Thursday, November 01, 2007

Synchronising mobiles and computers

So let's say you've two computers Desktop and Laptop, and a Mobile. You want to ensure that contacts and calendar information matches between the three. Without a server, or you simply don't want to dial-in every-time you're out of the office then you're looking at the synchronisation software that comes with your phone.

So let's start with Microsoft's own Active Sync. For those who have a downer with the big MS it may come as a surprise that this works, and works well. Add a new contact to Desktop, sync with Windows Mobile, sync with Laptop and there it is on the Laptop. In fact change anything on any of the three devices and it'll sync correctly or display a conflict resolution if you've added it to two devices simultaneously.

Now for Nokia's PC Suite. Desktop with Nokia Mobile works and Laptop with Mobile works too; well at least at first. Add a date on Mobile and sync to Laptop and it'll appear, sync to Desktop and it might. If it doesn't and you add it manually it'll duplicate on the Mobile, and thus to the Laptop unless you delete it first. A similar situation can be had with contacts.

Onto Sony Ericsson's software also helpfully called PC Suite and you get the same thing as with Nokia's - information gets duplicated.

Simply put they appear not to be created with multiple computers in mind except Microsoft's.

On a second note, Microsoft syncs on change - if the mobile is connected to either Laptop or Desktop and you change something on either of the devices it'll change on the other almost instantly. Both Nokia and Sony have "Sync on connect", "Sync every...", or "Manual sync only" and boy can that be slow while you wait for your one entry to be updated. Oh and boy can it take a while for the computer just to see the mobile.

Third note - to all of the above manufacturers. Sometimes I want to check the Synchronisation settings before I connect the phone, especially if it auto-syncs and I think something's wrong. Not allowing access to these settings unless the phone is connected does not help.

Forth and final note again to all above. Error messages should be helpful, telling me that the contact that sync'ed up fine from Desktop to Mobile has failed from Mobile to Laptop because it's a bad object tells me nothing. Why has it failed, unmatching fields, too much information in one or something; some assistance would be nice here.

So as it connected at least 95% of the time and worked 100%, and seeing as Nokia's has on occasion failed to connect, disconnect and duplicates entries as does the Sony Ericsson; Microsoft comes out the winner followed by Sony then Nokia.