Easily the biggest story of last month was Motorola’s announcement of the MPx, a cellular-wireless Pocket PC with an innovative shape. This device is on display at CTIA Wireless 2004, and I was able to look it over pretty thoroughly.
At the 3GSM World Congress last month, all Motorola had to display was non-functional mockups of the MPx. The ones at CTIA Wireless are working, but they are early prototypes.
On the Outside
The MPx is the first Windows Mobile Phone Edition device to have the appearance of a phone. Like a lot of smart phones, it has a clamshell shape, with a screen on one side and a keypad on the other.
But this is no ordinary smart phone. It has a screen at the full Pocket PC standard resolution, 240 by 320 pixels. And instead of just a keypad, it has a full keyboard.
And, even better, thanks to its unique dual-hinge design, it can morph from a smart phone into a wireless handheld.
Here’s how it works. When your phone is ringing you want to be able to answer it as quickly as possible, so by default the MPx opens in the smart phone configuration, with the screen in portrait mode. However, if you want to some word processing or view a web page in landscape mode, you press a button on the side of the MPx and it opens in the wireless handheld configuration. Of course, the screen automatically adjusts for whichever way you open the device.
I tried out the keyboard while the MPx was in the landscape configuration. It was about as easy to type on as any other thumboard. The keys were comfortable to use, and it seemed like something I could type a long email on.
I know that the keyboard didn’t come out very well in either of the pictures I took of the MPx, but the Motorola representative I talked to said the keyboard is going to undergo a slight reconfiguration, anyway.
I found the D-pad to be easier to use than most D-pads. I find handhelds that put the D-pad at the very bottom difficult to use, but the MPx’s is naturally right under your thumb.
Its 2.8-inch screen is a lot smaller than I’m used to, but I could easily read text in Pocket Word and on web pages. However, if you typically wear reading glasses you might have a harder time.
The dimensions of the MPx are 3.9 inches long, 2.4 inches wide, and .95 inches thick. It will weigh 6.15 ounces. It is actually one of the smaller devices I tested while at CTIA Wireless.
On the Inside
Unfortunately, because I was using such an early prototype of this device, I’m not going to be able to give you an accurate picture of what its performance is going to be like.
Of course, it will use the Phone Edition of Windows Mobile 2003 for Pocket PC Second Edition, which is what gives it the ability to switch its screen orientation between portrait and landscape modes on the fly. However, this wasn’t officially acknowledged by the Motorola representatives at the CTIA show.
Its processor will be a Texas Instruments OMAP processor, but the performance of this prototype was far, far below what you would ever see on a shipping model. To give you an idea of how slow, one of the times it crashed we had to do a hard reset, and calibrating the digitizer took about a minute.
I also can’t tell you how much RAM the final version will have, as the prototype had only 22 MB.
So Far, So Good
It’s obviously much too early to draw any real conclusions about the Motorola MPx, but it has a lot of potential. Considering it supports GSM/GPRS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, it is shaping up to be an excellent device for keeping people connected while on the go. I just hope Motorola puts out a version that supports 850 MHz, as there are a great many Americans who depend on this frequency for good connections.