Monday, April 6, 2009

Dopod C720W: business solution at your fingertips

Totting this cellphone while prowling the night at the Embassy would surely stamp my ‘dashing debonair technopreneur’ image into a complete package. I don’t have an “executive assistant”(a corporate-induced, mild jargon of a secretary) so I solely rely digital assistance for my business errands. And this PDAPhone does the job I require, minus the squint of a mini-skirt’ed delight.

Taiwanese handheld maker Dopod, along with smart phone manufacturer HTC and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile division, finally introduced the C720W(a.k.a. HTC Excalibur in Europe), and after putting it through its paces, we find that it deserves its title as a Moto Q killer for a number of reasons. It has integrated Wi-Fi(a feature the Q and i320N lack), Bluetooth 2.0, and push e-mail capabilities right out of the box. Plus, it delivers on performance with snappy response time, excellent call quality, and long battery life. Of course, the smart phone isn’t flawless. Its design won’t appeal to everyone, and it’s already garnered some harsh criticism around the Web. The new volume control touch strip is also a bit temperamental, and using the device’s camera interface is unnecessarily confusing. That said, if you’re in the market for a Windows Mobile smart phone to help you stay connected and be more productive on the road, we think the C720W is an excellent choice.
When I got a word from the vendor that I will be given this product to test and torment under rigid use, I initially thought I will be testing RIM BlackBerry 8700g with Windows Mobile 5.0 under its hood. Their similarity though fades when I finaly got this unit. With its form factor and full QWERTY keyboard, this smart phone has merits of its own. At 111.5 x 62.5 x 12.8mm and 130g, the C720W is thinner and lighter than the 8700g (69.5 x 19.5 x 110mm; 134g) and shorter than the Q (116 x 64 x 12 mm; 115g). More importantly, it feels good in the hand. The C720W has a nice contour shape and curved edges that make it a little more comfortable to hold and use as a phone than the blockier Moto Q. In addition, the C720W features soft-touch covering that gives the unit a rubberlike texture, so it’s easy to grip and use one-handed.
The C720W has superior wireless options. First, it offers integrated Wi-Fi, a feature lacking in the Moto Q and the current crop of BlackBerrys, and EDGE support, giving you the freedom to surf the Web on the road using Internet Explorer Mobile. In addition, the C720W runs the latest Bluetooth 2.0 (whereas the Moto Q has Bluetooth 1.2), which requires less power consumption and offers faster transmission speeds. There’s support for a number of profiles, including Dial-up Networking, Headset, Handsfree, Generic Object Exchange, and File Transfer, and the A2DP profile for stereo headsets. The C720W includes a convenient Communication Manager app to manage all your wireless connections.
Of course, the C720W also includes cellular wireless. As a quadband phone, you can use the C720W overseas. The C720W’s Contact book is limited only by the available memory, and there’s room in each entry for up to 12 numbers, three e-mail addresses, IM handles, street addresses, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a contact a photo, one of 18 ring tones, or a group ID. There’s also a speakerphone, voice dialing, and a vibrate mode.

Evident in the Windows Mobile package is the email support so you get out-of-the-box synchronization and not only with your e-mail but also your contacts, calendar, and tasks. The C720W has direct push capabilities that support both Microsoft’s Windows Mobile DirectPush and RIM’s BlackBerry Connect services, so you can receive your message in real time. In addition, you can access personal e-mail from POP3 or IMAP4 accounts, including AOL, Yahoo Mail Plus, EarthLink, and Comcast. There’s a handy e-mail wizard to help you get set up; we used it to access our Yahoo Mail Plus account, and it was a simple matter of entering our address and password. For quicker communication, the C720W comes preloaded with four of the most popular instant-messaging clients–AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, and MSN–and supports text and multimedia messaging. Not only that, with this phone, you also install RIM’s Blackerry Connect mobile email client. Good whose entire office’s mobile email application is provided by RIM’s Enterprise Wireless Solution.

The C720W comes equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera with video-recording capabilities, as well as four other shooting modes: Video messaging, contacts picture, picture theme, and sports. Camera options are on a par with those of other smart phones on the market today. For still images, you get a choice of four resolutions (1,280×1,024, 640×480, 320×240, or 160×120) and four quality settings(Super Fine, Fine, Normal, and Basic). You also have white balance controls, flicker adjustment, various effects, a time stamp option, and other tools so that you can get the best picture possible. You can record video with sound in one of three formats(MPEG-4, Motion JPEG, or H.263) and one of two resolutions(176×144 or 128×96). Once you’re done capturing your shots, you can share photos with others via Bluetooth, multimedia message, or e-mail; view them in a slide show; or save them as wallpaper.

While it is enjoying the increased pixel clarity of some sort, it is also one sore point of this brick. It’s not clear which buttons to press to access certain camera functions. For example, the zoom feature is located along the left side of the screen, but there is no indication about how to zoom in or out. It was only through trial and error that we discovered that the up-and-down controls of the navigation toggle perform these functions. Also, to escape out of a camera settings menu, our first inclination was to press the Back button but that only closed the entire camera app completely. Another downside, picture quality was a bit disappointing as colors appeared washed out and lines and edges weren’t as sharp as we’ve seen on other phones. Overall, there was a fuzzy quality to the images.

Another standard package that comes with Windows Mobile OS is the Windows Media Player 10 Mobile onboard. The C720W can keep you entertained during your downtime, allowing you to enjoy your favorite AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV files. Also, if you have TV shows recorded on your Windows Media Center PC, you can transfer them to the C720W and enjoy them on the device’s great screen. In addition, the smart phone comes preloaded with two games: Bubble Breaker and Solitaire, so you can enjoy fiddling with it while you’re heading back home in dense traffic. To say that you are seated comfortably is another story.

Overall, the device was very responsive to our demands, though camera activation and multimedia use caused a slight slow down in performance. Call quality was excellent. On our end, conversations were loud and clear, though there was a slight hollowness to the sound, but our callers were impressed by the clarity of the phone calls and added that they couldn’t even tell we were on a cell phone. And activating the speakerphone didn’t even diminish the audio quality of the handset which is such a breeze if you’re caught up in a street with all the horns and hubbub.

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