According to Prithvi Raj, Program Manager at Microsoft Corporation, "12 million phones were lost last year in the US alone." Those that have lost cell phones understand the pain associated with losing contact information, documents, and text messages. The experience of losing a phone is usually quickly followed by a search for services that will provide backups of phone data.
Microsoft recently announced a new service that is currently in beta called My Phone that aims to help users reduce the pain involved in losing a phone. The service provides a backup of contacts, calendar, appointments, photos and other information onto a Microsoft hosted secure Web site. If a user loses their phone and purchases another one, data can be easily migrated to the new phone. Unfortunately, only Microsoft Windows Mobile phones that run the latest Windows Mobile 6 operating system are supported. Let's take a look at some of the common questions about the My Phone service.
How does it work?
For those fortunate enough to have a Windows Mobile 6.x phone, visiting the My Phone home page will provide the ability to sign up for the service. Since the service is currently in beta form, users will be placed on a waiting list. Once signed up, a small piece of software will need to be installed on the phone. After installation, a user can select the information that needs to be backed up to the cloud. For the current beta, Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Text Messages, Photos, Videos, Music, Documents and Storage Cards, can be backed up.
The service has two options for backup, Automatic or Manual. Users with an unlimited data package on their phone can select Automatic, and the phone will back up the selected data to the cloud once per day during off peak hours between 11:00pm and 5:00am. Even those without a data package can take advantage of My Phone. A user can select to manually back up the phone using a wireless connection to the Internet or by connecting the phone directly to a computer and using its internet connection.
After data is backed up, it can then be edited online. For example, a user can update calendar appointments, contacts, and documents online, and then re-sync those documents to their Windows Mobile phone.
How much storage space is provided?
Currently, Microsoft provides 200MB of storage space for each user. This should be plenty of space for users who only need contact, calendar, and document backup. Advanced users who store a lot of music, videos, photos, and documents will quickly find themselves running out of space. Perhaps Microsoft will bump up this limit. With Windows Live Skydrive providing 25GB of free space and Windows Live Mesh providing 5GB, Microsoft has more than enough storage space to apply to My Phone.
How much does it cost?
While in beta, the service is free. It will be interesting to see if Microsoft offers a paid version once the service is officially released. Based on the fact that there are multiple Windows Live services that offer much higher storage limits, it would be odd for Microsoft to suddenly choose this service as the one that requires a monthly or yearly fee. Apple is currently charging $99/year for its MobileMe service, which has more storage space (20GB) and a larger feature set, so Windows Mobile users will expect more from Microsoft if they are to pay for this service.
What is the sign-up process?
Any interested users can sign up here. After sign-up, I was put on a waiting list but it took less than a week to get into the program. As a warning to all users, this is a beta. Not only is the Web site quite slow, but there have been a few "service is temporarily unavailable due to system maintenance right now" messages when accessing the site, so patience is required.
All in all, this is a good service from Microsoft. There is nothing groundbreaking about it, but it is a lifesaver when a user loses their phone or perhaps just wants to replace their phone. If it's free, why not give it a try? It’s a 1.0 version that will surely improve with future iterations.Powered by Sidelines