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Do you need a Blackberry?

Even elementary mobile phones can help you get email pushed to your handsets, as long as you have a data plan and download some smart software, writes Puneet Mehrotra.

india Updated: Dec 25, 2007 21:03 IST

As our cellphones become our central device for communication, business, entertainment and perhaps on its way to replace the bulky desktop and maybe even the laptop, our traditional cell phone has much more to offer to us than we probably know.

For example, did you know your “non-smart” cell phone can easily be converted into a Smart Push Mail, always-on communication device in which you could get email alerts and you could reply, forward, organize folders, save attachments like the way you do on your laptop?

All this can sync in with your home/office desktop or company server. Sounds interesting? And yes you don’t need a Blackberry – that fancy device sported by trendy corporate executives -- for this. Nor are you dependent on the service provider, the way Blackberry customers are, if you have a data connection enabled.

For starters, a system with an "always-on" capability is called a Push Mail where the user gets an alert on his or her cell phone as soon as the email arrives. In the Push Mail model, as a new email arrives, it is instantly “pushed” to the email client which in this case is the cell-phone, from the network computer. This model of Push Mail is opposed to the traditional model of “Pull Mail” where email is pulled by a user by logging in to the server.

Push Mail is actually available for just about anybody even with the most basic handsets provided they have a data-plan enabled. In other words, whether your service provider is an Airtel, Hutch, Idea or Reliance, no matter what handset you have, whether its Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Nokia or just about any handset, smart or non-smart, as long as it has a data connection you can enable Push Mail on your cell phone.

There are several options of enabling Push Mail on your cell phone. If you have a phone which is not so smart and you are the non-techie kind then a good option for you can be Consilient Push. In less than 5 minutes your very own non-smart phone can have Push Mail capability. This application takes less than a minute to download from and on enabling it you can receive emails besides being able to forward, save photos, create your own signature and view attachments which include PDF, ZIP, Excel and Word on your mobile phone.

“With Consilient Push, you don't need an expensive new device or phone for mobile email. All you need is your regular mobile phone and a data plan from your mobile operator,” says a statement from Consilient.

Cell phones have a nasty tendency of getting lost. Consilient even has a solution for that. You can simply lock your machine to keep your private email from being read by thieves and stealers What if you don’t have a POP/IMAP email account? Consilient can even turn Gmail, Yahoo!, Hotmail into Push Mail for your cellphone.

Push Mail has ample variety for the user to choose from. If Consilient doesn’t fit your expectations you could try Emoze. Simply download a small application from to your mobile telephone and turn your non-smart phone into a fully functional personal communication device. Security of data is high on Emoze’s agenda. According to Emoze, “Unlike Blackberry, Emoze provides Push Mail service to all mobile devices with a very high level of security without storing the data on its servers.”

Storage power

If you are the traveling executive and needs access to emails on the fly and plus need ample storage capability then has ample choice with storage up to 2 GB (gigabytes) available. Another interesting business feature of is that it lets you view received documents on the handheld screen, also send it in original format to a printer, forward it to a fax machine, or even display it on a notebook monitor.

For the executive who is ready to pay for Push Mail, there is Seven. Developed for BREW, J2ME, Windows Mobile, Palm OS and Symbian technology platforms -- in others words enabled for almost 240 CDMA and GSM devices – it is sold through 115 operators across the globe. In India is being used by Airtel Easy Mail, BPL Pushmail, Spice Mail and Vodafone Mail.

Talking in terms of popularity, can somebody beat this Push Mail? With 15 million Push Mail installations, provides Open Source push email, contacts & calendars and more. Funambol also has an enterprise solution for telecom operators. Funambol says it has “the widest variety of mobile handsets, automates over the air provisioning and is highly affordable for consumers.” It also offers a low-cost Open Source alternative to expensive proprietary mobile email and PIM (personal information manager) synchronization through a downloadable 'Do-it-yourself" kit for organizations that want to develop their own low-cost solutions.

In the organized segment in India, it is a clash between devices based on Windows Mobile and those running Blackberry. Windows Mobile sells twice as much as Blackberry. According to a report from market researcher IDC, within 15 months of its launch, Windows mobile has sold 1,00,000 units creating a market share of 30.5 per cent in the data-centric converged devices segment over Blackberry, which has a 19.1 per cent share.

If you an Indian customer, a Blackberry device can cost anything between Rs 10,000 and Rs 32,000 – in addition to recurring data download charges. Similar services can be had on Windows Mobile devices that cost upwards of Rs 13,000.

For Indian customers, the point to remember is that data charges paid to telecom operators are roughly the same – around 10 paise for every 10 kb of email. On crude calculations, you would pay less than 10 rupees per day even if you receive 200 simple mails a day. But going for a Blackberry service will tie you to an operator and also involved expensive handsets.

Thus, Push Mail, with smart software downloaded to simple handsets, could well be the answer for those looking for email on the go while seeking value-for-money.

(The author is an independent technology writer)