Heavyweights Motorola and Microsoft unite to produce the MPx200; a sleek, all-black clamshell smart phone. Read our Australian review.
It's refreshing to see an original design from a vendor dabbling in the smart phone market. Recently we have seen a deluge of HTC-manufactured devices that are indistinguishable aside from their slightly tweaked version of Windows Mobile Smartphone. First it was the Qtek 7070, and then the O2 Xphone and i-mate also jumped on the bandwagon with their Smartphone2.
Initial thoughts on the design of the MPx200 are that it looks like a professional's phone and the movement of the flip seems sturdy as it clicks relatively hard into the open or closed position. The glossy feel of the MPx200's black casing is reminiscent of the Sony Ericsson T610, which was crowned best mobile phone at the 2004 GSM Association Awards. Just like the T610, the MPx200's shiny cover is smudges easily and requires a wipe once in a while to keep it from looking grubby. The MPx200 isn't a tiny mobile phone, it measures 89 x 48 x 27 mm, but it is comfortable to store in a pocket and its weight (113 grams) is evenly balanced across both halves when open.
The small, external monochrome LCD (96 x 32 pixels) can display the time, date, network, and battery status. It is surrounded by a shiny metallic blue plate that is bordered by a thin silver strip.
The internal TFT screen (176 x 220 pixels) supports 65,536 colours (16-bit) and displays images brightly. The MPx200 gives you more freedom customising the screen and sounds of the phone than most phones with the help of the Windows Mobile Smartphone operating system (unfortunately it's the older 2002 Edition). To add to the range of default skins embedded on the mobile phone are the pre-made gems that are available for download, examples include skins inspired by OS X, Tomb Raider, Kylie or Xbox. CoolSmartPhone is a great resource that offers skins, sounds, utilities and games for the Motorola MPx200 (as well as other phones powered by Microsoft Windows).
The MPx200 allows WAV and MIDI files to be assigned as ringtones. We quickly scoured the Web site above and set an R2-D2 bleep to alert us to incoming text messages and Austin Powers to let us know when a call is received. While there are many pre-installed sounds to use as ringtones it is simple to add a new ringtones to the MPx2000. When the device is connected to your PC you can drag-and-drop files into a directory on the phone (i.e. \IPSM\Application Data\Sounds). Skins and applications require a couple more steps but still the installation process is straightforward.
For connectivity, there is a mini-USB port at the bottom of the MPx200 (USB cable included) and an infrared port on the left side of the device (surprisingly there is no Bluetooth). While connected to the PC (via USB), the MPx200's battery charges and you are still able to use the phone normally. Microsoft ActiveSync is supplied on the CD in the box so you can set up the connection between the handset and PC to synchronise either with desktop Outlook or an Exchange server in a flash. The usual Outlook items can be synchronised: Inbox, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks. Files can be transferred but we quickly ran out of the available onboard memory after moving a couple of media files across to the MPx200.
Alongside the headset socket on the right side of the MPx200 is an SD/MMC slot protected by a plastic cover. Unfortunately Motorola do not provide a memory card in the package but we are told the MPx200 supports up to 1GB of SD storage.
This opens up the potential of the MPx200 as being much more than a basic mobile phone. Windows Media Player is embedded for the playback of audio and video files (Windows Media plus MP3 file formats are supported) and Pocket Internet Explorer allows you to browse WAP and HTML sites, although we find the speed of GPRS frustrating for browsing any graphic-intensive sites. MSN Messenger is installed for instant messaging and SMS, MMS and e-mail are supported with T9 or multitap for text input.
Surprisingly, no other Pocket Office applications are included for viewing/editing Word, Excel or PowerPoint files. Third-party applications such as ClearVue can be installed. For passing time, Solitaire comes pre-installed and more games can be installed.
There is a jog dial on the left side of the phone that can be accessed easily with your left thumb but the OS does not utilise this to its potential. Generally it controls the earpiece volume and can reject calls when the flip is closed. Press it when the flip is open and the MPx200 records voice notes. It could have been put to better use in scrolling through lists and selecting menu items without using the four-way rocker key located above the keypad.
The keypad has subtle blue backlights and the keys are all flat. It is a comfortable array of buttons to use with two soft keys at the top, a talk and end button, and home and back buttons (in "keeping with the Windows desktop experience", of course).
A very handy aspect of Windows Mobile Smartphone is the integration with Contacts. Like we first noticed on the O2 Xphone, as you enter a person's name or type in a number the phone searches the SIM card, Contacts and the call history for matching names and/or numbers and instantly displays them for you to select and call.
Other inclusions in the package are a leather case, a belt clip and a companion CD containing the aforementioned ActiveSync, MS Outlook and backup versions of a couple of embedded MPx200 programs.
MPx200 is a welcome entry into Australia's seemingly monotonous smart phone market and we will soon have some other additions to the Moto family with the recently unveiling of the MPx100 and the MPx at the 3GSM World Congress 2004 in Cannes, France. The upcoming MPx100 and MPx models will feature a 1.3 megapixel camera with flash, and Bluetooth, with the former having a candy bar design and a keyboard attachment and the latter will operate in landscape or portrait mode along with an integrated QWERTY keyboard. They are expected to be available in the second half of 2004 and will run Windows Mobile Smartphone 2003 Edition.
Meanwhile, the processor on the MPx200 (a 130MHz ARM OMAP710) seems a bit sluggish at times and it would have been better to see the handset running Smartphone 2003 Edition. Bluetooth and a camera would probably have seen youth snap it up a bit more readily too. While concerns are brewing over industrial espionage and privacy laws with respect to camera phones, a Motorola representative mentioned at the MPx200's launch the absence of a camera makes the MPx200 more security-friendly.
Overall, we can't fault the MPx200 too much. It's a good all-round mobile phone that is tri-band capable, meaning it will operate on most networks around the world. It's certainly revitalising to see a fresh design on a smartphone.