Windows Mobile: it drove me to insanity

Whichever idiot, or set of idiots who thought up the idea of rivalling Palm to create a handheld version of Windows, should be taken outside to a quiet corner of the campus and shot. I have had the "luxury" of spending two weeks with a Windows Mobile phone, the HTC Touch Pro and I have no enjoyed it.

The HTC Touch Pro running Windows Mobile 6.1 - a deadly combination
Whichever idiot, or set of idiots who thought up the idea of rivalling Palm to create a handheld version of Windows, should be taken outside to a quiet corner of the campus and shot. I have had the "luxury" of spending two weeks with a Windows Mobile phone, the HTC Touch Pro and I have no enjoyed it. I persevered because I wanted to make it two weeks, but ended up giving it up after 10 days.

I'd rather have my testicles clamped between two iPhone's with maximum force than use either the Windows Mobile interface, or any other HTC touch-enabled product. I've made it perfectly clear how I feel about touch-computing; quite honestly I believe it's the root of all evil.

The major problem is the Windows Mobile operating system isn't suited enough to the host device it runs on. Back in the day when HP made the iPAQ, this was enough to run a basic version of Windows Mobile and it didn't crash, break, malfunction or blow up in your face. As custom network operators, third-party clients and the lack of external software verification has led Windows Mobile into a ditch it can't climb out of.

There is a full screenshot gallery of the awful HTC Touch Pro running the most horrible Windows Mobile software here.

Because of this, there are bugs left, right and center. Even sliding open the device which then rotates the screen clockwise causes issues. It can't seem to render the display properly, thus leaving out vital parts of the screen until it catches up - like the Start menu. There's no easy way to make phone calls either, a key feature I'm sure you will agree in a mobile device.

Click for larger image
Instead, you have go to to the Start menu and select the Phone applications. What if you're in an emergency? If you're wearing gloves, you won't be able to tap anything because the screen is crap and the icons are very small. No wonder most people are annoyed when they first set up their phones; they're too complicated, fiddly, far too many settings and this drags people down. This slows people down, especially students who rely almost entirely on their mobile phones.

I gave this phone to my 5 year-old goddaughter last week, and she got more out of the device than I did. An interesting feature as part of the phone system is 20 seconds into a phone call, the screen will turn off so you don't hit the "End Call" button with your face. But when trying to hang up the phone, you can't just press the red button at the bottom right of the device; oh no, you have to turn it on, enter in your device lock code (or not if you turned it off), navigate from the Today screen and press the "End Call" button on-screen yourself. This can take anything from 10-20 seconds.

The keyboard, albeit looks small, but works surprisingly well. The buttons are rubber squares raised upon clicky buttons at a fraction of the size underneath, so you don't get a full clicking feeling, which makes people feel more confident when typing. The keys, however, are big enough to type with and fat fingers are no excuse.

But forget the hardware for the moment, because the hardware is irrelevant. It's the operating system which has the issues.

To put it simply, I wouldn't feel too confident in using a device of which has a customer experience improvement application, "in case things go whoopsy". Windows Mobile does, which doesn't fill me with confidence knowing that my phone might crash, and therefore will help to make future versions not crash as much.

Email can be a bit of a nightmare as well. The mail folder tree presumes you're using Outlook, and expects you to synchronise your desktop with your mobile. Well I didn't want to, and busy students will be on the go, and like me, probably don't want an undeletable account in their folder list. Quite honestly, having this extra burden of folders made me slightly anxious and nauseous just considering using ActiveSync or Windows Mobile Device Center.

Personally I thought "ActiveSync" was a much better name...

Considering this is meant to be a developed technology, it doesn't automatically connect to wireless networks, nor will it let me save networks. I travel between university, work, the coffee shop by Westgate, and my home, and Windows Mobile can't distinguish between these. Every single time you pick up a wireless network, you have to configure it and it's a pain in the arse.

Printing is a key part of essay submission; if you can't print it, you often can't hand it in (without the aid of a concessions form, that is). If you're lucky, you'll be given an application pre-installed on your Windows Mobile device which lets you wirelessly search a network for a printer. In theory, it works, but it doesn't. I've tried on a number of "compatible devices" and it won't let me print. Why have a feature in a device which is all but redundant?

And finally, the touch screen features. God help me, I was ready to throw this lump of junk at a brick wall. I became so infuriated with the constant need to use the crap touch screen features that at one point, I actually wept with anger.

Some may experience the new TouchFLO 3D features in Windows Mobile, exclusive to HTC products. What surprises me is the memory provided by HTC in the Touch range, because from my experience, if one device can barely run TouchFLO 3D, how do the rest? With a poxy 256MB memory, it wasn't enough to sufficiently run the touch features (even if I would want to).

But even with touch enabled technology, it's difficult to navigate your way through the device. The gallery images may show the screen to be high resolution, and you'd be right in saying that it is. However in reality, the screen is incredibly small and is reflected in a number of mobile devices running Windows Mobile. You try and press one thing and the other side of your finger pushes down on another one.

Should Microsoft buy Palm? Yes, oh God yes, because if anyone can lead the market, it'll be Palm. They've had the upper hand for years, as a company which has been making PDA's since the last century.

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