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Turn your smartphone / PDA into a powerful computer

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So, you have bought a smartphone or a pocket PC and you can now enjoy the rich possibilities it offers. A smartphone or a pocket PC (which we will be calling shortly as device) is not just a phone. It is a real computer, which is by the way much faster than PCs used to be 10-15 years ago. As any other computer, what you can do with it depends on the programs installed on it. Most devices come with a similar set of pre-installed programs. Of course, there is an Internet browser, an e-mail software, a set of programs to read and edit MS Office documents. With those programs you already get quite a powerful tool in your pocket. However, that is by far not all. There is much more to be done with your device, and here we will try to describe the most useful applications. This article is dedicated to the Windows Mobile software, but many of the programs described here have also a Symbian OS version. Besides the software, there are also some possibilities of hardware upgrade for the pocket PCs, which we will discuss here.

First we will speak about the mobile software, which we shall divide into several groups according to their application:
Then we will discuss what can be done to the hardware, namely:

Mobile Software

Backup. A very good backup program is Sprite Backup. It makes a complete backup of mobile device including all user data (phone book, messages, calendar, etc.) and system information (all installed programs, registry information, etc.). Sprite Backup can create self extracting backup files, which means that you can restore your data even immediately after hard reset, no need to install the program first (just keep the backup file on the memory card so that it is not erased if you do hard reset). So, suppose something has happened to your phone’s system or to the installed programs. Then just do hard reset and then run the backup file – your phone’s system will be restored completely, including not only the phone book, all your messages, documents, etc., but also all the programs that were installed on the phone (including Sprite Backup itself). You just don’t forget to make a new backup each time you make some changes to the system or install a new program. One can choose whether to backup only the user data or only the system information and programs or both. User data should be backed up regularly, however the system information and programs should be backed up only when a change is made to the system or a new program is installed. Of course, one can still synchronize his/her mobile device with PC to save the user data, however synchronization saves not all the user data and does not save installed programs and system information. Only using backup one can save completely all the information stored on the mobile device.

Remote control. This is also a very useful tool that allows you to work on your PC remotely. We recommend LogMeIn because it has a free option and works from both PCs and mobile devices. You need to install LogMeIn plugin on the computer you want to access remotely and then you will be able to reach it from any PC or device running Windows Mobile that can connect to the Internet (we did not check it with Symbian OS, probably LogMeIn can work on it too). Once you have connected to your computer, you will be able to use it remotely as if you are just sitting in front of it.

Security. Like PC are attacked by numerous viruses, there are also viruses attacking mobile phones, both Windows Mobile and Symbian OS. Mobile viruses can spread in various ways including Bluetooth, IR beaming, SMS text messaging, malicious Web sites, installed software, and e-mail attachments. Good advice on mobile virus protection and recommended antivirus programs can be found at Microsoft’s Windows Mobile site.

Office tools. If your device runs Windows Mobile, you already have MS Office Mobile installed on it, for Symbian OS you should have a similar program suite. But if you also need to view pdf files, we recommend installing Picsel PDF Viewer.

Dictionaries. Yes, with your mobile device you can carry even the Big Oxford Dictionary with you. There are a lot of pocket PC dictionaries, just search the Web. For Russian dictionaries we recommend Lingvo. It is a good piece of software and it contains a set of very good dictionaries. The advantages of such dictionaries are obvious – they do not occupy any extra space (you just carry them in your phone), you can have them always at hand, searching for a word is much faster than in the classical book dictionary.

Voice recording. Any mobile device is perfectly fit to work as a dictaphone, you just need to install recording software. If you want a freeware program you can install Power Dictaphone. However, the best program of this kind is Resco Audio Recorder because it allows one-button recording, which can be crucial if you have to start recording quickly. However notice that, when recording a phone conversation, you need to turn on the speakerphone first. This is caused by a feature of Windows Mobile, which does not allow any program to access the internal phone speaker.

Communications. You can use VoIP on your mobile device to make cheap long distance and international calls. This is what our site is dedicated to. So, if you haven’t read that yet, just go to the get started page to learn how to save up to 95% on your mobile phone calls. Another useful communication tool is SMS Scheduler. It allows one to schedule SMS sending for any time in the future. Besides, it can create contact groups so that an SMS can be sent to the whole group without the need to select recipients one by one.

Entertainment. Windows Mobile devices come with Windows Media Player already installed. There is also Real One Player for Windows Mobile, so you can watch videos and webcasts in the Real Player format. If you are interested in any other entertainment software just search the Web.

System tools and maintenance. Those who have to work with various national character sets can use on-screen keyboards. We recommend Hikeyboard because it allows switching between various national keyboard layouts and is stable in operation (many other on-screen keyboards are not stable and may just stop working).
Among the maintenance tools we recommend pmClean , which will clean your device from unnecessary information that just occupies space in the memory. There are also some tools which should be used only by those having some expertise in Windows, otherwise using them may corrupt you device’s system. PHM RegEdit allows editing Windows Mobile Registry (Windows Mobile does not have a built in Registry editor). Check Notifications allows one to solve notification problems (not working alarms and reminders).

Professional software. There are a lot of professional tools, which should be chosen according to one’s speciality. Here we will describe some useful software for webmasters. One can edit HTML files on mobile device using, for example, Easy HTML Editor and upload them to a web site using SoftX FTP Client or Orneta FTP. Of course, editing an HTML file or even using an FTP client on the small screen of mobile device is not easy, but in some cases when you need to make an urgent change to your web site and do not have an access to a PC it may be very helpful (you can also use LogMeIn to access your PC remotely from your mobile device and do all the work from your PC then).

Various applications. There are thousands of programs for mobile devices. Many freeware applications can be found on the web sites listed below. Here we would like to mention conversion tools to convert measurements between different systems and a powerful scientific calculator SCalc.

If you need some application not described here or if you just wonder what else can be done with your pocket PC, you can check the following sites where you can find thousands of freeware programs: www.freewarepocketpc.net, www.1800pocketpc.com, www.smartphone-freeware.com, www.mobiletopsoft.com, www.pocketpcsoft.net.

Hardware Upgrade

WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and video out. Some of the older smartphones / pocket PCs do not have WiFi built in, some do not have GPS or Bluetooth, and almost all devices except very few do not allow displaying the image via projector or external monitor. But all these features can be added to a mobile device using an appropriate SD Card or adaptor (can be Mini- or Micro SD depending on what standard is used in your device). The leading manufacturer of such cards and adaptors is SPECTEC. SPECTED do not sell their products directly, to find the best vendor just do Google search: for WiFi cards, for GPS cards, for Bluetooth, for video out adaptor. There are other manufacturers too, you can find them on amazon.com or just do Google search. Some WiFi cards also have a storage of up to 2 GB, so you can use them both as a WiFi adaptor and as a storage card. A common disadvantage of such cards is that they are longer than standard cards, so that such a card pops out of the phone. However, for those phones that do not have WiFi (or GPS) that is the only solution.

Increasing the capacity of the memory card . Devices working with Windows Mobile 6.0 and older support cards with the capacity of up to 2 GB. Newer devices running Windows Mobile 6.1 support cards up to 32 GB (this is a new standard called SDHC – SD High Capacity). Many devices come with pre-installed cards but those are generally 512 MB or 1 GB ones. So, just have a look at your card to check its capacity and decide if you want to replace it.
However, there is a possibility to use SDHC cards above 2 GB in older devices. For that one needs to install a driver. There are a few such drivers but only one of them is stable. It can be downloaded here or just do Google search for SDHC4WM5_pras.zip. Even this driver may not work on some devices. On some devices it works but, after the device goes to the power saving (sleep) mode, it looses the card immediately after wake up. The only solution then is to take the card out and insert it again. Even in such cases you can use high capacity cards to store music and videos because, while playing music or video, the device does not go to the power saving mode. There are some ways to solve this issue but they work not for all devices. If you want to learn more contact us.


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