REVIEW: Latest, just-released version of Bluetooth chatter / Bluejacking app Sniper

Ever wanted to use the Bluetooth capabilities of your Pocket PC for local (text) messaging and file transfer, including local broadcasting? Take a look at Sniper, which is a comparatively new, constantly updated native Bluetooth messenger utility.

Unfortunately, there are very few local Bluetooth-based applications on the Pocket PC platform. As has pointed out in my article on Microsoft (MS) Portrait, the only really usable, Bluetooth-capable, internet-less text messaging / file transfer application, Portrait isn’t able to work over the Microsoft Bluetooth stack, only over real TCP/IP networks (including BT PAN and Wi-Fi P2P), which the Microsoft Bluetooth stack doesn't support because it lacks support for the Bluetooth Personal Area Network (PAN).

The same stands for the very similar but already abandoned Gphone . Finally, the other two, similar applications, ProximityMail and Bluetooth Chat, are no longer supported and have never really worked. (Note that I elaborate on the latter two apps and, particularly, the current, similar project of the developer of the former in the Appendix at the end of this article.)

At last: native Microsoft Bluetooth stack messaging solution; on the other hand, some compatibility problems

The new application is definitely good in that it supports the Microsoft Bluetooth stack, as opposed to Microsoft Portrait. If you have a device with the Microsoft Bluetooth stack, you’ll certainly welcome the new application – at last, a local native Bluetooth messaging solution that doesn’t require Wi-Fi peer-to-peer networks or an active Internet connection.

Unfortunately, it has some severe problems. First, while the homepage of the application advertises the app as PPC2k2+-compliant, it doesn’t seem to work with pre-WM5 Windows Mobile operating systems. I’ve tested all the available versions with both Pocket PC 2002, WM2003 and WM2003SE. I've made some example screenshots (see this and this) to show you it doesn't work: as can be seen, the installer can’t even install the WM5-only CAB files.

Furthermore, it’s incompatible with Widcomm/Broadcom Bluetooth stack-based devices like all HP iPAQ Pocket PC's (an example screenshot of it refusing running on the hx4700 is here), the Fujitsu-Siemens T800 series, the Acer n series and, of course, the Widcomm-hacked, WM5-based Dell Axim x50(v)/x51(v)'s. This is a very bad problem: developers of Bluetooth applications should at last notice that, as has already been pointed out in my articles (example here), Broadcom has in the meantime made its WinCE SDK freely available.

Available versions and differences between them; Bluejacking support in the trial version

There are two versions worth mentioning; first, of course, the latest one, 1.2.368, available here.

Bluejacking (see this article for a complete description), one of the most important and innovative (no other Pocket PC application is capable of this) feature of the application, is completely disabled in the latest, above-linked version. Older versions (for example, version 1.1.237 available here at ClickApps), however, still support this functionality in the demo, except mass-sending more than one file at a time. That is, if you want to give this functionality a try in the demo version (I certainly recommend it), get the older version.

Some examples of it in action

A Pocket PC device discovering two other Pocket PC’s.

Compared to MS Portrait or any other TCP/IP-based chatter application (including IRC clients), its chat feature is a bit more complicated to use. This is how it happens in practice: Sending a message: step 1, step 2. On the receiving end, you get it (note that if you see it this way, it means you’ve forgotten to disable the auto-receive of incoming beam) and save it. If you answer Yes, you’ll be taken to the messages; it's only then that you'll be able to read it. There, you can, for example, reply to the sender.

Examples of file transfer (sending files) 1, 2 3 (sending multiple files like this doesn’t work in the demo). At the receiving end, they’re saved in the pre-set save directory.

An example of bluejacking.

Verdict

If you want local chatting with other Microsoft BT stack-based Pocket PC's or non-Windows Mobile Bluetooth phones, give it a try. If you can’t use a Wi-Fi peer-to-peer connection (or full Internet connectivity) between your WM5 Microsoft BT stack-based devices, give it a try. If you want to do some bluejacking, give it a try. Otherwise, particularly if you have a pre-WM5 or Widcomm/Broadcom-based device, stick with the free MS Portrait.

Appendix: What about ProximityMail and Bluetooth Chat?

Unfortunately, the other two native (non TCP/IP-based, unlike MS Portrait and Gphone) Bluetooth messaging applications, ProximityMail and Bluetooth Chat (latest, tested, still available versions 1.44 and 0.5b, respectively) are both useless and no longer developed.

The former, ProximityMail, will never be updated; the developer, Inventop Corp, has removed all references to the product, including even the old download link (also see this). Its successor, BUZZeeBee (see the homepage for more info), still only has a desktop PC version. (They have been promising the Pocket PC version for months; there is still no sign of it).

The latter, Bluetooth Chat by Andrey Demidov, hasn’t been updated for three years and also seems to be completely abandoned. Needless to say, it has never really worked either.

UPDATE (04/19/2007): check out THIS for some brand new alternative software; for example, the really promising Bluezard.

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