Smarting Up Your Dumb Cell

You’re away from the office and discover you need an email address that’s in your desktop address book. But you can’t get it with the one device you do have with you — your cell phone.

Remoba of Santa Clara, CA thinks you should have another choice besides a PDA and a costly wireless data plan. The three-year-old company’s mission is to bring your desktop to your plain-jane ordinary, un-smart mobile phone.

Remoba offers a suite of applications that connect desktop applications like address books and calendars to cell phones without a mobile carrier’s data plan. Instead, the company’s service connects to your desktop using the air minutes you already pay for — the same way, for example, that you download your Ride of the Valkyrie ring tone.

In effect you get Blackberry capabilities with any CDMA or GSM phone. Remoba applications are offered through several mobile carriers in the U.S., South America and India. All are priced under US$10 per month.

One of the company’s offerings, RemoMail, is particularly handy. It lets you check and send your email from whatever cell phone and service plan you have today. It’s a quick fix for travelers who don’t need or want to deal with a Blackberry or other mobile email device and is priced proportionately at $1.99 a month.

RemoMail delivers email headers to your phone in batches of five at a time. You can decide if you need to read the entire message, delete it, or reply to it. You can connect to as many as seven different POP or IMAP email accounts.

RemoMail is most easily available right now through Verizon’s Get It Now program. You can also use the application with other carriers, although the configuration is a little more complicated. (Robinson promises to set me up with a Sprint version I can use on my Palm Treo, report to follow.)

This month Remoba launched its newest application, iPhonebook, which lets employees access corporate directories from their mobile phones. Especially useful for mobile workers, like sales reps, real estate agents, and general contractors, the service synchronizes information in both directions — from the desktop to the phone, and phone to the desktop.

For example, one iPhonebook client is a northern California construction company. iPhonebook gives the company’s crews all the contact information they need for customers, subcontractors and corporate contacts for each job.

“We deliver a company’s address book to anybody who’s mobile and needs their contacts to stay fresh,” says Remoba VP of Sales David Robinson.

“Most business people who are traveling don’t have all those different services available, for example, when they’re stuck in a plane for two hours, sitting on the tarmac,” explains Robinson. “But even if they have a candy bar phone with a mini keyboard, we make it into a tool they can use ‘right now’ to keep things moving.”

“We believe that the momentum is in this part of the market,” says Robinson. “Smart phones are only one percent of the market. But everybody needs better connectivity than they have now.”