Palm Tungsten E2
It recently became clear that our mobile phone was dying, and we began the search for a replacement. The base criteria were that it be A) a quad-band GSM terminal B) with no camera. The lack of camera is important because of the increasing frequency that cameras, including phones with cameras, need to be vouchered when going into plants and offices and restaurants and gymnasiums and theaters and schools, et cetera. We wanted a phone, not a PDA/computer/video player/MP3 player/coffee maker – with a phone thrown in as an afterthought – because we have never encountered one of these hybrids that had acceptable voice quality.
The choices were painfully few in number, because as mobile phones became a commodity item in the hand of every child, business travelers shrunk to a market no longer worth addressing. Even so, we thought our minimal criteria would give us a reasonable set of choices. We were wrong.
We finally discovered the Motorola V195s, which is a current incarnation of the V190 series, but with an internal antenna, offered by T-Mobile. The V197 appears to our untutored eye to be essentially the same phone as the V195s, but offered through another set of service providers.
As we have come to expect of Motorola products, the V195 is well designed and engineered. Much of the body is some softish composite which feels nice in the hand, and looks as if it will not scuff or scratch easily. RF seems to be to the usual high Motorola standard, and battery life is excellent. From a GSM point of view, we have only two minor complaints. The first is that Motorola didn’t implement confirmation of receipt of text messages (or the ability to send a text message to an e-mail address stored in the phonebook. The second is that they didn’t implement use of dual SIMs (we use DuoSim – http://www.duosim.com/ – for this, which we will discuss in an upcoming issue). While neither is a deal breaker, even for we who use these features, their absence is still an inconvenience.
The user interface is typical Motorola, handling the basics comfortably and lacking most of the niceties one has come to expect in the 21st century. Since our goal is to make phone calls, and our base criteria were quad-band and camera-free, the user interface was of tertiary consideration at best. The V195s meets both our criteria, and has good RF so that we can make our calls. Because of this, we highly recommend the device for anyone who travels on business, and therefore cannot have a camera in his mobile.
Of concern to some might be the SAR rating. The SAR limit set by the FCC and the Canadian regulatory authorities is 1.6 W/kg, and 2.0 W/kg by the Council of the European Union. The SAR of this phone is listed at 1.6 W/kg (we prefer it to be under 0.5), so if this is an issue that concerns you, use a headset.
We were delighted to see that the V195 now has more memory than did the V188, which means you can get more entries in the phone book. And the phone does have a calendar function, so you could use the V195s to act as a mini-PDA if you so chose. The easiest way to do this is using Motorola Phone Tools, currently in Version 4. The V195 is not, even with the most current update of the software available as of this writing, one of the phones that will be detected or even listed in the manual installation section, but Motorola says you can select the V190. The calendar function is quite convenient, as is the ability to send text messages from the keyboard. The phonebook entry section allows input of the name, number or e-mail address, and quick-dial number. This last is convenient if you want to shuffle quick-dial numbers around. It also displays (but does not let you change) the category.
In truth, however, just as a phone is a better choice than a PDA with a phone thrown in as an afterthought, even so a PDA is a better choice than a phone with a PDA thrown in as an afterthought.
A good choice for PDA to go with the V195 is the Palm Tungsten E. Both are Bluetooth devices, and can interact. This means that if you keep your contacts in your E2, you merely select the contact in the E2, tap the QUICK DIAL icon, tap the number you want (we assume that you have several numbers for each contact), and your cell phone will, as if by magic, dial the chosen number! This is much more convenient than typing the number into the phone while looking at the Palm. You can also send a text message from the E2 via Bluetooth on the V195s. You could even use the painfully slow GPRS connection on the phone to connect the E2 to the Internet, but GPRS is still not-quite-ready-for-prime- time, so this is as torturous as using GPRS on the V195 itself. We did not test the WiFi card that can be used with the E2, and did not look at theTungstenTX, which has WiFi built in.
In addition, the E2 allows encryption of either everything on the E2 or of specific private records. This means that you can keep information that you might like to have with you, but don’t want available to others if your Palm is stolen or lost. Encrypting everything is straightforward: Tap on PREFS, SECURITY, ENCRYPT DATA WHEN LOCKED. You can choose to encrypt only specified applications (contacts, memos, and expense seem reasonable), and can hide private records. You can choose between AES or RC4 encryption, with either being perfectly acceptable.
If you do implement the encryption features, we recommend using a passPHRASE rather than a password. Be aware that when you are asked to enter your password, the E2 presents you with a password screen that replicates a touchtone dialer, allowing you to pseudo-spell-out the passphrase, with the E2 actually putting in the number, not the letter. As you tap in a letter it shows, and then is replaced by an asterisk when you type the next letter, so that the entire password is never visible to anyone near you. This is a good system, and would, in fact, be the appropriate approach if Palm had used this entry screen consistently.
Unfortunately, when you need to show private records you are NOT presented with this screen, but with a screen that wants direct entry of the passphrase, i.e., the ten to twenty numbers themselves. This means that if you use a long passphrase you will need to pull out your cell phone – or print out a copy of a touchtone keypad layout and paste it onto the back cover of the palm – so you can figure out which keys you should press.
One way around this is to ignore the original password screen, and instead tap on the ABC symbol in the data entry area. This gives you a mini-typewriter that you can use to enter the entire passphrase, including capital letters and punctuation. Unfortunately, this leaves the entire passphrase visible every time you enter it. This is clearly undesirable.
Palm technical support said of the inability to get the right screen that “This is a limitation of the Palm OS®.” We translate this to meaning that protection of data was at the bottom of the developer’s list and never tested, so that nobody ever realized that the wrong screen was being shown when the user was asked for the password before showing private data.
An additional oversight is that while the Palm Tungsten E2 is made for business people, the charger supplied is 120 volts only, even though the additional cost of making a dual-voltage charger that would work anywhere in the world is essentially nothing. While you can buy Palm’s travel charger for $29.95, we don’t think it is fruitful to reward bad design, and suggest you go onto ebay and spend five dollars for a knockoff universal travel charger.
The V195s is an excellent handset. We use it and recommend it if you, like us, need a camera-free quad-band GSM handset. The Palm Tungsten E2 compliments the V195, and the two work very well together.