Microsoft's My Phone has been in open beta for several months now. With today's Windows Mobile 6.5 launch, My Phone emerges with a few new features.

For those not familiar with My Phone, it is a mostly (details in a second) free, over-the-air backup system for your Windows phone. According to Microsoft, My Phone "is a service that helps users organize information, back up data and share information more easily between the Web and Windows phones."

With the official launch of My Phone, Microsoft has added a few more features to the service beyond being a backup system. Follow the break for information on My Phone as well as the new features.

Backing up data

The core function of My Phone remains as a backup system for your Windows phone. You can automatically schedule a backup of your data and files (calendar, contacts, messages, photos, music, videos, etc.) or manually back up this information.

Setting up My Phone is easy. First you need to install the application on your Windows phone by pointing your browser to If you have a Windows Live account, you can use that to establish your My Phone account, or create a new account during the installation process.

Once installed, you are taken through a setup wizard where you can choose what will be backed up and the frequency of any automatic backups. The usual caveat with My Phone remains: If you if you're already synchronizing data over Exchange, My Phone won't be able to back up that same data. Same goes if you're using the Google Mobile Sync, as it uses the Exchange protocol. But, say, you're using Exchange for e-mail but don't have it sync contacts or calendar. Then you're golden.

Online Web Portal

My Phone offers a Web portal to access the data you've backed up, and you can modify contacts and appointments there as well. The next time you back up your data, the changes will be synchronized. If you back up photos, you can share them with friends and family as well as post them to social networking sites such as Facebook.

New Features

Beginning today (Oct. 6, 2009), My Phone offers new security features. If you should lose your phone, you have the ability through the Web Portal to:

  • Remotely lock your phone and display a "If found, contact ..." message
  • Remotely erase your phone (i.e. hard reset)
  • Map the last known location of your Windows Phone
  • Ring your phone even if it's set to vibrate
  • Find your phone's current location (i.e. real-time tracking)

The last known location of your Windows phone is the location from which the last synchronization took place.

We made mention that Microsoft may be charging for some of My Phone's services. These fees only involve some of these security features that are considered "premium."  Premium features include locking the phone, erasing the data (e.g. hard reset), remotely ringing the phone, and real time location that can be mapped.

Microsoft will charge $4.99 when these premium services are used. If you don't use these features, you won't be charged. There will be a free trial period until Nov. 30, 2009.  After that, the $4.99 charge kicks in.

Trial period or not, the fee is minimal to help ensure the safety and security of your Windows phone. And if you never have to use these services, you won't be charged.

Overall thoughts

My Phone is a great way to back up your Windows phone data, have access to that data online, and protect/recover lost or stolen phones. The best part of MyPhone is, that asides from the premium security services, it's free. I don't mind the fee for premium services and if my Windows phone is stolen, I would gladly pay $4.99 to know my data was erased before it was used as ill gotten gain.

The downside to My Phone is that it isn't able to back up any data that is already synced through an Exchange Server. Many Windows phones, through work or similar situations, are connected to an Exchange server as a necessity. That said, you can make use of its other sync features for photos and video, which may be enough.