Redfly by Celio Corp just released the C8N, the second generation of its C8 smartphone terminal, which gives users a laptop-like experience from their trusty devices. Although it looks like a sub-notebook, it doesn't have a CPU, OS or storage. So what's the point, you ask? Well, once users connect their WinMo phones via USB or Bluetooth, they get a bigger screen (at 8 inches diagonally), full keyboard and two USB ports.
In truth, when I first got the press release, I thought it sounded like a goofy idea. The C8N weighs 2 lbs. and costs $300. I can get a full-fledged netbook for the same money that's just a hair heavier. Plus, none of the holy trinity of smartphones -- i.e., Nokia, BlackBerry and iPhone -- are compatible. (Some reviewers did manage to connect the iPhone and Nokia N96 when they got early review samples last month, though it only worked for video playback.)
So the Redfly terminal just sounded like another pricey and only minimally interesting accessory. But some mobile pros have reportedly fallen head over heels for it, so I dug a little deeper.
Here's what I found out:
(1) That teeny tiny smartphone homepage and apps rock on a bigger 8-inch diagonal, 800-by-480-pixel widescreen (though the main input doesn't play video. See #2).
(2) For vids, there's a separate line-in, which means it works with any gadget with video-out, including Zunes, iPods, digital cameras and phones that have this port. (An optional $20 cable is required.) Be advised though that you can't use the same phone plugged into both the main and video ports, and there's no built-in speaker, so audio has to go through earbuds or the originating device's speakers. But it seems a lot of people don't mind, since the original C8 terminal didn't even have video capability at all.
(3) The built-in trackpad and ability to connect a mouse are also winners, as is the ability to hook up projectors and other presentation devices.
(4) The accessory charges the phone while you work and lasts up to 8 hours.
(5) There's a less expensive version without a media port available, the C7, which weighs 1.46 lbs., has a 7-inch display and costs $199 (after rebate).
(6) There's no boot-up time and no danger of losing data if these terminals get lost or damaged.
(7) Web fans will be glad to know that it plays well with Opera Mobile, but not the 9.5 version yet. Stick to Opera Mobile 8.65 for smooth cruising.
Overall, it sounds okay, but the hefty pricetag still annoyed me. Then I found Ed Hardy's take on the cost at Brighthand.com:
"A decent Bluetooth travel keyboard costs $110. A good external rechargeable battery runs about $50. There aren't any accessories aside from the Redfly that will add USB ports to a Windows Mobile smartphone, but I'd say that's worth at least $20.
There also aren't any other options for adding an external screen to a Windows Mobile smartphone unless it comes with this built in, but being able to get real work done on an 8-inch display instead of a 3-inch one is easily worth $100 to me. Add in $20 worth of convenience for having all these accessories packaged into one and you get the price for the C8N."
So what say youse? Is a bigger display and keyboard worth the $300 sticker price? (If so, you can get yours here.)