Lots of people are buying cell phones to read and respond to email on the road. It makes a difference what kind of email account you have! Some phones are better than others for particular situations. I’ve written about this before but it bears repeating.

If you work in a small business and your mail is run by Exchange Server, you should only consider a phone running Windows Mobile software, or an iPhone.

Windows Mobile phones are made by several manufacturers and sold by every carrier. They have a Windows logo and a Start button in the upper or lower left corner.

windowsmobilehomescreen Exchange Server runs the mail in businesses running Microsoft Small Business Server, or in businesses with mail hosted by Microsoft Online Services or one of the other hosted Exchange services.

A lot of attention will be drawn to Windows Mobile on October 6, when a number of new phones will be released simultaneously with the release of Windows Mobile 6.5. The new release brightens up the appearance of Windows Mobile, especially on touch-screens, although it still lags behind Blackberry and other competitors. Microsoft wants everyone to begin calling them “Windows Phones” then.

What Windows Mobile does brilliantly is sync over the air with your mail, contact, and calendar folders. You can change appointments on the fly, update phone numbers for your contacts, and answer your email, and everything is instantly and seamlessly synced with your Outlook folders.

Strangely enough, Apple is the only manufacturer that has built in support for syncing with Exchange Server without using Microsoft’s Windows Mobile software. The iPhone works like a charm with Exchange.

  • [Edit 09/21/09 12:40am] That’s not true. The technology that connects phones to Exchange Server is licensed as “ActiveSync,” and a loyal reader points out that it’s available on Nokia S60 phones that otherwise run Nokia’s proprietary software. There might be more that I’m not aware of.
  • [Edit 09/22/09 04:00pm] Be careful – Google licensed ActiveSync for its own ‘Google Sync’ service on Android phones but Google’s version doesn’t talk to Exchange, only to Google’s own mail/calendar/address book. See followup post on Wednesday 09/23.

Personal experience: Verizon’s HTC Ozone is the best Windows Mobile phone I’ve ever used – fast, lightweight, long battery life, simple controls. On the other hand, the HTC Touch Pro was so bad that strangers would console me when they saw me weeping and cursing as I tried to use it. The new model HTC Touch Pro 2 might be better, but I doubt it. There are many phones running Windows Mobile, and there will be more after October 6. Shop carefully!

If you work in a larger business and your company directly supports Blackberry phones by running a Blackberry server, you should get a Blackberry.

They’re fabulous. Everybody loves them. Well, I guess. Some recent Blackberry models have gotten terrible reviews, and in general I don’t really get what’s so special about Blackberry phones, but so it goes.

Don’t get a Blackberry if your business runs Exchange Server but not a separate Blackberry server.

If you have an individual email account provided by an ISP (e.g., Sonic, Comcast, AT&T), or you use Google Mail or another web mail service, you can get any phone you like.

Every smartphone will pick up mail from a POP3 account. All of them will retrieve mail from GMail or one of the other services. Sometimes that requires a little fussing, sometimes it’s trivially easy, but it’s always possible.

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