by Xin Feng [10/25/03]
Both T-Mobile and SprintPCS offer unlimited high-speed (50-145K) wireless data at very low rate ($15-30) and thus wireless computing is finally a reality. Hanspring Treo is a good choice for wireless computing on your palm, but it lacks blue tooth (BT) and built-in modem for easy connection to a laptop or PDA. Therefore I have been looking for a BT phone to take the advantage of the great T-Mobile unlimited data plan (SprintPCS has no BT phones at all).
The Sony Ericsson (SE) T610 (see left picture) seemed very good for a BT wireless modem - small, light, long battery life, nice square shape, etc., so I decided to give it a try. Everything is indeed good and its BT implementation is beautiful. Whenever I make an Internet connection or disconnection, I don't need to touch the phone at all, very convenient. Speed is also very good (about 50K always). Except for one thing though: it gets no signal in my office. I heard about the Nokia 3650 and N-Gage; both had BT and had much better reception than SE phones. I don't like the bulky and ugly looking of 3650, so I give the N-Gage a try.
The N-Gage seems full of features - game (local or wireless), Internet, phone, PDA, hi-speed wireless modem, FM radio, etc., all in one. After played with it, however, I found all the features are presented poorly.
The bottom line is: I cannot believe the #1 cell phone company coming out such a bad design that has almost no pros but full of cons. Gaming, Internet, wireless, radio... N-Gage has them all; meanwhile it has nothing, absolutely nothing - it is not a good gamer, not a good phone, not a good PDA, not even a good radio. What do you buy it for? It'll be interesting to see how Nokia deals with this failure and what to do with those already published games. Drop the price again or offer them for free through T-Mobile? N-Gage reminds me Archos' products: full of features but each and all features are poorly presented and combined. Treo, especially the new Treo 600, is a very good example for how to integrate features into a great unit - do just what it is for and do them elegantly. Although it does not have BT and built-in modem and therefore it is not an ideal choice for a wireless modem, but it is so far the best palm device for organizing, computing and communicating and nothing else comes not even close to it.
After I wrote above, I found this from PC Magazine's reviewer Matthew D. Sarrel:
"...we fear that the N-Gage will go down in history as a poorly implemented great idea."
"The current implementation prevents us from recommending the N-Gage to anyone..."
I cannot agree with him more!
More on T-Mobile data plan
There are three options for unlimited data from T-Mobile:
T-Mobile offers three gateways for three different levels of Internet access:
The $30 Internet Plan I get is actually a VPN level service, which allows both wap.voicestream.com and internet3.voicestream.com (but not internet2.voicestream.com, strange). The default setting in T610 is not using internet3 and you must add this account to the phone. When you add a new account, T610 will assign an unique CID # to it and you can specify it when you make a dial-up by using *99***2# (assuming CID for internet3 is 2) as the dialing # on your laptop. See this website for details.
This is the perfect integration of phone, PDA and modem ever (Treo 600 still has no built-in modem and BT support)!
You can sync contacts, calendar and tasks between T610 and Outlook via BT, IrDA, USB or serial. Although you cannot sync notes, you can send notes via BT from T610 to Outlook or from Outlook to T610. From T610 via BT, you can browse files on your PC and get files to T610; from your PC you can browse files on T610 and get or send files. On T610, you can always send a file or an entry to your PC. If you have trouble to exchange files via BT, then don't require secure connection. Although its built-in camera is not so good, taking a picture and sending it out on T610 cannot be any easier. No phone (including the Treo) is so convenient for data sharing and transfer.
T610 can do all what I really need to do with Treo 300/600 and it does even more as a BT modem. Organizing functions (calendar, tasks and notes) are all very well implemented and are very convenient to use. For example, you can view your calendar as today, week and month. You can even post a note, such as a shopping list, on to the screen background. Unlike Treo and other Palm devices that's born to be two-hands operated, T610, like all phones, is truly an one-hand operate-able device. And, it is much lighter and smaller than Treo; i.e. far more portable and usable. Its T9 implementation is the best among other phones (e.g. on-screen candidates prompt). The timing between key strokes is perfectly set; not too long to slow down the next press of the same key and just long enough for you do select other candidates. If you typed an unknown word, you can add it right into the dictionary. With T610, T9 is finally a thing done right and I really don't miss Treo's wonderful keyboard.
With the Treo, I had to forward important email to it as text messages so I had not to check email all the time. With T610, it is a lot easier because I can set it to check email, say, every 5 minutes. I don't want to list all the great and very thoughtful features here; for that you can read other full reviews. Here, as always, you can find the deep insights that you cannot find from ordinary reviewers who usually don not use the item in real life. As a phone and PDA, T610 does most of my digital job, very handy. As a BT modem, it is the best company to my Nexio (see below), very handy too.
As a modem, you can use either IrDA (for old laptops like Libretto) or Bluetooth and simply dial *99***1# and you are online. You don't need any wire, any driver or any special setup, because T610 handles all the details on itself.
The only shortcoming of T610 is the notes function. It is limited to 10 notes only and each note cannot have more than 245 characters (including spaces and line returns). If you send a too long note to T610, the notes list will be corrupted and the only way to fix that is a hard reset! SE must fix this problem and also enhance this function. For now, the notes function and T610 cannot be used to store long records but for some short or temporary noting such as door access codes or shopping lists. It is fine if you only need to record data and you don't need to view old data on the phone, because for this type of data recording you can rename a note when it is full and send it to Outlook. An example about this is car mileage tracking for business trips: when a note is full, you simply start a new note to continue recording; when you got home, you send the old note to Outlook via BT (still very convenient).
Nokia 3650 is another option for a BT wireless modem and PDA phone. Unlike T610 that stores all the GPRS settings on the phone, you must apply these setting through dialing scripts with 3650 (maybe other Nokia phones too). For example, you need at least such an extra script for Windows CE's built-in dialer:
when you are are making a GPRS connection to t-mobile. Then the dial # would be "*99***1#". However, this connection is limited to WWW and email only (see above). If you want do PING, remote desktop, etc., then you need such a script instead:
The dial # would then be "*99***3#".
Now comes the problem: the script is too long to add into Windows CE's script line box. Then, you must use either a third-party dialer, which usually comes with your BT add-on cards and adapters, or you must have a way to enter this script manually:
Note that you may need even more script if your GPRS connection needs more settings. As described above, the T610, in comparison, stores all the settings in the phone and you don't need any dialing script.
Besides such a hassle for a modem, it is a huge phone - much larger, thicker and heavier than T610. I think it is bulky and ugly while T610 is adorable. As a PDA, T9 text input on that stupid round keypad is a pain.
This is another very cool BT phone, although not as popular in USA. Its GPRS modem is like the N3650 - you must use a long script to dial. Its PDA functions seem better than T610 by offering an Outlook sync-able notes function. It is even smaller and lighter than the already small and light T610. The best thing about it is that you can download a new firmware from Siemens and update it by yourself! As soon as I figure out how to add a long dialing script to Nexio, I'll switch from T610 to S55.
Samsung Nexio S160
This thing is so far the first handhelds that can do all serious work with a 800x480 screen and a keyboard and it is still truly pocket-able. With a Nexio in your pant's pocket and a T610 belted to your hip, you don't need anything else in your pockets to go anywhere.
Some key points of my view:
Therefore, a Nexio, a T610 and a T-mobile unlimited nationwide data plan for just $30 a month, you are a fulfilled digiman. A new digital era has just begun. You'll see another technology and economic booming led by personal digitization, like the one started with personal computing and collapsed after the Internet and Linux hype. I do not mean Internet and Linux are hype, but the hype of making huge easy money from them other than using these technologies like we use highway and cars.
There are two things, and only two, that must be fixed:
With these troubles, I cannot use WiFi and even the keyboard. The Nexio S160 is a big step forward from Libretto, CF-M32, handhelds and PDAs, but there is still one more step ahead. Once above issues addressed, we'll finally have something that's usable and smaller than Libretto and CF-M32.
If this Nexio sounds interesting, you should go check the tips I posted to Yahoo Nexio group. Remember to come back later, because I'll post more detailed tips here, such as how to get the English keyboard back after Chinese installation. Here is some other good Nexio links:
Samsung's official Nexio site, hosted in HK.
PDA Buyers' Guide review, wrote by Lisa, the best Nexio review.
Best Nexio pictures side-by-side to similar HP and Sharp PDAs.
www.dynamism.com the only store that sells Nexio in USA.
Copyright © 2005
Xin Feng Company