T-Mobile Shadow getting unfairly dissed in the press

I was reading one of my favorite mobile sites, Mobility Site, and saw that NY Times writer David Pogue apparently had a chance to try out the T-Mobile Shadow and provided his thoughts. I am not quite sure how much time he actually spent with the device since I think he missed a few features on the Shadow and made some statements about Windows Mobile 6 that may give people the wrong impression about the operating system.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

I was reading one of my favorite mobile sites, Mobility Site, and saw that NY Times writer David Pogue apparently had a chance to try out the T-Mobile Shadow and provided his thoughts. I am not quite sure how much time he actually spent with the device since I think he missed a few features on the Shadow and made some statements about Windows Mobile 6 that may give people the wrong impression about the operating system. Regular readers know that I am fairly agnostic when it comes to mobile operating systems and use whichever one lets me get the job done at the time, as seen by my regular usage of Windows Mobile, Palm, Apple, and S60 devices. I try hard to give a balanced view of each OS. Honestly though, we all have our preferences when it comes to mobile devices so it is tough to be completely unbiased and I wouldn't expect people not to have some bias.

Now back to Pogue's thoughts on the Shadow. I will try to address each observation he made and add my commentary that reflects my usage of the Shadow after a full week. I am also adding a second YouTube video to go along with my first impressions article that shows you more of the user aspects of the device, such as the indicators and most recently used applications feature. BTW, I wrote 90% of this article on the train ride home on the Shadow because it was the most capable document creation device in my gear bag and I wanted to create this article while his statements were clear in my head. I did have the iPhone connected via WiFi so I could view the article as I wrote on the Shadow.

1. T-Mobile Shadow designer: I am trying to verify if the T-Mobile chief executive really did drive the design of the Shadow because as I understand it from this Microsoft site HTC and Microsoft worked together on the Neo UI that is so prominent on the device. Maybe the T-Mobile executive drove the hardware design while Microsoft and HTC worked together on the software implementation.

2. Design statements of the hardware: I completely agree that the hardware of the T-Mobile Shadow is sweet with a great feel and size.

3. 20 key keyboard: While there may be the occasional mistake, the Windows Mobile predictive text input technology is very good. See my article on the T-Mobile Wing for some details on how amazing the predictive text technology really is in Windows Mobile 6. There are even 6 custom settings in XT9 settings where you can toggle spell correction, next word prediction, auto-append, auto-substitution, word completion, multitap word completion. And for proper names and unusual words you can quickly add them to the dictionary, the software even prompts you with the Add Word? question. I admit it took me about 4 to 5 days to get the hang of this suretype keyboard, but now I am very fast with it and as I mentioned I wrote most of this article in Word Mobile in 45 minutes on the train.

4. More hardware features, display, bluetooth, WiFi: Unlimited data is cheap with T-Mobile, US$20/month with a calling plan, and access to their WiFi HotSpots is a nice bonus that helps take the sting off of only having EDGE for wireless data. Bluetooth stereo headset support is a great feature, especially given the fact that the Shadow has the proprietary HTC port for wired headsets. Wouldn't it be nice if the iPhone had Bluetooth wireless support too?

5. Turning the device on: I was quite surprised that Pogue wasn't quite impressed since the new home screen UI is very impressive and virtually all primary functions are presented right up in your face and are not hidden in the operating system. This is the kind of experience we have been asking for for quite some time and frankly the home screen is what is keeping the device in my hand and one of the primary reasons I paid almost $300 for the Shadow. As I detailed in my first impressions, you can do almost everything you want without really even getting into the guts of Windows Mobile 6. Given that most people don't install 3rd party apps they may never even see the settings menu.

6. Wait cursor: I wonder if Pogue has a beta device because I have rarely seen the spinning cursor on the Shadow and that is after heavy usage and more than 10 3rd party apps loaded on the device. I have never seen it while just switching screens, which is where he seems to find it most annoying. The Shadow has a very capable 200 MHz processor and a very generous 256 MB ROM and 128 MB RAM. I think these are the highest specs for a WM Standard device.

7. Flash browser: What mobile device can play all Flash videos? You can always install the free Opera Mini 4 browser since the Shadow supports Java if you need more than IE Mobile.

8. Deleting text messages: You can delete from the message list, but David is right that you can't delete it with a soft key press. There are only 2 soft keys so I think the right choices are there, reply and menu. Most people will reply to text messages they receive rather than deleting them. It is a one button press to delete them in message list where you see all your text messages. You can also simply press and hold the number 7/C/V key for a half second to delete the text message. There is a great Tips & Tricks pamphlet included with the Shadow that has these and lots more keyboard and button shortcuts.

9. Speakerphone toggle: You only have to press and hold the send button to toggle the speakerphone and don't have to use the menu options. Granted, this isn't always advertised well, but people who have used Windows Mobile devices know this method.

10. Sending photos: On the T-Mobile Shadow you can just press in on the center action button to send a photo to your online repository. You can do more with them in the menus if you want and it really is a simple menu system. Don't you have to open a menu to send a picture on an iphone too? Actually, there are more steps to complete on the iPhone to send a photo than there are on the Shadow.

11. Task manager: While thee is a task manager I have never used it on the Shadow since there is ample memory and it is managed by the OS quite well. Why does the iPhone have stocks on it when I never care to check them? Extra apps and utilities are regularly added for different user preferences, but it doesn't mean they are always needed.

12. Auto-format phone numbers and ZIP codes: Yes, the phone number could be automatically formatted and the ZIP code too and I think this would be an easy fix for U.S. devices. However, these HTC devices are available around the world so people in other countries may like to be able to enter a different number format or letters in ZIP code field. This is really just a minor annoyance and there are tons of these on all mobile device platforms.

13. OK/action button: This is an interesting statement on the center action button and I always thought of it more as a select button rather than an OK button. I'll have to check out its functionality more, but the usage of it as a select button has served me well.

14. myFaves: You can only change your myFaves contacts once a month so i have no problem double and triple checking if I am sure about the contact and their number. I actually found the default area code was wrong for one of my contacts and thankfully the prompting had me correct it before I set is as one of my 5. You rarely access or change these so I hope T-Mobile keeps this checking in place and don't find this an issue to complain about.

15. Four presses for More apps: You can just use the scroll wheel to go down through all the apps loaded on your device, too bad you can't load apps on the iPhone yet, and if you want to go back a page you simply press the back key. Would you prefer to have tiny icons so you could view all of your apps on a single screen? It doesn't make sense to do this and since Windows Mobile devices have the ability to load lots of applications you need to have a way to view these easily and reasonably.

16. Locking the buttons: I think it is essential to have the ability to lock the buttons on the device and T-Mobile makes this easy by sliding closed the slider and then selecting Yes. You can select No and turn off the time-out for the device so it doesn't ever lock, but if you are putting the device in your pocket or gear bag I don't recommend this since you may inadvertently place calls to people you don't want to. How is the button press and finger slide on the iPhone any better than the simple press of the left soft key and Home button that you can do with your thumb with one hand? You can't even turn off this functionality on the iPhone, where you can simply disable any locking of the Shadow with a simple setting change.

17. Office documents: While you may not be able to create Word and Excel documents out of the box, you can install the simple MoDaCo DoNew utility and then create docs on the device (see my video for a demo). With the iPhone I can only view documents sent in an email since there isn't even a basic file explorer to manage docs on the iPhone.

18. Scroll wheel: I rarely use the scroll wheel and wish T-Mobile and HTC would have used a wheel with a coating similar to the back to give it some grip for my thumb.

Conclusion: I admit that Windows Mobile 6 isn't perfect, but then again no mobile operating system is today. I think that HTC and Microsoft did an excellent job at making a high-powered, functional mobile operating system user friendly that is not baffling or complicated. It can get a bit challenging once you dive into Windows Mobile 6, but with the new Neo home screen there is little need for common users to dive into the details and the T-Mobile Shadow sets the standard for a user-friendly Windows Mobile experience.

UPDATE: I just read another article over at Yahoo! News where the reviewer actually thought the Shadow was a decent device. The author had two primary issues he did not like, the locking of the phone keys and the proprietary headset jack. Actually, you can enable the Shadow to lock when you close the slider. Go to Settings>Slide and Key Lock and then enable the Manual lock. Now when you close the slider the phone will ask if you want to lock the phone. You can press the left soft key for Yes or the right key for No and if you just ignore the prompt it will lock after about 5 seconds just like you desire. You can also use the Slide and Key Lock settings to select your answer and hang-up mode so the slider becomes quite useful.

I too do not like the proprietary HTC audio jack and would like to see a standard 3.5mm headset jack found on some mobile devices. However, the Bluetooth stereo profile is included and it is very simple to use. I don't quite understand the author's comment about "cryptic indicators and controls". I simply paired my headset and then just selected play in the media player to listen to music on the train and my walk to work this morning. It is very nice to not have cables hanging all over my jacket and makes for a very nice listening experience.

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