December 18th, 2008 3 Comments

REDFLY Smartphone Terminal – Review 1

We received a REDFLY Smartphone Terminal for testing today and started writing this review while unpacking so we wouldn’t forget anything important. This installment will only cover the basics and first impressions. We’ll post more comments after living with it for a week or so.

REDFLY C7


REDFLY Model C7

For anyone that doesn’t know, the REDFLY is basically a dumb terminal for your Windows Mobile phone – a screen and keyboard with no ability to run software on its own. The manufacturer’s Web site (http://celiocorp.com ) says “no OS, no CPU, and no storage” but I don’t believe that. There’s clearly some logic in this thing, and the documentation says that I might have to download firmware to match the drivers being installed on the phone. So there’s some OS and some processor, we’ll just have to figure out what it is on our own.

There are two current models: the C7 and C8N. The older, original model C8 was discontinued, but there seems to be some remaining stock if you want exactly that configuration. You can find the specs on current models at http://www.celiocorp.com/product/intro.asp

compare size to macbook


Compare size of MacBook to REDFLY

We decided to try the smaller/lighter C7 first because most business people won’t need the “Media Port” and the C7 is cheaper, but it was a tough call since the bigger C8N has better battery life. Bottom line was that cheaper trumps battery time if you are trying to outfit a sales team with these.

The packaging was nice and secure. The documentation is sparse, but perfectly adequate considering the simplicity of the device. There is a Users Guide available for download.

The first step is to plug the thing in and start charging the battery while installing the driver on the phone. First disappointment: a charger brick is required. Why can’t a little “no OS, no CPU, and no storage” device like this charge from a USB connector? This charger is bigger than the charger for my MacBook, which presumably needs a lot more power. A charging brick for this little thing is an ugly anachronism that reduces the overall portability of a device designed specifically around the concept of portability. I hope they find a way to fix that.

The software for the phone (in our case a Sprint HTC Touch with Windows Mobile 6.1) can be installed either directly over-the-air, or download it to your computer and then use ActiveSync. Over-the-air is easier and took just a few seconds. It’s just like installing any other .cab file and the phone soft boots when the install completes. With the phone software installed you just use a USB cable (not provided with the REDFLY) to connect the devices and the phone’s display instantly appears on the REDFLY.

Touch all programs page


Sprint Touch all programs page on the REDFLY

The screen is bright and easy to read. The keyboard is 8.25″ across so it’s a little cramped for big hands, but it feels pretty good and we’re not making too many typos. (The whole device is only 9″ across so they did a good job of using the available space.) The keyboard has a row of function keys that also perform special actions: adjust screen brightness, launch the Web browser and e-mail program, display the Today page, answer phone, hang up. There are left and right "soft" keys that change purpose depending on the application. There’s also a key to enable/disable Bluetooth.

GPS Navigation


GPS Navigation on the REDFLY

Every application we tested works as expected. Internet Explorer lets you see many Web sites as if you were using a real computer. (See photos below) GPS navigation lets you see much more of the map, and the extra size makes it more practical for use in the car. E-mail and other text-oriented applications benefit more from the keyboard than the screen, although older eyes will appreciate the bigger screen too. The only minor problem with software was text messaging. For some reason the text messaging application doesn’t keep up with the faster typing speed. There’s a short lag as characters pop up, but it never lost any characters. E-mail and other applications don’t exhibit this behavior.

The phone application is completely seamless. When a call comes in the caller ID information pops up on the REDFLY screen. You can answer with the special green phone key on the REDFLY keyboard, or clicking "Answer" on the REDFLY screen, or directly from your Bluetooth headset. (Buttons on the actual phone don’t work.) The only problem we had is that the window containing the caller ID information opens up about 3/4 of the way down the screen and some of the information is off the bottom, out of view. Not sure if we’re doing something wrong, but we’ll test the REDFLY tech support team on this one.

PPCGEEKS web site


Sample Web Site ppcgeeks.com

ThomasNet News web site


Sample Web Site ThomasNet News

Bluetooth pairing was next on our list. This mostly worked according to the instructions, but failed until we made the phone "discoverable." The instructions specifically say we shouldn’t have to do this on a touchscreen phone, but if you have ever struggled with other Bluetooth devices you won’t have any trouble with the usual trial-and-error process. After pairing you can simply press the special Bluetooth key on the REDFLY keyboard to connect/disconnect.

After unplugging the USB cable we tried various applications again and didn’t notice any performance loss. Using a Bluetooth headset (Plantronics Discovery 925) while the REDFLY is connected via Bluetooth was flawless. (The Celio Web site warns that your mileage may vary on this due to wide differences between headsets and phone radios.) The only thing we noticed was that the REDFLY became very sluggish for about 30 seconds after a call connects. After about a minute on a call the performance was a little slower, but we had no trouble launching Word Mobile and taking notes during the call.

One last application we had time to test today is called MobileVT. It’s an SSH terminal and file transfer application that we use to manage and monitor Linux servers. This works great and really benefits from the bigger keyboard and display.

Bottom line so far – REDFLY is the second best phone accessory ever, right behind the Bluetooth headset. Well worth the $200 – $300. (The C7 is $199 after rebates right now.) More on this after we live with it for a while.

Contact us if you have specific software you would like tested.

3 Responses to “REDFLY Smartphone Terminal – Review 1”

gavaliaman

December 28th, 2008 - 2:43 pm

I would like to know how both of the redfly devices perform with the sprint touch using slingbox and skyfire ver.85 apps.
thank you

moderator

December 29th, 2008 - 4:56 pm

Skyfire doesn’t work at all yet. We will be keeping an eye on that because the Web browser is the weakest link. For now, the Iris browser looks like the winner. It mostly works great.

Sorry, no slingbox around here for testing. We are primarily focused on business applications, but would be happy to test your slingbox if you want to send it to us for a week.

Sophie @ Plantronics Discount

November 3rd, 2010 - 5:54 pm

Hello, just browsing for information for my Plantronics website. Can’t believe the amount of information out there. Not quite what I was looking for, but nice site. Take care.

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