Logo Rob Buckley – Freelance Journalist and Editor

Mac mobile phone superguide

Mac mobile phone superguide

Isn't it about time you started getting the most out of the computer in your back pocket? Rob Buckley guides you through the pitfalls of using a mobile phone with your Mac and offers advice on choosing the right mobile phone

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Amazing though it may seem, almost everyone now has a computer in his or her pocket. This computer is pretty powerful: we’re not talking a ZX81 here. It can access the Internet wirelessly, read your email, play music and videos, keep all your contacts and calendars within easy reach and much more. Have you guessed what it is yet? That’s right – it’s the mobile phone.

All this near-forgotten power is yours to tap into with the right tools. When we say “the right tools”, we of course mean your Mac.

It’s a great relationship. With, at most, a cable, you can use your Mac to get the most out of your phone and use your phone to get the most out of your Mac.

So in this article, we’re going to run through the basics of how to find a Mac-compatible phone, what you should look for and what you should avoid. We’ll run you through the basics of using your phone to connect your Mac to the Internet wherever you are. We’ll show you how to liberate all those videos and photos you’ve been collecting so that you can flaunt with all your other snaps in iPhoto. And we’ll show you just how much Bluetooth can improve your digital lifestyle if you just give it a chance. So lie back, relax, take the phone off the hook, as we run you through the marvels of Mobile Magic.

Not all mobiles are created equal. Some are more equal than others. Not all work with computers and there are a reasonable number – godforsaken wretches, all of them – that don’t work with a Mac. But that list is pretty small, fortunately. Pick a phone, any phone, and it’s liable to work with your Mac.

Of course, you might want a little more reassurance than that. So for the positively, completely official list of phones that work with a Mac, visit www.apple.com/macosx/features/isync/devices.html. If your phone is on the list, whoopee: you have an absolute guarantee from Apple that unless your copy of OS X is screwy or isn’t quite up-to-date, your phone will work perfectly well with your Mac straight away.

If not, don’t despair: it’s time to read the footnotes. Number one footnote is that the web page lists all the phones that work with OS X’s iSync utility. iSync synchronises your Address Book and iCal data with your phone’s calendar and address book. However, a phone may not have a calendar or may not work with iSync, yet may well offer other goodies that your Mac can still take advantage of.

Number two footnote? This is the list of phones that Apple has tested with OS X and found to work. There are others that haven’t been tested (and obviously ones that have been tested and don’t work. That’s a separate list that might have been helpful, Apple). If you have a new phone that’s basically an older phone with a different number and fascia, you might find your Mac works perfectly well with it. Even if it doesn’t recognise the phone immediately, there are usually very small bits of tinkering you can do within OS X to get it to work, usually just by changing the number in a text file. Space prevents us from listing all the hacks that have been invented to get particular models to work with OS X, but a quick search at www.macosxhints.com for your phone model will often yield results if it’s not on the official list.

So what sort of things should you look for in a phone to get maximum Mac enjoyment out of it? First off, pick a phone by a reasonably large, mainstream manufacturer that sells phones in the US. So, a warm hug to any handset from Nokia, Motorola or Sony Ericsson but just say no to Sagem and Samsung. If you can find out what operating system your prospective phone has, all the better: a Treo or anything running the Palm OS will work great; a Series 60 or Symbian phone is virtually guaranteed to work, potentially with a hack; Windows Mobile edition phones will need extra software from Mark/Space (www.markspace.com) as will any Pocket PC-based phone. Everything else is a bit of gamble.

For technology, Bluetooth is a definite. Even if you don’t have Bluetooth on your Mac, you can always buy an adaptor and get it up and running in no time and Bluetooth normally indicates a better quality of phone anyway. “Smart” features, such as a calendar, usually indicate the phone is on a slightly higher technological plane as well and will support more features that work with your Mac.

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