In today's digital age we demand constant connectivity and expect to be as productive out of the office as we are in it. Systems administrators must be able to monitor servers and systems, receive alerts, and respond to problems whether they're in the server room or at Starbucks. Mobile devices such as Windows Mobile 5.0 smart phones and pocket PCs were created to meet such professional demands. These mobile devices not only combine the functionality of a cell phone and a PDA but also include an embedded OS, enabling you to use your phone as a mobile PC. In this Buyer's Guide, we'll take a look at some of the new functionality and improvements in Windows Mobile 5.0 smart phones and pocket PCs that will help you get the most out of your mobile device. Table 1 lists contact information for the major manufacturers of Windows Mobile 5.0 smart phones and pocket PCs. Visit their Web sites for specific model information, specifications, and pricing.
Microsoft Office Mobile lets you use familiar applications such as Word Mobile to complete the tasks you typically use the PC version of Microsoft Office for. Windows Mobile 5.0 now includes PowerPoint Mobile, which lets you view PowerPoint presentations on your mobile device. Excel Mobile was also updated in Windows Mobile 5.0 so that you can create charts from your mobile spreadsheets. With Excel Mobile, you can easily create reports or keep records when you're on the road. In addition, Windows Mobile 5.0 phones come with Microsoft Office Outlook Mobile, so you can keep your Calendar, Contacts, and Tasks with you without having to carry a separate PDA, pager, or cell phone. The new Messaging and Security Feature Pack is now available for Windows Mobile 5.0 phones and includes Direct Push technology, which pushes your email messages to your mobile device moments after they're sent.
If you frequently need to transfer data from your mobile device to a PC, take a look at the different types of storage that are now offered with Windows Mobile 5.0 devices. Many Windows Mobile 5.0 phones offer some type of memory card slot, such as Secure Digital (SD) or USB flash drive. If you need to store large amounts of data on your mobile device, you might consider a Windows Mobile 5.0 phone that comes with a built-in hard drive or USB 2.0. For example, the Motorola Q comes with a built-in 128MB flash ROM.
Microsoft reports that the most requested productivity upgrade to Windows Mobile 5.0 was persistent memory storage. With persistent memory storage, all of your information is stored only in ROM and is retained if your phone's battery dies, regardless of whether you manually saved the information. (Previous mobile devices stored information in both ROM and RAM.)
Today, a phone's multimedia features are almost as important as its calling ability. Most Windows Mobile 5.0 phones come with a built-in camera (some with as many as 2 megapixels) and video recorders. A camera might seem like an impractical indulgence compared with the productivity features included on Windows Mobile 5.0 phones but can come in handy if you have to document a visible problem or send pictures of such a problem to someone offsite. Windows Mobile 5.0 phones also include Windows Media Player 10.0 and support both Windows Media Video (WMV) and MP3 formats, enabling you to listen to music on your phone while you work or watch videos when you're traveling.
Windows Mobile 5.0 was designed with one-handed navigation in mind—which means you don't need a stylus—and includes support for soft-key integration and QWERTY keyboards, making it easier to send email messages and work on documents from your phone. Windows Mobile 5.0's platform flexibility also makes it possible for Microsoft partners to include push-to-talk and video calling and conferencing features on their proprietary Windows Mobile 5.0 phones.
Mobile messaging can be costly, but the new gzip data compression in Windows Mobile 5.0 reduces those costs by speeding up synchronization times between your mobile device and your network. Gzip data compression reduces the network bandwidth necessary for sending files and latency as well. (You can find information about gzip at http://www.gzip.org.) Windows Mobile 5.0 phones also support Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections so that you can easily connect to the Internet or your network from your mobile device.
The cost of Windows Mobile 5.0 phones varies according to the phone model and cellular service provider. Although Windows Mobile 5.0 smart phones and pocket PCs don't come cheap, several vendors offer incentives (i.e., mail-in rebates) and discounts for signing two-year contracts or for buying your phone online.
One size doesn't always fit all, so if you're thinking about purchasing a Windows Mobile 5.0 phone, be sure to consider the size of the device and how you plan on carrying it. Will your phone always be in your briefcase or do you prefer to carry it in your pocket? Windows Mobile 5.0 phone dimensions and weight range from those of a typical cell phone to almost double that size. For example, the Cingular 3125 weighs in at just 3.49 ounces; the HP iPAQ hw6920 and hw6925 Mobile Messenger each weigh 6.33 ounces.