The T-Mobile Wing's predictive text functionality beats the iPhone's technology

My first converged device was the MDA II Pocket PC Phone Edition that convinced me a device with integrated mobile phone functionality was the way to go. I then moved through a MDA II, i-mate JAM, MDA III, and HTC Wizard (aka T-Mobile MDA). However, several months ago I switched from these Phone Edition devices to a Windows Mobile Smartphone, the T-Mobile Dash, due to the well integrated QWERTY keyboard and improved operating system. The Windows Mobile Smartphone is still a bit limited in applications and functionality though so I have been checking out alternatives back in the Phone Edition arena. I did evaluate the HTC TyTN last year, but US$700 was a bit too rich for my gadget fund. I almost went back to the T-Mobile MDA for about US$250 when I found out the upgraded model was coming and was able to get my hands for a while on an evaluation unit of the T-Mobile Wing. As you can read in the full review, while the Wing may not have the cool iPhone UI it is able to do more and has AMAZING predictive text functionality that beats Apple's simple word correction mechanism.

My first converged device was the MDA II Pocket PC Phone Edition that convinced me a device with integrated mobile phone functionality was the way to go. I then moved through a MDA II, i-mate JAM, MDA III, and HTC Wizard (aka T-Mobile MDA). However, several months ago I switched from these Phone Edition devices to a Windows Mobile Smartphone, the T-Mobile Dash, due to the well integrated QWERTY keyboard and improved operating system. The Windows Mobile Smartphone is still a bit limited in applications and functionality though so I have been checking out alternatives back in the Phone Edition arena. I did evaluate the HTC TyTN last year, but US$700 was a bit too rich for my gadget fund. I almost went back to the T-Mobile MDA for about US$250 when I found out the upgraded model was coming and was able to get my hands for a while on an evaluation unit of the T-Mobile Wing. As you can read below, while the Wing may not have the cool iPhone UI it is able to do more and has AMAZING predictive text functionality that beats Apple's simple word correction mechanism.


 Image Gallery: Check out product photos and screenshots of the T-Mobile Wing in action.  
Image Gallery: T-Mobile Wing retail box
 
Image Gallery: T-Mobile Wing
 

Upon opening the compact T-Mobile box the first thing that strikes you about the T-Mobile Wing is its cool blue color and pleasing rubberized casing. This is the same covering found on the T-Mobile Dash and other new HTC devices (i.e. Treo 750 and 755p) and immediately makes the device something you want to hold in your hand. In comparison to the T-Mobile MDA, you will also find that the Wing is not as thick as the MDA, but it is more dense feeling (109 x 58 x 17.7 mm and 170 grams vs 108 x 58 x 24 mm and 161 grams). I found the construction of the T-Mobile Wing to be heartier and more solid while the spring-loaded slide up display to be much easier to use and more elegant.

Box Contents: Other box contents include a thick user manual, Quick Start Guide, Tips and Tricks pamphlet with loads of shortcuts and button press tips, warranty card, A/C adapter, USB sync/charge cable, screen protector, extra stylus, and decent belt clip carrying case. The stylus is a non-telescoping metal and plastic barrel design that has decent heft and works fine for me. The truth is with Windows Mobile 6 and all the available hardware buttons the stylus is really needed that often, but is nice to have as well for more powerful applications.

Hardware features: The keyboard is significantly improved with the now fairly standard HTC layout and Cap/Alt indicator lights (see my HTC Vox review for another example of this new HTC keyboard design). Sliding the display up, with the spring-loaded assistance, is smooth and solid. As the display slides up the screen automatically rotates into landscape mode and does it instantaneously. You can also set a sound to play when opening and closing if that appeals to you. The camera has been upgraded to 2 megapixel and actually takes some pretty decent shots as you can see in my recent Seattle pigs on parade photo walk that my daughter and I took. Battery life has also been reportedly bumped up 30% and I can easily go a full day with the Wing. Bluetooth A2DP is supported, but there are no longer stereo speakers on the Wing that sounded great on the MDA. The processor and RAM/ROM are the same and this is probably the most disappointing aspect of the device since 200 Mhz on a Phone Edition is just a bit too slow for power users. I would have like to have seen a 300 or 400 MHz processor and at least 20B more RAM since I tend to run out of memory if I run 5 to 6 applications and then try to use the camera. For standard users who don't use lots of applications like me I don't think this will really be much of an issue though.

Predictive text technology: The other major improvement in the T-Mobile Wing is the implementation of Windows Mobile 6. This new OS does speed things up, even with the 200 MHz processor, and has a lot of usability improvements that make using the device a good experience. People have been writing about and marveling over the iPhone keyboard and its auto correct feature, but I found the predictive functionality on Windows Mobile 6 to be even better than what I have seen in the Apple videos because Windows Mobile 6 actually will pop-up suggested words without even having you enter a single letter. For example, I wanted to write "The predictive text input method on the T-Mobile Wing is amazing." To enter this using the QWERTY keyboard the following are the ONLY letters I had to enter to create the entire sentence (with a tap or scroll up to select the predicted word); T-H-E-P-I-N-P-M-E-T-O-N-T-H-T-I-S-A-M-A. So that was 20 letters entered in a sentence that contains 53 letters. And even better, the software learns from you as you enter text and gets better and better at predicting what will be coming next. Truly AMAZING and great job with this Microsoft! I should also point out that this is a Windows Mobile 6 feature and is not just limited to the T-Mobile Wing.

Software in the ROM: Along with WM 6, T-Mobile and HTC included Microsoft Voice Command 1.6, HTC Task Manager, Adobe Reader LE, Bluetooth Explorer, HotSpot login utility (the device does have integrated 802.11 b/g WiFi), Instant Messaging application (for access to AIM, ICQ, and Yahoo Messenger), Java utility (great for Opera Mini 4), and Windows Live Search and Messenger. Voice Command 1.6 worked very well, even on this device with a rather limited processor, and I was able to dial contacts in hands-free mode, check the status of my phone, manage media, and much more without any voice training. A CD is included in the box with a trial version of Outlook 2007, ActiveSync 4.5, and electronic copy of the user guide. The T-Mobile Wing is also a myFaves compatible device, but I don't personally use this service so I didn't test it out.

3rd party applications: I wrote that I was looking for a Phone Edition/Professional device for 3rd party applications and so far I have the Wing's microSD card loaded to the hilt with Laridian PocketBible and at least 6 Bible versions/devotionals, MobiPocket ebook reader and 5 books, Google Maps, Opera Mini 4, Vox Mobile, Shozu, Virtual Earth Mobile, Handmark Express, ListPro, eWallet, SlingPlayer Mobile and a few games (Gamebox Sudoku, Joker's Quest, Gamebox Gems, Farkle Dice, WordPop!). It is very nice to have all these 3rd party applications in hand again and I have found them all to run fine on the T-Mobile Wing, with one exception. Handmark Express requires just about all the free RAM I have left and slows to a crawl on the device when updating and gives me frequent memory errors, even with it loaded on a microSD card and no other applications running.

Cost and availability: The T-Mobile Wing is available from T-Mobile for US$299.99 after US$150 instant discount and US$50 mail-in rebate. The full retail price is US$499.99, but I can get it for US$399.99 with a 2-year extension. I used up all my upgrade credits to get my T-Mobile Dash and my daughters' Sidekick and RAZR. I personally keep going back to using the device so I am seriously thinking about picking one up soon since it is a couple hundred less than the iPhone, has more functionality, and allows me to stay with T-Mobile. If there was more RAM I wouldn't hesitate and I can't believe the device cost would have been that much higher to increase the RAM at the factory. I have been with T-Mobile for over 5 years now and while they don't have 3G I have never had a dropped call and have been able to connect in Alaska, Hawaii, St. Croix and other places around the country and world without any problems and wonderful customer service.

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