Motorola Accompli 009

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Just when you’ve gotten used to your current mobile gadgets, along comes the Accompli, one of an exciting new breed of convergent digital devices that aims to replace your cellphone and your PDA.

Motorola’s Accompli Personal Communicator combines the features found on a typical PDA, including PIM functions, web browsing and email, with those of a standard cellphone. And it manages to stuff all this into a package that measures just 3.8" wide, 2.8" tall and an inch thick. And according to my scale, the Accompli weighs in at only 6.7 ounces, light enough to tote around in your purse or clipped to your belt.

The Accompli contains all of the things you’d likely look for in a one-piece solution: an excellent (albeit small) color display, a full QWERTY keyboard, 8MB of flash memory to store programs and data, and a high-quality Motorola cellphone–tri-band, no less! In fact, the tri-band GSM phone can also be controlled by voice commands, so dialing a friend or loved one is only a couple of words away. It even matches the addictive "always on" capability of the popular RIM Blackberry by supporting the latest GSM/GPRS communications technology which has just begun to be rolled out in North America.

So with the Accompli you’ve got three ways to communicate: by voice, using its phone capability; by email, using GPRS; and by SMS, with its messaging feature.

Plus, it’s based on Motorola’s Wisdom OS and uses Starfish’s TrueSync Plus synchronization software, so you can keep your Accompli coordinated with the calendar and contacts on your desktop computer.

But does all of this add up to a great device? Or have the compromises Motorola’s had to make to produce this 21st century wonder made more of a "worst of both worlds" rather than a "best of both worlds" solution?

I’ve been putting a pre-production version of the Motorola Accompli personal communicator, model 009, to the test for a couple of weeks now and find it to be an excellent device for those mobile businesspersons who want "more than a Blackberry." But it’s certainly not for everyone.

Let’s take a look.



Inside the box

Inside the Accompli’s box you’ll find the following items:

  • Motorola Accompli personal communicator, model 009
  • Belt clip
  • Charging station
  • AC charger
  • Serial cable
  • International power adapter
  • Software CD-ROM
  • Speakerphone accessory
  • Hands-free headset


Here’s what you get with the Accompli

 


On the outside

Let’s begin by taking a quick tour around the outside of the Accompli. It’s a solid device with a hard plastic shell that appears to be able to withstand a fall. In fact, I performed a six-foot drop test onto a carpeted floor and it didn’t miss a beat.

Starting at the top of the device (see picture below) you’ll find the infrared port, which is handy for exchanging contact information and printing to IR-enabled printers. One of the interesting things about the Accompli is that it’s the first device I’ve used where the standard synchronization method is IR. (More about that in a minute.)

On the other end (see picture below), which is the end that opens to display the screen and keyboard, you’ll find the volume control for the handsfree headset, a power LCD that flashes and changes color to indicate power level and charging, a microphone and a built-in antenna.

On the left side (see picture below) there are a couple of holes, one where you’d plug in the handsfree headset and the other that’s used in conjunction with the clip-on speakerphone attachment (see picture below).


Accompli with speakerphone attachment
 

On the right side of the device (see picture below) is the charger connector and a button used to activate the backlight, although the automatic sensor generally does the job for you.

The Accompli can be charged directly with the charger, which appears to be a standard Motorola cellphone charger, or through its charging cradle (see picture below).


Motorola Accompli in its charging cradle


And finally, on the bottom of the Accompli (see picture below) you’ll find a door leading to the rechargeable battery.

But it’s not until you pop open the Accompli that you’ll see the keyboard and display. The keyboard is a standard English QWERTY keyboard that, along with the display, is automatically lit when needed. This is performed by a sensor and seemed to work quite well in my limited testing.

The 256-color display, while small, is colorful and highly readable, both indoors and outdoors. It is not a touchpanel LCD, so PDA users will have to get used to navigating and selecting with a set of directional keys.

The one thing missing is an expansion slot. Although it comes with 8MB of flash memory, it would be nice to have a Secure Digital (SD) slot.

Before we look at the Accompli’s functions and software, let’s take a look at how it compares in size to other popular mobile devices.


Battle of the bulge

The Motorola Accompli aims to replace your cellphone and your PDA, but just how does it match up size-wise, and how do the displays compare?

Let’s take a look.

In its "dormant" state (see picture below), the Accompli is obviously shorter and narrower than your typical PDA, including the Compaq iPAQ 3835 Pocket PC and the Palm m505 pictured below. However, at an inch in depth it is twice as thick as most PDAs.

In its "ready" state (see picture below), the Accompli is taller and wider than a PDA, but half as thick as it was in its "dormant" state. You can also get a good idea of the quality of the display on the Accompli from the picture below. While it measures only 2 3/4 inches diagonally, it offers excellent readability.

Matched against Motorola’s V-series phone (see picture below), the Accompli in its "ready" state is significantly bigger, although it was designed for use with either the hands-free headset or the attachable speakerphone.

Now let’s take a look at the features and functionality of the Accompli.


Setting up and synchronizing

Setting up and synchronizing the Accompli is a painless process, provided you have an infrared-enable laptop or desktop computer. It uses Motorola’s PC Partner and Starfish’s TrueSync software and you can install Motorola’s desktop software or synchronize with Microsoft Outlook.

   

I synchronized two hundred contacts and a full calendar from Outlook over infrared, which as I mentioned early is the default. I tried to get the Accompli to sync over the included serial cable but could not get it to work. Still, infrared worked fine and seemed quick.

Motorola also includes Pocket Pix software for converting and viewing pictures on your Accompli. However, I did not try this app out due to a lack of time.


Setting up and synchronizing

The standard PIM functions are accessed from the Menu (see picture below) which you navigate with your arrow key and launch apps with the Enter button.

I found the standard PIM apps to be relatively easy-to-use. But I did notice slight delays in launching them and moving from screen to screen within them.

Here are screen shots of some of the apps on the Accompli.

In the Calendar app belowYou use the arrow buttons to move from day to day and press the Enter button to access the agenda for a particular day. Notice the icon buttons at the bottom to switch between views, copy and print.


Monthly view in the Calendar

 


Daily view in the Calendar

 


Reading an Email

 


Entering a phone number to dial


Browsing the Web

The Accompli uses Phone.com’s browser to access the World Wide Web. It became readily apparent that unless the website was designed to be scalable to small screens it was a long and tedious process. But if the site is designed correctly then it can be "a wonderful thing." Whether getting a stock quote, getting a weather forecast or checking the traffic, this is what the Accompli is perfect for.


The Accompli’s Main Menu for the Web

 


Search options

 


A quick search using Google

 


Google’s search results

 


A portion of Brighthand’s homepage

 


Selecting a thread on the Brighthand Discussion Board

 


A "Bubblets-style" game for the Accompli

 


Play another Accompli user in Ship2Ship


Bottom Line

The jury is still out on whether one-piece devices that combine the functions of a cellphone with the functions of a PDA will become popular. However, that’s not stopping companies such as Nokia, Palm, Handspring and Motorola from creating products for a potential market in them.

The Accompli 009 Personal Communication is one such device and while it is a very good phone, it leaves something to be desired when compared to the latest Pocket PCs and Palm Powered handhelds.

We’ll just have to wait and see.



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