Sunday, August 1, 1999

The quest for free POP3 email for Windows CE that works


By Dan Huber

I wrote this article to serve two purposes: one was to find a compatible and usable free POP3 email service for my own use, and the second was to share my findings with you. When I hear or see the word "free", I think of several things: I pay nothing; limited functionality or use; and unreliability. Though my search wasn't easy, and was filled with its share of bumps and glitches, I've found a solution that works. It took quite a bit of effort, which you won't have to go through because you've got this article.

Just to fill you in on the basics, POP3 is a protocol that is used to transmit and receive email. It requires the use of compatible software and, in the case of Windows CE, that software would be Pocket Outlook's Inbox.

This simple text-only email software makes use of the POP3 protocol to send and receive mail between users and I have found that it's much more convenient than using those Web-based free email services such as HotMail and Yahoo! Mail. The topic of a free POP3 email service has come up every now and then on the Windows CE Talk List, a free (there's that word again!) mailing list devoted to the discussion of Windows CE-related topics.

"Out of all the services, I recommend SoftHome. It hits the nail on the head with the faster session time and it's a competent service that stands on its own feet without help from another service. I was impressed and would recommend it to anyone in need of free POP3 mail."

I've also seen interests expressed in a Windows CE version of Juno but unfortunately, this is not available currently. In my attempt to uncover a good free POP3 email service, I found one that worked flawlessly with my Philips Velo 500. You are welcome to try the other services that I include in this review but beware: I tried them without success.

Planetary Motion's CoolMail

The first service I came upon was CoolMail, a service of Planetary Motion. It looked to be the ultimate solution for all things mobile. It offered free Web-based, phone-based, and POP3/IMAP mail access with an address of "something\," online PIM (personal information manager), and plenty of links to travel, weather, and map sites. For this article, I was primarily interested in POP3 mail access as I feel that it's still the fastest and easiest way to retrieve email. So, I began by signing up.

Planetary Motion offers two versions of their CoolMail service: Bronze and Silver. Bronze is the service that requires no monthly payment, whereas Silver costs $2.95 each month. You also have the option to upgrade your existing Bronze account to Silver. You are then presented with a page to input your demographic information but upon trying to sign up for the service on my Velo 500 using Pocket Internet Explorer, the "I Accept" button was not functional. Instead, it appeared as a text box with the characters "I Accept -->" inside the box and tapping on this box brought up an editing mode, which is evident in Figure A.