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Let's get one thing clear: we're fond of this CTIA Wireless conference we're headed to. Fond because it's a hotspot of Mobile gadgetry and, just as importantly, a hotbed of people who think clearly and deeply about what mobile gadgetry can do for our lives. It's all sponsored by, naturally, the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association, which is essentially a trade group representing all the heavy hitters in the mobile world.

There's a rub there, though, and it's not that we're filthy Communists who hate all corporations. We just have a love/hate with certain corporations because they so often limit the way we can (and should) use our mobile devices. The term here is “Walled Garden” and we've been railing against them basically since WMExperts has been founded. CTIA does bequeath a great conference unto us and does manage to do some lobbying for good for the companies that they represent -- but they also do lobbying for evil.

Evil you say? Then why truck with evil? Answers to both questions after the break.

Bad CTIA, Bad

Imagine if your ISP loaded a bunch of crapware onto your desktop and it was required for you to get online? Or if they actually kept your computer from being able to, say, use your preferred music program? Or kept it from using USB because they want to make sure you access your peripherals via a program they sell? Or replaced your Start Menu with stuff pointing to their for-pay services? This sort of thing is standard procedure in much of the smartphone and cellphone world, and it stinks.

Now What?

But WMExperts, if this makes you so angry, why don't you just boycott the conference? Good point -- but we're going to the conference for the same reason we use Smartphones -- there's just so much compelling stuff that we either put up with or find ways around the bad stuff. More importantly -- we go because we get to talk to other people about how the “bad stuff” is crap and think about ways to make these companies change.

The good news is that we're making progress. Both Verizon and then later AT&T have both found it necessary to open up (or at least claim they're opening up) their networks to a wider variety of apps and devices. Unlimited everything plans are a great step toward making your smarthphone's relationship with the internet identical to your computer's -- i.e. you pays your money and you gets your internet, you can buy services from your ISP if you like, but you don't have to.

So CTIA: we hate to break it to you, but the day is coming when the companies you represent are going to have to give up all these nefarious ways to add more revenue streams. They're going to have to become “dumb pipes.” And we can't wait. Meanwhile, we're happy to come to your house and eat your food. Yes, it makes us hypocrites and we do feel a little bad about that, but while we're at your house, eating your food, we'll be telling your kids that there's a better way to act.

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30

The Windows Mobile Interface

So this entry started as a simple post about how Laptop Mag [via Ciccone] has scored an interview with HTC CEO Peter Chou about HTC's plans for 2008. It's turned into an analysis of why I think the Windows Mobile interface works (and doesn't work) the way that it does and ends with 5 suggestions for Microsoft to improve it. Sometimes these things just sneak up on you.

First, let's get that interview out the way. Quite a bit of it is Android-centric (since that's due later this year), but there's plenty of crunchy Windows Mobile goodness to, er, crunch:

The Windows Mobile platform has a lot of good stuff inside, but the user interface has not been easy. It is very techy and not intuitive. HTC decided to innovate on the user experience, so we launched the HTC Touch and it was a great success. [emphasis mine]

Here's one other tidbit that Chou drops:

This year, we are coming out with even more exciting new product innovations, and we are more focused on the mobile Internet experience. Mobile Internet is going to be key in terms of making the experience more successful.

Will HTC fix our browser problem before Microsoft does? Ponder that for a second, then read on for my thoughts (and rants) about the Windows Mobile interface!

Lizard Brain Intuition

Ok, with regard to that first part of Chou's quote, that the interface is “very techy and not intuitive.” Seems like the time to mount a full throated defense of the WM interface. But no: Chou is right. Although there are some intuitive elements to Windows Mobile (i.e. “Just start typing” to find stuff in contacts, email), they're the kind of “intuitive” that aren't immediately discoverable. Which is the opposite of what “intuitive” is supposed to mean. A contradiction, right? Right.

“Intuitive” is different for different contexts. Here's what intuitive usually means: The ideal interface would somehow get into our lizard brains and we would “get” it like we “get” how to pick up a rock. That's an intuitive interface: a freaking rock. Pick it up, throw it, break stuff. Advanced users: skip it across the water. The iPhone and TouchFLO are much closer to that “lizard brain” intuition than Windows Mobile by dint of their “just touch/move parts around” interface. Microsoft needs to catch up in this field in the worst way. Chou is exactly right, WM is not intuitive in that sense.

“System Intuition”

But there are other kinds of “intuitive interfaces” that we learn very early and though they might not be based on our instinctual lizard brain, they are learned deeply enough that they may as well be “intuitive.” The mouse on your computer is a good example. Sure, there's a “move stuff” metaphor there, but clicking for selecting is the sort of thing you have to learn, but once you do you can apply it in all sorts of scenarios. Same thing for the “right click” on the desktop. A little weird, but once you get that you can generally click the right mouse button for “other options” it can become second nature.

I'll call it “system intuition” even though there's almost surely an actual term for this kind of learned, quasi-intuitive interface knowledge. I just don't know it. If you do - please educate me via the comments!

Driving a manual transmission car, operating various faucets via knobs and levers, dialing a telephone. All learned interfaces that aren't immediately intuitive but become learned so deeply that they may as well be.

Windows Mobile can have this kind of System Intuition for “Pro” users. It often can't for most others. This is a problem.

Windows Mobile is not Windows

The fundamental problem with the interface on Windows Mobile is that Microsoft attempted to leverage our desktop “system intuition” for the smartphone. In theory, this isn't all that bad of an idea. There's a comfort level to mapping an already-known interface to another context. It also can bring along certain associations that can be helpful to the new context. So, for example, a smartphone that you interact with “like Windows” might feel inherently more “like a computer” and “more powerful.”

Here's the thing, though, the desktop is a crappy interface for a mobile device. Here's another thing: people don't feel all that fuzzy about Windows anymore. Here's the last and most important thing: the Windows Mobile interface is hardly like Windows desktop at all and suffers where it actually is like the Windows Desktop.

This is why I cringe every time somebody tries to sell Windows Mobile by saying “It's just like Windows. It's very familiar.” It's not just like Windows, it has an entirely different interface that only partially maps to Windows. Again, where it does map, it stinks. Examples of how Windows Mobile is worse because it shares interface elements with Windows Desktop:

  1. The drop-down “Start Menu” on Windows Mobile Pro. Yes, many people like this, but the target area for the elements in this menu are too small. This is bad
  2. Right clicking by holding down the stylus or the 5-way pad. Seriously, this is a bad idea.
  3. The stylus, period. Again, some folks like it. I find the stylus a horrible stand-in for the mouse and will go to extreme lengths to avoid having to use it. Bad.
  4. The “x” to “close” but not “quit” (though sometimes it will) programs. First off, I shouldn't have to think about memory that often on my mobile device. Bad. Secondly, there's another area (the task manager) that's tangentially related (on many versions of Windows Mobile) Bad. Oh, and it's a really tiny area in the upper-right-hand corner that's difficult to tap with my finger. Really Bad.

...I could probably go on, but I want to point something out here: many of my gripes are based on Windows Mobile Pro, the touchscreen version. I've said here and in our forums that I prefer Smartphone edition lately but can't rightly explain why beyond a feeling that it handles memory better. Now I can explain it: Smartphone Edition has less of the Windows Desktop System Intuition built into its interface and feels better for it.

An Interface To Do List for Microsoft

Let's just end with a few ways Microsoft can fix this:

  1. Forget about the desktop. It doesn't exist. It never existed. Instead, think about how you interact with that rock I mentioned earlier. It's not a mistake that Jeff Hawkins invented the Palm Pilot by carrying around a block of wood. Whatever the present-day equivalent of carrying around a block of wood is, do that.
  2. Unify the platform (you said you would): It's bad enough that there's Desktop Windows interface elements in Windows Mobile. It's well-nigh unforgivable that Windows Mobile Pro and Windows Mobile standard don't share the same interface “System Intuition.”
  3. Keep your strengths (yes, you do have them). One example: that “just start typing” feature, it's really cool. It's a core strength. Let me “Just start typing” for everything. Contacts. Email. Apps. Appointments. Internet, even, if the bandwidth is there. (Update: see also "glanceable information" in the comments!)
  4. Maintain some backwards compatibility, but don't kill yourself to do it. You guys handled the PocketPC 2003 -> Windows Mobile transition really well, you can do it again with the next version.
  5. Work with your manufacturers to let them customize, but don't let them go crazy with it. Right now it's just a little too “Wild Wild West,” out there. We want innovations like TouchFLO, but we also want consistency.

A tall order, perhaps, but check out that there iPhone, it's pretty serious stuff, interface-wise.

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You may have heard the news. Here's our live color commentary of the iPhone SDK event. There's a lot of information to parse out with regards to how this will shake out with Windows Mobile -- including how the applications on the iPhone looked stunning compared to most WM apps. More on that later. For now, let's talk about this: Apple licensed Exchange Active Sync.

What's it mean? Read on!

So the iPhone will gain push email, contacts, and calendar. That's big news for Microsoft - they'll pick up a lot of new users for their server products. In a lot of ways it's a bigger attack on RIM than it is on Windows Mobile. First - Apple denigrated the NOC during their presentation - just like Palm did - saying that a 3rd party in the middle is a Bad Idea. It's also a big attack on RIM because now two platforms do their push email via Exchange - Windows Mobile and the iPhone. Together the two might actually have a bigger marketshare than RIM for enterprise in very short order.

But now that the iPhone will support Exchange, will we see an exodus from WM to the iPhone? We'll definitely see some movement in that direction, yes. On the other hand, I am fairly confident in two things.

First, Exchange Active Sync Features on Windows Mobile will always be more advanced.notice, for example, that Apple seems to be writing their own management program instead of using Microsoft's RIM-Server-Killing Microsoft System Center Mobile Device Manager. So lock down, provisioning, and other management features will be more advanced with Windows Mobile. Yet that's the smaller point.

The second point is the bigger point: Apple's licensing of Active Sync is very likely to grow the overall Exchange pie at a much faster rate than their slice of it will steal from Windows Mobile. Which is to say, yes, some WM users will defect, but there will be even more new Windows Mobile users by dint of the ever-growing standardization on Exchange for mobile push email for enterprise.

...Or so it seems to me. Microsoft has until the release of the Apps in June to come up with something that looks like a response to the new features that will appear on the iPhone. Will they be able to deliver?

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22

How To: Edit the Registry

Registry Edits (or as some call them hacks or tweaks) are often times one of the great mysteries of the WM world that can either totally baffle or flat out scare the bejeezus out of first time WM phone owners, or even sometimes veteran users for that matter. But with a little direction and a few proactive and preventive steps, these fears are more often than not largely exaggerated. Registry edits are cool, useful, helpful, can fine tune / optimize / personalize your phone, or sometimes might simply be important to know how to do in order to fix your phone. Editing the Registry is easy, can be safe, and fun to explore and that is what this article is geared to do.

A lot of registry editing tutorials are really short, expecting the reader to have some experience or knowledge with it already, and assume you already know basically what they are talking about. This article is assuming you have never heard of the registry, let alone what you can do with it. I will show you how to safely backup, explore, and edit your phone's registry. The goal here is to clear up all the urban legends about physically and literally blowing up your phone in a ball of flame, resulting in burning down your house and loosing all of your worldly possessions just by tweaking the wrong thing in your WM phone's Registry... and then to open up a whole new world for you with your WM phone.

First thing's first: What the Heck is the Registry??

First of all, please note that due to how complex the registry is under the hood, that I have taken some liberties in simplifying some of the terms and definitions. In other words, from a programmer's point of view, I am not going to be completely accurate or comprehensive. But from a user's point of view who simply wants to edit their WM phone's registry to stop their Bluetooth LED light from blinking and annoying the heck out of them, it is perfectly accurate info.

WikiPedia has a pretty good definition of what the Registry is:

The Windows registry is a directory which stores settings and options for the operating system for Microsoft ....Windows Mobile. It contains information and settings for all the hardware, operating system software, most non-operating system software, users, preferences of the (Mobile Phone), etc. Whenever a user makes changes to Control Panel settings, file associations, system policies, or most installed software, the changes are reflected and stored in the registry.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Registry

For a real geeky detail explanation of what the registry is go here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/256986

Now that you still don't have a clue what the registry is, let me try to explain it. Think of the registry as a single file that holds nearly every possible setting for your phone, the WM OS, any software or game installed on the phone, etc. Think of it as a single file that basically tells the phone who it is, what it has on it, and how to do everything you want it to do. Think of it as just one big file with all the settings for your phone (the hardware), the Operating System, and the software installed. So for example, if you wanted to keep the keyboard backlight to stay lit for 60 seconds instead of only the highest option available of 30 seconds in the settings, you can go into the registry and change it to 60 seconds yourself.

So no matter what you call it, registry edit, tweak, or a hack, you are simply just changing a setting on your phone. That's it. Nothing more.

Editing the registry is officially and traditionally considered a task saved for power users only. But with the instructions and tools in this article this wonderful tool can be opened up to anyone with a WM device.

Safely editing your registry

Not to scare you off from having fun with the cool suggestions in this article, but now before we get started is the perfect time to address the fears of blowing up your phone with editing your registry... look at the reality of any possible risks, and how to restore your phone to its previous state no matter what you do. The two main fears that new users have when starting to look into the registry is:

1) Fatally killing your phone forever
2) Losing all of your personal information without ever being able to get it all back

Both of these are valid... but only to a point. As you will see below, you can stop your phone from working by editing the registry, but this can usually and easily be fixed by a doing a hard reset. The second is not a major concern either, as long as you have a current backup, which is easy to do.

The Reality of your possible risks

It is important to know that if you are editing the registry and it is done carelessly or without a few simple precautions, you can easily stop your phone from working and lose all of your personal data. In a case like this, you have more than likely not "bricked" your phone, but have caused an error where it cannot run "as is" with the changes you made, but it will run again as soon as you do a hard reset. A hard reset changes it back to as if it just left the factory. In other words, the phone will work just fine again, but none of your personal information or software you installed will be on the phone any longer.

The bottom line is that when playing with the registry, you should always be able to hard reset the phone to wipe out any bad errors you may have caused, but in the process wipe out your personal information as well. So in reality, for the most part, the only thing at risk is your personal information, settings you have changed, and software you personally installed, which is really easy to backup and restore so you can have it all back again.

I guess for liability sake, I have to say to "proceed at your own risk" as Murphy's Law often times proves, anything can happen no matter if it is likely or not. Beyond urban legend reports of someone posting that they heard from their best friend's wife's manicurist's dog walker's cousin's mom, who is a totally reliable source that works at a Sprint's independently owned mall outlet in Backwater, WY that they saw a phone another Sprint rep was working on that was totally bricked because the customer edited the wrong key in the registry... I have personally not seen a situation where a hard reset cannot fix a registry edit (and I know someone somewhere is going to point out where and why I am wrong about this). Basically put, you should be able to recover from nearly any published and verified registry edit with no real worries beyond having to do a hard reset and restore you latest backup.

So again, if you do make a change in the registry that stops your phone from working, then there are two simple steps to get it working again:

  1. Do a hard rest on your phone (see the manual for your phone to see which buttons you need to push while you use the stylus to hit the reset button)
  2. Restore your latest backup with all of your personal information and settings

That's it. These two steps are the worst that you should face. No balls of flames... no eternal paperweights.

Safe steps to take when editing the Registry

There are two points of advice I will always give to anyone when tweaking their registry.

The first is to not just go around in the registry and start changing settings willynilly just to see what happens, as you will get unexpected and sometimes fatal results, but instead to stick only with published tweaks that have been posted in articles, proven to work in forums, or found in books. There is always a percentage that will stand out as exceptions, but with most of these published and verified tweaks, even if you accidentally enter in the wrong setting, you can still just go back in and correct it. No harm, no foul.

My second point of advice is a strong one... no one, no matter how experienced, should ever touch their registry without doing this step first! That is to do a complete backup each time before you edit your registry to make sure that all of your latest settings and personal info are saved and ready to restore at anytime for any reason. Sprite Backup or SPB Backup are the two backup programs I personally recommend.

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You may have heard that there was a serious BlackBerry outage this week, millions of people were unable to get email or browse the web [corrected] on their CrackBerrys for several hours, causing some consternation amongst the addicts:

For Blackberry users, Monday left us feeling like a toddler with no Spongebob. Thought of “Why! Why?” and “What in the world is going on!” flowed through our heads. We cried to each other, and to those who could have cared less, and waited it out (as we had no other choice) and hoped for the best.

The worst part was twofold - as the above article claims, RIM wasn't immediately forthcoming about the problem. When they did let us in on what happened, it was the same thing that happened last April, a software upgrade gone wrong, a problem they promise would never happen again.

Of course, I did a little personal crowing about the entire situation. Turns out that I'm not the only one who had that thought, as Palm has launched what can only be called a multimedia, Simpsons-character-Nelson-style “HA HA!” directed at RIM. Though it rings a little tinny to CrackBerry fans, I find it hilarious.

First up - a new front page graphic at Palm.com and a New York Times full page ad to go with it. “Palm Smartphones include voice, email, text, Web, calendar and contacts ...And most importantly, uptime.” Take a close look at this picture of their NYT ad: “Has anyone heard from out West Coast team? Anyone? Anyone?” ...It must have taken a firm resolve not to add “Bueller?” at the end of that.

Now the hilarious graphic at top, from Palm's new “No Middleware” information page on the benefits on an Exchange Server.

Now, there are a few benefits to having a Network Operations Center handle everything - namely it takes some work off of the shoulders of IT folks and end users. It's a philosophy I don't ascribe to, however. Were my Exchange server to go down (it happens), I could call up the person in charge of it and ream him out directly, not wait for a faceless giant to clue me in. It ties in very directly with my thoughts on the BlackBerry during the Smartphone Round Robin (First Look and Final Thoughts), where I hijacked Umberto Eco's comparison of Macs and PCs for the purpose of comparing Windows Mobile to BlackBerrys:

In this case, the Catholic smartphone is the BlackBerry, the Protestant Smartphone is Windows Mobile. Basically, the BlackBerry takes all the work of setting email up and moves onto the priests of BlackBerry - the BIS servers.

The benefit of having a 3rd party company handle your email pushing is, as I said, getting work off your shoulders. Here's the thing, though, that work is getting much much easier for both IT pros and for end users. Microsoft is very close to perfecting their auto setup for Pocket Outlook and on the IT side, when then release Microsoft System Center, Mobile Device Manager 2008, they will have all the important management features of the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) and match its ease of use for people standardized on Microsoft tech. RIM will keep innovating, though, so there may always be an “this is easier on us” advantage to their NOC, but the ease-of-use margin is getting thinner, thin enough that a little something like a nationwide service outage might be enough to push some folks over.

At that point, there are only reasons I could see using BES:

  1. Lock in - you're already on BES and changing over to a full Exchange solution is a hassle
  2. You're not on Microsoft tech for your server and email solutions.

Microsoft really needs to address the 2nd reason someday -- offer a push email and management solution that's not dependent on Exchange servers. They never will, though, so we'll be depending on companies like Seven, Good, and, yes, RIM to fill that hole. As for the first reason, well, jump on in, kids, the water's fine. ;)

...Back to Palm - check out the chutzpah, right? Company's had all sorts of bad press lately, but despite all that they're unapologetic about the Treo and its capabilities. Sure, they've been all about the Centro as a low-end consumer device lately, but their Enterprise/power user Windows Mobile Treos are still pretty darn good, too, and they don't want us to forget it. Sure, they're not top-of-the-line (yet: the Treo 800w and the Drucker can't come fast enough), but they're solid devices. I still think that the Treo 750 has the best one-handed usability of any device out there by dint of its great keyboard and the ability to use a touchscreen when needed.

I'm not going to convince BlackBerry users of that, of course (check out the comments on our sister site, CrackBerry.com - where they posted about Palm's teasing), but that's alright. Next time (and there will be a next time) your Crackberrys are all cashed out I'll be standing over on the street corner with a WinMo device in my pocket. When you come over, shaking and needing a fix, I'll tell you the truth: Windows Mobile is a much more powerful hit.

So Bravo, Palm, for having the brains to add Windows Mobile to your Treo offerings way back when and for not being shy about its qualities now. Some haters are going to tell you that you should be one to talk after all the problems you've had in the past year or so. Don't listen to them, just put your energy into righting that ship and delivering unto us the Treo 800w and the Drucker postehaste.

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I had a chance to get a demo of the upcoming SkyFire browser (over Skype) last week and I gotta tell you - it's hot. Here's the skinny - it's currently in private beta (sign up here) with a public beta planned for later this quarter. It works on Windows Mobile Pro and Standard (and Symbian, hush), and it's really, really awesome. As in, “my envy for the iPhone's browser may soon be coming to an end” kind of awesome.

Here's how it works - it's a server-side solution (more on that inside) based on Gecko (same bits behind Firefox's rendering). Basically everything gets rendered on the server and then sent out to your phone. That solves some of the processor / speed issues, but it also adds more benefits, like full AJAX, Flash, Javascript, you name it. I watched the browser instantly load an embedded YouTube video (from a random page on our site) and start playing with nary a jag and nary a lag -- this over a UMTS connection, mind you.

The SkyFire teams told me “Our goal is that if Firefox can render it, then your Windows Mobile phone will render it the exact same way.”

There more, including a screenshot gallery, after the break!

For the first time ever, smartphone
users can experience the “real Web” to access and interact with any Web
site built with any Web technology, including dynamic Flash, advanced Ajax,
Java and more - at the same speeds they are accustomed to on their PC -

Screenshots

Server Side is Awesome / Not Awesome

So the benefit of having 90% of the work on a server is you get snappy rendering, full support for basically any web standard, and fast downloads. You get the desktop browser pushed out to your phone.

The downside - that server best stay up, hey? It also best keep your data secure and private (SkyFire says that's been their #1 priority, even in their early betas). Lastly, though, server's ain't free. SkyFire hasn't settled on a pricing model yet, but they're leaning towards ads before subscriptions to keep the service free. The company was keen to show me their portal - which pulls from multiple search engines - so that's probably going to be part of the model.

The Software Itself

One .cab file for the browser, that's all you install to get full Flash, AJAX (the thing can handle the craziest of Google Maps/Apps AJAX), etc. Since it's all handled server-side

The SkyFire browser has all the necessary zoom and bookmark features you'd expect from a browser of this sort. It also has a “fit to screen” feature -- but with a neat difference. Instead of re-rendering the entire webpage to fit your screen, it actually just renders the different sections of text to fit your screen in place. So you still get the basic layout of the site, but when you zoom into a piece of text to read it you know it will be set to the right width for comfortable reading at your mobile's resolution.

...It's about time we had a browser that's not only competitive with the iPhones, but that beats it in several categories. The fact that it's all server-side is the real story here, though, as that's SkyFire's greatest strength and weakness.

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Update: Now that we have the new specs on the Treo 800w, we thought we'd update the specs on the contest itself. Instead of a 6 gig microSDHC card, the prize package will now have an 8 gig card.

We are confident, very confident, that the Treo 800w is coming in the next few months. And we are confident, mega confident, that it's going to be a super cool device. Confident enough that we're going to run out and buy one the very day they are available, whenever that day may be. A Windows Mobile 6 Pro device with 320x320 resolution, WiFi, (probably) GPS... and you can easily use the sucker one-handed. That mops the floor with the Treo 700wx and even makes the Mogul a little nervous.

And we don't even use Sprint! So - we're going to give the Treo 800w away. Yes, folks, we're running a contest to give away a rumored device that hasn't been released yet. It's future-iffically rumortastic!

Giving away what might potentially be a non-existent device will, naturally, require a few rules and, er, procedures - get those after the break. The short version is this: In the comments of this post, make a guess about the release date of the Treo 800w. We'll do a random drawing amongst the people who get it right. The winner will receive:

  • A Treo 800w after it is officially released. If they end up calling it something else, well, let's just say we're giving away the next Windows Mobile device Palm releases for the Sprint Network. Got it?
  • An 8 gig microSD Card. Yeah, the WMExperts Store has 8 gig cards now.
  • Any 2 software titles from HobbesIsReal's excellent “Must-Have Windows Mobile Software” article. Sure, Palm will include some “secret recipe” stuff on the 800w, but you can always make Windows Mobile a little better. We believe in the software in Hobbes' article, you should too.

Full rules and info after the break. We're taking off early for the Holidays, everybody, so consider this contest a gift from WMExperts - one of those “we promise we'll make it up to someday” kinda gifts, but a gift nonetheless. See you Wednesday!

How to Enter

Register and post a reply to this post with a guess at the exact date (just the date, not the time) the Treo 800w will be released. You may guess as many times as you like, but only your most recent guess in this thread will count as your entry.

That's it!

More Rules

  1. One entry per person (i.e. your most recent guess) 1.5. Although you can guess as often as you like, your guess must be at least 2 weeks away from the date you're posting (ex. if you post on January 1st, your guess cannot be before January 14th).
  2. Contest will end at midnight the day before an official date is announced by either Palm or Sprint. Which basically means you'll want to settle on a date early, because when we find out officially, well, we'll have to disqualify any posts made that day.
  3. Not open to employees or contractors of Smartphone Experts (sorry to our writers and mods!), Palm, or Sprint (no cheaters!)
  4. Open to US residents only (hey, it's Sprint)
  5. We'll pick the winner randomly from all the posts that get it right or, if none do, from the posts that get closest (assuming there's more than one). “Closest” can be before or after, this isn't The Price Is Right, people.

Hop to it, People!

Update: Since we now have Sprint's planned release date: July 22nd, any votes for that date on or after May 5th at 4PM EST don't count.

Of course, if you don't believe Sprint will hit that target, feel free to keep guessing. :)

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We'll be posting up a full review of the Motorola Q9h and the Mogul next week (and even a mini-review of the Motorola MC35). There'll be more smackdowns to come too (intra-carrier style), but for now I'm itching to try something new out. I've already said that I prefer the Q9h to the BlackJack II, but as sbono13 pointed out in the comments, the BJII is a full $200 bucks cheaper (with contract) than the Q9h... so I'm thinking I should give that device a full rundown as well. Toss in the fact that I have (unfairly?) poo-poohed the Pantech Duo and the Samsung i760 and suddenly we're looking at a whole smorgasbord of Windows Mobile smartphones. That's a situation I love, but I can't decide.

So, what to do about that itch? Let you decide. Head on over to the thread associated with this post and vote in the poll. We'll leave the poll open through Tuesday, February 5th. We're also making your choices public so we can track 'em, not because we're nefarious, but because we'll choose one lucky voter from the top choice to win a $100 coupon at the WMExperts Store!

After the break - see the smartphones sitting on my desk, waiting on my eternal judgment (and the full rules to the contest). To vote, just click on this here link

Here are the

I'd like to stick to phones that have carrier support in the US, if you're wondering about the choices above.

Contest Rules

  1. Not open to Smartphone Experts employees or contractors (but mods, go for it)
  2. Coupon only good for merchandise, you'll have to pay the S&H (sorry)
  3. 1 entry per person
  4. Contest ends on February 5th at Midnight.
  5. The winner will be chosen at random from all the people who voted for the smartphone that receives the most votes (in other words, there's strategy involved!)
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4

CTIA 2008: Bill Gates Keynote LiveBlog

Howdy folks. After two hours of waiting (and about another hour to go, but we're live at Bill Gates' last CES keynote ever. We're not sure if there's going to be anything Windows Mobile-related, but we're pumped nevertheless. Stay tuned!

5:55 (Mountain Time, we're in Vegas Baby Vegas, don'tcha know?): We are still a half hour away. The room is jam-packed. If anybody has a BB gun, please come down here and take a few shots at the purple lights they have shining out into the crowd.

6:25: Here we go. Good sign: all the clipart images are of folks holding Windows Mobile phones and smiling a lot.

6:30: Funtime Intro Music over a montage of CES gadetry serenades us as we wrestle with a terrible connection. Too many people want to use our AT&T 3G. CEA Honco Gary Shapiro is on stage now, talking up the CES show.

6:35: Introducing Bill Gates - as though Bill Gates needs it.

6:40 Heeeere's Bill! Title of the talk "The Next Digital Decade." Sounds like fun. Bill takes us down a trip on memory lane - since his first CES keynote in 1994.

6:45 Calls attention to the fact that this is his last keynote and that later this year he'll go from fulltime at Microsoft to fulltime at his foundation. Sniffle. Looks like we're getting a video to help him prepare for his last day.

6:50 Bono and the Edge won't let Bill into the band. Aww. The video is heavy on the cameos - it brings the funny.

6:50: Whoa - that would be a white Palm something or other on the screen! def. an 800w or something that looks identical to the leaked version. He's talking about "connected experiences," but we're looking at that Treo.

6:55: Predicting "HD everywhere" and real 3D internet experiences. We've heard this 3D prediction before. Showing some mockup of a futurephone - looks pretty nice, actually. Meanwhile emphasizing how important it is for all devices to be connected via services invisibly so, say, you don't have to muck around organizing your photos and moving them from device to device.

6:57: the importance of "Natural User Interface" - Touch on "Windows PC and on the iPhone" (yes, he said it). Voice on the Ford Sync. Gestures, etc. "We're just at the beginning of this."

6:58: 100 Million people using Vista (whoa - much higher that I would have guessed). Neat new form factor PCs using Vista. 420 Million people use Windows Live. Windows Mobile: 10 Million new users last year, 20 Million users next year.

7:00: Ohh. Input causes problems with Vista, Live, and Mobile. Input Innovations coming.

7:00: Product Demo - Windows Live Services. Windows Live Calendar - overlay different people's calendars to see what's available. Windows Live Events - evite, basically, plus photo sharing. Windows Live Photo Gallery - automagically integrate multiple pictures of the same area into a panoramic photo. Sweet.

7:05: Windows Live Mobile - demoing on an HTC Touch. Adding photos to Windows Live Spaces.

7:05: Bill is back, he's demo'ing Microsoft Surface - their touch-based tabletop PC. Neat ideas - set your phone on the table to auto-upload stuff from surface to Windows Spaces.

7:07: Silverlight time. Announcing that NBC is using Microsoft as their exclusive US partner for the 2008 Olympics. That'll get people to install the Silverlight plugin, eh? NBC video of how happy they are about this partnership coming up.

7:10 - our laptop battery is dying everybody! We'll be back with more later!

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Making a cameo appearance on the big screen during the Gates keynote, a future version of Windows Mobile! Maybe. It could be Windows Mobile 6.1, but it doesn't look anything like what BGR leaked awhile back. And yes, it could be just a custom skin. If that's the case, then color us impressed with HTC's customizations. If that's not the case, then either we just caught MS with their pants down or they're viral marketing geniuses (or this isn't new at all and we're the ones lacking trousers).

Take a look at the new Start Menu of listing programs / settings / etc. It looks like there's a left/right menu on top to switch between “Programs,” “Settings,” “Photos,” “Internet,” and so on, then up/down to switch between the stuff within those categories.

Full gallery after the jump!

(p.s. since we lost connectivity last night, expect our live coverage article to be updated with some photos in just a bit)

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Hey, everybody else is doing it, why can't we? Below - our most-read articles and posts of 2007. A couple more months and it's likely we would have seen more from the Smartphone Round Robin - but no matter.

What do we learn from the list below? That people like the smackdowns (can't blame ya) and we all spent the bulk of 2007 champing at the bit to install Windows Mobile 6, then Windows Mobile 6.1 Of course, we're still waiting for 6.1 -- and many of us are still waiting for Windows Mobile 6 (Cough BLACKJACK cough!). We also learn that the HTC Touch was the sleeper hit of the year - it's certainly done much better than we expected. Don't get us wrong, though, we love the little bugger.

Anyhow, this is the spot where we say thanks a ton to all of you readers. We got started abound February of last year and have been growing in traffic ever since. Here's to hoping 2008 connects us with even more of y'all.

After the break, the top 10 by traffic of 2007 plus a few of our own favorite articles that you may have missed!

Top 10 by Traffic

  1. HTC Touch vs. iPhone, Part 2: Video Smackdown. #1 with a bullet - it's a 25 minute, point by point comparison between the HTC Touch and the iPhone.

  2. Giant ATT-Cingular 3G WM5 Smackdown: Treo 750 vs. 8525 vs. Blackjack. A little out to date, but still useful, this article is a comprehensive comparison between what were the top three on AT&T at the time. Yes, we're going to do a followup with the new devices.

  3. BlackJack WM6 Update: Q3 at best. Remember when getting Windows Mobile 6 on the BlackJack in October of 2007 seemed like a curse? We do.

  4. Windows Mobile 6.1 Coming with New Interface? Sure, Boy Genius may have gotten his hands on an actual Windows Mobile 6.1 device in December, but we told you it was coming and what it would look like in October. Boo. Yah.

  5. HTC Touch vs iPhone, Part 1. Twice in the Top Ten? Yep - y'all love your comparisons.

  6. Hack Available for PPC-6700/XV6700: AKU3.3. We still the a lot of 6700s in the wild even though it's been replaced on pretty much every network by the 6800. The 6700 may never see Windows Mobile 6, but at least it can be upgraded to the best that Windows Mobile 5 has to offer.

  7. How-To: Full YouTube on Windows Mobile. We sort of wish our iPhone YouTube Spoof had made the grade, but that's alright. It's more fitting that an article actually explaining how to do it get in.

  8. WM6 on a Samsung Blackjack. Yeah, we know, two “Windows Mobile 6 on BlackJack” articles. This second is the hacked ROM, and yes, seriously we still don't recommend you try to use it - it's slow and buggy.

  9. How To: Customize Your Tilt. One of the reasons the Tilt didn't fare well in the Smartphone Round Robin is that its out-of-box experience is just plain horrendous. So we threw together a “for the n00bs” how-to for customizing your Tilt.

  10. Review: Jabra BT8010. The BT8010s were one of the first “hybrid” bluetooth headsets on the market and they're pretty neat. We prefer the Voyager 855s now, but it's hard to argue strongly against the BT8010s, they're nice.

Our Faves

  1. How To: Buy a Windows Mobile Phone. So Windows Mobile is available on a dizzying array of devices on pretty much every network you can imagine. We break down what you need to do if you're thinking WM.

  2. How To: Install, Uninstall, and Transfer Files on Windows Mobile. We could have taken any article from our growing “How To” section, but we decided to stick with the basics.

  3. Video First Looks. We've done a ton of Video First Looks at a ton of smartphones. Check it: HTC Touch Dual, BlackJack II, Samsung SCH-i760, Sprint Touch, T-Mobile Shadow, Motorola Q9h, Pantech Duo, and ATT Tilt

  4. iPhone vs Windows Mobile, Email Smackdown. Point-by-point analysis of why Windows Mobile beats the pants off the iPhone for email productivity.

  5. Smartphone Round Robin: Triumphant Return to Windows Mobile!. It's our Love-Poem to Windows Mobile. Our Ode. Our Paean. If anybody ever asks you “Why Windows Mobile?”, send 'em here.
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No matter how big the battery on your phone, you'll always want to get a little more life out of it. Lately many phones - especially Windows Mobile phones - have been shaving their batteries down to achieve better form factors. So this guide, Part IV in the series (the rest are here), will tell you the tips and tricks you need to know to max out the battery life on your Windows Mobile smartphone.

The following may sound like a obvious statement, but it is important to have this line of thought when optimizing your phone to save battery power: In order to increase your battery life you need to decrease the power used. There are many things you can do to decrease the power used. Some of the steps may be changing the default settings, including possibly tweaking the registry of your phone, while others may included adapting some of your habits while using your phone.

The first step in increasing your battery life is to identify the most common sources of battery drain and take steps to minimize their impact on the life of your battery per charge. When I am talking about battery drain or conservation issues, there are a lot of little things you can do that make a HUGE difference. My goal is to provide the most comprehensive list of battery saving tips you have seen in one place before. Now lets start looking at these power hungry culprits that will suck the life right out of your battery and the steps we all need to take to limit the drain on our battery as much as possible. I have divided this up into 4 sections including Connections, Usage Habits, Tools, and Advanced.

Connections

Data Communication: This includes WiFi, EVDO, Edge, 1x, etc... whatever line communication you have established and is active to transfer data. Please note that WiFi is the king of battery drain among all the data communication connection options.

How do you reduce the amount of data transfers your phone does? To start to answer this, it is important to realize that there are programs that will attempt to update themselves all on their own. Every time a program tries to update itself, it establishes a data connection. You will want to look at the settings of all of the 3rd party programs you have installed to verify if there are any options asking if you want the program to automatically check for the latest version updates, to get updated information to use, etc. These will certainly include programs that need daily or hourly updated information like weather, news headlines, movie schedules, stock quotes, etc. Unless you are actually a stock broker and need the latest info from 4 minutes ago then limit it to updating itself only once a day if possible, setting these programs to download the latest info every hour is a total waste of the precious minutes your battery has left during that day. Here are a couple screenshots as examples:

Wireless LAN: First of all, if the life of your battery is a concern, then do not use WiFi unless absolutely needed, or if you need to use WiFi, then plug in your phone if at all possible. WiFi will suck your battery dry faster than anything else I have experienced, as soon as 25 minutes on some phones. But when you do use WiFi, there is a step you can take to help reduce the power consumption needed. In WM06 you can click on Menu / Settings / Connections / Wireless LAN. Then click on the "Power Mode" tab. Then slide the handle on the bar all the way to the right labeled "Best Battery".


IR Beam: The Infrared beam is usually on by default, always searching for something to connect with. Sometimes, depending on your phone, taking this one step of disabling this will add an extra hour or more of battery life to your day. This is simple to do. Click on Menu / Setting / Connections / Beam. Then uncheck the box "Receive all incoming beams".

Email & SMS: Every time an email or SMS is sent or received a data connection is established and used. Unless your work demands that you receive your emails immediately, set your email program to only download your emails every 30 to 60 minutes. If you set up your email to be connected to an Exchange Server at work and have your emails pushed to your phone immediately, you will be using up more battery power and might have to plan to top off your phone in the car or during a lunch break to give a little extra charge to you battery. A detailed tutorial on setting up and configuring your email will be a later edition of the WM Guide.

Bad Reception Areas: Try to stay out of bad or borderline reception areas if battery power is a concern. Whenever your phone is constantly looking for a stronger signal, or a signal at all, it is zapping your battery like crazy. If you are in an area that you know does not get good reception, constantly switches in and out of roaming, in and out a solid EVDO connection, then plan on your battery life being half as long as normal, or worse. Unless you set your phone to No Roaming, which may restrict you from being able to make or receive any calls, the only fix is to top off your battery every chance you get or get to a good reception area. If you want to restrict the phone from automatically switching back and forth in Roaming, open the phone app by pushing the hardware phone button. In WM6 click on Menu / Options. At the bottom click on the tap called "Services". Select "Roaming" and click "Get Settings"... then select your "(Carrier) Only", i.e. "Sprint Only". Click "Ok".

Usage Habits

Even though several of the points below should officially be in the connections section above, I included them below if there was really nothing to do to improve your battery life besides altering how you use them.

Voice Calls: On most phones, you can only talk for 2-4 hours at a time per charge. The obvious solution here is to limit the gift of gab. If you know you are going to have to talk an extra long time, i.e. a 1 hour conference call for work, then you are simply going to have to plan to limit other use of your phone (i.e. no games, internet browsing, etc.) or top off the battery whenever possible in the car, or plug it in while eating lunch, or carry a spare battery, or use a battery with extended capacity.

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11

How To: Use your WM Smartphone One-Handed

Now that we have covered how to install programs on your phone, copy files to your phone, and what is the best software that all WM phone owners need to have, in Part I and Part II of the Windows Mobile Guide, let's move on to part III... Increasing One Handed Usability with your WM phone. We'll focus primarily on Windows Mobile Professional, since it's the Touchscreen/stylus that often seems to be the barrier for one-handed use.

In (upcoming) parts IV & V, I will cover increasing your battery life, organizing your menus, and how to edit your registry. These 4 topics probably encompass a large percentage of the questions that are continually asked on the forums by new users, so I hope this will help many start out with confidence. I am also aiming to add a lot of value to the veteran WM user as well, so that they will be able to learn a few new tricks while still walking step by step with those who are new to the world of WM.

Read on for a guide on how to keep your off-hand in your pocket!

I see it all the time... those who are new to WM or who are coming from the Palm OS say within the first day (or less than an hour) of using a totally new OS, "I can't move around in it like I could with my Palm OS"... Well, no surprise because it is not Palm, or BlackBerry, or an iPhone, but a totally different OS. I know that is so obvious that it shouldn't need to be said, but sometimes going back to the basics can really help a lot people as they transition into the WM world.

Some of the biggest complaints sound like this:

  • It takes 5 times more clicks in WM to do the same thing in POS (Palm Operating System).
  • Everything is hidden in menus and I can't find anything, or takes too long to get to it.
  • I can dial 3 people on my BlackBerry in the same time it takes me to dial one number in WM.

This is always a hard topic to discuss, because one handed usability is often times subject to the standards and expectations of the individual user. Some will compare one handed usability between different WM phones, i.e. Treo WX with the Sprint Mogul... while others are going to compare WM OS, no matter the specific phone, to another mobile OS, like Palm, the iPhone, or a Blackberry. Then there are many that are willing to give up some of the extra one handed usability they may see in another OS for the extra power that WM often times offers over any other mobile phone OS, so they are very easy to please.

With all of this in mind, I am going to say that anyone who falls into any of these categories above is correct. I say that because the standard of the acceptable level of one handed use is solely determined by the individual user. My goal is not to prove that WM is the best one handheld OS, as it is arguably not... or at least not yet. My goal is show you many tools and techniques to move in the right direction to make any WM phone as one handed friendly as possible. Heck I will even show you how you can operate your phone with no hands!

Just to set the record straight at the start and to give you some insight to how I can claim a WM phone can be nearly as one handed as any other mobile phone OS, I want to share an unfortunate event of having my screen crack in the bottom left corner on my PPC-6600, which had WM03. During the process to have it exchanged through warranty, rather than insurance, I had a great opportunity to really test the navigation of the WM on the road WITHOUT being able to use the stylus for over a week... which is a major con claimed by many WM detractors, that you absolutely have to use the stylus for everything on a WM device. I accomplished this with many of the tools I list below.

Most all of these complaints listed above can be addressed with simple knowledge of the tools and options already included with WM right out of the box, or some 3rd party apps mostly ranging from free to around $15. So let's take a look at some cool things you can do now and what is is coming in the near future as well.

Hardware Buttons

The actual hardware can play a HUGE part in making your phone one handed friendly. For example the Sprint Mogul has five programmable hardware buttons, while my previous PPC-6600 had nine. This includes Start Menu and OK (Close) buttons. I have had my buttons set to launch:

  • Calendar
  • Email
  • PIE (Pocket Internet Explorer)
  • eMail
  • Start Menu
  • Task Manager
  • Camera
  • Voice Command for easy voice dialing while driving
  • OK (close)
  • Rotate screen between Landscape and Portrait

The number of programmable hardware buttons will vary greatly from phone to phone, ranging from usually 4 to 9 buttons. This is why the number of hardware buttons available on the phone is certainly a part of my decision process when looking at buying a new phone. The short of it is that more programmable buttons a phone has, the more programs or events you can assign to them to add one button access to anything you want to.

To map your buttons to launch those most used apps with one hit of a hardware button, go to Start Menu >> Setting >> Personal >> Buttons.

You can also use the latest version of WisBar Advance 3 or SPB Mobile Shell to change the soft keys to what ever you want to, which will add two additional buttons available for your customize.


The 5 way navigation button also is a hardware feature that can greatly increase the one handed use of a phone. WM OS and other 3rd party WM applications have been continually increasing their support of 5 way nav over the last 2 years. This is a challenging feature to stereotypically rate, because each WM phone model can range greatly in its 5 way nav's sensitivity, location in relation to its ease of reach with your thumb, and how accurately it responds. Again, this is more of a hardware factor and personal preference issue than one with the WM OS. But nonetheless, 5 way nav is huge in offering users a great one handed experience on WM phones.

Some WM phones are now starting to take a lesson or two from BB (Blackberry) phones and offer a Jog Wheel. My Sprint Mogul (aka, Verizon XV 6800) is a perfect example. By scrolling with the jog wheel, with a flip of my thumb, I can quickly navigate all my menus and breeze through my emails and contacts. This is, should be (and hopefully will become) a standard hardware feature for all future WM phones.

Bluetooth Options

There are several really cool options that offer you not only increased one handed use with your WM phone, but actually give you NO handed use of your phone!

Bluetooth Headsets

BT headsets now-a-days can do a LOT more than just answer a call and talk on the phone. For example the Jabra 8010 BT headset can hold up to 30 phone numbers in a phone book on the headset itself, and saves the last 10 people in your call history. Both making it very easy to use your phone without even touching it. You can actually see Dieter, THE main man at WMExperts, show you all about the Jabra 8010 in this video or read his detailed review. This is just one example of what BT headsets are now starting to be able to offer.

Ed Note: I prefer "the MAIN man," or better: "that guy who puts up the posts." ;-)

Bluetooth Speakerphones

There are several models of cars now that have BT built into them. This means that with a touch of a button on the steering wheel, you can answer a call, call the last person in your call history, reject a call, and sometimes even see the caller ID on a screen in the car. Some cars will even have an address book, that with the buttons on the steering wheel, you can select who you want to call and place the call without taking your hands off the wheel.

If you are like me, whose car does not have all that cool stuff, then you can get a speakerphone for your car that works great for around $100 or less. I recently reviewed The BlueAnt Supertooth II speakerphone for only $84.95 at the WMExperts store. It is easy to use and install by clipping it onto you sun visor, it offers high quality sound on both ends of the call while even driving with the top down going 65 mph on the freeway, and again, lets me answer, reject, and place calls without touching or looking at the phone. You can also take a look a the whole range of similar BT car kits here as well.

Software Solutions

Many people do not give enough credit to either the customizable Start Menu or the Today Page. What I cannot access directly with a single click of a hardware button, I can usually access with only one to three clicks of the 5 way nav in the Start Menu or a single tap of my finger on the Today Page.

Start Menu

For example, in the settings (Menu >> Setting >> Personal >> Menus) you can specify up to 7 programs to include at the very top of your Start Menu. Between this and mapping to your hardware buttons, that can be anywhere from 12 to 16 most used programs that are just a click or two away. Pretty impressive, if you ask me.

Just like with Palm OS, WM has several 3rd party Menu solutions to help organize the menu to be more effective. I personally have been using Wisbar Advance 3 for years and would not be without it. I have screen shot below of how I use this with organizing my menus.

And no matter if you use Wisbar or not, with any file manager, you can also easily organize your Start Menu in a very organized fashion... just like I used to do with Zlauncher for the Palm OS with the same amount of 5 way nav clicks to launch a program. I will be going into a detailed tutorial on how to create and organize your menus in a logical fashion, in volume V of the Windows Mobile guide, so keep any eye out for it as it will be coming soon.

Then you have to also take into account the Recently Launched Programs Section of the Start Menu that shows the last 5 or so programs that you most recently launched. Now you stop and realize just how much is easily accessible with just the hardware buttons, soft buttons, Start Menu and the recently launch programs section, and it becomes a lot faster and one handed friendly with easy access up to 21 most recently used or self defined most used programs. I don't know about you, but I am hard pressed to find more than 21 programs I use on a regular basis on my phone.

In the same Menu Settings above in WM03 (not in WM05 or WM06) you can also somewhat customize the New button that lets you easily start a new Appointment, Word Doc, Excel Spreadsheet, Contact, Task, Note, Message, etc... with only two taps with your finger.

Today Screen

The Today Screen is basically like the Desktop on a Windows PC. In fact I have heard some refer to it as their Home Page or Desktop. This feature, if time is taken to organize it just right for your needs and preferences, can give you the space needed to launch any program, document, phone call, email, or game with a single tap of your finger (without using a stylus), while letting you see your emails, missed calls and SMS messages at a glance. This will require a little organizing and a few 3rd party applications that will transform your phone into virtually a totally new device for you.

In order to stream-line your Today Screen and to clear away all the clutter, go to Menu >> Setting >> Personal >> Today and click on the tab at the bottom called Items, and you can check and uncheck any item to display on your Today Page. You can even organize them in the order you want them displayed on the Today Page. Since you have limited real estate available on the Today Page without having to scroll, you must be selective in what you really need on your today page. This can sometimes be a brutal process when you want to have it all there, but in this case, it really is true that less is more... as long as what you have does a great job for what you need. There are also several applications that will offer multiple features in one package, which can save you a great deal of valuable real estate on your Today Page. This is why I have laid out the best Today Page applications for you below.

SBP Mobile Shell

There are several free and pay for utilities that will let you add icons on your Today page for easy one handed access to all of your favorite or most used programs. I use a Today screen plugin called SBP Mobile Shell (Full Review Here). It offers quick photo speed dialing with one finger tap on a picture of the person you want to call. It gives you quick access to your favorite and most used programs. You will always have the latest Weather at the tip of your fingers with the weather program of your choice.

It is organized in tabs that help to make sure that you do not accidentally launch a program or call someone when the phone is in its case or in your pocket. It also offers one of the easiest ways to find a contact and call them, with the included Spb Contacts, a add on so powerful and easy to use one handed, I would not have blamed them if they sold SPB Contacts all by itself as a stand alone application. This is included on my Must Have list in Part II of the WM Guide (and for good reason!).


PocketBreeze / ContactBreeze

You can also add a couple utilities like PocketBreeze and ContactBreeze. I never have opened my Calendar, Email client, and Contacts to check or look up the latest info because they are now all visible from the Today Screen at a glance. This is included on my Must Have list in Part II of the WM Guide.


SPB Phone Suite

This handy little plugin allows you to view how many calls you have missed, plus how many Voicemails, Emails, SMS, and MMS you have not read at a glance without touching anything on the phone. SPB Phone Suite includes phone profiles, so by a tap of your finger you can silence everything on your phone when you enter a meeting at work, or make sure that everything is as loud as it can be if you are in the car. It also has a Communication Manager so you can control your BT, WiFi, and your phone with a touch of your finger. These profiles can be scheduled ahead of time to make sure you don't forget to set it. It also offers a photo speed dial. If you notice, this will also give you the power to call anyone by simply touching their picture with your finger.

Task Manager

If a phone's OS offers enough power to give you true multi-tasking (having several programs open and working at the same time) then you need the best one handed way to jump back and forth between them. There are many different Task Managers available to choose from, from free to pay for apps. I personally use the one included with SPB Pocket Plus (SPB P+). This is a great program to have anyway because it gives you so much extra power with WM that probably should have been included in the OS to begin with. I have assigned SPB P+ Task Manager to a hardware button. So with a single button press, I can switch between programs without touching the screen.

Touch Commander

Even if the iPhone cannot give the consumer the power that a WM based phone can, it has done wonders in kick starting a new wave of more friendly one handed non stylus interface with WM. Look at the new Touch for example.

But if you do not have a Touch phone, you can still get pretty darn close without having to resort to homemade ROMs and hacks. You can use the Touch Commander. With a slide of your finger you can access a majority of what the casual user would want to use most of the time. This type of interface is only going to continue to grow and offer more advanced options, features, and customizability.

In fact, rumor has it that Microsoft will shortly be releasing an iPhone'ish interface for WM6. You gotta love what competition can do for us consumers!

Microsoft Voice Command

Whether Microsoft Voice Command should already be standard on the phone, could be debated... but there is no doubt that the $30 is more than worth it. There is no voice training. You do not have to assign a voice command for each contact or software program. The program reads the names and listens for you to say it. It is ready and accurate right out of the box.

Since I don't use Voice Memos, I assigned that button for the Voice Command. You just click the button and say "Call on mobile", and it calls their cell phone. It is even smart enough to confirm if it is not sure. You can even say "Launch ", and it will launch it for you... without you having to navigate through menus or folders to find it.

It will also read caller IDs when a call comes in, so you don't even have to look at the phone to know who is calling.

TapText

There are other great utilities that speed things up that don't deal with navigation, but makes WM easier to use. For example, a great little tool called TapText... TapText is a whole new way of inserting text you use all the time into your notes, e-mail or documents, etc. With only two taps, you can add pre-edited text into any application without leaving it or even changing your preferred input method. If you are tired of entering the same text over and over, then this is the best tool for you.

Customizing Contacts

If you ever have called a number where you have to enter in a PIN, account number, etc... after they pick up then customize your contacts to do all of the dialing for you. For example, I have to participate in conference calls all of the time for work. So I programmed contacts to call the number, enter in the conference call ID number, and my PIN all by itself, simply by calling it. Here is another great example from Kupe over at TreoCentral

New Tip: Automated Voicemail dialing. Not sure how this works on Sprint, but on Verizon, when you call in to your voicemail, the first thing the computer asks you for is your password (a 4-digit PIN) ". . . followed by the pound (#) sign." You can automate the voicemail login by inserting a pause (to account for voicemail answering delay) then sending the PIN all as a part of your dial in. For the Verizon phone (not sure if this works for Sprint): 1. Go to the phone application
2. Select Tools-->Options
3. In the setting dialog, select the voicemail entry and type in *86pp1111#
(*86 = *VM or voicemail, p = pause about 3 seconds, 1111 = 4 digit PIN - use your own, #= "the pound sign") Use as many "p"s as you need to get it to work (you may have to experiment).
4. Result: Voicemail answers, welcoming speech is interrupted and I go straight to the new voicemail listing.

Advanced Tips

There are several registry edits (aka hacks) that can add a lot of functionality towards the goal of increasing the one handed operation of a phone. Many of these are very phone specific, so you will want to search the forums for your phone for a Reg Hack thread to see how to do it for your phone, but here are some things you can look for:

  • Changing the soft buttons at the bottom of the screen to whatever you want them to be.
  • Organizing your menus just like Windows on your desktop. In the part IV of the Windows Mobile Guide, I am going to do a step by step tutorial with screenshots on how to do this.
  • Map programs you want, to buttons that are not listed in the normal place in WM settings.
  • Edit the registry so you can move Today page items, that are normally locked to the top, anywhere you want them on the page for easier reach with your fingers.

Registry hacks are beyond the scope of this part of the WM Guide, but Part IV will focus specifically on Registry hacks and how to do them safely.

Working It All Together

So to launch a program one handed without a stylus that is not mapped to a hardware button, I usually just tap the tab in SPB Mobile Shell and tap the the program I want... or I just hit the Start Menu, hardware button and use my jog wheel, or the 5 way nav button with phones that do not have them, two or three spaces and push Enter.

If I want to switch to another program already running... I just a hit the hardware button assigned to my task manager, and I am there.

If I want to call one of 15 most called people, I tap their picture with my finger on my Today Page, and their phone is ringing. If I need to look up a contact, I hit the soft button that I assigned SPB Contacts to, and tap the first 2-3 letters in their name, and they are there.

Of course, this does not even cover the benefits of Voice Command that can launch any program, look up any contact, or call anyone with a single spoken word. Or many of the BT options available now too.

I have to be honest and say that with a little understanding of the tools available with both OS and a good phone layout... the navigation differences in time and ease to launch a program between WM and any other OS starts to become very small.

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If you haven't already, you really need to go read this: Smartphone Round Robin: Goodbye BlackBerry, Hello Windows Mobile and the ATT Tilt | CrackBerry.com.

See, it's a die-hard BlackBerry's guy's take on the Windows Mobile AT&T Tilt (Video First Look of the Tilt here). We chose the Tilt for the Smartphone Round Robin for a couple reasons - the main one being that I've said here many-a-time that it is a very good contender for the “best damn Windows Mobile smartphone ever.” That said, I was a little nervous using a “slider” in this Round Robin, as it's the only entrant that isn't a very good two-handed device. Well Kevin definitely picked up on that as well as picking up on a whole bunch of other issues with the Tilt.

We'll post some of our own reactions here after the break. More importantly, you should post your reactions in the comments here for a chance to Win in the Round Robin.

Form Factor

Kevin writes:

Holding the device in my hand I was impressed by the Tilt’s build quality. I can now see why HTC enjoys the reputation that it does. I do think maybe the heaviness of the phone bolsters this feeling  of quality (I’m pretty sure the gadget world associates lightweight electronics with being ‘cheap’ and heavy electronics with being ‘well-built’) but either way the device seems well constructed and put together.

You durn-tootin it's a solid device. Earlier in the review it's called a “brick” and - honestly - that's fair. The point stands, though, that there's something to heft and weight that feels awesome. I'm stealing the image at right from intomobile's excellent post on that very subject because it's hilarious and because it's exactly right: heavy ain't always a bad thing.

The bigger issue, though, and one I was worried about was the input thing:

But with the Tilt I honestly did not even know how to begin using the device. Should I pull out the slider keyboard? Should I pull out the stylus? Should I try tapping the screen with my thumb? Or index finger? Should I keep the keyboard slid ‘in’ and use the navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen? I am coming over from a BlackBerry… maybe I should use the trackwheel?

Yeah, one thing you have to say about Windows Mobile is that there are a myriad of ways to get around the device and manufacturers keep trying different methods in order to find the “right way.” We have 5-ways, scroll wheels, styli, track-wheels, and so on. I personally like that I can often hunt down just the right input style for myself, but it's confusing.

Also check out his notes on the “Two-handed thing.”

On Windows Mobile

When I think about the Tilt as a 'communications tool' and compare it head-to-head with the BlackBerry I pretty much want to throw the Tilt and Windows Mobile out the window (pun most definitely intended). The Windows Mobile OS is not very mobile user friendly compared to the BlackBerry OS. Its user experience is more akin to a computer that’s been downsized into a phone instead of starting with the demands of a mobile user and building an OS around the way a mobile user actually works (yes, that is what RIM has done with the BlackBerry).

Two thoughts about this issue. The first is a gripe I've long had that people assume that “Windows Mobile” is “just like Windows.” This is actually a gripe against Microsoft, in a way. I can't really blame them for leveraging their brand (and the “start menu”) to try to grab new users - but the bottom line for me is that Windows Mobile has a completely different UI philosophy to Windows - or at least different enough that I've had to help people through mental blocks like “On Windows I do X, why can't I do X here?”

The second thought is that, yes, Windows Mobile can be slow and that, as I said early and often about the Tilt, it requires some customizing to get it to work efficiently (read How To: Customize Your Tilt). That “customization required” is probably a bad thing on the whole, but the silver lining is hugely important for me. Out of the box, a Windows Mobile device is often not as user-friendly as a BlackBerry -- but once you have it tweaked, you can do things with a WM Smartphone that would make a BB user's head spin.

...Or so I assume, I have the BlackBerry 8310 (which is currently in Phone different's hands, read Mike excellent overview here) during week three. I'm on record as of this moment that I will eat my words if I'm wrong about the above.

Last thoughts

CrackBerry Kevin is annoyed by having to use the power button to make the device active. Agreed. As for the data loss thing - the Tilt won't actually lose data if it powers off, it just might lose whatever particular thing you might be doing the moment it shuts down -- just saying.

He's also annoyed by the battery life. Well, them's the breaks with a device as loaded with radios as this one. Maybe we should have sent him something with better battery life -- any suggestions for next year?

Anyhow, those are a few brief thoughts. What do you folks think? Tilt getting a fair shake so far from our BlackBerry fanatic?

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So David Pogue put up a review of the T-Mobile Shadow (Video First Look of the Shadow here) - I'm jealous because the Shadow is the device I'm itching to try out for real once the Smartphone Round Robin is over. He gives the hardware and the specs very high praise, but spends the bulk of his review railing against Windows Mobile.

Frankly, Windows Mobile 6 is a mess. Common features require an infinitude of taps and clicks, and the ones you need most are buried in menus. Apparently the Windows Mobile 6 team learned absolutely nothing from Windows Mobile 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Read: Looks Good, Feels Good, but Wait... - New York Times

I have a few thoughts on this (including a Zuney zany idea!)- read on after the break.

Fair 'nough, I suppose, that Pogue is frustrated by extra dialogs, menus, and wait times. CrackBerry Kevin and iPhone Mike expressed similar complaints in their Round Robin posts. A lot of that is, as Pogue says, the manufacturer “punting” their responsibility to tweak Windows Mobile a bit to match the hardware. But a lot of it is stuff that I might be blind to - I pop up menus to do things and it doesn't often bother me because I have the shortcuts built into my “lizard brain.”

What I mean is that Windows Mobile works for me in large part because I 'grok' it. I encourage other power users to try to 'grok' it too so they can access the incredible functionality squirreled away inside Windows Mobile. With non-power-users, though, I often find myself just suggesting they get something simpler, which is a real downer.

We mentioned that Microsoft is playing around a bit with the interface with the Shadow, and may be playing around with the interface in general for the (unlikely) rumored Windows Mobile 6.1 update. Should they be playing around more?

I'm sure there would be a lot of support for a complete User Interface overhaul of Windows Mobile. In fact, I'd say most people keeping an eye on this space are expecting just such an overhaul from Photon / Windows Mobile 7.

In an IM conversation with our very own Merlyn3D, I had a surprising thought. The Zune isn't doing all that well in the market of MP3 players (and that's not too surprising), but what if Microsoft doesn't care? What if they're using the Zune to build up their “interface chops” and using what few buyers they've gained as secret beta testers? We know that we won't see a “Zune Phone”, but we also know that the Zune and Windows Mobile share the CE Platform underpinnings.

So how about it? If we want to know how Microsoft is going to simplify the User Interface of Windows Mobile in Photon, do we need to look no further than the Zune?

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14

The Smartphone Round Robin!

The Smartphone Round Robin

So WMExperts is part of a family of sites, we're a sibling to TreoCentral, Phone different, and CrackBerry.com. Together, the four sites cover the 4 major Smartphone platforms in the US. Normally, each site covers its own beat and does its own thing - but not this month.

No, this month we're starting the first annual Smartphone Round Robin. Each week for the next month, the 4 editors of these sites will literally trade phones. We'll be forced to use only “the other guy's” phone as our main brain - writing up our impressions, getting help from the other site's forums, and generally finding out why everybody seems to be so loyal to their smartphone of choice.

Win a Smartphone!

It's not all about us, though, it's more about you folks. So as a part of the Smartphone Round Robin, we're giving away fabulous prizes. The grand prize is a smartphone of your choice (that's currently available in the US or Canada) and some mad money to spend on accessories. Three runners up will also receive coupons for free smartphone accessories. 4 sites, 4 winners total, natch.

Here's how to win: Just post in any Round Robin Forum Thread at any of our sites, the WMExperts Round Robin Forum is here. Every day you make a post, you get another entry into the contest. The full contest rules are here.

Follow Along

Here's how to follow along: Just head on over to the Smartphone Round Robin Update page and follow it there or via RSS. Every time there's a new forum thread (threads == chances to win!), we'll let you know. Every time one of our community editors talks about their impressions of “the other guy's phone,” we'll tell ya. We even have all sorts of rules and regulations we have to follow so that each smartphone gets a fair shot.

It's going to be a wild ride.

Read: Smartphone Experts (SPE) Announces the First Annual Smartphone Round Robin

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6

CTIA: Liveblogging the Steve Ballmer Keynote

Updated: We've added a ton of photos to the liveblog, after the break. Don't forget - there's real live shots of the all new Blackjack II in red inside!

We're waiting for Steve Ballmer's keynote to start. We're expecting him to announce some server-side services for Windows Mobile to compete with the Blackberry Enterprise Server stuff - device management and whatnot. But you never know - this is, after all, a conference dedicated to “Wireless IT” and “Entertainment.” Dieter wants Slingbox capability built into Windows Media Center - but that's shooting the moon.

In any case, click through and get ready to hit that refresh button. We're starting up in 10.

(all photos by Joel Martin)

9:25
We're starting in 5. The Tilt failed us for DUN for some reason, so we're stuck updating over Internet Sharing on a Touch. Oh EDGE, how I hate thee.

9:28
I don't know who thought these pre-event commercials were a good idea, but when your “texting” commercial makes me think of a Mattress Warehouse commercial, that's not a big help to your company.

9:30
You can tell we're starting because they're shining a bright, white spotlight into the crowd and playing some song with deep bass. So much for saving my vision and hearing. Here comes Steve Largent, President and CEO of CTIA.

We're at the “largest data event” in the world. New keynote format this year - just one speaker per day. That's a nice change, it got a little schizophrenic before. About to list some stats from CTIA's wireless survey. Let's see:

  • Subscriber count: as of June 30th, 243 million wireless subscribers in the US. About 81% of the population.
  • text messages, about 1 Billion per day in the US. That's a lot, baby. 28.8 were send in 2007.
  • the full survey is at http://CTIA.org

...and now the Ballmer intro.

- that's new, ain't it?

9:35 Ballmer's on stage! He's looking sharp. Plans on talking about “trends” in an “increasingly mobile” world and the change from “software” to “software services.” Code for: We still want to take on Google, eh?

How have things changed in 6 years? 6 years is an eternity in the mobile space. He's showing off the Sprint Touch - retail on November 4th (we knew that). It's a “crossover” device that's good for business and also TV, video, etc. Small, lightweight, and sexy form factor. You damn skippy, Ballmer.

Talking about how WiFi was just getting popular 6 years ago, but now we got ourselves 3G and WiFi isn't as important.

User expectations have changed, too. Thin vs. Thick clients in PCs

Top, most-desired item in every emerging market: smartphones. Yep. 6 years ago, Microsoft had ONE phone, ONE model, on ONE model, in ONE country. Today: 160 models, 140 form factors, 20 million WM will be sold this year. Don't forget that when you next hear iPhone sales numbers, folks, 20 million WM phones.

9:42
Microsoft's improvement over the past 6 years - they're getting interested in cellular networks and providing services over that. Models of computing:

  • desktop computing (thick clients)
  • enterprise
  • online (services in the cloud, talking to thin clients)
  • devices. (Pictures of WM devices, Zune, XBOX 360)

Devices are #1 on Microsoft's innovation agenda. Yesterday's idea: having all these models separate, having multiple email, text, phone accounts. Will advertising work with devices the way it does with online? Maybe not so much - there needs to be a more sophisticated meld of business models (am I stretching too much to read Google digs in all these).

Mobile phones are the most popular device out there, period. How to we get it to “fully participate” in the same experiences you can get in the other computing models? That's Microsoft's target. Enterprise brought to the phone.

Oh, there's a picture of a Blackjack up there, it's red? It has a few different buttons - looks like a Blackjack II to me.

“In many countries, the phone will be the PC, for people with less money.” Talking about a “docking station” to turn your phone into a PC. Basically he's talking about opportunities for growth in the mobile space. “Think of it like a universal remote” for your business and personal phone. The phone needs to be able to cover both sides of your life.

9:48
Making fun of people who carry multiple devices, well, not mocking so much. “It strikes me as odd.” Pushing multiple form factors to meet multiple tastes. Yet despite that, the basic services and things you want to do are often the same from person to person. In other words - he's fond of the Windows Mobile busines model of licensing the OS to partners who innovate on form factors.

“Microsoft has a fairly expansive view of the mobile space.” Focused on partnership with operators, developers.

Work, Life, Platform: the themes for today.

Work

Security management, deployment, applications, communication, IT integration. Listing through th myriad of types of communications and applications necessary in enterprise computing. Need to offer tools to IT departments to manage all that. See's a “clash” coming - IT needs to manage some things, but end users want to control the devices they're using (especially in their personal life). Need to balance IT's need to manage with personal users' need to customize.

Announcement

Microsoft System Center, Mobile Device Manager 2008. Helps IT manage, secure, and provide secure access for smartphones. Will work with “forthcoming versions of WM devices.” Versions coming in Q2 next year to support this service. It will manage the phone like it would manage “mission critical data” on a PC. What can it do? Provisioning, data encryption, password requirements, data compliance, mobile VPN management. They're trying to make it standards-compliant, too. The idea is to bring devices (from the 4 above) closer to enterprise. Brian Hoskins up for a demo! 9:56: Demo

Setting up a new device, in case you lose yours. “Self enrollment website” You can create an “enrollment request” yourself - anybody who can log into active directory can request to set up a new device.

You get the password from the site, punch it into your new phone, and it automagically enrolls into your management system. Sets up policies, password settings, the whole shebang. Fast, easy, cool.

Showing stuff on server side now. Device status, device history, blocked devices, pending enrollment, recently wiped devices. Ha - Steve Ballmer has had his wiped a buncha times for this demo.

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The oft-rumored, pratically fabled Google Mobile Phone isn't what many thought it would be. The rumors were all over the map, so much so I avoided writing about it because it was difficult to ascertain even a tiny clue about what was going on.

Well, now we know. Google isn't making the hardware. They're making the software. They're going to compete directly with Windows Mobile, on very much the same business model: make the OS and let hardware people make the phones. The only difference is that, much like their internet offerings, the OS will be free, likely subsidized by ads:

“The essential point is that Google’s strategy is to lead the creation of an open-source competitor to Windows Mobile,” said one industry executive, who did not want his name used because his company has had contacts with Google. “They will put it in the open-source world and take the economics out of the Windows Mobile business.”

Some believe another major goal of the phone project is to loosen the control of carriers over the software and services that are available on their networks.

Read: For Google, Advertising and Phones Go Together - New York Times

Analysis after the break, go getchyer panic and then getchyer happy thoughts: click the "read more" link.

Initial Panic

Right now everything feels quiet, like a calm before the storm, like sitting in a foxhole on a foggy morning, like sitting in a jeep on a lost island and watching a cup of water ripple - the T-Rex is coming.

Microsoft has been viewing Google as their main competition for a long time now. If that feeling wasn't cemented before, it is now.

I really hope that this doesn't mean I won't be able to use GrandCentral someday.

Why It's Good for Windows Mobile Users

Now, the bright side for Windows Mobile lovers - there are a lot of bright sides.

Writing a Smartphone operating system is hard. So hard that, at least up to this point, Apple has taken a flyer on it and developed a closed-system that doesn't offer an SDK (we got your SDK right here), or cut and paste. It's a supercharged-feature-phone, but not (yet) a smartphone. Heck, Palm has been saying they're developing something nearly identical to what Google is talking about for years now and they're still 12-18 months away from releasing anything. The point is that will take a long time before Google's featureset will be comparable to Windows Mobile.

Competition is good, despite what people are fond of saying about Microsoft's embrace and extend philosophy. In fact, there's so much growth potential in the smartphone space, anything that grows the market will grow it for everybody (at least for now). The rising tide raises all ships metaphor still applies.

Free (with ads) sounds scary. But I, and I think a lot of other people, will pay a little more for keeping our precious smartphone screen real-estate ad free, thanks.

I really and truly do hope that Google achieves their goal "to loosen the control of carriers." That helps everybody. Carriers are evil, really really evil . Google's motto is "don't be evil." Carriers could learn from that.

Bottom line: It's still the software, stupid, which I wrote in response to a round of Google rumblings back in July:

And I have a lot of faith in the Windows Mobile team and the Windows Mobile developer community when it comes to function. Which brings us back around again, to Google. Google presents an interesting challenge (yes, Billy G, a "challenge") to Microsoft: Can you take the simple, intuitive, and direct spirit of the original Google homepage and apply it to a smartphone? Can you continue to increase the power while also making it more intuitive to use?

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