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DataPilot 2.0

Apple’s iSync software makes transferring contact data between your Mac and supported cell phones a cinch, but the keyword here is “supported.” If you don’t have a phone that works with iSync, what do you do? Susteen’s solution is a software application called DataPilot.

In its DataPilot Universal Kit for Macintosh, Susteen includes USB data-transfer cables suitable for popular cell phone models by Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, LG, and Sanyo, and makes others available for purchase for about $30 from its Web site. The software alone can be downloaded without the cables for $45. When you run the software for the first time, DataPilot will attempt to connect to your phone to figure out which model it is and how it works. Once that is done, you’re free to import content from your phone into the DataPilot interface or begin creating your contact and calendar list. DataPilot’s three-panel interface will be familiar ground for Mac OS X users.

Importing contacts from my Address Book application in Panther and Tiger was easy and quick, and the software lets you export your list back to Address Book to keep it updated. You can also import vCard and CSV-formatted files to DataPilot if you prefer.

DataPilot will import and export .ics calendar files—iCal’s format—though you have to go hunting for them in your file system, because it appears that DataPilot doesn’t know where to look.

Unfortunately, the software doesn’t offer a way to automate the transfer back and forth between DataPilot and Address Book or iCal, so as you add new appointments or contacts on your phone or in those applications, you’ll find yourself having to go through the import-and-export process again. This process will also write over any information you added to the cell phone or Mac. Susteen says this is because the operating systems on cell phones are not built to support sync activities.

Depending on your phone’s capabilities, DataPilot enables you to download and upload wallpaper and photos, ring tones, and even movies. Some features aren’t supported by some phones, and some carriers limit some phones’ capabilities so they can charge for those capabilities instead. I ran into this when trying to upload ring tones and images to my Verizon Wireless phone (Verizon prefers to charge you for the privilege). When I tried, DataPilot gave me an error error message that didn’t make it quite clear what the problem was.

I also had some trouble getting the calendar part of the program to work correctly. While it recognized my iCal information and imported it to the phone, DataPilot did not fill in the event titles correctly.

DataPilot can set up your cell phone for data use, presuming you subscribe to your carrier’s data service. That’s quite handy for PowerBook- or iBook-toting road warriors who need to send e-mail or surf the Web but can’t always find a Wi-Fi hotspot or tethered Internet connection. You can also send any information you manage using DataPilot (ring tones, images, contact information, appointments) to yourself or others via e-mail using DataPilot’s handy Send with Mail button.

You can resize DataPilot’s windows, and you can get information about specific contacts, calendar events and media types by clicking the I button, which extends a drawer. A handy search field lets you look for specific content, and an Inspect function lets you look for duplicates, blanks, and similarities in your contact list.

DataPilot needs to support more import and export formats than just Address Book, iCal, CSV, and vCard. It also needs some way of synchronizing content with Address Book and iCal—preferably through iSync.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

If you have a phone that iSync won’t support, or if you’d like to expand the capabilities of an iSync-supported phone’s connection with your Mac, DataPilot 2.0 is for you. The simple ability to import contact and calendar information from your Mac to your phone is worth the cost of this product. I only wish it would do its jobs a little more smoothly.

[ News Senior Editor Peter Cohen laments his cell phone’s lack of Bluetooth data-sync support. ]

You can choose to copy all of your contacts to a non-iSync-compatible phone using DataPilot.
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