Exchange on Sprint HTC Hero is good, but nothing beats Windows Mobile

Summary:One of the reasons I keep going back to Windows Mobile devices, like my T-Mobile Touch Pro2, is because the Exchange experience has always stood out from the pack. The iPhone and Palm Pre offer Exchange clients, thanks to licensing Microsoft EAS technology, but there are still a couple of capabilities lacking (meeting with attendee creation for one) that keep me going back to a WM device. I am testing a Sprint HTC Hero (review will be here Monday) and discovered that the included Exchange experience on this device is better in some respects than what a Windows Mobile device can offer, but a few key capabilities still hold it back. As I stated back when I was trying to figure out if one device could meet our desire to have a slick UI and all necessary functionality I chose the HTC Hero to be that devices and now as I get more and more hands-on time with it my statement seems justified. Let's take a look at why I think the Exchange experience is better for many people on the Hero than on other mobile devices.

One of the reasons I keep going back to Windows Mobile devices, like my T-Mobile Touch Pro2, is because the Exchange experience has always stood out from the pack. The iPhone and Palm Pre offer Exchange clients, thanks to licensing Microsoft EAS technology, but there are still a couple of capabilities lacking (meeting with attendee creation for one) that keep me going back to a WM device. I am testing a Sprint HTC Hero (review will be here Monday) and discovered that the included Exchange experience on this device is better in some respects than what a Windows Mobile device can offer, but a few key capabilities still hold it back. As I stated back when I was trying to figure out if one device could meet our desire to have a slick UI and all necessary functionality I chose the HTC Hero to be that devices and now as I get more and more hands-on time with it my statement seems justified. Let's take a look at why I think the Exchange experience is better for many people on the Hero than on other mobile devices.

Email

What is the same? The core functionality in an Exchange experience is support for email. On the Sprint HTC Hero you simply enter your Exchange ActiveSync server settings and then you will be connected to the server and emails should start appearing on your device. The default view is the Inbox, which you can sort by data, subject, sender, and size (very similar to Outlook on a PC). You can also switch and view emails stored in the folders you have setup on your Exchange server. While composing email you can use contacts stored on your device or access your company directory through Exchange.

What can the Hero do that WM can't? There are a couple of things that the Hero provides that a WM device can't. The main capability that may have me overlooking the shortfalls is the ability to view email by conversation, much like Gmail does in a web browser. The second tab over on the bottom toolbar is the Conversation filter that puts emails into a very easy to read conversation/threaded view. I personally LOVE this since this is how best to follow an email discussion and I wish this support was in every mobile Exchange client.

Other tabs on the Hero include flags and attachments so emails are quickly sorted with these attributes.

What can't the Hero do? One functiona that may be vital for many users is the ability to search your server for email and unfortunately this is not currently supported on the HTC Hero.

You also cannot set the schedule for syncing so it is either on or off. You can set the frequency, but cannot setup "working hours" like you can with Windows Mobile.

Calendar

Calendar synchronization is integrated into the default Calendar so you can see Exchange appointments alongside your Google calendar, much like what we see in Palm's WebOS with Synergy. You can actually have multiple Google calendars (family) appear and each database is color coded so it is easy to see the different calendars in the Day and Agenda views. The Month view doesn't provide much of anything and is rather lame, IMHO. There does not appear to be a Week view available, which could be quite helpful with multiple calendars.

One capability on the Hero not found on the iPhone is the ability to creating meetings and invite recipients from your Exchange server. When you do create these meetings though, you will not be warned of conflicts or provided a link to that day's schedule to check like you will find on a Windows Mobile device.

I have both personal (family) appointments and work appointments managed on my Exchange server and mark all personal ones as private. Unfortunately, appointment status is not supported either.

Contacts

The Contacts application is quite good on the Hero and allows you to have phone, Exchange, and Google contacts appear in a single application, with a filter to help distinguish them too. You can even set an overriding program to have duplicate contacts managed on the device. You can also setup and have your Facebook and Flickr contacts integrated onto the Hero and view status updates thanks to the People utility. It looks like just about all the fields you see in Outlook are available on the Hero and I don't see anything lacking on the Hero in regards to contacts.

Tasks

Task syncing is not supported on the HTC Hero so if you use this then you will need to look at Windows Mobile.

Overall

Overall, the Exchange support is quite good with some key functions being the conversations email view and multiple calendar support and viewability. However, without the ability to search the server for email, designate appointments as private, view your calendar in week mode, and setup scheduled hours for syncing Microsoft still has the winning solution on Windows Mobile devices. We see the iPhone, Palm WebOS, and Google Android operating systems moving faster than Windows Mobile so you will need to balance this speed with the Exchange functionality you need on the go to figure out which solution is best for you.

Be aware that you should also consider the TouchDown application that provides more Exchange functionality on the Android platform than what we see in the Hero (see my last post on my continued usage of TouchDown) and is very close to the Exchange experience on Windows Mobile.

Topics: Collaboration, Hardware, HTC, Mobile OS, Mobility, Operating Systems, Servers, Software, Telcos, Wi-Fi, Windows

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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