Tue, 03 Oct 2006
3G smartphones pack in the features

Zatni Arbi, Contributor, Jakarta

The new 3G W-CDMA cellphone technology is now available in a growing number of areas throughout the world, including, after some waiting, Indonesia. But not everywhere in the country. Even in Jakarta, the place where it is expected most 3G users will be concentrated, services are still patchy.

Nonetheless, the potential for growth has spurred handset vendors to rush to the market with 3G WCDMA products. One of them is a company that some readers may have heard of -- DOPOD.

This cellphone vendor has been aggressively penetrating markets in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand with its PDA phones and smartphones and is targeting Russia next.

Early last August, DOPOD invited dozens of IT journalists from ASEAN countries, including myself, to Singapore, to witness the launch of its new, more elegant brand logo.

At the same time, DOPOD, which specializes in designing and marketing Microsoft Windows Mobile-based PDAs and smartphones, unveiled two of its new products, the 838 Pro PDA phone and the 595 smartphone.

The firm is in a partnership with High Tech Computers (HTC) of Taiwan, which is a leading ODM/OEM manufacturer in the world for Windows-based mobile devices. When you turn on many of DOPOD's products, you see the HTC logo on the screen before the Windows Mobile starts loading.

To be honest, when I first saw the two products at the event in Singapore, I wasn't immediately taken by them. Certainly, both offer a lot of features, but their style is certainly not something that would attract fashion-conscious buyers.

However, when I finally got my turn to play around with them, I quickly saw how well-made these DOPODs were. The company's design engineers put far more emphasis on substance than form.

The product that drew the most attention of the two was the 838 Pro. Equipped with a touch-sensitive QVGA screen, DOPOD claims it is the world's first 3G PDA phone on the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform.

Underneath the body there is a sliding QWERTY keyboard. When the keyboard is tucked in, the screen has a portrait orientation. Pull the keyboard out, and the orientation automatically changes to landscape.

That is just the beginning. Another much stronger plus is the detailed design and sturdiness of the device itself. I like the placement and the styling of the control buttons.

They are discretely placed so they do not clutter the exterior panels. There is also a scroll-wheel right where the thumb will usually touch the PDA. Push the scroll wheel in, and it becomes the Select button.

The Cancel and Voice Command buttons are also operated easily with one's thumb. Special attention has been given to how the battery cover is locked.

There is a latch at the bottom that must be pushed to open the cover; a simple procedure. Replacing the MiniSD card is also easy, as the slot is accessible from the left side.

However, the slot is not covered, so I guess one has to be careful not to let the rain get in.

There is a 2 megapixel camera with a flash on the back and a 0.1 MP camera set in the front for video calls. With a diagonal measurement of 7.1 centimeters, the screen is quite large and the PDA is a bit bulky, but given the fact that it has almost any feature you could ask for, the size should be acceptable.

This PDA is fast, too. It is driven by a 400 MHz Samsung processor and I never had any problem with the operating system. The battery life is also great in comparison to many of the PDAs that I have seen in the past. Productivity applications such as Mobile Word and Mobile Excel are already included.

Another highly recommended new feature is PenPower's WorldCard Mobile business card recognition software. Place a business card in front of the camera, and the software will scan and capture the text on it and then store it in the PDA's memory.

The strength of this PDA phone is its connectivity. You name it, and this device is likely to have it. In addition to 3G UMTS there is a plethora of choice-from Quadband GSM, Triband 3G WCDMA, GPRS, EDGE, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Talking about messaging, which include SMS and MMS in both English and Chinese, the device also support email using Outlook, multiple POP3, Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail. Push email with Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 SP2 and 2007 is already built in.

It is difficult to find fault with the 838 Pro. It has so many features that you can only admire DOPOD for its great work in packing everything into a single device.

After playing around with the 838 Pro, it is harder to be enamored by the candybar DOPOD 595. Nonetheless, this is still a capable Windows Mobile-based 3G smartphone. It runs on a 300 MHz Samsung processor. It does not sport a particularly cool look, but it is quite comfortable to hold and similarly well designed.

Although it is not as feature-laden as its PDA phone brother, the email on the 595 does support multiple POP3, Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail. Push e-mail with Microsoft Exchange Server is also available. Like the 838 Pro, it comes with English and Chinese support languages.

The keypad, with its tiny buttons, is a bit difficult to use as it is placed way down on the front panel. I do not really know how else it could be designed, as this smartphone has a large 5.5 cm diameter screen.

The 838's younger sibling shares other features with the top of the range model, including video recording, handsfree and voice tag capabilities, mini USB connection to the PC for data synchronizing and battery charging, support for JAVA, Windows Media Player Mobile 10 and built-in ClearVue Document Viewer. However, it supports only three GSM frequencies. Its main camera is a 1.3 MP. Most notable is the missing 802.11 Wi-Fi.

The first DOPOD that I reviewed, which was DOPOD S300, did not impress me very much. However, it is clear that DOPOD International Corporation does not stand still. The company, which started in 2004, has achieved a lot in just a short period of time.

With its expanding market share, propelled by great products such these two, this handset vendor is likely to be on many cellphone shoppers' lists.



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