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T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone

(Discontinued)

Review by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

*Note that T-Mobile has released the Windows Mobile 2003 Phone Edition upgrade for this model. You can get the upgrade for free from T-Mobile if you have the 2002 version. As of April 2004, new units should ship with the new OS. Though this is the oldest Pocket PC Phone on the market, it's still a nice device. T-Mobile introduced the iPAQ 6315 in September 2004, which replaced this aging unit.

T-Mobile (formerly known as Voicestream, and owned by Deutsche Telecom) brought us the first Pocket PC Phone Edition (PPC PE) available in the US. It's got a curvy, classy and slim design, good phone-to-PDA integration and costs less than many new Pocket PCs. Not bad! It's a dual band phone that works on 1900 MHz (US) and 900 MHz (European) bands. In Euope the O2 XDA is the mirror image of this PDA phone.

T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition
T-Mobile buttons

 

Did I say Cool?

I really didn't think I'd love this device. I thought I'd like it, but once I experienced it in person, the T-Mobile is definitely a gadget to die for. The styling, courtesy of HTC, the same folks who designed the iPAQ is lovely: slightly smaller than a naked iPAQ, it's curvy, slim and comfy in the hand. The screen is quite nice for a 12 bit 4,096 color display (most other Pocket PCs have 16 bit 65,000 color displays these days), and is comparable to a 3600 series iPAQ. It is more uniformly lit and has better color saturation than Toshiba Pocket PCs, despite the lower specs. The stylus fits into the antenna housing, and the mail and home keys found on most Pocket PCs have been replaced by call Send and End buttons (at the bottom, next to the directional pad).

Phone integration is also excellent and is on-par with Palm OS smartphones such as the Kyocera 6035 and Samsung I-300.

Display and Sound

As mentioned above, the screen is a side-lit 12 bit 4,096 color display. While that's under spec for Pocket PC 2002 PDAs, it looks quite nice. If you like the iPAQ 3600 display or the Jornada540's, you'll be happy with this. When viewing photos and web graphics I did see some banding. It's not close to the new iPAQ 3900 series transreflective LCD, but then again, nothing else is except the Sony Clié NR-70 and Sony Clié T665. Oddly, you've got only two choices for backlight setting: on or off.

 

 

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The sound is very good: about as loud as the famously powerful iPAQ. It has the same Microphone AGC Control applet which sets audio levels optimally as do other Pocket PCs. If you set the system volume to its loudest setting, you and your neighbors will hear the phone ringing! The audio jack isn't the usual 3.5mm used by other Pocket PCs and portable consumer electronics devices. Instead it's the smaller 2.5mm jack used by many cell phones such as recent Motorola units. If you want to listen to MP3s, you can use the included ear buds, or better yet, go to your local Radio Shack to get an adapter that will allow you to use your favorite 3.5mm (1/8 in.) headphones with this cell phone style jack. It's Radio Shack part # 274-373.

There's also a control panel applet which allows you to add ring tones. This will search for any .wav files on your Pocket PC and allow you to set them as ring tones. No worrying about having to pay for additional ring tones from your service provider!

When using the PDA as a phone, speaker volume is OK: I tend to leave it at its loudest setting, and in a noisy environment I find it hard to hear my caller. The mic is awesome: to your call recipient, calls made from the phone sound like land-line and background sounds are clearly recognizable (usually digital wireless turns background sounds into digitized unrecognizable sound bits). There is also a speaker phone function that works very well (on par with the Kyocera 6035, if you've ever used one). There is sadly no voice dialing on the T-Mobile. However you do get speed dialing.

T-Mobile cradle

The included cradle

T-Mobile and iPAQ
Size comparison: iPAQ top, T-Mobile bottom

Is your Pocket PC Ringing?

Even if the PDA is turned off, the phone section can remain turned on, so that your T-Mobile will ring (in your choice of ring tones). The same goes with SMS messages: if one comes in, your PDA will let you know with whatever alert sound you've chosen. The phone supports caller ID and of course will also ID anyone in your address book, regardless of whether or not the caller has blocked caller ID. You cannot have a simultaneous browser (GPRS) and phone conversation (GSM).

You can turn the PDA off, the phone off, turn both off or have both on. When the phone is on, an LED at the top of the unit blinks green to tell you that your phone is on and you have service. The same LED lights orange during charging and stays solid greeen when the T-Mobile is charged, so you won't get a visual reminder that the phone is on due to the dual-purpose LED.

The phone dialer integrates with the Pocket PC contacts app. Click and hold on a person in your contacts list, and you'll see Dial as an option. The T-Mobile will list only one option if you happen to have more than one number stored for your contact: in order of precedence: the work phone, home phone and mobile. So, if you tap and hold on the listing for Joe Blow in your contacts list, and if you have a work number for him, the option "Dial Work" will appear. If you'd prefer to call his cell phone, you'd have to open his contact record in your address book and click on the hyperlinked cell numbe listing to dial that one instead of Work. If you have a URL or email address entered for Joe Blow, those will also be hpyerlinked and will launch Pocket IE and Pocket Outlook respectively if you click on them.

There is also a Phone Log that tells you who you called and the duration of the call. Features such as Caller ID, Call Waiting, Conference calls, Voicemail and SMS notifications are supported (whether you have these depends on what your calling plan provides). A neato feature is that you can actually add notes to the call log while on a call. Call up the current call log entry, enter notes, directions or whatever, and you're set. The call logs can be accessed later via the Notes application built into the Pocket PC OS.

Since this is a GSM device and uses a SIM, you have the option to copy contact names/phone numbers to and from your SIM card, and there's a separate "Phone Book" application under the Start Menu that allows you to work with any contacts you have stored on your SIM. You can copy contacts to and from your SIM and dial contacts on your SIM card.

Backup, Yes!

If you've ever had a hard reset on the road, you know how devastating that can be. If your Pocket PC were also your phone, that damage is at least doubled. Fear not-- well, don't worry as much as you thought you would -- similar to the iPAQ and Jornada 560 series, there's a utility that allows you to back up and store your contacts and calendar on internal Flash ROM (referred to as the File Store on iPAQs). Even if you do a hard reset, your contacts and appointments will be intact. There's also a utility that will backup your phone settings and Outlook settings to Flash ROM. This takes about one minute; a heartening fact if you're worried about being forced to setup your phone to reach the cellular network hundreds of miles from home due to a hard reset.

 

Expandability, Ports and Wireless Internet

The T-Mobile has an IR port at the top side of the unit (see the picture above). A very logical place :-) The serial connector seems identical to the iPAQ 3800 and 3900 series. In fact, the iPAQ charger, with the iPAQ dongle adapter, will fit the T-Mobile, but the circuitry is different since the iPAQ charger will not charge the T-Mobile. Likewise, the angle of the serial connector is different, so you won't be able to fully seat the T-Mobile in an iPAQ 3800/3900 cradle.

The headset jack, as previously mentioned, isn't the 3.5mm one used on other Pocket PCs and consumer electronics devices. Rather it's the size used by many cell phones and works with various hands free sets. There are adapters available at Radio Shack to convert the cell phone audio jack to a standard 3.5mm stereo audio jack (Radio Shack part # 274-373, "Stereo-to-Stereo Audio Adapter 1/8" phone plug to 3/32" phone jack").

The wireless Internet access via GPRS works well, though GPRS in the US averages only about 30k - 40k in many locations. Still slower than our old standby the 56k modem. So far, in the morning hours in Silicon Valley, I got about 50k (only slightly slower than the 60k I get with the Verizon Sierra Wireless AirCard 555 via the 1xrTT network). In the afternoons and evenings, things slow down to 30K. However, this still beats CPDP networks like the Omniksy and iPAQnet solutions hands down since they run at 19.2k. Your mileage may vary as we in California don't have the best GSM/GPRS coverage.

Should you manage to surf the Net and download some cool MP3s, Outlook attachments and anything else that catches your fancy, you'll be able to save them to a memory card in the MMC/SD card slot. The card slot is at the bottom of the T-Mobile, beside the serial connector.This doesn't support SDIO. I used 128 and 64 meg SanDisk and SimpleTech cards without a problem. Playback speed for movies and MP3s from the SD card is very acceptable. Games also run well in terms of speed. However, some games may be hard to control because the Send and End phone buttons at the bottom of the unit are permanantly mapped to the phone and games can't take over these buttons.

Battery Life, Software

Battery power in terms of PDA use, seems decent to very good so far (it's only been two days, so I'll update after more testing). The phone seems to use very litle battery compared to PDA functions. So far, I've run fairly intensive games, surfed the Net via GPRS for 1/2 hour, spent 10 minutes on the phone in calls, played 9 minutes worth of movies (via DivX, which works like a charm), in two hours of use and managed to bring the battery down to 80%.

The software bundle won't have you jumping for joy, but at this price with a built-in GSM/GPRS phone, who can complain that much? You'll get the standard bundle of Pocket PC software (MS Reader, Media Player, Terminal Server and the usual Word, Excel, Pocket Outlook and Pocket IE).

Suggested list price $549 with activation.

Pro: Great price for a Pocket PC 2002 PDA that also includes an integrated cell phone! Very good integration of cell phone and PDA functionality in terms of dialing, SMS and Internet. Excellent voice quality on calls. Excellent speaker phone. Great design and reasonable size for a phone that doubles as a Pocket PC. Expandable with an SD slot. Con: Customer service must replace the battery for you. Only 32 megs of RAM. Incoming call volume for phone calls could be louder (in standard mode, not speaker phone). If you play games that use the hardware buttons, you're in for a challenge because the two bottom buttons can't be mapped by other applications (they're the call send and end buttons). You'll have to use the two buttons at the top of the screen.

 

Specs:

Display: Reflective TFT color LCD, 12 bit, 4096 colors, Screen Size Diag: 3.5", Resolution: 240 x 320.

Battery Lithium Polymer rechargeable. Battery is replaceable by customer service. 1500 mA. Claimed battery life: Talk Time 5 hours (PDA off), 180 hours standby.

Performance: StrongARM 206 MHz processor, 32MB Flash ROM, 32 MB built-in RAM.

size: 5.1 x 2.9 x 0.7. Weight Approximately 7.1 oz.

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and stereo headphone jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player included.

Software: Pocket PC 2002 operating system. Microsoft Pocket Office suite including Pocket Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, Reader, and Outlook. Also, Terminal Services, MSN Instant Messenger for Pocket PC and Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition.

Expansion: 1 SD (Secure Digital) slot (non-SDIO).

Network: GSM with GPRS. Dual band 900 MHz (Europe) and 1900 MHz (US) freqencies.

 

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