile's unlimited
VPN data service). To start a new data session and connect over GPRS
to the web using your carrier's data service, click on the globe
icon in mobile Phone Tools. In about 10 seconds you'll be connected
and ready to surf the web and use other Internet based applications
such as email and instant messaging.
The illustration above shows the mobile
Phone Tools screen. The main window acts like a mobile phone's LCD,
showing signal strength, roaming status and the phone number you're
currently dialing or in conversation with. The Dialer button to the
right of this window opens up a standard cell phone dial pad with
call send and end buttons. You can enter numbers using your notebook's
keyboard or this on-screen dialer. Mobile Phone Tools has buttons
along the bottom to establish an Internet connection over GPRS, send
an SMS, check email or access your SIM phone book. The SMS functionality
is very good and should please heavy texters.
The application was fast and reliable
and the driver software is robust: connections were fast, voice calls
worked flawlessly as did text messaging. Data throughput will vary
by carrier and signal strength, and we got about 40kbit/sec using
T-Mobile's GPRS service. If the card had EDGE, it would really shine
in notebook applications since PC applications use more bandwidth
than mobile phone or even PDA apps, and EDGE is twice as fast as
standard GPRS — perhaps
in a future version of the card!
GSM/GPRS CF cards are few and far between,
but the Enfora solution is top notch. Good software for both Pocket
PCs and Windows notebooks make this a cost-effective solution for
road warriors. Connections are reliable, the software is intuitive
and has many features including SMS, SIM phone book management and
voice dialers. If you intend to use this with a Pocket PC for hours
on end, do consider the optional battery pack, or get a second battery
for your PDA. While you won't be getting anything like broadband
speeds with a GPRS card, you will have service almost anywhere you
travel and this is one of the few solutions that can turn your Pocket
PC into a phone.
and full-featured software. Handles voice and data well, and has
a nice SMS application. One solution for both Pocket PC and notebook.
Unlocked for use with any carrier's SIM. Quad band for use anywhere
GSM service is available. It can turn your Pocket PC into a phone!
Con: No EDGE
for higher speed data. Documentation is skimpy.
In the Box: GSM/GPRS card (GSM0110): CF card, PCMCIA adapter,
software CD with brief PDF manuals covering Pocket PC and Windows
software installation and use.
Compact Flash Modem Battery (sold separately): battery
pack, world charger with 3 interchangeable prongs.