The Virtual Road Warriors Mobile Phone

Can a mobile phone really double as a complete virtual office?

In a previous article, The virtual road warrior software checklist, I described how, with a little bit of preparation and a well-chosen web-based application (such as backpackit.com), you can stay connected and if you wish operate almost business as usual whilst on the road.

The only thing that such a traveller needs is access to the internet from a cyber café or hotel or a public kiosk.

But what if you don’t want to rely on public internet services and still wish to travel light – how far can you go with just a "normal mobile phone"?


The answer is surprisingly far

Here is one solution I have been experimenting with for the last month.

I have only tried it out in the UK and my first phone bill has not yet come in so this will have to be an interim report only.


First the phone

I have an Orange SPV C500 Smart Phone running Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphone, Second Edition.

It has also one of the largest 'screen to phone ratios' of the modern compact smart phones.


Secondly the email

I have enabled my email to be sent directly to the SPV phone on a pull basis.

It was awkward and fiddly to set-up initially - mostly because of the amount of typing you have to do with the phone keypad.

On the plus side however a support person from the telecoms operator Orange will stay on the line and talk you through until its connected and checked.

It then works like a dream – I just tell it to go to my email server and it downloads all my new the email headers extremely quickly almost every time.

The emails I like the look of I can flag the phone to download the full body.

All my email is retained on my outlook client so I don't lose anything if I accidently delete something on the phone.


Thirdly the wireless keyboard

So that's the email covered – but what about text editing and word processing?

For this you need a decent keyboard – there is not much out there so I selected the Freedom KeyBoard which is a fold-way Bluetooth keyboard which extends out to almost full size.

The list price is £69-99 but I you can get it for about £50 over the web.

I am very impressed with it and you certainly could key in a significant note with it quite comfortably.


Finally the document software

You need a word processor or text editor – I was unable to find MS-Word for CE for the SPV so I chose the Orneta Notepad which you can download over the web for under £10.

Orneta is a nice full-featured WYSIWYG text editor designed for Windows CE and Smart Phones.

One word of warning here – don’t be tempted to send email directly from the Orneta Notepad – not only does it fail but it also seems to corrupt all your stored word processing files.

Likewise I was never able to manage to copy text in Orneta and paste it into the Orange email application.

Perhaps I was doing something wrong but it looks to me like the sort of integration we are used to in our desktop applications has not reached smart phones yet.

So what I do is first create the document in Orneta (text files are best) and then load up the SPV email application on the phone and send the Orneta document as an attachment.


A few important tips

  1. Before you head out you may wish to load your address book into your mobile phone or else you can only email to people who have first emailed you (or those you can remember their emails!)

  2. Remember to close (not just minimise) your email programme on your desktop before you head out or the mobile email programme will not be able to download anything for you. It thinks there is nothing to download as your server keeps sending your emails to your Outlook or Outlook Express clients.

  3. The final thing I like about the SPV mobile phone – it’s also decent little MP3 player so I invested another £50 in a 1GB mini-SD card which gives capacity for about 250 songs


Conclusion

Yes, rather surprisingly, it really does look like you can stay pretty well connected on the road armed only with a good smart phone (email enabled) plus a foldaway wireless keyboard and a smartphone text editor.

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