End of the line for my T-Mobile HD2, I just can't take Windows Mobile anymore

I was enthusiastic about the launch of the T-Mobile HTC HD2 and at first most people will be impressed and awed by the device and experience. However, the device actually served to make me realize it is time to stop fighting and give up on Windows Mobile.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

For several years I have been a fan of the Windows Mobile platform, even when others told me to give it up and go with a more modern operating system. I was pretty lucky to have fairly stable devices and thought the T-Mobile HTC HD2 would be the pinnacle of my Windows Mobile usage with an amazing set of specifications. After several long years, I am now at the point that I am done with Windows Mobile until I see what Windows Phone 7 presents. What caused me to give up now? You may not believe this, but it actually was the T-Mobile HD2. I was quite excited when I was able to pick up an HD2 at the new subscriber price of $200 last month and for the first couple of weeks I was overcome by the fantastic 4.3 inch high resolution capacitive display and hardware. However, I have spent the last 10 days or so in near constant frustration every time I tried using the HD2 and I am just tired of the lock screen freezes, scattered operating system menus and pieces, inconsistent media experiences, limited 3rd party application availability, and more.

The T-Mobile HD2 seems to work best if you do not load up any 3rd party applications and keep it in stock configuration, but even then over time the device starts to drag and has many of these issues I listed below. There was quite a bit of excitement in the store on launch day and T-Mobile has been selling out regularly, but I am now very interested in seeing how many people returned their devices in sheer frustration.

Exchange experience

One of the main reasons I kept using a Windows Mobile device was the top notch Exchange support, but as I mentioned in my recent HTC Incredible post HTC has provided an Exchange experience with Sense 2.5 that meets 98% of my Exchange needs and thus I no longer need to use Windows Mobile for this functionality. Actually, the experience on Android is more user friendly and presents my data in a better format than on Windows Mobile.

Is it cold in here or what?

At least once over the last two weeks when I picked up the HD2 to use it I would press the power button and get to the lock screen only to discover I could not unlock the device (with a slide left or right). I had to pop the battery out to reset it and in today's day and age you should not have to do this with a modern high end smartphone.

I also have experienced regular freezes after launching an application as the device just sits there with the WM colors popping on the screen. I don't blame Microsoft either for all these freezes as the version of Sense on the HD2 seemed to consume way too many resources and I could sometimes get to the Start/application launcher screen without getting back out to the Sense/Today screen tabbed interface. Again, how in the world can a 1GHz Snapdragon processor device perform this poorly?

WM or HTC apps, who knows?

Even though HTC has done an admirable job of hiding Windows Mobile 6.5 (not even the latest version) on the HD2 there still exists several areas where menus and drop downs are barely usable with a capacitive display (such as in the time format selector). You will also find several HTC utilities that try to serve as the default programs and for the most part they are decent (Contacts, Calendar ), but the default Windows Mobile ones are still sprinkled throughout the device as well.

Speaking of sprinkled throughout, the Start page/launcher is a mess with some apps and utilities embedded in non-customizable folders and others placed on the main page. You can only move them up and down the page and that is it. I thought I would be smart and go into the File Explorer to move shortcuts around and create custom folders, but then I discovered in many cases that I then had multiple shortcuts in the Start page making things even messier than they already were.

You mean you don't want three different video player experiences?

The T-Mobile HD2 comes loaded with MobiTV with the intention that you can stream TV channels and episodes for a monthly subscription fee. As you dive into the application you will see it is quite a mess and it is virtually impossible to find any full length shows and are instead presented with several 3-5 minute clips. If you find something to watch and start watching it then you better not answer a call or go anywhere else because when you come back you have to start all over at the beginning again. It was painful to use and I would never recommend a subscription with this current version.

I was pretty excited when I heard about BlockBuster being on the HD2 and rented The Blind Side to test out the experience. It was quick and easy to use on the device, but as soon as you start playing the movie you see Windows Media Player Mobile start up and that is the video player used due to the DRM requirement. Windows Media Player Mobile is ancient and I personally cannot stand it as a media player. The movie played decently with only an occasional lag in play, after making sure no other applications were running with the Task Manager.

HTC also provides a media player that is used for the two free Transformer movies. It is a basic player, but I honestly found it to be an enjoyable experience with great playback of the movies. You may also have movies that you converted to play on the HD2 and wish to view them with the HD2 player. You can do this, but it is not a straight forward process and you have to go through several layers of the file explorer in the Photos and Videos tab as I detailed here. Why couldn't we just have a movie player tab right in Sense on the Today screen interface?

Hello, are there any developers in here?

Windows Marketplace for Mobile launched in October 2009 and by my count on the site today there are 924 applications available (20 of these are books and 308 are games). This is pretty pathetic for an operating system that has been available for years. I know there are more applications available than this that can be purchased outside the Marketplace, but if you compare the Marketplace to other mobile operating system stores the Windows Marketplace falls well below all the rest and has the second highest average price. There are a few good applications, but honestly many cannot compete with the high quality apps we see on the Apple iPhone, Palm webOS, or Google Android platforms and after using apps on these the platforms Windows Mobile apps seem even more lame.

I was able to find many of the applications I enjoy using so I wasn't that concerned about the limited application availability, but the longer you use a platform the more limited it starts to feel. You also realize that there is not enough value in many of these applications to justify the premium price.

Will I miss anything?

I wanted to try out the free in-flight WiFi service, but I fly mostly to Alaska and there are no planes with support for the network so it is not practical to keep the device for that. The big screen is fantastic for GPS navigation with CoPilot Live 8, but I can run CoPilot on Android devices and Google Maps Navigation is very good. The large screen plays movies pretty well and movie watching was nice, but it is easier to get video content onto devices like the iPhone, iPad, and Zune. The Barnes & Noble eReader app was nice to have as well, but not necessary when I have so many other ways to enjoy books on the go.

I am past the return period and there are no other options other than to sell my HD2 so I will be putting it up on Craigslist soon. I could keep it and try out some experimental ROMs on the device, but I am pleased with my Palm Pre Plus and Google Nexus One so I won't spend any more time messing around with the device and let someone else try to make it work for them. I am also giving up on Windows Mobile for the next several months and will wait to see if Microsoft can win me back with Windows Phone 7 devices.

If you are on T-Mobile and are looking for a good high end smartphone, then I recommend you take a look at a device like the Google Nexus One before the HD2.

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