Motorola Accompli 008

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  • Editors' rating
    7.7 Very good

Pros

  • Extensive feature list
  • excellent data communications
  • compact, with good build quality.

Cons

  • Memory is not expandable
  • complex to use and set up
  • cannot synchronise email.

The Accompli 008 is Motorola's stunning debut in the smartphone market, where the Nokia 9210 Communicator now sets the standard. However, the comparison is not entirely fair as the Accompli 008 successfully carves its own niche as an extensively-featured phone rather than a phone-equipped PDA.

Whether justifiably or not, Motorola has a reputation for supplying the least-intuitive user interface among the major mobile phone manufacturers. The Accompli 008 neatly sidesteps this issue with a well-implemented touch-screen. The major phone functions are accessible using a virtual keypad in combination with hard keys. The latter include a rocker switch on the left edge for changing the volume during calls and moving through the options, and four keys on the front including the on-off switch. However, these keys are virtually redundant when you use the stylus.

The large flip, which doubles as protection for the screen as well as a high quality speaker, has a sturdy hinge and clips shut reassuringly firmly. The chassis feels solid and fits comfortably in the hand, and although the casing isn't particularly pretty, it is scratch-resistant and hard-wearing. The stylus stows neatly into the phone thanks to a telescopic extension, which solves the problem that the body of the phone is too short to accommodate a full-length stylus.

If you are used to Palm devices and other handhelds, the 54mm by 40mm screen initially seems small, although it has a resolution of 240 by 320 pixels. A large quick-access icon at the top centre of the screen enables you to toggle the phone functions on and off the screen, and the other icons around the top and bottom edge can be tapped to give more information about a particular item, such as the battery meter or ringer status.

Four group tabs along the right edge give access to the phone's more advanced functions. If you are expecting a full-blown PDA then you are likely to be a somewhat disappointed: this device is a phone at heart, unlike Pocket PC-based convergence devices such as the Sagem WA3050 and Trium Mondo.

In order to be so pocketable -- in photos the Accompli seems a lot like a handheld, but in reality it's quite small -- Motorola has done away with Palm- or Pocket PC-style embellishments, and most applications merely enhance the phone functions. For example, from the contacts list you can tap a phone number or email address, whereupon you are taken to the relevant application to make a call or send a written message. The WAP browser, email client (you can use POP3 or IMAP, but be warned: you can't synchronise the email with your PC), SMS application and phone dialler are all well integrated.

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The Accompli 008's main competitor for the next few months is likely to be the Nokia 9210 Communicator. However, apart from being a lot smaller and lighter, the Motorola product plays the GPRS trump card -- a feature surprisingly absent in the Nokia 9210. Also, unlike the Sagem WA3050 and Trium Mondo, it is GPRS- enabled out of the box.

There is no HTML browser, but WAP works well. You can have virtually limitless WAP bookmarks, five connection profiles, five gateway proxys and five email profiles, which gives a lot of flexibility. The manual is comprehensive, easily followed and really helps when you're entering these settings.

Emails can be organised into folders, and SMS and other text entry is achieved using either the virtual keyboard or the Wisdom Pen Handwriting Recognition system. The latter requires no special character set and tries to predict the letter you are writing.

As with most high-end phones, the real power of the Accompli 008 is unleashed when it is connected to your PC. A serial cradle is supplied so you can synchronise your contacts, notes and schedule with most major PC PIM applications via the supplied TrueSync software.

The cradle has nice touches such as status lights and a compartment to charge the spare Li-ion battery, but this is spoiled by an untidy connection for the mains power -- a USB connection would have allowed much quicker data transfer and done away with the need for a separate power supply.

The TrueSync software is nowhere near as simple as the Pocket PC's ActiveSync or Palm's HotSync, and also compares poorly with the Siemens SL45's PC connection kit. You need to keep tapping settings on the phone and then on the PC each time you want to synchronise. It is also fiddly and major features, such as the downloading of Java applets, are unnecessarily complex.

One of the Accompli 008's killer features is its Java capability, in the shape of Sun's J2ME environment. For third-party applets, Motorola pointed us towards www.midletcentral.com, where we found a bunch of games, an alternative WAP browser and some screen savers. However, only a couple of applets would work when downloaded to the Accompli -- and one of them was a rather unimpressive stopwatch. To be fair, it is early days for Java phones, so we will keep an open mind.

The flexibility of Java is a great asset to this device so it is a disappointment to find that its relatively meagre 8MB of memory cannot be expanded -- especially as only around 3MB is usable. However lean Java applets may be, you would soon use up half of this memory with a few small programs and, say, 500 contacts, a busy schedule and task list and few emails.

The Accompli 008 may have a notes application and a neat Inkpad function for drawing maps, but this phone is definitely not going to replace a fully featured Palm or Pocket PC handheld. Then again, this is one of the Accompli 008's virtues: it makes no pretence to be any more than a fantastically well-featured phone.

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