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Reflections on Windows Mobile 6 and my T-Mobile Wing

The other day I got my new T-Mobile Wing. This phone is a Windows Mobile 6 device with a pullout keyboard and a whole world of cool features. Last year I had the T-Mobile MDA, which didn't last me a week. This phone fixes a ton of the common problems with Windows Mobile devices, but not only the ones you normally think of. For example, this phone has an almost rubbery texture to it so it doesn't fly across the car and get stuck under my passengers seat every time I dodge someone trying to cut me off. I absolutely love this phone and it was the only phone in the past 4 years that met my EXTREMELY high standards for technology. Before this I was on the Nokia 3650 for many, many, many years and before that I would pre-order and overnight a new $500 cell phone each year directly from Taiwan. So, it takes a lot for me to switch to and keep a phone.

With regard to my service... in my world, a 1500 minute cell plan costs $40.00 with no concept of "US long distance" (i.e. every thing is the US is local) and no concept of roaming (i.e. I can call from anywhere). Period. I have a million features and upgrades on my account, but even with my T-Mobile Hotspot wireless access to every Borders and Starbucks in the world that gives me high speed wireless Internet for BOTH my cell phone AND my laptop, my bill is still under $80 *including taxes*. Of course I also have the ability to switch phones on a whim by flipping out my SIM card and putting it into my old phone. This comes in very handy. For example, I'm not bringing my new phone to the beach. I'll put my SIM card in one of my Symbian phones for the day. If you want to put up with calling someone to switch YOUR service to another one of YOUR phones, then be my guest. Furthermore, EDGE networking is faster than GPRS and even though it's slower than 3G I'm not an impatient child and I since I get WiFi access at every Borders and Starbucks (and apartment complex via an unsecured Internet router setup by someone who can't read a step-by-step, large-print wireless router setup poster) in the world, I have no problems with speed.

Now... for those of you with Windows Mobile 6 devices, may I recommend that if you want to be as cool as the people with the iPhone, then you should get a few things. First, you seriously need to check out the Picsel web browser. IEMobile is actually an OK browser, Opera also good, and Minimo (Mobile Firefox)... doesn't even pretend to work. Picsel and IEMobile together is the way to go for people like me who loves FREE (as in root beer) much more than FREE (as in speech). Using Picsel you can do some of the the cool stuff the iPhone people are doing like showing the FULL web page in your screen and zooming in and out of it with your finger. I find it absolutely amazing for doing my daily bank account monitoring via my bank's website. It also helps tremendously with my NewEgg.com shopping. iPhone's Safari is a very nice mobile browser, so you don't have all the features... but you have the essentials. Now, for things that have a really nice mobile interface... use IEMobile. There's no point in trying to view the entire Amazon.com in a screen of only 2-3 inches. That's rather intolerable. Viewing a full website newspaper on my phone is NOT something that appeals to me. The point is to get the result you want, not to have a fancy "full" webpage.

Google, Gmail, Google Calendar, Amazon.com, and my ESV Bible have amazing mobile interfaces. Amazon.com one is particularly nice as you can even read book reviews. This came in VERY handy when I was a Borders last night where I wanted to compare local prices with Amazon's and also check out the reviews. So, I whipped out my mobile and looked at the ratings and reviews for each of the books I wanted. Gmail is also incredible as a mobile website. I should note that Windows Mobile 6 supports Gmail as a mail service and that is my primary way of getting mail. I get Gmail notifications on my phone just like any other mail system, but I still like Gmail mobile for browsing the mail already in my box. Google Calendar and my ESV Bible also fit their purposes very well. They are both very minimalistic, but that's how I like it. For websites like these, IEMobile is actually much nicer than Picsel. Needless features and fanciness or ads don't really do it for me on my mobile device.

Also, how about that cool Google maps feature for the iPhone? Guess what... it's a free download from Google for you Windows Mobile device. You can zoom in and out and navigate as needed just as you would do from your desktop web browser. Windows Mobile 6 also comes with Windows Live which also does something similar, though I find their interface less intuitive.

With those two utilities I feel my need to have an iPhone subsided (and guess what... I have MMS and can install my own apps, including ones I've created using the .NET Framework!) However, there are two major things that make an iPhone an iPhone and I'm NOT going to list "it has a real operating system on it" as one. As cool as that is, it's pointless (where's the shell access?) First, the multi-touch surface. That's just insanely awesome. I have so many designs in my head for things I can do with Microsoft Surface it's not even funny anymore. I *NEED* Microsoft Surface now so I can start building my apps! I can't wait until I and throw away this stupid keyboard and mouse paradigm and start using an interaction system that's actually intuitive (ohhhh how I hate the keyboard-- and ohhh how I wish they would STOP putting a CAPS lock key on there-- it's the most worthless and pointless key ever thought up) Alas, I don't have any multi-touch with my Windows Mobile 6 device. Second, this phone uses a MicroSD card and the largest SD card that's affordable by mere mortals is a 2GB card. What? 2GB? That's NOTHING. The iPhone has 8GB of space and that will probably be doubled very soon. On the bright side though... I can install applications, documents, and data sources (i.e. XML or SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition databases) into my 2GB whereas the iPhone people can only download battery draining music and videos into their 8GB.

As a footnote, let me mention some non-free applications that I'm using. The first is one of the most amazing applications I've ever seen: NewsGator Go. I don't really like their desktop application and as software designer of the Google design school of thought I much prefer the minimalistic Google Reader over the Yahoo-ish NewsGator online. However, their mobile application is just great. To set it up I exported my OPML from my Google Reader and imported it into the online NewsGator and simply logged into my NewsGator Go. It automatically downloaded my settings and updated my RSS feeds. Now THAT'S good software design! I should NEVER be forced to do ANY setup of ANYTHING on my mobile device... Gosh I would LOVE to have a web interface on my desktop to access the Windows Mobile 6 settings.

The other application I use is one that I'm seriously growing addicted to: OneNote 2007 . At this point, I'm talking about the desktop version. It's basically like a personal wiki that just stores all your ANYTHING without you EVER needing to save. AGAIN, this is called good software design (are you taking notes?) Granted, this thing is in absolute desperate need of an online version with magically auto sync and without that feature I'm going to continue to use my own personal wiki to store all my important notes and drafts (BTW, in case you didn't know: MediaWiki is FREE and runs on Linux AND Windows; Apache AND IIS). Still, it does auto sync with OneNote Mobile on my Windows Mobile 6 Device. However (and this is a HUGE however), OneNote Mobile is completely worthless to me because there is absolutely NO option for "send this note". I'm not sure what the people were thinking when they designed that application, but that's fatal design flaw in the same category as Apple's forgetting to add MMS to the iPhone and the IE team forgetting that the W3C runs the web standards, not the IE team.

Lastly, I feel I should at least mention that Money 2006 for Windows Mobile is a free download from Microsoft's website. I'm a local, small town banking person as long as that local, small town bank has a website where I can track my money. I don't really need a WS-Security service to access my information, though that would be nice, but I do need a way to track my daily expenses without using Excel. Money 2006 for Windows Mobile fills this need for my very well.