Review: Redfly - A Laptop-Like Smartphone Companion

Utah-based Celio Corp. envisions a future in which we use our smartphones for all (or darn near all) of our computing needs. But that doesn't mean they're expecting us to type dissertations on cell phone keypads or even a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. The future they imagine has us relying on something like their introductory Redfly ($200), a "smartphone terminal" that connects via USB or Bluetooth to your handheld device, giving you a fold-open keyboard and monitor.

The Redfly unit in its current formation is a huge improvement over typing on a phone, but a far cry from a laptop replacement. Its biggest shortcoming is that a few improperly sized or placed keys render touch-typing hugely frustrating.

For example, the page-up key is where the shift key ought to be. Also, the semi colon and apostrophe keys are smaller than the letter keys, meaning the pinky inadvertently hits enter when it wants an apostrophe. Of course, for hunt-and-peck, one-finger typists, these problems will be unremarkable.

The two-button touchpad functions up to expectations and can also be used in the "Tap and Hold" manner of a phone—just place the cursor on an object and press and hold the left mouse button to bring up a menu. Words and pictures on the keyboard indicate which buttons serve which phone functions (the F2 with an envelope takes you to email, the green word "send" over F4 tells you it's the way to place a phone call).

An on-screen Redfly menu is activated by scrolling to the bottom-right corner. It offers indicators for battery life, caps/num lock and USB and Bluetooth connections. Note that while you control phone function from the Redfly, you still speak into and listen through the handset.

Perhaps the greatest asset of the Redfly is that its USB ports allow you to plug in a jump drive, instantly giving your phone more storage space, without the cumbersome task of inserting a micro-SD card; plus, a jump drive transfers more readily to myriad other machines than a micro-SD card does.

Setting up the Redfly with your phone is quick and easy. Celio maintains a list of tested phones, so check it to make sure your device is among them. For now, the Redfly is only compatible with Windows Mobile devices. A handy Quick Start Guide really does make the process fast and simple.

Download the Redfly installation file (you can do this directly on your phone or download it to your computer and transfer to your phone using ActiveSync). Run and install the file once it has downloaded. Then, on the first connection you'll have to connect your phone to the Redfly via USB cable. Turn on your phone, turn on the Redfly, then attach the cable. Your phone will detect the external device and your Today screen should appear on the Redfly. (Your phone will display the Redfly logo until the display times off.)

To connect via Bluetooth in the future, turn on your phone's Bluetooth connection. Be sure your device has Bluetooth Discovery turned on (or "make this device discoverable" checked).

With the two devices connected via USB, click the Redfly logo key on the Redfly to open the Settings window. Click the "Authorize" button on the Bluetooth tab. Click okay to pair the devices. Press F12 (Bluetooth).

You can now disconnect the USB cable and in the future to connect the devices, simply turn them both on and turn on the phone's Bluetooth. Then, press F12 on the Redfly and click "yes" on the phone to authorize a connection. You're all set.

The unit gives you the comfort of a much larger monitor than a handheld and since it doesn't heat up like a laptop, you can literally use it on your lap for quite a while.

TAGS:

smartphones, peripherals, Redfly, smartphone companion
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