Tools Of The Trade: The Motorola MPx220 Windows Mobile smartphone

The force and the features are with it, until the battery dies
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Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system offers the promise of handsets that can synchronise seamlessly with office computers and email systems. It is widely available on PDA-style devices and a growing number of regular handsets.

Among these is the MPx220, in which Motorola is trying to blend the style of its successful Razr with the functions of a handheld computer. In this, the manufacturer has been largely successful.

The MPx220 is not as sleek as the Razr and its camera is lower resolution. But the MPx220 has the edge for business applications, with an efficient web browser, an email program based on Microsoft Outlook, contacts and calendar management, as well as the Windows Media Player.

These applications, and the phone's interface, will be familiar to anyone who has used a Windows computer. There is even a Start button on the phone's main screen. The result is that although this is a complex phone, navigating around its functions is quick and easy. There are, though, four screens of functions to scroll through.

Luckily, the phone remembers the most recently accessed applications and displays them at the top of the main screen. As a result, if you use email regularly, the Outlook icon will stay on the screen. There is no way, however, to customise this screen to keep a favourite application there permanently.

Setting up the phone to work with a Microsoft Windows-based email server should be simple enough, as long as that server has Exchange Active-Sync installed. If it does not, it will be more difficult to set up than, say, a Blackberry-based device. But accessing email from internet service providers is straightforward, as the handset supports the POP3 and IMAP mail protocols.

With 64MB of memory, the MPx220 has enough capacity to hold a decent amount of messages. Buyers can also increase storage space by adding a Mini SD memory card. The card slot is on the side of the phone, so there is no need to dismantle the device either to add more memory or to transfer files to another device, such as a PC.

As a quad-band phone, the MPx220 should work almost anywhere there is a GSM signal. In our test, there were certainly no problems using the handset on networks in the UK.

But there were some niggles. The quality of video and audio playback (via Windows Media Player) could be improved, and the phone's ringer can be hard to hear in a busy environment. But the most important shortcoming of the MPx220 examined here was its battery life.

In our test, the battery ran down in a little over 24 hours, even with limited use of GPRS data and making no more than an hour or so of voice calls. Turning Bluetooth on shortened the battery life still further.

Checking the experiences of users in the United States on the internet suggests that this is a common problem, but that some handsets seem to function better than others. However, it remains a serious drawback to an otherwise good phone.