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Motorola MC75

Enterprises looking to deploy a rugged, versatile mobile device will be impressed by the Motorola MC75's range of features. However, you pay a premium for smartphone functionality in a hardened form; this phone is not only tough, it is massive to the point of being unwieldy.
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Written by Alex Serpo on
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Motorola MC75

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Enterprises looking to deploy a rugged, versatile mobile device will be impressed by the Motorola MC75's range of features. However, you pay a premium for smartphone functionality in a hardened form; this phone is not only tough, it is massive to the point of being unwieldy.

Design
Is that a laptop in your pocket, or is your phone just massive? The Motorola MC75 might have your colleagues posing this question. It certainly raised a few eyebrows when we took it out on a Saturday night. Motorola calls this phone a "mobile computer" for a reason.

Designed to be a tough, reliable device for data entry in the field, the MC75 would suit couriers, miners, field engineers — or anyone that spends a lot of time working outdoors or in harsh environments. As such, the phone is something of a missing link between laptops and phones.

For all intents and purposes it's a smartphone running Windows Mobile. It takes a SIM card, has a stylus and makes calls. However, it's massive. At 422g it's more than three times the weight of an iPhone and close to four times the physical size. You'd struggle to get it into the pockets of overalls. This phone is an absolute monster.

The Motorola MC75 (right) next to a RAZR (left), and an iPhone (centre). This phone is big.

Secondly, the battery is huge, 3600mAh, more than twice the size of any other phone battery we have ever seen. There is also the option of a 4800mAh battery, the kind of battery size you might find on a small laptop, and it's actually larger than the battery on the first versions of Asus' Eee PC 900.

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The phone itself is quite robust. It has a microSD card slot on the right-hand side under a panel that needs to be unscrewed to gain access. The 2-megapixel camera on the back of the device sits behind a reinforced thick black casing.

Next to the camera casing is a waterproof headphone port. Unfortunately, it's a 2.5mm connection — not a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which is disappointing.

At the base of the device is a single proprietary port that is used for both charging and connecting the phone to a computer. Unlike other mobile phones it doesn't charge over a USB, so you will need to use the supplied and rather thick cable which hooks into a power socket. The same cable is also required to connect the phone to a PC &mdash it does not have a microUSB port. In addition, the phone is only equipped with USB 1.1, we expected USB 2.0 on an enterprise device with this price tag.

The MC75 comes with a stylus that is secured to the device by elastic, which often got caught when attempting to pull the phone in out of pockets. You can remove the elastic, but then you might lose the stylus. On one side of the device is a rubber button that provides a handy shortcut to control the ringer volume, allowing users to switch between vibrate or silent profiles quickly. Unfortunately, the vibration on this phone is very weak. At the top of the device is a barcode scanner.

Features
The first thing you will notice when you turn this device on is the large crisp display. At 3.5 inches, it's the same size as the iPhone display, but at 640x480, it's twice the resolution. This display is slightly indented for better protection.

The display is also quite bright, and the LED backlighting can be turned on and off via a shortcut at the base of the display. The screen will also switch off after a certain period of inactivity. Both these power saving features are necessary, as despite the massive battery on this phone, we only managed to get three days of use out of it. The bright display is power hungry so we recommend upgrading to the larger 4800mAh battery for field use.

The internals of the MC75 are fairly standard for a smartphone — it has 256MB of ROM and 128MB of RAM and a Marvell XScale PXA270 processor running at 624 MHz. The added CPU power means standard mobile applications should be zippy on the MC75, which runs Windows Mobile (WM) 6.0 .

Companies wishing to store sensitive data onto the phone can encrypt all data being stored on the MicroSD card. This is an existing feature of WM devices, but it needs to be enabled, and we think it's a useful option for business.

There are four different models of the MC75. Our device supported 3G, HSDPA, CDMA and for international deployment, EVDO support. The MC75 also supports Wi-Fi 802.11(a, b and g), along with Bluetooth 2.0. Wi-Fi security on the MC75, which includes WEP and WPA2, supporting a range of authentication types including PEAP, TTLS and EAP. We made several calls on the device and had no issue with call quality.

Our phone also came with a 2-megapixel camera, which can be disabled if necessary for security reason. The camera on our device appeared to be disabled, because we couldn't find any way to access it.

Another interesting feature of the MC75 is the ability to connect via Ethernet using a supplied cradle. This is not for PoE, you can actually sync this device over Ethernet. Our device didn't come with a cradle, so we couldn't test this feature.

In terms of toughness, the MC75 carries an IP54 certification, meaning it's protected against dust and "splashing water" from any direction. It's also designed to survive a 1.5m drop onto concrete. Motorola might be horrified to know that we tested this claim several times, albeit onto a carpet-covered concrete floor. So based on that, we can confirm that it will survive being dropped on anything carpeted.

This device comes with an excellent assisted GPS, it was rapidly and precisely able to find our location in the Sydney CBD. Then again, our device also came with flight planning and mapping software for pilots, PocketFMS. So we can assume this is a professional level GPS.

For companies looking to deploy the MC75 in a retail environment, it comes with an optional magnetic stripe reader that can be attached to the bottom of the device. Other options include a single, four-slot and vehicle cradle.

Verdict
Motorola's MC75 is a hardened smartphone with a great GPS and an impressive range of features. Unfortunately, battery life was disappointing — even with the massive battery.

We can testify the device is very hardy, but this also means it is significantly larger, heavier and more expensive than a standard smartphone. The range of wired and wireless connection options are impressive, but we would have liked to see charging over USB, support for USB 2.0 and a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.

Businesses looking to deploy a fully featured and rugged device for mobile data entry won't be disappointed. However, the additional protection and connectivity mean the Motorola MC75 costs almost twice as much as most modern smartphones.

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