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TMC Labs
March 2000


NeoPoint 1000

NeoPoint, Inc.
La Jolla, CA
P: (858) 458-2800
Web site: www.neopoint.com 

Price: $399

Editors' Choice Award

Installation: 4.75
Documentation: 4.75
Features: 4.5
GUI: 4.5
Overall: A

The NeoPoint 1000 is more than just a cell phone. It has many features that until recently, were available only on PDA devices, such as the 3Com PalmPilot. Now, NeoPoint has joined up with Sprint PCS and Intellisync (maker of SoftSync Plus software) to offer many advanced services and features. Neopoint�s large 11-line display allows you to view much more than most phones of the type. It also adds features, such as voice commands and an online mini-browser. While the pristine colored phone (it sort of has a gold and silvery look to it) is a little larger than a typical cell phone, it is still reasonably lightweight.

Obviously, there is not much to the installation process of a cell phone. In this case, we just had to insert the battery to the back of the phone by aligning it with the slots and pushing it forward until it clicked and locked in place. To charge the battery, just plug the travel charger into an outlet and insert either the other side directly into the phone or in the uniquely shaped desktop holder with the phone placed in it.

Installing the SoftSync Plus software is very similar to installing any Windows-based application. Of course, we also had to connect a serial cable from our computer to the phone. Unfortunately, when the SoftSync Plus setup searched for the phone, it did not find it. We attempted to search again, but it was still unsuccessful. Finally, we manually chose the available COM port. Later, we discovered a general setting that gave us the option to manually or automatically set the Sync port. The setting was defaulted to manual. However, we were able to easily synchronize the data on the phone by choosing our PC Personal Information Manager (PIM) and selecting the data files to synchronize (Figure 10).

The hardcopy documentation consists of a NeoPoint 1000 User�s Guide, a SoftSync Plus User�s Guide, and quick reference cards for both of them. In addition, you can find the SoftSync Plus User�s Guide and a NeoPoint 1000 Interactive Training Video using Quicktime 4.0 on CD-ROM. (You can install Quicktime from the CD-ROM if you don�t already have it.) While the narrator�s voice on the training video is almost as monotone as an auto-attendant, the video itself is still somewhat helpful and well-conceived. Detailed help files are also included in the software. They are not context-sensitive, but the information you need most often can easily be found, and a find feature is available for more difficult searches.

Both user�s guides are very informative and contain all of the material we look for in these types of guides: a table of contents, index, detailed and well-written content, some helpful tables and procedural instructions, and illustrations depicting the screen displays. One minor complaint is that due to the index�s format, when we attempted to search for a very specific procedure or feature, we sometimes had difficulty finding it. The index for the NeoPoint user�s guide has two different alphabetical listings � this might confuse readers more than help them.

The card pamphlets are about the same size in length as the phone itself and may fit in a wallet if folded. The SoftSync Plus card offers a setup and sync procedural guide that you can reference quickly, and the NeoPoint 1000 card gives you the basic operations and menu features of the phone that you can easily reference at any time.

The NeoPoint 1000 boasts several application features. It keeps a call history, schedule/calendar, contacts/address book, to-do list, and it retrieves voice mail, text messages, and browser alerts. Other features include:

  • Network features activated by your service provider � includes caller ID, call waiting, conference calling, voice mail, call forwarding, call restriction, using a phone as a wireless modem, and Internet minibrowser and e-mail access.
  • Advanced features � such as voice commands, intuitive text entry, screen save mode, hotkeys, and the ability to set a time for NeoPoint to power up.
  • Miscellaneous features � such as any-key call answer, one-touch voice mail access, call timers, and car auto answer.
  • SoftSync Plus software � synchronizing information between your phone and PC.

After you turn on the phone, the main screen appears on the relatively large display. It shows you the day, the time, and the phone number of your phone. By pressing one of six buttons, it allows you to access a number of applications. You can change these settings by toggling to the menu screen so that you can access any other available feature. You can select Preferences and Main Screen, then scroll the cursor down to the key you would like to change, and select any application you want there. Also from the Preferences option, you can choose which menu display you would like to use, show the menu as a list or as icons, and adjust other display settings. Other features under the Preferences option include changing your ringer type, volume control, and general settings.

Voice Mail
One of the first features we examined was voice mail. It took us only moments to configure. When you choose the voice mail option, a voice prompt tells you to enter a 4- to 10-digit passcode. After you enter and verify your code, the prompt guides you through recording your name and a greeting. Retrieving and deleting voice mails is also simple process that anyone can complete without difficulty.
Text messages can be viewed in a similar fashion, and you can lock these messages so that they cannot be overwritten or deleted. If a phone number is contained within a message, you can save it or make a call from the text message screen. All in all, 99 messages can be held before the oldest message is overwritten.

Caller ID
We also checked the caller ID functionality on the NeoPoint phone. We knew that caller ID itself would work, but we wanted to see if more information than just the phone number could appear.

We added a name and a number into our contact list. When we called that number, both the person�s name and phone number appeared on the screen. When that person called us, the name and phone number also popped on NeoPoint�s display screen.

When we linked the serial cable from the phone to a PC, the connection did not initially work. We had synchronized the software with Outlook and thought that our particular settings might not have worked in this case. We decided to reinstall SoftSync Plus on another computer and try again. This time, we used the standard personal information manager (IS Mobile Desktop) and were successful. We were able to send information from the phone to the computer and vice versa.

Unfortunately, this did not last. When we tried synchronizing a few times more, an error message began to pop up on our PC, telling us that it was unable to initialize the application API. Meanwhile, the phone thought that everything was correct, which was obviously not the case. We called NeoPoint�s technical support, and they claimed that they had never seen the error we just described. Once again, TMC Labs managed to find a possible new problem while testing a product. That seems to be common with us. NeoPoint even asked us to be beta testers for their products. They also said they would look into the problem.

While we did try a number of different settings, including resetting the phone, we eventually decided to reinstall the software one more time. The result: we were successful synchronizing both ways between the phone and PC.

E-mail And Web Functionality
Now we felt confident for some reason, and hence decided to immediately test the e-mail functionality. First, we connected to the Internet via our PC and went to the Sprint PCS homepage. We entered our cell phone number and account password and set up a Yahoo! Mail e-mail account. Since Yahoo! is the only search engine that can currently be used on the phone�s wireless Web, that was our only choice for an e-mail account. Overall, the e-mail functionality was very good, although initially it was a little difficult to figure out how to use.

Our next test was to make sure that we could connect to the wireless Web through our NeoPoint phone. We had no problems doing this. We could access any of a number of sites on the Web, including Amazon.com, Yahoo!, and Bloomberg.

Shortly thereafter, we were notified of an incoming e-mail. We checked our inbox on the phone and saw a new message under text messages, which is where e-mails are placed for our phone. We could read the message, and we also had no problems sending an e-mail message from the phone. For the most part, we used NeoPoint�s intuitive text entry, which recognized the words we were trying to spell on the keypad in almost all cases. For those cases in which we were not typing real words, we used the traditional method of pressing the specific key up to three times to enter the letter we wanted. For alphanumeric characters, we just had to press one of the soft keys to access the list. The only problem we had was connecting through Sprint PCS to obtain our mail. It took us three tries because the service was down.

We also looked at the voice commands and hotkeys features, which both allow you to call certain phone numbers (like speed dials) and access other information and NeoPoint applications. The processes were simple to accomplish. We easily programmed both voice and key commands. We pressed one of the buttons on the left side of the phone and spoke the voice command we wanted, and the phone immediately called out to the person or went to the appropriate application. Likewise, for the hotkeys, all we needed to do was press down a number key for a moment, and the phone successfully went to the appropriate place that we programmed.

There are only a few areas on the NeoPoint 1000 phone which could use improvement. While the phone is well conceived, reasonably light, and has a large display screen, we think that the antenna is a little bit flimsy when it is raised. We have seen cell phones that do not have this extended antenna and think that is preferable because there is less of a chance of breaking it. Also, the flip lid could break off if opened roughly or dropped. We think it might be practical for the user to be given the choice of clipping this lid off or on.

We would also like to see e-mail that can be sent or received from any service provider. This would give you the ability to use any e-mail address you happen to have, making the e-mail service even more flexible.

Of course, the main problem was the fact that we had to reinstall the SoftSync Plus software not once, but twice because of an error we found while trying to synchronize our PC with the phone. NeoPoint engineers assured us that they would look into this problem, but as of now, it is worth noting again in this section of the review.

The NeoPoint 1000 phone has most of the functionality of much more expensive PDA phones. Its wireless Web access, e-mail, intuitive text entry, voice commands, large screen display, and excellent call quality are just a few of the many features that make the NeoPoint 1000 phone well worth its price.

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