The Motorola MPx220 is a 3.88-ounce, portable multimedia tool cleverly disguised as a mobile phone. The ROM-based Microsoft Windows Media Player can play back MP3 and WMA audio, as well as WMV video files. The integrated camera can record 1.3-megapixel still photos. It can also record tiny 176-by-144 pixel, 10-15 second long 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) video files (with sound) common to all of the video-recording-enabled mobile phones I've tried. The miniSD slot lets you add up to 1GB of storage, giving you as much space as an Apple iPod shuffle. You play games and applications written for the underlying Microsoft Windows Mobile architecture. The Motorola-supplied Java runtime also lets you play games or run applications written in Java.
The Motorola MPx220 camera phone is the second camera phone from Motorola based on Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform. I reviewed the first-generation, camera-less MPx200 model last year in "The Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002." Although the MPx220 is a single hardware generation away from the MPx200 model, it skipped a Microsoft Windows Mobile generation, bypassing the short-lived Windows Mobile 2003 platform and skipping to Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. Its list price is $399.99; however, its price drops to $199.99 with rebates and new-service activation.
In Figure 2 you can see the MPx220 in between a first-generation Pocket PC Phone Edition (left) and a first-generation Smartphone 2002 (right).
You can see in Figure 3 that the MPx220's flip-phone form factor lets it have both a relatively large LCD screen and large, easy-to-press keys and navigational system.
After reviewing the The Nokia 3650 camera phone and the Sony Ericsson T610 Camera Phone, my biggest disappointments with the older Motorola MPx200 model were its lack an integrated camera, lack of a Bluetooth radio, and poor battery life. The MPx220 addresses all of these issues and more. Table 1 summarizes some of the major differences between the MPx200 and MPx220.
|Table 1. Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002 & MPx220 Smartphone 2003 Second Edition Compared|
|Model||Motorola MPx200||Motorola MPx220|
|Platform||Microsoft Windows Mobile Smartphone 2002||Microsoft Windows Mobile Smartphone 2003 Second Edition|
|Size & Weight||
3.50" H by 1.88" W by 1.06" D
(89 by 48 by 27mm)
4 oz. (113 grams)
3.13" by 1.89" by .95"
(99.9 by 48.0 by 24.3mm)
3.88 oz. (110 grams)
176 by 220 pixels
1.375 by 1.75 inches (35 by 45 mm)
176 by 220 pixels
1.375 by 1.625 inches (35mm by 42 mm)
When flip cover is closed
96 by 32 pixels
Two text lines showing Caller ID, Time, Date, and Status Icons
CSTN 4096 colors
96 by 64 pixels
Variable information including graphics
1.3 megapixels (1280 by 960 pixels)
Video with sound (176 by 144 pixels)
Flash for photos
32MB internal RAM
32MB Flash ROM
SD/MMC card slot
64MB Flash ROM
miniSD card slot
850 mAh Li-Ion Battery
70 hours standby
3.4 hours talk time
1000 mAh Li Ion Battery
140 to 260 hours standby
5 to 7 hours talk time
|Internet Explorer||Single default view mode||
Default view mode
One-column view mode
Desktop view mode
|Inbox||One POP3 or IMAP4 account (but not both)||Up to eight POP3 and IMAP4 accounts|
|Speech Recognition & Voice Dialing||None||Yes|
Here's my summary of the MPx220 features that I think will matter to you:
GSM Quad-band 850/900/1800/1900 MHz: A quad-band phone is usable in more parts of the world than dual or tri-band phones.
Bluetooth: The Bluetooth radio lets you communicate with a wide range of Bluetooth-enabled devices, including headsets, PDAs, PCs, and other phones.
Color LCD external screen: The small screen on the flip cover can display 4096 colors on a 96-by-64-pixel LCD. You can quickly check your battery charge level, GSM and GPRS signal strength, and the current time when the phone is closed by pressing the volume control on the left side of the phone.
1.3-megapixel camera: The 1.3-megapixel camera is a welcome addition for those of us who fully embrace the value of the camera phone concept.
miniSD card slot: The miniSD card is electronically identical to the large Secure Digital (SD) card used by many digital cameras and PDAs. However, as you can see in Figure 4, the miniSD card is a fraction of the size of an SD card. Most current-generation storage card readers do not have a slot for the miniSD. Fortunately, the one pictured in the photo came with an adapter that allows it to be used in a standard-sized SD slot. If you refer back to Figure 1 near the beginning of this article, you'll note that the MPx220's miniSD slot is accessible on its right side. This is an important characteristic; many other smartphones place the storage card under the phone's battery, which requires removing the battery to remove or replace the card.
1000 mAh Li Ion battery: Although the rated battery capacity only jumped by about 18 percent from the MPx200 to the MPx220, the estimated standby and talk times doubled. This is a huge improvement over the MPx200, which, in my tests, ran to battery failure in less than 24 hours. The MPx220, in my informal tests, seems to be able to last between 48 and 60 hours under my light voice and moderate data use.
Internet Explorer one-column view mode: This is one of the three web-page-formatting modes available on Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition devices. It takes most web pages designed for larger desktop displays and reformats them for easier viewing (no left-right scrolling) on the smaller Smartphone display.
Up to eight POP3 or IMAP4 email accounts: The Smartphone 2002 Messaging Inbox could only sync with a single POP3 or IMAP4 email account. This was increased to eight accounts in Smartphone 2003 and is maintained in Smartphone 2003 Second Edition. This is a huge win for those of us who maintain multiple email accounts. Email accounts can be set to periodically check email and provide an audible notification when new email arrives.
Speech recognition and voice dialing: The voice dialing feature provided by the speech recognition system is a welcome addition to the MPx220. Speech recognition is activated by pressing and holding the top of the volume control button on the left side of the MPx220. At this point, you can either say one of the preset commands ("Internet Explorer," for example) or say "voice dialing" to dial the phone. You can either speak the numbers to be dialed or say a name in your Contacts list to dial the phone. If the name in the Contacts list has multiple phone numbers, the speech application asks you to tell it which of the numbers you want to dial and then confirms your choice before dialing.
The MPx220 has applications provided by Microsoft for all Windows Mobile Smartphone systems, as well as additional applications provided by Motorola for its customers. The MPx220 has the following applications burned into its firmware:
Messaging: Includes Text Messages, Outlook email (sync), Multimedia Messages (MMS), and POP3/IMAP4/SMTHP email.
Contacts: These can be synchronized with Microsoft Outlook on the desktop or Exchange Server.
Calendar: Synchronized with Microsoft Outlook on the desktop or Exchange Server.
Internet Explorer: Web browser. The favorites list uses the same file format used on the full desktop version. You can copy and paste shortcuts between the desktop PC and your MPx220.
ActiveSync: Can synchronize with a partnered PC using a USB cable, infrared, or Bluetooth.
MSN Messenger: For instant messaging.
Camera and PhotoAlbum: To create, view, and manage photos on the MPx220.
Video Camera and Video Player: To create and view 3GP-MMS-formatted video files.
Windows Media: To play MP3 and WMA audio files, as well as WMV video files.
File Viewer: Can display Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Adobe Acrobat native file formats.
Media Center: To help manage images, videos, audio, and ringtones used by the phone.
File Manager: To work with files on the phone.
Games and Apps: This is an area for Java-based software.
Resource Manager: A one-stop utility to check on battery levels, flash memory storage (both system RAM and miniSD), system RAM use, and processor and operating system versions.
Speech Recognition: For launching applications and voice dialing.
Speed Dial: For managing speed dial numbers assigned from Contacts.
Tasks: Synchronized with Microsoft Outlook on the desktop or Exchange Server.
Voice Recorder: To create audio notes.
Calculator: An extremely simple text-line-based calculator.
Modem Link: Lets you use the MPx220 as a GPRS data modem for a notebook or desktop PC using either a USB or infrared connection.
Jawbreaker: An addictive item-removal puzzle.
Solitaire: Would any Microsoft Windows platform product be complete without this classic card game? The irony is that the XBox game console does not have it built into firmware.
Figure 5 shows an example of the default top-level home screen.
Figure 6 shows one of the Start Menu lists on the MPx220. Note that you can select an application or option by either pressing the single digit number next to it or using the navigation buttons to move the cursor up or down to the item.
Backup Application: Microsoft does not provide a native backup-and-restore application for Pocket PCs or Smartphones. However, most Pocket PC manufacturers provide one in ROM to let the Pocket PC user restore from a backup without needing a desktop or notebook PC. In addition, a Pocket PC can be backed up to a Microsoft Windows desktop or notebook using ActiveSync. Unfortunately, Microsoft did not provide the ability for ActiveSync to back up a Smartphone. Motorola also does not include a backup application. However, Sprite Software sells Sprite Backup for Smartphone, which lets you back up Smartphone data to a storage card or a partnered desktop or notebook PC.
Pocket Word: Lacking a simple text editor for note taking, I've been using the built-in Voice Recorder, taking still photographs, or using audio-annotated video recording for various kinds of note taking. There is also a free application named Vieka WordPad that lets you use the phone's keypad to type in notes. It even provides predefined HTML tags to let you format the text for later viewing on a desktop or notebook PC.
Notes: The one missing Outlook component is Notes. This means that there is not easy way to share simple text notes between a desktop PC running Microsoft Outlook and a smartphone. There is a commercial product called PhatWare PhatNotes Smartphone Edition that gives you a rich note-taking application that can synchronize with either its own desktop PC client or Microsoft Outlook. I use the Outlook Tasks component to replace the missing Notes feature. This lets me easily synchronize text information between my desktop PC and my MPx220. As an added bonus, email addresses, fully formed web address URLs, and phone numbers are all automatically hotlinked with their respective applications (Messaging, Internet Explorer, and the phone dialer), providing a simple way to collect all kinds of communication methods in a single place on the phone. Other people create and synchronize text notes by creating contacts attached to a special Notes filter category and entering information in the Contacts Notes field.
Microsoft Reader: The Microsoft Reader ebook application is not part of the firmware for Pocket PCs or smartphones based on Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. Microsoft provides a free add-on Reader application for the Pocket PCs based on Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. However, it does not provide an add-on Reader application for the Smartphone.
Terminal Services Client
There's a rich variety of applications, utilities, and games for the Microsoft Windows Mobile Smartphone platform. Native applications can be installed either from a partnered desktop or notebook PC using ActiveSync, or directly on the MPx220 using a CAB installation file format. The MPx220 can also run Java-based applications (Java is not natively supported by Microsoft Windows Mobile).
The Pocket Streets application seen running in Figure 7 is bundled with Microsoft desktop mapping applications such as Streets & Trips. The desktop applications can export map formats that can be used by Pocket Streets on smartphones or Pocket PCs. Pre-made Pocket Streets maps for selected cities in North America and Europe can be found at Microsoft's Download Maps for Pocket Streets 2005 site.
The Connected Bits Weather smartphone application seen in Figure 8 is a great example of free software available for the smartphone.
Having a Bluetooth radio on a phone gives it all kinds of opportunities to work with other devices. In the screen shot in Figure 9, you can see that I've paired my MPx220 with a Plantronics M2500 Bluetooth headset, two Pocket PCs (Dell Axim X50v and HP iPAQ 2215), and an Apple Mac Mini.
Getting the MPx220 to work with a Bluetooth headset involved a bit more testing that I anticipated. I started with a Motorola headset but found that this particular headset did not connect reliably to the MPx220 during an incoming call. I returned it and bought a Plantronics M2500 Bluetooth headset that maintains a stable connection during incoming and outgoing calls. Neither headset, however, is able to initiate an outgoing call using a voice dialing profile. I also found that if my body is in between the MPx220 (in my left hand) and the Bluetooth headset (in my right ear), then I hear a lot of static and or have my session dropped. People with Bluetooth-enabled automobiles are reporting that the MPx220 is not reliably pairing with their cars' hands-free Bluetooth phone profiles.
The MPx220 easily exchanged files with the two Bluetooth-enabled Pocket PCs I tested. However, neither was able to initiate an internet connection over Bluetooth to use the MPx220's GPRS data facility. This particular task was easy to do, for example, on the Sony Ericsson T610 camera phone.
A Bluetooth-equipped Apple Mac Mini easily paired itself with the MPx220 and was able to exchange files. Unfortunately, the MPx220 is not in Apple's list of iSync supported Bluetooth devices. So I was not able to sync the MPx200 with the Mac's Address Book or iCal.
The strength of a Microsoft Windows Mobile-based smartphone has always been in its mobile phone functions. The addition of voice dialing to the predictive text dialing in Contacts brings the MPx220 up to the level of other smartphones that have voice dialing features. In fact, I found the voice dialing features provided by the MPx220 to be easier to use and more flexible than other smartphones I've tried.
I do have a bit of an issue with what seems like low volume levels during a conversation. The volume seems too low whether using the phone's speaker or a Bluetooth headset. Interestingly enough, the speakerphone mode volume is quite good.
The MPx220 is the first camera phone I've tried that has a megapixel camera (1.3 megapixels, according to Motorola). Pixel density alone doesn't define a camera, however. Figure 10 shows a side-by-side comparison of photos taken using an MPx220 (left) and Canon PowerShot SD200 ultracompact 3-megapixel digital camera (right). You can see that the MPx220's photo is not nearly as sharp as the SD200's photo. And, the color shifts toward red, making everything brown despite the fact that the photographed area is actually quite green and healthy.
Don't despair, though! A phone camera's value lies mostly in the fact that it goes everywhere you go and gives you the ability to take a picture when you aren't carrying a conventional digital camera. Moreover, the MPx220 has some white balance features that can help under different lighting conditions.
Unlike other camera phones I've tried, the MPx220 actually seems to take better photos indoors under artificial light than outdoors in sunlight. The white balance settings do help indoors (but not outdoors, it seems). You will still want to use some kind of photo editing software to produce a better print-worthy image though.
Figure 11 shows a side-by-side comparison of an indoor photo I took with the MPx220. The image on the left is the original image (resized but otherwise unmodified). The image on the right is the result of a minute or two of photo editing using the relatively inexpensive JASC Paint Shop Pro 9. You can read more about the simple techniques that can be used to bring out the best in a camera phone photo in the hack I wrote in Digital Photography Hacks by Derrick Story. Check out Hack #75: "Live with a Less-Than-Perfect Camera."
The photo of children and the Chinese Lion Dancers (two martial artists in that single costume) in Figure 12 was captured using the MPx220's camera. The costume was almost a single dark color in the original photo. However, a minute or two of photo editing brought out the details nicely and lets me enjoy a moment captured forever.
Three photographs taken with the MPx220 were stitched together to create the stitched panoramic image seen in Figure 13. Although there are some noticeable imperfections (such as the dark bands at the stitch points), I still feel that the resulting image captured the scene I saw better than a single photo could. You can download and read " Hack 82: Get the Big Picture with a Little Camera Phone" from Digital Photography Hacks to learn more about the simple techniques required to create a panoramic image using a camera phone.
The Motorola MPx200 was already a pretty good phone when I wrote about it in 2004. The MPx220 takes it up a notch or two by adding a 1.3-megapixel camera (still and video), Bluetooth, and voice dialing. Its Bluetooth profiles could probably use a little more tweaking and documentation support. The 1.3-megapixel camera has similar issues to sub-megapixel camera phones, but can produce digital photos that you will want to keep and maybe even print. The flip-phone form factor provides it with a small footprint when not in use, and prevents the accidental dialing and other issues common with non-flip phones. I'm satisfied with the overall MPx220 phone experience and plan to continue to use it as my main phone for the near future.
Press and hold the * (asterisk) key until the input type indicator in the upper right-hand side of the screen changes. You can release and press and hold again to get to the next input type. The available input types are:
abc: Standard multi-tap input
abc: T9 predictive typing
123: Numeric entry
Press and hold the # key to get a table of symbol characters that can be used during text input.
Press and hold the top of the volume rocker button to start speech recognition for application launching or voice dialing.
Press and hold the bottom of the volume rocker button to start Voice Recorder to create audio notes.
Use the File Viewer application to read native file format Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Adobe Acrobat files.
If you find a good web site formatted for a PDA or smartphone-sized screen while web surfing on your desktop PC, just copy the Favorites files from the desktop to the MPx220 and revisit the site while on the road.
Buy a miniSD card and save all of your photographs and video files to it instead of the relatively limited available system RAM storage area.
"The Motorola MPx200 Smartphone 2002" by Todd Ogasawara in O'Reilly's Wireless DevCenter
"Microsoft Smartphone Tips and Tricks" by Wei-Meng Lee in O'Reilly's Wireless DevCenter
"Displaying Pocket PC and Smartphone Screens on Your PC" by Wei-Meng Lee in O'Reilly's Wireless DevCenter
"Design Considerations for Microsoft Smartphone Applications" by Wei-Meng Lee in O'Reilly's Wireless DevCenter
" Getting Started with Windows Mobile Development" in Microsoft MSDN
Todd Ogasawara is the editor of MobileAppsToday.com. He has been named a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in the Mobile Devices category for the past several years. You can find his personal website focusing on Mobile Device Technology at www.mobileviews.com.
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