Dopod D810 – on Three X-Series

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Dopod D810 - on Three X-Series

(2007-04-02)

People have been talking about mobile internet (access to the internet on the go) for a long time. Access is too slow and too expensive, devices are too slow, screens are too small, WAP sucked... But change is coming, finally, in the form of faster 3.5G/4G access, reasonable data plans, and developers getting the standards 'thing', making more site more easily mobile accessible.

So when Three released the X-Series service in the UK end of 2006, I was anxious to see if they would introduce it in Australia too. Because that would tickle my fancy...

I only bought a SE K750i about a year ago. It had a 2M camera, a radio, playes mp3's and mp3 ringtones, all in all, a nice phone. But I was lacking some 'power', picture quality was disappointing most of the time, radio reception not to good, a propriatery headphones, limited internet access (improved using the fab Opera mini)...

If I was to have a new phone, it would need to have GPS, and preferably with WiFi. It didn't need to have a camera, as it remains hard to get decent pics from a phone camera anyway (it needs a good lens, processor, some zoom). It didn't need to have a radio either (as radio isn't that good down here). I was looking at the Mio A701 which had been around for a while but was still costing a lot of money, it's old school technology (except the gps chip which is the best), no 3G, no WiFi, but it is a good GPS device in itself.

Then Three Australia introduced the X-Series plan end of March 2007, with a couple of 'compatible' phones, two Nokias, an LG and this Dopod (which at its heart is a HTC Trinity).The plan includes Skype, Google, eBay, MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, Orb, mobile mail and mobile internet. For 20AUD(16USD) you get 500MB, 1000 Skype-to-Skype minutes, unlimited IM, eBay access, some video channels. For 40AUD(32USD) you get 2GB/4000 minutes. All this over a 3.5G network (HSDPA). In a world where mobile operators charge you 70AUD for 10MB on GPRS, this is a great deal!

So I started to investigate this Dopod D810, as one does before geeking out. 3G, even 3.5G and WiFi (g), excellent! And GPS? Yes indeed. I found some references, on the Dopod site, to enabling GPS on the device, through a ROM upgrade. That made it even more interesting. But, since it is locked (but unlockable) to Three and the X-Series services, would I be able to flash the ROM, keep the Three services, or worse, just not brick the device?

So I went for it, a Dopod D810 on a a 24m contract on $29 Cap, X-Series Silver (just to see how far this 500Mb takes me, I can up- and downgrade every month). Got me a 2 Gb mini SD card for 39AUD (not at the Three store, got it from an asian tech store at technocity).

Scroll down for updates

Device info:

  • Build quality is excellent, looks good, feels sexy (same 'soft' feel as the 4G iPods, curvy, which the newer 5G iPod miss I think)
  • Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 (yeah, I know...)
  • 2.8" 240x320 QVGA 65K lcd
  • HSDPA/UMTS on 1900MHz & 2100 MHz
  • GSM/GPRS/EDGE on 850/900/1800/1900MHz
  • Main camera 2M CMOS, VGA CMOS 2nd camera for video telephony
  • Samsung 400MHz CPU
  • 128MB flash ROM, 64MB SDRAM
  • 5-way navigation pad, scrolling jog wheel on the left
  • IdDA SIR, Bluetooth v2.0 without EDR, WiFi 802.11 b/g, Mini SD slot
  • 108mm x 58.2mm x 18.4mm, 150g with battery
  • 1500mAh battery
  • Stand-by: GSM: 200-250h, UMTS: 180-250h (supplier values)
  • Talk time: GSM: 4-5h, UMTS: 2-4h (supplier values)

Dopod D810 niceties:

  • All these different phone network technologies in one device, GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSDPA on different frequenties.
  • WiFi b/g, although haven't been able to use it at home yet.
  • GPS, without external antenna, all in such a small device.
  • Camera: it's only 2M, and you can't expect to shoot National Geographic type pictures, but it has a nice-n-easy panorama function, and a POI function which uses the GPS to add location data.
  • Scroll wheel is a nice touch, to navigate the drop down menus.
  • MP3 ringtones, I love using my own MP3 files as ringtone (I'm using Pulp Fiction's "Dick Dale - Miserlou").

Dopod D810 not-so-niceties:

  • The only disadvantage (so far) is the OS. Windows Mobile isn't the most exciting OS.

X-Series negatives:

No point in having a 3.5G pda phone if you can't connect it to a network. So you're stuck with what's on offer:

  • X-Series is only the dataplan (monthly subscription). You still need a voice plan, cheapest option 29AUD Cap plan, which has a minimum 20AUD price tag. Additionally, the Dopod is available for 36AUD over 24 months (864 AUD in stead of 1049AUD if you would pay upfront!), which makes the minimum cost about 1344AUD (ex. X-Series)
  • X-Series services only available on a handset basis, meaning not all services are available on all handsets on offer: NO SKYPE ON THE DOPOD D810, so no 1000 minutes of Skype call. (you can download and install Skype separatly, but then you'll be using your 500Mb quota, but it does offer you Skype IM, Skype-Out...)
  • HSDPA has speeds of about 3.6Mb/s, up to 14.4Mb/s, unfortunately Three offering a capped 1.5Mb/s speed in stead of the 3.5Mb/s, probably because that's what you get on regular 'broadband' connections here in Australia.
  • Coverage of Three isn't that good, so I read. Haven't had any problems yet. If you're outside their network you'd switch onto Telstra GPRS/EDGE network, for which you then get charged $1.65/MB!

Update

Colleague of mine contacted Dopod, and they told him a new Three ROM would be released in two months time (June 2007), which officially enables the GPS and upgrades to WM6 (probably at a price).

Update - 2007-07-17

Yes. There was a Windows Mobile 6 update online briefly, but it has been taken offline again (a popup window tells you so). It should become available again soon. But people did get the update, and have posted it (or rather a bittorrent file) online at the Whirlpool forum:

http://whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies-archive.cfm/779195.html

or at the xda dev forum:

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=316196&page=5

You may need to create an account to download them though.

I've succesfully updated my Dopod D810 to WM6, no problems. It does have the Three settings and the GPS enabled. The difference between WM5 and WM6 isn't spectacular though...

Update - 2007-08-27

The official HTC WM6 update is online!

Update - 2007-10-02

Ordered an iPhone couple of weeks ago. it arrived today. Read about it.

Update - 2007-12-08

A new Google Maps v2 was released this week. It contains a "My Location" function, which triangulates your location based on the cell towers. Nice idea, but first time it was 5km off... After a while it positioned me 500m off, not too bad. Get the new version at Google. But since the Dopod does have a GPS, and you want to revert to the previous version, you can get that here. So yes, I still use my Dopod D810, mostly as GPS, and as mobile modem for my laptop.

Interesting observation about how this new "My Location" is supposed to work. Apparently it's user-generated? So phones with GPS would send through their location together with the cell tower id, and Google stores uses that to 'calculate' the position? Don't know. Sounds implausable. As I said, after a while my position was put at about 500m from where I actually was, and I didn't have the GPS on. And there are far too few GPS enabled phones around, let alone users using it with Google Maps to be reliant on user-generated positioning info. It is still 'triangulation', it would use three cell id's. I can believe that the initial positioning — 5km off — was based on a single tower, but then the other location — 500m off — was based on triangulation. The guy does work for a competing location solution provider. He sees entry of Google into his market, and for free to the user and operator, as a big thread of course.

Update - 2008-08-20

Have an x-series phone? Not using the phone that much (well I don't, I mainly use my iPhone)? You could get a Three USB modem dongle (from OfficeWorks for example) and use the phone's sim card. The following setup worked for me perfectly (not Three's original setup with the provided cdrom). And get CheetahWatch to keep an eye on usage.

Tip

Use your Dopod D810 as a bluetooth modem on OSX (10.4.10):

  1. Pair your Mac with your Dopod. Your Mac will create a passkey that you need to enter on your Dopod. It will then look for available services, which it won't find, but that's not a problem. On the conclusion (final confirmation) screen, it says that the connection is configured for 'a personal area network';
  2. On your Dopod, go to: Programs > Internet Sharing;
  3. Select 'Bluetooth PAN' from the dropdown, click 'Connect' at the bottom. This should connect you to your operator (in my case the 3G HSDPA network from Three);
  4. Back on your Mac, click the Bluetooth icon and select 'Join network on '. A moment later you should be able to browse the web!

Tip

Does your battery seem to be draining to fast? The IR port is on by default, and you most probably don't need it. So turn it off to save some power:

  1. Go to: Start > Settings > Connections > Beam;
  2. Remove checkmark next to the setting "Receive all incoming beams";
  3. On the right above corner tap on "ok".

Tip

In case you're wondering, in regard to additional software to install, or flashing your ROM, 'WWE' stands for 'World Wide English' and 'CHT' is chinese.

Tip

Enable the GPS icon in Settings

In HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ControlPanel\GPS Settings

  • Delete the DWORD marked Hide (if present)
  • Delete the DWORD marked Redirect (if present)
  • Add a DWORD called Group and give it a value of 2
  • Soft reset the device.

The GPS icon should then be available and you can change the com port on which it appears. (COM9 default)

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