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First impressions: Microsoft My Phone

2:00 PM Wed, May 20, 2009 |
Posted by: Walt Zwirko
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Cell phones are such tiny little things. One slip of the hand and your do-it-all communications device can wind up in a tub full of water or down a sewer grate; leave it on a counter at the bank and it can disappear forever.

Of course, you’ve been meaning to archive all the phone numbers, appointments, messages, photos, video clips and music downloads you carry with you on the mobile.

Now they’re gone.

 That’s why if you have a smartphone that operates using Windows Mobile 6.0 or greater, you’ll want very much to try Microsoft My Phone, a new (and free) service that works in the background to send a copy of all your text messages, photos, contact and calendar information to a password-protected database. Depending on how much is stored on your phone and the speed of your wireless connection, this procedure can take several hours.

The My Phone software works in the background, so you can continue to use your handset for calls and e-mail. The phone I’m testing it on, a Samsung BlackJack, got a bit sluggish during the My Phone transfer, but it did continue to work.

While you can command the software to synchronize at any time, it may be most convenient to let My Phone work its magic during hours when you’re not using the phone. The menu gives you an option for daily or weekly automatic synchronization, at an hour of your choosing.

Because you could be sending a lot of data, why not let it work when you’ve got the phone plugged in to a charger? It’ll be easier on your battery. Once everything is synchronized, you can always use the manual sync to transfer new photos you’ve taken or messages you’ve exchanged.

By default, My Phone does not mirror the contents of any removable storage card , so if you have one, you’ll want to be sure to check the appropriate box on its menu on your phone. You also have the option of adding or subtracting categories from your backup (contents, calendar, tasks, text messages, photos, videos, music, documents). I elected to backup my photos, but since I know my music is preserved on two other computers at home, I unchecked that box.

If you connect with a Microsoft Exchange server for your e-mail and calendar functions, My Phone won’t intrude, because Exchange essentially does the same thing.

So now the contents of your cell phone are preserved. The My Phone Web site is fairly basic, with a menu on the left side of the screen that lists categories and an area in the center of the screen displaying messages or thumbnails of photos.

You can access your replicated database from the My Phone Web site using the browser of any computer with a connection to the Internet.

As a bonus, as long as your next handset is a Windows Mobile device, you can use My Phone to send contacts, calendar items, text messages and photos from the Web to your new phone. Neat.

Text messages show up on your My Phone Web page intact along with the time and date they were received. But for some reason, My Phone fails to retain the time stamp of your photos; it instead reverts to the time that they were transferred from your phone to the Web. (Click the image to the right for a full-size view)

That shortcoming cuts way down on the utility of this feature. Like most people, I prefer to organize my photos by the date they were taken. If I pull the MicroSD card out of my phone and plug it into a computer to transfer photos, the date information stays with the photo. Why can’t My Phone do the same thing?

Aside from that gripe, it’s hard to complain about this service. While you will find some advertising on the My Phone Web site, it seems a reasonable price to pay for some real peace of mind when it comes to information that can be so easily lost.

E-mail askwalt@wfaa.com




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