An apparently never-ending problem for Smartphone manufacturers is to try to come up with a device small enough for a pocket and yet well designed enough to incorporate a usable keyboard.
People have different requirements, and where a tiny thumb-board might suit some, others want an altogether bigger keyboard so they can type more substantial material. I’m in the latter camp, but don’t want to carry anything too large or heavy around. I may, finally, have found a device I can use.
T-Mobile’s MDA Vario II exists in several other guises. Orange sells it as the SPV M3100, HTC as the TyTN. There are some subtleties of design difference between the three, but all share a generally similar size and weight; in the case of the MDA Vario II that’s 113 x 58 x 22mm and 176g.
They also share a keyboard which slides out of the left edge of the casing when needed. This is a Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC Phone Edition device, and when you slide out the keyboard the screen goes into landscape format so you can see your typing on a screen that suits the device’s orientation.
I found that holding the MDA Vario II in both hands and using my thumbs to type was pretty fast. I wouldn’t want to write huge amounts of text this way, but for an A4 page or so at a time, or for editing documents, it’s fine.
The usual Windows Mobile 5.0 fare is here, for example Word Mobile and Excel Mobile, synchronisation with Outlook, PowerPoint Mobile for viewing (not editing) presentations, Windows Media Player and Pocket Internet Explorer. There is also a PDF viewer, while Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are built in.
Like the above-mentioned Orange SPV M3100 and HTC TyTN, the MDA Vario II is a 3G device. But what really makes it stand out is that it supports HSDPA.
T-Mobile launched its HSDPA service earlier this summer. It is essentially a tweaked version of 3G and offers data speeds of up to 1.8Mbps. 3G tops out at a theoretical maximum of 384Kbps, so if you are in need of fast data this so called ‘mobile broadband’ should appeal.
HSDPA isn’t available throughout the entire UK, but during testing, mostly inside the M25, I ran a few speed tests and regularly got around 1.2Mbps.
The MDA Vario II will drop down to 3G and GPRS as required and is quad-band. It has a 2-megapixel camera with macro mode and flash whose lens is on the back of the casing, as well as a front-facing camera for video calling. Its internal memory can be boosted with microSD cards.
T-Mobile has some attractive tariffs and recently made its ‘Web ‘n’ walk’ service available for not more than £1 a day to Pay As You Go Customers. That includes unlimited Web browsing and e-mail. For users within a company, the MDA Vario II supports over-the-air e-mail synchronisation.
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