Symbol’s new ES400 – first thoughts

Symbol ES400 Mobile Device

New Symbol ES400

When Motorola bought Symbol, I thought it would be a good opportunity to see some of Moto’s experience in cool handset design migrate to the Symbol line – a kind of “best of both worlds” thing.

The new ES400 fits right into this with a stylish formfactor that still has a lot of the Symbol attributes that are expected in the enterprise world.

For a long time, Symbol have had things pretty well covered for mobile workers. Whether the industrial MC9xxx line up or the more mobile MC70 range. These are great for people needing rugged devices in applications that demand a lot of barcode scanning.

Where Symbol hasn’t done so well is providing equipment to mobile workers and managers who rely more on email and phone capabilities than barcode scanning and don’t want to lug around a large device – the territory currently occupied by Blackberries, iPhones and Moto’s own Droids.

Enter the ES400.

At first glance it is clearly a phone, rather than an industrial mobile computer. Take away the Moto logo and it could be something new from Blackberry – it has a Blackberry looking design, but with a VGA display which unlike Blackberries is a touch screen (I don’t count that lame Blackberry Storm here).

Now, I must confess, there is one thing I dislike about the ES400 – you’ll see it as soon as you look at the photo of the device – it’s running Windows! The OS is a flavor of Windows Mobile 6.5 with a custom Moto overlay to hide some of the nastyness. I was hoping that Moto would have taken advantage of all the good work they’ve done with Android to make this a Droid ES400, but no such luck; we are still stuck with Windows Mobile overhead.

Other than the OS, everything else about the ES400 is great. A lot of the Symbol enterprise features we’ve come to rely on are retained – the ability to drop 4 feet onto concrete (try doing that with the nice new glass iPhone 4!), all the wireless options one would wish for (including ability to run on both GSM and CDMA networks) and barcode scanning.

Need enterprise level WiFi security? No worries it is standard as one would expect from Symbol.

So what we have is a real Symbol mobile device that can be used for serious work, wrapped up in a sexy form factor that no executive would be embarrassed to use as their main phone.

Nice job Moto/Symbol! Just a bit of a shame about the OS.

What do you think? Am I the only one wanting to see Android on mobile devices instead of Windows?

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  1. Why a bit of shame about the OS.
    Please note this is professionnel device, and this is an OS for Pro's. There is no other device on the market. You think that you can use a iPhone with multi-touch screen with signature-capture, barrecode reader, fingerprint scanner, Credit-card payment options?

  2. Hi mwlux, thanks for visiting and for commenting.

    Obviously we all have different opinions, but I’m far from convinced that WM is the best OS for a device of this type. It is mainly a phone and isn’t going to be use all that much for “signature-capture, barrecode reader, fingerprint scanner, Credit-card payment options?” jobs.

    I think that the MC70 range would be a much better choice for someone looking to do a lot of barcode scanning, credit card capture, etc.

    I’m also inclined to believe that using WM rather than CE has been a step backwards in the enterprise market – as an example the Intermec CK31 with CE runs the Oracle Java apps nicely, but it is a huge hassle on the WM based CK3.

    Note, I didn’t say I wanted to see iPhone OS used for this device – although those little iPod Touch cradles they use in the Apple stores are rather nice – even have a proper barcode scanner instead of trying to use the cellphone camera. When my daughter and I got new iPhones recently, the complete transaction was done on one of these iPods and was very impressive. I had been wondering when Apple would get rid of the PDT8800’s.

    What I would have liked to see was Moto take the opportunity to introduce Android into this “professional” device. Moto seems to be having a lot of success with Android for their consumer devices and I would think it would be a good choice for the kind of user targeted for the ES400. The kind of client likely to drift towards Android, iPhone or Blackberry – certainly not Windows.

    Heck, if this had been an Android device, I’d have been interested in getting one for myself. I used Windows Mobile for years and I don’t plan on going back any time soon!

  3. Frits Jalvingh says:

    After lots of depressing experiences with Windows Mobile and all it’s horrible derivatives on so called “rugged devices” I am more than interested in having Android instead of the fragile Windows crap implemented on most of these.nnIt’s no joke to buy lots of rugged devices- only to find out that the Windows firmware on them is the opposite of rugged; it makes them fragile as thin crystal (but not as pretty). Instead of physically breaking and being unusable the firmware breaks the software all of the time- making them unusable. Well, at least they still function as hammers….nnEspecially when constant communication is needed (not unusual for a mobile device one would guess) the firmware is a constant source of trouble, causing states where all communication is impossible until a full device powerdown+reset. Of course without giving any obvious error anywhere. Of course, part of the blame is with the device manufacturer but they all make the same crap (they often just recompile the example drivers with minimal changes, resulting in very funny USB and other identifiers and code that just barely works).nnCoding software for the platform is lots of work, with outdated and badly designed tools and toolkits. Before you can start development you have to shell out money for the tools and then take a day to install, find and download updates, find+download updates for those updates; boot 27 times; download a zillion hard to find and badly named toolkits and SDKs (meaning you need to find out THAT you need them) etc etc. It takes ages before development can be done. Then when you look you have a horrible development environment that is slow, complex, buggy and does not help you at all. If you do succeed to get some code compiling and building then you have to learn the nicely hidden and jokefestish device manager and it’s cradle idiocy before your network works- horror… It cost me a fortune in alcohol to keep up.nnThe mobile platform itself is very low-level and basic stuff takes lots of code, and everyone has to reinvent the wheel to solve common problems of mobile devices like screen size, rotation, pixel density and such. To code any “modern” UI is horror too as MS seems to think their klunky 1980 windows components are still good enough. A start menu!? Really!!?!?!nnThe incompatible changes from major version to major version are a headache too and increase maintenance.nnI installed the android toolkit just the other day, and was *flabbergasted* that for the price of… 0 euro’s!?! I was able to start development WITHIN 10 MINUTES!!! And it actually WORKED! And the tools look modern, have integrated support for per-device layouts, simply accessible resource bundles… It suddenly feels like it’s actually the 21’th century, and programming on stone tables is *really* out!nnIf at all possible I will try to stop development for Windows Moronbile and move new versions of our software to Android. About the only reason that would stop that is not having rugged Android devices (with a barcode scanner at least) available.. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!nnGreetings,nnFrits Jalvinghn


  1. […] As a result, a new product class is appearing, the Tough Smartphone – I wrote about Symbol’s effort here. […]

  2. […] As a result, a new product class is appearing, the Tough Smartphone – I wrote about Symbol’s effort here. […]

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