PowerBuilder Tips, Tricks, and Techniques

Berndt Hamboeck

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Pocket PC or Smart Phone?

It's not an easy choice

If you're starting to develop PocketBuilder applications, you'd probably like to see them on a real device, not only on the desktop or emulator, but which device to choose?

Not only are there different vendors (HP with its iPaq series, Dell with its X30, and now X50 series, or Fujitsu Siemens with its Loox series), there are also different types of devices: Pocket PCs and smart phones. We can deploy PocketBuilder applications on both types of devices (since PocketBuilder 2.0, smart phones are supported). So what's the difference? This month we'll take a closer look at them but first, ask yourself why you want to buy such a device.

Why Buy a Pocket PC or Smart Phone?

In addition to developing your own applications using PocketBuilder, you can do a lot of other things with these devices:
  • Navigation - there are some good traffic routing programs out there (for example, TomTom, Navigon, and ROUTE 66) that work perfectly using a Bluetooth GPS mouse with your device.
  • Read e-books. On Pocket PCs the cost-free Microsoft Reader makes reading e-books a bliss. Moreover, Microsoft provides free dictionaries - English-English, English-German, etc. - that are accessible with just two screen taps.

    Microsoft Reader software is not available on smart phones, but several third-party readers are.

  • Listen to MP3 files (music, audiobooks, etc.). The preinstalled Pocket Windows Media Player supports not only the WMV and WMA formats but also MP3.
  • Browse the Internet using the preinstalled Pocket Internet Explorer. It lets you browse (and not just WAP) pages, including regular HTML pages.
  • Record and play back voice notes. Since all Microsoft cellphones feature an SD card slot, the recording time may be long.
  • Watch movies. You can use Pocket Windows Media Player, but also additional (free) software like PocketMVP or PocketTV. Sometimes you need to make down conversion of video files (you might try PocketDVD to convert a complete DVD to fit on an SD card), but generally the quality of playback is good enough.
  • Play computer games - not only as native applications but also with several game console emulators that are available both for the Microsoft smart phone and for Pocket PC devices.
  • View PDF files with the free Adobe Reader for Pocket PCs or with ClearVue PDF for smart phones.
  • Listen to radio stations over the Internet using the preinstalled Pocket Windows Media Player.
  • Synchronize e-mails, appointments, and contacts with your desktop computer and Microsoft Outlook.
  • Use as an alarm clock. In particular, Pocket PC phones are excellent for this because you can set several alarms at once.
Now that you know why you'd like such a device, let's look at the differences between Pocket PCs and smart phones.

The Operating System
Let's see which operating systems exist for Pocket PCs and smart phones (note that when you look for a device, PocketBuilder applications will only run on a Microsoft operating system, not on Palm OS or Symbian devices):

  • Pocket PC 2000 version 3.0.9348
  • Pocket PC 2002 version 3.0.11171 (Phone Edition)
  • Smartphone 2002 version 3.0
  • Windows CE 2003 (or Windows Mobile 2003) version 4.20.1081
  • Smartphone 2003 version 4.20.1088
  • Windows CE 2003 SE (Windows Mobile 2003 SE) version 4.21.1088
Older Pocket PCs use the operating system Pocket PC 2000 and Pocket PC 2002 (I started developing PocketBuilder with such a device). To make it more complex for customers, there are devices (the O2 XDA, T-Mobil MDA, and the HP 928WDA) that use the Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition operating system. These devices are simply Pocket PCs that you can use as mobile phones. The most accurate Pocket PC devices use the Windows CE 2003 SE version (SE means second edition), which is an enhanced version of the Windows CE 2003 operating system. Smart phones use the operating system SmartPhone 2002 or SmartPhone 2003. This is one difference between smart phones and Pocket PCs: the operating system, although both operating systems use ActiveSync to communicate with desktop computers and include e-mail (Pocket Outlook), appointments, contacts applications, Media Player, and Pocket Internet Explorer. Pocket PC devices include Pocket Word and Pocket Excel, which are not available on smart phones.

The Screen
On a Pocket PC device you can control the device by touching the screen with your fingers or with the included pencil; this isn't possible with smart phones. The resolution on most Pocket PC devices is 240x320 pixels. Newer devices also offer a resolution of 480x640 pixels. Note that this resolution is not perfectly supported by the current Microsoft mobile operating systems. Smart phone devices are available only with a resolution of 176x220 pixels. The diagonal of the screens is between 2.8" and 4" on Pocket PCs; on smart phones it's 2.2". There is no problem with the quality of the screens; the text is very readable even outside on a bright and sunny day, which isn't always possible with older devices.

Communication Options
All of the newer devices should have infrared and Bluetooth. My first device didn't have Bluetooth. After a while I was quite unhappy with it because I wanted to use my Pocket PC as a routing planner in conjunction with a wireless GPS mouse, but these operate via Bluetooth, so I recommend spending the extra money. This was not a real problem because it's also possible to get a serial GPS mouse, but I didn't like to have a cable between my device and the Pocket PC (note that serial GPS is not available for smart phones). Wireless LAN is also available for Pocket PC devices only.

Pocket PCs are available with or without a built-in GSM/GPRS module; smart phones, of course, have always included such a module. The communication and synchronization with your desktop computer is done using Microsoft ActiveSync. The synchronization compares the data on the Pocket PC or smart phone with the desktop computer and updates both devices with the most recent information.

Processor, Memory, and Battery
Pocket PCs usually have a very strong CPU built in; the most recent and most powerful devices out there at the time of writing use a 624MHz processor. When you look at smart phone processors you'll see that their CPUs are not as powerful since they're not considered universal devices, whereas a Pocket PC is. Pocket PCs also usually have more built-in (free) memory storage, and at least one slot for an SD/MMC card and sometimes a second slot for CF cards. Smart phones offer a slot for SD/MMC (RS-MMC) or miniSD cards.

Pocket PCs have a bigger battery built in, but this doesn't mean you'll be able to work with it longer than you would a smart phone; you'll be able to work longer with the smart phone (you might remember the previously mentioned slower CPU and the smaller screen size). It is possible to have a second battery that could be changed by the user, which wasn't possible with older devices.

GPS Navigation
When it comes to GPS navigation, Pocket PCs are the better devices since they have a bigger screen, a faster CPU, and the sound is better. Also the tapping on the screen makes it easier to navigate through the navigation software when in the car, but it is possible to use a navigation system on a smart phone; it's just not as much fun and as easy as with a Pocket PC.

Voice and Data
You can use a Pocket PC Phone Edition device as a mobile telephone just as you can a smart phone, but keep in mind that a smart phone is built for use as a phone, a Pocket PC isn't (bigger size, battery life time). So I would recommend only smart phones if you're looking for a phone. If you'd like to use a handsfree set with your device, use a Bluetooth handset as it should work with both devices without a problem.

When it comes to browsing the Internet I recommend a Pocket PC. It's the wireless LAN and the bigger screen size that makes the difference here. Also when you are e-mailing, the Pocket PC is the better choice because of your ability to touch the screen.

A microphone and a speaker are usually built into both devices but the quality of both is better on Pocket PC devices (which makes a big difference if you want to use it primarily as a navigation system). A plug for earphones is available on both devices. Most Pocket PC devices have a standard 3.5mm plug (though my Loox also has the smaller one). Smart phones (like most mobile devices) use the 2.5mm plug (an adapter for earphones is usually included with the device).


I really can't recommend a device for you. You'll have to choose what's right for you. If you use it primarily to develop software for yourself (such as your own timesheet application or a flight planner), use it as a GPS system, read e-books, and want to view movies on your device, a Pocket PC is the better choice. I love my VGA device (though not all applications support VGA at the moment).

Smart phones are smaller and lighter and are better if you're looking for a mobile phone in which you can synchronize e-mails and appointments with your desktop and also develop PocketBuilder applications. As for the price, I have to say that smart phones are usually cheaper.

I wish you a happy time with your device and a good time coding PocketBuilder.

More Stories By Berndt Hamboeck

Berndt Hamboeck is a senior consultant for BHITCON (www.bhitcon.net). He's a CSI, SCAPC8, EASAC, SCJP2, and started his Sybase development using PB5. You can reach him under [email protected]

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