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April 28, 2008 / Marco

Please Change my Profile: How to Do It with Style

Profiles are at the heart of our everyday mobile computing. Many of us switch back and forth among a wide range of default and tailor-made profiles without ever wondering how we could manage daily tasks in case our handsets didn’t offer such a feature. At any rate, there are many things our profiles can’t achieve without the assistance of third-party applications. I was sure I would uninstall all relevant third-party applications after finishing this review, but now I’m determined to keep at least one of them on my N82 because what the Symbian operating system offers with regards to profiles is obviously insufficient. If you want to know which application is more feature-rich when it comes to wielding profiles, read the rest of this article. Two applications exist which do all sorts of profile tinkering: Handy Profiles by Epocware and Best Profiles by Smartphoneware.

What do they share?

Both applications have a tab sheet which displays the list of available profiles on your handset. You can opt to switch to a certain profile manually or set the application to do it for you automatically based on a pre-specified rule. Both apps are launched when the handset starts without annoying you in the task manager. In terms of extra features and rule adjustment Best Profiles can be regarded as the more advanced app, though. Other than the tab sheet which displays the list of profiles, Best Profiles has 4 more tabs.

Handy Profiles

Found in the Handy folder, Handy Profiles displays the profile list as it is opened. Pressing “Key 1″ on a profile displays the following options:

  • Activate,
  • Timed activation,
  • Personalize,
  • Edit rules,
  • New,
  • Set as default,
  • Settings,\
  • Help,
  • About,
  • Register,
  • Exit.

If the focus is on a profile other than General, you’ll also get a “Rename” option which is useful for changing the profile name. As you can guess, pressing “Select” on Activate makes the currently highlighted profile active, and an icon appears to the left of the activated profile. The “Timed activation” feature allows you to specify how long a specified profile should remain active. Selecting the “Personalize” option opens the familiar personalize profile window which helps you change your ringing tone, switch on/off the vibrating mode, alter the keypad tones, and so forth. Handy Profile’s “Set as default” option is unique in that it can force the handset to use a profile if no other rule applies to other profiles. For instance, if you set the General profile as your default profile, the phone always switches to it if other rules haven’t been defined to activate the Silent profile.

The “New” option is practically useless as far as profile modification inside Handy Profiles is concerned, because selecting it displays the following message:

“Third-party applications cannot create and delete profiles due to security reasons. You can do this in standard Profiles application. Do you want to start it now?”

The nice point about both Handy Profiles and Best Profiles is that they can activate different profiles based on the rules you specify; however, Handy Profiles is rather limited in terms of rule provision. Neither does it allow users to move back and forth among rules in different tabs. You should specify rules for each profile separately by selecting the “Edit rules” option. Handy Profiles allows three rule types via the “New” submenu of the Rules window:

  • Time interval,
  • Calendar entry,
  • Location.

I’ve talked about the “Time interval” option above, but the one offered here is much more flexible in that it can accept both the start/end times and the days in which profile activation should occur. The “Calendar entry” option allows you to specify a word which is to be found in your calendar entries. You can specify the location which is to be searched for the key word – Subject, location, description, anywhere. Whenever your pre-specified key word gets attached to a calendar entry, the profile for which you’ve created that rule gets activated. The “New location” entry functions in affiliation with GSM cells. That is, the application searches for your current GSM cell and, upon your initial confirmation, activates a profile whenever that cell is reached. You can also select a previously found cell or several cells for this to happen. This is not an accurate method of profile switching, but it proves to be quite useful for many occasions. The more rules you specify, the better you can customize automatic profile switching because each rule does its own job without taking into account what other rules are supposed to do.

Handy Profiles offers a handy feature via its Settings window which customizes the behavior of the Power key when it’s either pressed or held down. This setting, missing in Best Profiles, can help you switch to Handy Profiles or the standard profile list when you press the Power key. Quite astonishingly, you can select to switch to Handy Profiles when you hold down the Power key – this prevents the long press of Power key from switching off the handset! Finally, there’s no way of actually shutting down Handy Profiles as the phone starts because the application doesn’t allow you to disable it, and this should be achieved by killing it via an application like Best TaskMan — Handy Taskman can’t simply do it.

Best Profiles

Before using Best Profiles, you should turn it on by pressing “Key 1″ to access the menu options. This means that you can easily prevent Best Profiles from taking over your profiles when the need arises – not implemented in Handy Profiles. Found in the humble Applications folder, Best Profiles displays five tab sheets:

  • Profiles,
  • Schedules,
  • Calendar rules,
  • GSM locations,
  • Charger rules.

The first tab, “Profiles”, displays the list of system profiles. Pressing “Key 1″ on each profile displays the following options:

  • Turn off/Turn on,
  • Activate, submenu:
    • Activate,
    • Activate at,
    • Activate after,
    • Activate for,
    • Activate and lock,
    • Activate and lock for.
  • Advanced settings,
  • Switch to, submenu:
    • Profiles,
    • Schedule,
    • Calendar rules,
    • GSM locations,
    • Charger rules.
  • About,
  • Help,
  • Exit.

Unlike Handy Profiles, Best Profiles provides a wide range of options at the time of activating a profile. The Activate submenu is capable of controlling how long a profile should remain active or when it should become activated. Both “Activate and lock” and “Activate and lock for” options help users activate a certain profile and at the same time stop the processing of other rules, meaning you can simply activate a profile without worrying about the interference of other profile rules, and this can be done with or without a timer. Needless to say, when a profile is active, an icon appears to its right.

The Schedules tab is a versitle tool for defining various rules by which profiles would be activated or deactivated. Again, the flexibility you see here cannot be observed in the more expensive app: Handy Profiles. If you select the “New” option from the menu, you can modify the following fields:

  • Activate time — (specify a time),
  • Condition — (specify a day or several days),
  • Profile — (specify a profile name),
  • Priority – (specify the level),
  • Allow deactivate – (no or yes).

If “Allow deactivate” is set to “Yes”, you can select to activate either the previous profile or another system profile. Moreover, pressing “Key 1″ in this tab reveals another option titled “View today rules). This is a convenient way of monitoring the profiles which are to be activated on a specific date along with their rules. Very exciting, isn’t it? This is also present in the next tab: Calendar rules. The Calendar rules tab is very similar to the same feature found in Handy Profiles; however, unlike Best Profiles, Handy Profiles can specify the place where searching should be executed. Again, you can opt to restore a previously used profile in this tab. The “GSM locations” tab sheet offers the features found in Handy Profiles, with the exception that Best Profiles can specify the activation condition – “on enter” or “on exit”.

The fifth and final tab sheet, “Charger rules”, allows you to switch to a profile whenever you plug or unplug the charger. It has two rules titled “Charger on” and “Charger off”, respectively, and their default state is set to “Don’t change”. Can you locate such a thing in Handy Profiles?

Where “advanced settings” enter the stage

If the focus is in the first Best Profiles tab sheet, you can modify several important settings by selecting “Advanced settings” from the menu. Let’s take a look at these seven settings without providing any description whatsoever:

  • Wallpaper – don’t change,
  • Sound on activate – no sound,
  • Sound volume,
  • Bluetooth – don’t change,
  • Backlight – normal,
  • Run application – no application,
  • Theme – don’t change.

Imagine being able to activate a certain application, turn on Bluetooth, switch to a different theme and alter the wallpaper without any intervention at the time of activating a certain profile. Best Profiles is capable of doing all of these. What’s more, it can be set to close the app it has opened or enable Bluetooth with or without the “visible” mode.

Which one do you prefer?

I’m not sure about your choice as you might want to give both apps a try, but my favorite is “Best Profiles” with its advanced activation rules, advanced settings, schedules and multiple/easily accessible tabs. Handy Profiles can nicely take over the behavior of the Power key, but it lacks Best Profile’s wide range of features such as charger rules and application switching. Both apps offer comprehensive program help as they are installed on your handset. At the time of this writing, Best Profiles costs $11.95 and Handy Profiles costs €19.95. Again, the price tag is a tad in favor of Best Profiles, but don’t forget to try them on your own before making a purchasing decision.

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