My New Phone

Posted on Sat 04 March 2006 in Business

For many many years I've had a Nokia 8310. i-d1a6a1f76608556337d5817d63224bc6-nk8310e_large.jpgLike the one in the picture here. It worked fine, fitted the car kit and did all that was expected of it. I also had a Palm IIIc (like the picture here) i-90b1370cddfaaa73eda123cd727cd94f-palmiiic_right.jpgwhich meant that I could take my diary with me. It would automatically update the office diary so everyone would know where I was, and everyone could add/update appointments as needed. It was a great setup, but unfortunately there was a fatal flaw in this arrangement. I almost always didn't have the Palm with me when I wanted it. Not because it was too big, the size was fine. It was just that whereas I could remember to take the phone with me, I didn't use the Palm enough to make sure I would always have that with me.

There's another problem I've had too. Everywhere I go on business I need to take my laptop with me. It means should something happen on one of the servers I can log in and fix it remotely. It doesn't happen often, but it sure makes me feel better knowing that if it does I can probably do something about it. It's no fun carrying a laptop around all day just in case and I'd been thinking it would be great if I got a PDA that could browse the internet, be my diary and be my phone all in one go. Well, these type of devices have slowly become more common but it's only now that I've finally decided it's worth spending some money in an effort to make life a little easier.

i-9bdfe191608b0e41ff4a89a9379e1702-MDA.jpgSo here it is, my new phone is an O2 XDA Exec. (Actually, the picture is the silver coloured HTC Universal, the 02 model is black and branded for 02 but the only decent image I could find was from the original equipment manufacturer) This is probably going to be another very long and boring post for most of you, so if you're really interested follow the link to see all I've got to say on the big change over.

Still here? Cool!

Right, so, what's an O2 XDA Exec, What does it do, why did I choose it, is it working and should you get one too? One at a time now.

What is an O2 XDA Exec?
It's a rebadged "HTC Universal" phone - see the manufacturers page here. It's rebadged into most brands. I just found a really good review of it branded as the I-Mate JasJar at http://www.pdagold.com/articles/detail.asp?a=257

It's a smartphone based on Windows Mobile 2005.
It takes a regular phone company sim card which allows it to make and recieve mobile phone calls (in my case O2, but it could be any network). It also works with 3G networks as a video phone (I'm not using that bit though).
It has built in WiFi for accessing wireless networks. It has BlueTooth. It has InfraRed transmitter/reciever for things that still use it (I used to have a laptop with infrared to sync the palm). It has USB too.
It is a computer that can run many programs, eg Internet Explorer (pocket version though), Email Clients, mini word, excel, powerpoint programs, Adobe PDF Viewer, Ebook readers, games and many other things. Including SSH Terminal emulators which I need to control servers.
It has a keyboard, OK a small keyboard, but a keyboard never the less.
It has software to recognise characters written on the screen (like my old palm, and a few improved versions of it too).
It has a SD Slot to take a memory card (and I think 128mb built in to run the programs built into the device)
It has a 1.3 megapixel camera on one side, and a smaller video camera for when it's used as a video phone too.
It has a LED Light (used as a flash for the camera but it can also be used as a small, not very bright but still useful wide angle torch too).
It is a clamshell type phone (so you don't dial someone in your pocket by pressing buttons without realising).
It still fits in a pocket.

Why Did I choose it?
I wanted a device that would work as my phone, my PDA (diary), and in a more limited sense my laptop (accessing the internet from wherever to check email and remote control the occasional server). It was advertised as doing all of these things and appeared to me to be more flexible that the nearest Nokia equivalent (a 9300, which if I remember didn't have wi-fi built in).

It it working?
Yes! It's taken a little getting used to (I really should read the manual more!) but it does all it said it would thanks to some extra software I found on the internet (a SSH Terminal program). It has a few bonus functions too, it can apparenetly be hooked up to GPS and work as a navigation system (not tried yet though) and it keeps the family occupied with the games on it. I've had to have my car kit updated - I now have a bluetooth 'Parrot CK3100' car kit.
It updated my office diary perfectly (to our share360 web based shared diary system, via outlook on my laptop)

Should you get one?
We've also been experimenting and managed to get Dave's Nokia phone syncing with our Office diary system, so if it's just a phone and diary you need it's probably not worth getting one. For me, it's been very useful.

Anything it doesn't have?
I wish there was a decent Java Virtual Machine for it (I'm sure one will be available soon from Sun or similar though) - that would increase the range of software programs available. Also, the outlook email interface relies on a connected computer to send and recieve email/update diary (I would prefer to be able to use it as a standalone email platform seperate to my laptop. I expect I'll find a standalone email client soon though).

Any problems?
Yes, it's a jack of all trades, master of none. To answer a call you don't have to open the cover but that means you can't see who's calling. If you open the cover the processesor doesn't seem to be able to redraw the screen quick enough and let you answer at the same time (press the button and there is a multi-second delay - you sound rather silly saying hello .. hello,... hello!). It's fine if you answer without opening the cover (there is a speaker in the lid and a microphone on the edge so you don't have to open it).
It's windows, so perhaps that's why it requires being reset about once every 2 weeks. If you open too many programs the screen becomes unresponsive (it doesn't crash, it just takes 5 minutes thinking about things, stops updating the clock, and so on).
It doesn't automatically update the Parrot bluetooth car kit with the phone numbers in it's memory (Dave's nokia phone does, I have to send EACH NUMBER individually which is a slow process. Therefore I haven't got all the numbers on my car kit, only the ones I call regularly).
I haven't been able to get it to connect to the internet using the modem function (it will probably work on GPRS, but I want to connect by old style modem to my office number, not the internet in general. I did get it working once as a dial up modem when connected to my laptop, just not a dial up modem for it's own use). VPN doesn't seem to play ball either. Fortunately, in most places there is a wifi connection nearby and that connects to the internet pefectly. Not the smoothest, fastest loading broadband web browser experience but more than adequate for checking my web based email without having to pull out the laptop. We have to be conscious that faster performace would require more battery power. As it is I've had it going about 2 days without re-charging for my normal (low) amount of phone calls and checking my diary. I can live with these problems for now though.