As I mentioned in “10 reasons why the Samsung i760 is better than the iPhone for business users,” I recently replaced my Samsung i730 (running WM 2003) with an i760 running WM6.One of the things that makes the i760 better is the ability to select from hundreds of great third-party applications you can install on your Windows Mobile phone — without turning it into a brick. The i760 isn’t just a fancy phone, it’s a full-fledged tiny computer, and you can do a lot with it that you do with your full-size desktop or expensive laptop, if you have the right software installed.
In this article, I’ll tell you about some of my favorite apps that make the i760 not just fun to use, but functional for business. I bought most of my WM applications from Handango, but you can get many of them from the software vendor’s Web site or from other sources. I’ll be referencing vendor Web sites in this article.
Note: This information is also available as a PDF download and as a TechRepublic photo gallery.
#1: Sprite Backup
The first and most essential program you need to install if you’re going to rely on your phone as a handheld computer for business is a good backup program. Unfortunately, the i760 doesn’t come preloaded with one. The i730 did come with Sprite Backup, and that’s where I first got acquainted with this great little program. It makes restoring your entire system after a hard reset (back to factory defaults) no big deal. No more tedious reinstalling of each of your mobile applications and reconfiguring all your settings, and no more lost data.
The current version of Sprite for Windows Mobile 5 and 6 is v. 6.1.0. and it comes in both Lite and Full editions. The Lite edition costs $19.95 and the full costs $29.95. I sprang for the full edition, which lets you do remote backup and restore.
There are other backup programs for Windows Mobile, but I like Sprite because it proved to be reliable during the two years I used it on the i730. I also like that the new version supports WM6 storage card encryption; that means you’ll be able to access the encrypted data on your card after a hard reset.
The interface is simple, as shown in Figure A.
The Sprite interface is simple to use and almost foolproof.
You can schedule backups to be created at specified times or you can manually make a backup whenever you want. You can also compress or encrypt the backups, and you can select what you want to back up (system data, e-mail, personal databases, My Documents folder, and/or storage card). Making a backup takes only a few minutes, and restoring is almost as fast and easy.
You can specify how many backups to keep. Personally, I turn scheduling off and make backups manually at times when I have a perfectly working system, to avoid losing my best backup because it’s been overwritten by a later automatic one. I also copy my best backup to my PC to ensure that I’ll have access to it if something happens to the storage card.
Sprite saved me a lot of grief twice with the i730, so it was the first program I wanted for the i760. For more info, see the Sprite Web site.
#2: Spb Pocket Plus
There are a number of desktop enhancement programs for Windows Mobile, and it can be hard to choose the best one. On the i730, I used iLauncher, which let me put clickable shortcut icons on the WM desktop (Today screen), like on my regular Windows desktop. I had no problems with it, but the documentation mentioned support only for WM5, and I wasn’t absolutely sure it would work with WM6 (although most WM5 programs do). So I went looking for something that was definitely compatible with my new OS.
What I found was Spb Pocket Plus. Like iLauncher, it gives you the ability to put program shortcuts on the desktop. As Figure B shows, you can use either large or small icons, or mix them, and you can drag them to the position you want. You can also display meters to gauge battery life, backlight settings, and the percentage of memory free, both internally and on the storage card.
Spb Pocket Plus lets you put program shortcuts on the Windows Mobile desktop.
Pocket Plus also solves one of the silliest problems inherent in all versions of Windows Mobile — the fact that by default, clicking the X in the top-right corner of a program doesn’t close it as we’re all used to with non-mobile Windows operating systems — it merely minimizes it. This behavior often results in having programs open and running long after you’re done with them, using up resources. To close them, you have to go through the tedious process of navigating to the Settings page, clicking the System tab, clicking the Memory icon, clicking the Running Programs tab, and individually stopping the ones you want to close or using the Stop All button if you want to close them all.
With Pocket Plus, the X closes programs by default, or you can click and hold it for a menu of choices: Close, Close All, Close All Inactive or Minimize, as shown in Figure C. It saves a lot of steps.
With Pocket Plus, you can select the desired behavior for the X button.
Another welcome addition with Pocket Plus is “smart scrolling,” which allows you to scroll and pan Web pages in Pocket IE and other applications with your finger, similar to the touch scrolling on the iPhone. It also adds useful functions to the “click and hold” menu in File Explorer, including zip support, password-protected encryption, and file and folder properties (with the ability to change file extensions and file attributes such as Read Only).
One quirk: If you look for Pocket Plus in the Programs menu after you install it, you won’t find it there. Instead, it goes into the Settings | System menu. To find out more about Pocket Plus, see the Spb Web site.
#3: Photo Contacts Pro
To enhance the phone functionality of your Windows Mobile device, you can install Photo Contacts Pro from PocketX Software. It adds the ability to speed dial simply by double tapping on a contact’s photo, and you can put your favorites on the Today screen, as shown in Figure D.
Photo Contacts Pro lets you speed dial by double tapping a photo.
If you already have photos associated with contacts in Outlook, you can import them. If not, it’s easy to assign a photo taken with the phone’s camera, transferred via ActiveSync/Windows Mobile Device Center or placed on the storage card.
When one of your contacts who has a photo assigned calls you, the photo and the contact’s information pop up full screen so you instantly know who’s calling. You can also assign a special ringtone to individual contacts or groups.
But that’s not all. Despite its name, this is really a full featured call management program. You can automatically hang up or send to voicemail calls from particular numbers or unknown callers (those who aren’t on your contact list or those with caller ID blocked). You can even create groups, put callers into those groups, and then control calls from those groups according to schedules you specify. For example, you could reject all calls that come in between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless they’re from the Family group.
Not only does Photo Contacts Pro integrate with your Contacts, it also works with your Calendar. You can configure it so that when you have a meeting scheduled, your phone will automatically go into vibrate mode — and then automatically go back to ring mode at the end of the scheduled meeting time. You do all this by way of filters and profiles, as shown in Figure E.
You can perform sophisticated call management with Photo Contacts Pro.
You don’t have to upgrade to Windows Mobile 6 to use Photo Contacts Pro, either. It’s also compatible with WM5 and Pocket PC 2003. For more information, see the PocketX Web site.
#4: Pocket Informant
This one has been around for a long time, but it’s still one of the best Contacts, Calendar, and Tasks programs for handhelds. Pocket Informant 2007 from WebIS gives you almost unlimited flexibility in managing your schedule, with many calendar views, as shown in Figure F.
With Pocket Informant, you get almost unlimited flexibility in managing your schedule.
You can set up custom categories and views to help you best see what’s going on — not just today, but in the future. You can, for example, select a contact and then find all appointments pertaining to that person. You can drag and drop appointments from one day to another or drag a task to convert it into an appointment. Tasks can be sorted at two levels: Sort By and Then By. You can set multiple alarms and much more. The latest version is designed to support one-handed operation, too.
For more information about Pocket Informant, see the WebIS Web site.
#5: Picsel Browser
Picsel Browser is an alternative Web browser to Pocket IE, which lets you pan and zoom Web pages — but it also allows you use that same pan and zoom technology to view documents in popular file formats, such as PDF, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Figure G shows a document zoomed in, and Figure H shows the same document zoomed out.
With Picsel Browser, you can zoom in to view Web sites, PDFs, and Office documents…
…Or you can zoom out.
For more information about Picsel Browser, see the Picsel Web site.
#6: Skype for Windows Mobile
If you have a Windows Mobile phone with an unlimited data plan but a limited number of voice minutes, you may be able to save money on phone calls by installing Skype, the popular Voice over IP program, on your Windows Mobile phone (Figure I). If you make international calls, you can save even more. If you don’t have an unlimited data plan, you can still use Skype over a Wi-Fi connection if your device supports 802.11 wireless.
You can save money by making phone calls over VoIP on your Windows Mobile device.
Cell phone providers’ calling plans are expensive. Typically, in the United States, you get 500 minutes or less for $40 per month. If you go over the limit, calls cost as much as 45 cents per minute. Skype offers an unlimited calling plan in the United States and Canada for only $29.95 per year.
For more information about Skype for Windows Mobile smartphones and Pocket PC devices, see the Skype Web site.
#7: Airscanner Antivirus for Windows Mobile
A Windows Mobile device is actually just a small computer, and with a data plan, it’s a small Internet-connected computer. That means it’s vulnerable to malicious software, such as viruses and Trojans, just like your desktop and laptop systems.
A number of companies make AV software for handhelds, and some of them are big names in the AV business — but Airscanner has been making AV software especially for mobile devices longer than any of them. Its AV program for Windows Mobile has sophisticated features and is easy to use, with a simple interface, as shown in Figure J, and requires only 2 MB of memory to install.
Airscanner Antivirus for Windows Mobile protects your device from malware.
It’s available for Windows Mobile 5 and 6, Pocket PC 2003, and WM smartphone edition. It costs $29.95, which includes a year of virus definition updates. To find out more, see the Airscanner Web site.
#8: eReader Pro for Windows Mobile
One of my favorite things about carrying a PDA phone is the ability to take dozens or even hundreds of books along with me wherever I go. Unfortunately, my favorite ebook reader, Microsoft Reader, is not available for WM6, although there is a version for Pocket PC 2003 and Windows Mobile 5. Luckily, other programs can be used to read ebooks.
eReader Pro for Windows Mobile is a free download. You can buy best sellers in the corresponding format from www.ereader.com. You can adjust text and font settings and easily navigate through the book, as shown in Figure K.
With eReader Pro, you can take dozens of books with you on the road, effortlessly.
The latest version of the software allows you to find and buy ebooks online from the device and comes with three free ebooks to get you started: A Tale of Two Cities, Swiss Family Robinson, and Jungle Tales of Tarzan.
Today, we keep a lot of sensitive information on our phones and PDAs: credit card and bank account information, passwords, and more. With eWallet, you can synch that information with your desktop computer, a USB drive, or a server over the LAN or Web, while keeping it secure via 256-bit encryption.
You can also securely store notes to help you remember answers to Web site security verification questions and other security information. Handy categories help you organize your information, and you can use the categories built into the program or create your own, as shown in Figure L.
eWallet gives you a safe place to store confidential information.
#10: Keep Track for Windows Mobile
If you’re self employed, keeping track of business expenditures for tax purposes is a must, but it’s not always easy. With expense tracking software installed on your Windows Mobile phone, you don’t have to remember to record those purchases after you get back to the office. Just record each transaction as it happens, as shown in Figure M.
Keeping track of expenses is easier when you use Keep Track for Windows Mobile.
You can also input cash withdrawals, deposits, transfers, interest,and more, to keep a running balance of your business and/or personal finances, and you can synchronize the information with your Windows desktop computer. To find out more about the software, see the Ilium Web site.
It’s great having all the information on your phone, but sometimes you just need to print a hard copy. Now you can print files, photos, Outlook messages, SMS messages, or even the contents of the clipboard from your Windows Mobile Device to almost any printer, as shown in Figure N.
With ActivePrint, you can make hard copies of the files on your Windows Mobile device.
You can use Wi-Fi or your ActiveSync connection to print. To find out more, see the ActivePrint Web site.
Debra Littlejohn Shinder is a technology consultant, trainer and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. These include Scene of the Cybercrime: Computer Forensics Handbook, published by Syngress, and Computer Networking Essentials, published by Cisco Press. She is co-author, with her husband, Dr. Thomas Shinder, of Troubleshooting Windows 2000 TCP/IP, the best-selling Configuring ISA Server 2000, and ISA Server and Beyond.