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.

More →

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 -


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.

More →

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. :)

More →

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!)
More →

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!

More →

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)

More →

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.
More →

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.


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.

More →

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.


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.

More →

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?

More →

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?

More →

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

More →

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)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

More →

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?

More →

Must Have Windows Mobile Software

In Part One of this series, we covered How To: Install, Uninstall, and Transfer Files on Windows Mobile. Now that you're an expert on installing, let's take a good look at the What... what software do you want to install and where to find it. Because there is so much WM software out there to choose from, it can be a VERY expensive adventure, trying to figure out which programs you really want or need.

In this part of the the Windows Mobile Guide, I will focus on what are the must have software apps I recommend everyone should have, software apps I would suggest getting, and where to get them all. I will even show you where to get tons of software for free...legally!


Every WM phone comes with the basics that you will need right out of the box. You could, for the most part, get by without buying anything extra. But there are some really cool ad-ons that can make your phone more user friendly, more entertaining, and personalized for your specific personal or professional needs and wants. Sometimes it is just because the software that came with the phone is simply too basic and you really want/need those extra features and tools.

I am actually asked fairly often what is the first thing they should buy for their phone, and here is what I tell them (click on their names to see more details of any of the following programs):


  • Resco Explorer 2007 for Pocket PC: This is what the original WM File Explore should be. It gives you full control of finding, viewing, and managing all of the files on your phone and memory card. It is easy to use and loaded with options and features.

  • Spb Mobile Shell: I personally recommend only three Today Screen plugins to everyone. This is one of them. 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.

  • 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. This also includes a call filter so you don't have to worry about getting calls from those you put on your blacklist, and it gives you an option to send a text message to someone if you cannot answer their call right then. It 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. 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.

  • PocketBreeze / ContactBreeze: This dual is the third Today Screen plugin that I personally recommend to anyone. It makes it a snap to review your calendar, look up contacts, and read your email... all without opening up any PIM or email client. It saves you time and it saves you loads of memory so you do not have to have a calendar and email client running in the background at all times.

  • Sprite Backup or SPB Backup: This is absolutely the single, no questions asked, MUST HAVE! There is nothing more frustrating (or heartbreaking) than when you just got your phone all set up just like you want it... you have all your contacts entered... all your games installed...all the Registry Tweaks are just the way you want them... and then... tragedy strikes and for whatever reason you are forced to do a hard reset on your phone wiping out all your changes and bringing the phone back to the same state as if you just opened the box for the first time. Either Backup program will work fine. It is often times more of a personal preference vs features. I personally use Sprite Backup. Keep an eye out in the future for a Smackdown review between these two backup solutions here at WMExperts.

    SPB Backup:

More →

The First Device

I'm in the midst of writing Part 3 of my iPhone vs HTC Touch series (Part 1 here and Video Part 2 here), partially because my comrade Mike over at the iPhone blog, Phone different has said that he's going to call me out on our iPhone podcast because I recently used the phrase "iPhone killer" in my Sprint Touch Hands-on Impressions. The upshot of this link-heavy introduction is that I have a new concept in my arsenal of smartphone punditry that I learned from the Foleo and its curious absence (of all things): The First Device.

It's an awkward name for an important thing, which I'll explain after the break.

Foleo Cancellation One Last Time

As I wrote after the Foleo was 86'ed, the Foleo was interesting not for itself (it was underwhelming itself), but because it was an attempt to create a 3rd category of mobile devices, it was an attempt to "go back to formula" when it comes to mobility. It failed, sure, but what was exciting about it was that it made all of us step back and rethink mobility just a little bit. It's not about specs, or form factor, or even User Interface, but some mysterious combination of everything that makes up a gadget that makes it compelling.

This is another reason that the Foleo was a bit of a tech journalist dream - it gave us a chance to rethink the categories we use to think about gadgets. That was clearly Palm's intention - to shake up our preconceptions about what gadgets are. But the idea of a "Mobile Companion" was complicated from the start. Unlike the original Palm and also unlike the Treo, the Foleo didn't have an instant "AHA" moment when you saw it.

The initial "AHA" moment only lasts a little while, though. It gets the money off your bank account, sure, but it doesn't keep the gadget out of the drawer and in your pocket (or in the case of the Foleo, your gadget-bag).

I need to talk about the First Device in the context of the Foleo because it was the Foleo's creator, Jeff Hawkins, who planted the seed in my head. He clearly understands the concept very well. In our conversation at the Foleo launch event, Hawkins again and again spoke about how important instant-on was.

He spoke about how previously, if he wanted to Google something quickly, he'd go to his Treo. With the Foleo available, it supplanted his laptop and he'd use that instead. The point was that the Foleo became his go-to for quick information. It became his First Device.

First Device

That, in a nutshell, is that the "First Device" is: your go-to gadget that you grab first when you want to "do something." That "something" is different for everybody

  • a quick search
  • YouTube
  • SMS
  • getting directions
  • checking your To Do list
  • jotting down a quick note

...these days it could be pretty much anything.

A "First Device" is what smartphones are to most of us. You have this thing that you grab right away to Get Things Done or Be Entertained. You need it to have a few compelling features:

  • Instant On
  • Easy to Use / navigate (software-wise)
  • Aesthetically Pleasing (in other words, fly)
  • The right size

It's not just about immediacy, though that's important, it's also about filling a need that you have. After you've used your First Device, you want to feel like you got your thing done with a minimum amount of hassle, you want to feel like you accomplished something cool.

A gadget becomes your First Device over time. You have the initial "AHA" moment, then you come back to it, and eventually you learn whether or not a given gadget gets your thing done without getting in your way. Eventually you build an affinity for that gadget and it becomes your First Device or you learn to loathe how it keeps you from doing your thing and it becomes an eBay auction.

Different devices are better at being different kinds of First Device. Blackberries, for all their faults, are great email First Devices. Feature phones are great phone call First Devices. PalmOS devices are good catch-all First Devices, though it's hobbled these days by its looks and speed. Windows Mobile... more on that below.

It's not enough to make a Smartphone that's able to do anything. What a Smartphone needs to do is be a compelling First Device in the category that matters to you most.

iPhone vs. Windows Mobile as a First Device

For me, the iPhone is a good media-First Device. That's to be expected, given Apple's institutional experience with the iPod. But the iPhone is a shockingly good Web-First Device. If I want to check the web quickly (and I'm in a WiFi zone) and I have a Windows Mobile device, a powered-down laptop, and an iPhone sitting on the coffee table before me, I'll usually grab the iPhone. Words can't describe how much better Mobile Safari is compared to anything else out there I've used (including the Webkit-enabled Nokia devices).

Windows Mobile can be a great First Device in nearly every category. The problem, in my opinion, is that it's very personal - you need to do some work to make Windows Mobile become a First Device for you. A Windows Mobile device I've set up is a killer First Device for me in 85% of the uses I want. But were I to hand it to somebody else, it makes a terrible First Device.

Afternoons and Coffee Spoons

Doctor, every time I drink coffee I get this horrible pain in my right eye.
Take the spoon out of the coffee.

Apple made a perfect cup of coffee, web-browser-wise, and then took the spoon out. Everybody else has made a mediocre cup of coffee and left the spoon in -- just in case you want to add more sugar or cream or whatever.

The spoon in this metaphor is the ability to customize your device. It's wonderful to have, but it often pokes you in the eye. It also means you'll be less likely to be able share your coffee with somebody else.

At the end of the day, I do want that spoon in my coffee cup so I can adjust the coffee to my tastes. That's why the iPhone can only be my First Device in a couple of categories. Windows Mobile isn't nearly as pretty, but I can stir in some hazelnut flavor or whatever (Captain, the metaphor is breaking down!) to make it fit my tastes.

I just have to remember to take the spoon out sometimes.

What's your First Device? Sound off below!

More →

Join us in reading Hobbes' epic How-To install guide, the definitive one for how to get the stuff you want on your Windows Mobile device. It's geared to the new user, but even an old-hat like myself has learned a thing or two from this monster guide. If you're like me, you have a friend or family member who's always hitting you up for help with their Windows Mobile smartphone. My new advice to them: read this article. -- Ed.

Window Mobile (WM) phones can certainly make a huge impact on your productivity on a personal level as well in your professional career. It can offer hours of entertainment with games, movies and music while making sure you never miss a beat from the office while away from your desk. When someone buys their first WM phone, they can usually be placed into two different camps. Those who have only owned a regular cell phone and this is their first smartphone... and those who have owned smartphones in the past, but never a WM phone (i.e. they have only owned Palm OS, Symbian, Blackberry, etc.). In either case, as with anything else in this world, there is a learning curve in order to reach that level of comfort and understanding with their new phone, though this learning curve is probably smaller than some might think at first.

This is going to be the first part in a series aimed at addressing the most common questions, beginner misunderstandings, avoidable unneeded frustrations, etc... that many brand new WM users face. Or for some long time or casual WM users, it may simply answer questions you might have been too embarrassed to ask about!

Part one focuses on how to copy files to your WM phone as well as how to install and unistall software applications on your phone. This guide is written with the beginner in mind, so it does go into a little more detail than you would normally find.

How To: Manually Transfer Files From the PC to the Phone

There are times you will want to transfer files to your new Windows Mobile phone. They may be Word or Excel docs for work, your collection of MP3s, a program you want to install, or pictures of your 3 year old that you are itching to show anyone who will look. There are a few different ways you can transfer files from your PC to your WM phone. Sometimes you will have to make a judgment call as to which way will be the best for the file(s) that you want to transfer, depending on it's size, how many there are, and the location in relation to your phone. In other words, is the file big or small, do you have 2 or 163 files, is it on the PC sitting next to the phone or is the file 2,000 miles away on you boss' laptop. These tutorials assume you have a basic knowledge of Windows XP or Vista on your PC.

Transfer with ActiveSync

If you only need to transfer a few small files and you can connect the phone to the PC that has the files, then you can use ActiveSync to transfer the file. Please be aware that if you are using Windows XP vs Windows Vista, the steps below are very similar with only minor differences. The big difference is basically in the name of the Utility that you use depending the OS on your PC. In Windows XP you will use ActiveSync, which you may need to install on the PC (you can download the latest version here). In Windows Vista it already comes with its version of ActiveSync called Windows Mobile Device Center. Here is how you would do it with both WinXP and Vista:

  1. Open Windows Explorer on your PC (usually Start / All Programs / Accessories / Windows Explorer )
  2. Connect your phone to your PC
  3. In XP: After ActiveSync shows it is connected, click on the "Explore" button on ActiveSync on your PC

    In Vista: After Windows Mobile Device Center on your PC shows it is connected to your phone, hover your mouse over File Management and then click on the "Browse The Content Of Your Device"

  4. In the ActiveSync Explorer or the Windows Mobile Device Center Explorer window you just opened on your PC, browse to the folder on your phone you want to copy the file to.
    In WinXP: The window will usually open in your phone's My Documents folder in WinXP ActiveSync. In order to browse anywhere else, you will have go up one level by double clicking on "My Windows Mobile Based Device" and then browse to any folder on your phone or select Memory Card and browse to any folder there.
    In Vista: Vista's Windows Mobile Device Center it will open up to the root directory so you will have to start by clicking on the phone for the internal memory or the SD card to explorer's it's folders.
  5. Now in Windows Explorer on your PC find the file that you want to copy to your phone.
  6. To copy the file to your phone, simply drag the file from Windows Explorer to the the window of the ActiveSync Explorer or Windows Mobile Device Center Explorer window.

  7. A progress bar will show the status of the file transfer. Please note that if you are using Windows XP, you will not be able to browse either the ActiveSync Explorer window or Windows Explorer until the transfer is completed, but if you are using Windows Vista you will be able to continue to browse while the files are being copied.

You really only want to use this option if the file(s) you want to transfer are small. You also do not want to do this if you are going to transfer a lot of files.

Transfer with a Card Reader

One of the easiest ways (and the way I personally do it most of the time) is to simply remove the memory card from your phone and plug it into a USB card reader connected to your PC. Then you simply use Windows Explorer to drag and drop any file(s) you want copy from your PC to any folder on your phone's memory card.

There are times that this will really be your only option, too. For example, when you want to transfer a VERY large file (i.e. the map file for the whole USA for your GPS navigation program) or a large group of files (i.e. 682 MP3 files) then you want to use a memory card reader for two reasons: First is that copying large files or a large group of files via ActiveSync may literally take **hours** longer. I am not kidding. When I first tried using Active Sync to copy about a GIG of MP3s to my phone, 6 hours later it was still trying to finish them. It only took a matter of minutes with my card reader. Secondly, if ActiveSync does not recognize the file format, it may try to convert to a format it likes better, but then makes it not usable for the intended program (I had this happen to me when I tried use ActiveSync in WinXP to transfer my map files for my GPS navigation program).

Transfer with Email

Now if there is a program that is on a PC that is not next to the computer that you want to install on your phone, then you can email the CAB file to your handheld so you can install the program. Please note that for this to work, you will need to have a CAB file to send, and not the EXE installation file (see the next section for details on this). On the PC, send an email to an email account that you have already set up on your handheld. (Look for a future How To article on WMexperts or browse the forums if you need help with this). Then make sure you attach the CAB file to your email. And send.

More →

Palm Treo 500 Emerges, Updated with New Pics

Well look what we have here, a shiny new image of the Palm Treo 500, nee the Palm Gandolf, which will be announced officially on Sept. 12th. Things that we have confirmed now:

  1. It's not as ugly as the PalmOS Centro and it thankfully a bit wider, making typing easier
  2. 3G, thank the lord, though no word if it's HSPDA or UMTS for sure (put your money on HSDPA)
  3. Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition (i.e. no touch screen, a first for Palm)
  4. It's a Treo, the Treo 500.

(In short, we were right all along.)

We're happy to see that Palm is keeping the "Treo" moniker on it, contrary to recent rumblings. We're also happy to see that it's being called the Treo 500 - sorta makes sense since many consider a non-touchscreen device to be less powerful than touchscreen brethren. Sadly, the screen here is dark, so we don't know yet if Palm has cooked in any of their fabled UI improvements onto Windows Mobile Standard or not.

After the break, the full image along with some nice marketing copy from a phone shop in the Netherlands, plus babelfish's best attempt at a translation.

Update 1: When it rains, it pours, Alles Windows Mobile has specs:

A reliable source informed us that Palm is to announce the new Treo 500v very soon. It will run Windows Mobile 6, will come with a 240×320 screen, has 150MB of memory and communication will be possible using UMTS. The expansion slot will be Micro-SD, just like the Treo 750. The dimensions are slighly less than the Treo 750: 61×110x16mm, and also the camera (2.0MP) and Bluetooth (v2.0) are slighly better. The device will be available in grey and white.

Also notable is that the Vodafone version looks to be a Treo 500v, like the Vodafone Treo 750v.

Update 2: Alles Windows Mobile comes through with more pictures, after the break. They show that, yes, the Treo 500v is a little fatter than we'd like. Another sad note, the white picture seems to cast some doubt on the whole shootin' match just a wee bit.

Click for the full image:

with the palm treo 500 you can remain according to your own wishes linked. the combination of tel., e-mail, messaging, the web, and windows mobile with palm extra's as a result of which you more easily than ever productive can remain receive e-mail from several accounts business or personal. the web goes up where you stand also with fast 3g networks or relax and lustre to your favoriete musiek, play videoclips, or make and send photograph.

Update: More pics

Two more images courtesy of Alles Windows Mobile (who asked us to re-post rather than link directly to the image to save their scanty bandwidth). Note the giant "Cyclops-eye" style camera:

This second image, of the white one, is a tad suspect. Why is the keyboard blurred out? Also note that the white version has no Vodafone logo and the Treo logo is moved. Perhaps it's pre-production, perhaps its the unlocked, non "v" version, or perhaps we are all getting played for fools.

More →