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Motorola unveils rugged ES400 Windows Mobile phone

The device marries the smartphone form factor with the barcode-scanning, signature-collecting capabilities of earlier handhelds such as the MC9500
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1 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

Motorola has announced the ES400 Enterprise Digital Assistant, a rugged Windows Mobile smartphone.

The ES400 runs on Windows Mobile 6.5.3. The device, unveiled on Thursday, is targeted at vertical markets such as field service, field sales, retail, healthcare, utilities, manufacturing and transportation and distribution.

Andy McBain, Motorola's EMEA head of enterprise mobility products, said at a London launch event on Thursday that some enterprises were showing "push-back" against the proliferation of consumer-grade smartphones such as the iPhone and Android handsets, and were keen for new enterprise-grade devices.

"One of the issues that has historically plagued field forces is that they need a fully enterprise device that is ruggedised, but the issue is the devices have always been too big," ABI Research's vice president of mobile Kevin Burden told ZDNet UK on Thursday. "The device has to fit the needs of the user as much as it fits the needs of the enterprise."

Burden suggested that the ES400 was supposed to be "a more pocketable type of enterprise device". He also said that the handset could have a shorter lifecycle than its predecessors such as the MC9500, due to the way it will be used.

"[The ES400] is going to stick with one person," Burden said. "It is not a device that will fit into a bank of devices that people check out in the morning and check back in the afternoon."

Although it has a smartphone form factor, the ES400 is the successor to devices such as 2009's MC9500, a ruggedised device used in field-work scenarios such as signature-capturing.

According to McBain, pictured above at the launch, the ES400 also conforms to security standards for FIPS encryption and secure logon.

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2 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

The ES400 has a 3-inch resistive touchscreen. Resistive touchscreens can be used for scenarios such as signature collection — the capacitive touchscreens used in devices such as the iPhone and Android smartphones are more responsive, but far less accurate.

According to Motorola, the VGA screen uses pentile technology that was developed with the assistance of Samsung. This adds white pixels to the standard red, green and blue used in most screens. Already used in Google's Nexus One smartphone, this technology makes the screen brighter in indoor and outdoor conditions.

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3 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

The ES400 uses the Motorola Enterprise User Interface (MEUI), a modification of the Windows Mobile user interface that lets people pin frequently-used applications to a dockbar at the bottom of the screen.

The device includes GPS and a three-axis accelerometer for navigation and orientation purposes.

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4 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

This picture shows the ES400's stylus, alongside the device's fingerprint reader — for biometric security — and Symbol-branded camera.

Motorola bought Symbol, which specialised in barcode readers and scanners, in 2006 for £2bn. The ES400's camera comes with a flash and a separate infrared autofocus aid. According to McBain, the red line emitted by this autofocus aid also makes the device seem more like a traditional barcode scanner, to make it seem more familiar to people used to the older style of scanning. The ES400 can read 1D and 2D barcodes.

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5 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

The ES400 lets the user choose between GSM HSPA and CDMA RevA connectivity — a feature that is particularly tailored to the North American market, where both types of mobile broadband are used.

It also supports 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi, along with push-to-talk.

As can be seen in this picture, the device is well sealed. According to Motorola, it meets IP-42 specifications for rain resistance, and meets MIL-STD 810G drop specifications, meaning it can be dropped from a height of half a metre about 150 times before breaking.

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6 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

The ES400's keypad is interchangeable for different countries. As can be seen in the above picture, it has a dedicated barcode-scanner button.

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7 of 7 David Meyer/ZDNet

This shot shows the ES400 scanning a barcode.

According to McBain, Motorola expects to sell one to two million units of the ES400 in Europe alone over the next 12-18 months. The device has a list price of $750 (£507) and will start shipping towards the end of August. It will only be available through Motorola's channel partners, who will probably sell it with industry-specific applications, McBain said.

McBain added that Motorola is currently in talks with ten European operators who want to put the ES400 into their portfolios.

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