I’ve been having an amazing, positive experience actually enjoying some Windows-based Smartphones.  I am not generally disposed of praise for these products because they are so desktop Windows-like in things I do not like.  However, since using both the REDFLY Mobile Companion “appliance” and REDFLY Mobile Viewer software, I am leaning toward liking, past tolerating these Smartphones.  Let me explain.

Celio Corporation’s REDFLY Mobile Companion is a “dumb” box with no operating system, nothing inside that is anything but a bridge via USB or Bluetooth to a compatible Windows Mobile-based Smartphone.  And there is NO ongoing maintenance to perform, such as reformatting a hard drive, reinstalling the operating system or updating.  REDFLY Mobile Companion is a larger-screened representation of your Smartphone with a small keyboard that is larger and infinitely more manageable than anything on any Smartphone.  Using the Mobile Companion makes using one of these Smartphones almost fun, certainly more like a “real” computer.  Take their Three-Minute Tour!

 

  

Available in two versions, one with a seven-inch display, five-hour battery, and VGA out for $200, and one with an eight-inch display, eight-hour battery, VGA out and a media port for NTSC/PAL video out for $300.  Also included is a two-button trackpad, just as on a notebook PC.

Operating a Smartphone with the larger of the REDFLY devices has been one of those “Aha!” experiences.  This isn’t bad at all!  I’ve connected a Logitech wireless mouse and now I can also use standard mousing conventions in most applications.  Opera browser is probably the best mobile browser, but it does not support mouse scrolling, so I miss this feature.  Other than that, using the Mobile Companion is not much unlike using a slow Windows laptop.  Though the Mobile Companion’s keyboard is small, it is so much easier than using a real or virtual keyboard on any Smartphone!

One distinct advantage in addition to price for a REDFLY Mobile Companion over a Windows laptop, even a netbook, is that there is nothing inside the REDFLY that, if lost, is going to get you into trouble.  Since there is no operating system and no hard drive, nothing to sync up, there is no saved data to get into the wrong hands or simply to replace.  Everything resides, as before, on the Smartphone.  Were you to lose a Mobile Companion, replace and move on without care. The only downside would be the expense to replace it.

There is a small piece of software to install on a compatible Windows Smartphone that enables the magic.  That’s all.  Once installed, open the Mobile Companion, power on (instantly, I might add), press the F7 key to wirelessly connect via Bluetooth and it all happens. The Smartphone’s display shows the REDFLY logo and goes dark while the Mobile Companion’s display comes alive with your Smartphone’s “desktop” that starts with messaging.  Since the keyboard is, in effect, a Windows keyboard, hit the Menu button in place of the Windows button and the Smartphone’s Windows dropdown appears. Mobile Companion is not a touchscreen device, so I use its trackpad or my mouse to navigate to the chosen item and to select it.

Mobile Companion also allows the use of standard Windows shortcuts such as Alt+Tab to toggle through open applications.  “F” keys are shortcuts to Home, Internet, Mail, Left and Right movements and more, while the standard arrows on the keyboard do as expected.

Now, imagine leaving your Smartphone in its holster or in your pocket or bag, taking out your REDFLY Mobile Companion and firing it up, sitting at home, in your office, in an airport, at a client’s, in a restaurant or in the air at altitude, and working on email, composing in Mobile Office apps like Word and Excel, and more, with that exceptional battery life. Oh, and when your Smartphone is connected via Bluetooth, it is being charged from the REDFLY’s batteries. Remember the long battery life on REDFLY, too.

When not in the air, you may also talk on your Smartphone while using the Mobile Companion.  If you’ve got a movie loaded on a big MicroSD card in your Smartphone, watch it on the larger-screened REDFLY, as well.

What’s the downside?  None that I can see. This is a brilliantly thought out and perfectly executed device that works and is well worth the expense.  Many of you may think twice about taking along a laptop and take Mobile Companion along instead. Wouldn’t that make life easier!

Let me also address the REDFLY Mobile Viewer, a software package that connects your Windows Smartphone to your Windows computer in the same way as does the Mobile Companion.  Currently in beta and free, this software allows full control and access to your compatible Windows Smartphone through your computer. Period. Currently, users may only connect via USB with the software-only solution, but I see this as no impediment.  When the official launce of the paid-for software launches in a couple of weeks or so, the $40 software may eventually offer Bluetooth connectivity.  Regardless, it’s easy to carry and use USB for this usage model.  Imagine, only $40 to unlock the potential of your Smartphone, which is really a powerful, if slow, computer with capabilities only previously limited by a small or virtual keyboard. Now, when your Smartphone can be used in much the same way as your laptop, there’s a whole new and better way to actually enjoy your Smartphone.

What’s next?  Look for more compatibility with more Windows Smartphones and compatibility with other mobile phone platforms, such as Blackberry and, who knows, even iPhone (I can hope, can’t I?).

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