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SPB Weather 2.0

SPB Software is probably best know for it's Mobile Shell application but they also offer a wide range of Windows Mobile applications. One of which was recently updated, SPB Weather. It has a few more bells and whistles than previous versions and as promised, we have just finished putting SPB Weather 2.0 through the ringer. Check after the break to see what the forecast bears for the latest SPB application.

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The Smartphone Round Robin took quite the unexpected hiatus -- I've been awfully busy these past few weeks and truth be told it was Windows Mobile itself that helped me manage my increasingly hectic worklife. In case you missed it, here's my Video of the Fuze, including some details on how I've decided not to use TouchFlo 3D.  Now that I'm back on Windows Mobile, it's time to explain why it's a great OS. Although the Round Robin contest is now over (we'll announce the winners tomorrow!), I'm betting you all will have plenty to say about this year's take on WM.

So read on!

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2

Sprint Touch Pro Accessories - the Basics

While the Sprint Treo Pro has been getting quite a bit of attention lately, the Sprint Touch Pro is still my device of choice.  I've found that I am much happier with it now that I've built a cache of some basic accessories to deal with things like the lack of a 3.5 mm headset jack and a touchscreen that almost begs to be scratched.  So let's  take a look at several accessories that you may want to add to your carry on bag the next time you take a trip or simply to make life a little easier while at the office.

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Nothing beats walking the links on a sunny, fall day with a slight breeze rustling the fallen leaves keeping things cool but not cold. There’s a certain satisfaction of hitting your tee shot solid, sending it long and straight down the middle of the fairway. Then reality hits you and you realize you’re at work, day dreaming about playing a round of golf instead of tackling the pile of work growing on your desk. Golf fanatics don’t worry; there is an escape available to temporarily curb your golf addiction that is as close as your Windows Mobile phone. Golden Tee Golf and Par 72 Golf might just satisfy your itch to play eighteen long enough to get you through that pile of paperwork. To see if these two games are on par, read on after the break.

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4

Bluetrek Metal Bluetooth Headset

Thin is in? Are you someone who prefers sleek, slender, light weight gadgets? Bluetrek may have something to meet your needs. Bluetrek has been making Bluetooth headset for a while now and it looks like the company may have hit a home run with its latest headset, the Metal Bluetooth Headset ($59.95). The sleek, black aluminum body has the Metal standing out amongst other headsets but does the performance stand out as well? Will it make a nice slender companion for your BlackJack II, Motorola Q9h or Treo Pro? Read on to find out how Bluetrek’s latest at bat measures up.

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16

Smackdown: RedFly vs Netbook (MSI Wind)

 

The title says it all. Which is a better mobile solution: RedFly (see Dieter's full review) or MSI Wind Netbook (see Laptop Mag's full review)?  To be honest, the question is a bit unfair as they are technically different device genres with different puposes. But alas, people have spoken and want to see a head-to head. So here’s a brief rundown of their pros and cons. (For the record, I’m using the older version of the RedFly). Curious about my experience with both?  Then read on and ask me any questions you may have, since I surely did not think of everything.
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Review: VITO Voice 2 Go

I am always looking for ways to make it easier to use my phone while driving in the car. I have also historically liked many of Vito's products. This is why Vito Voice 2 Go caught my eye. The ability to remote control your phone via voice commands would be handy while driving. I want to be able to easily call a contact, launch a program for quick reference (like a GPS program), etc. without fumbling with the phone or the stylus.

Historically with voice activated programs, the main challenges have been accuracy, training, battery power, and memory usage. To see if Vito Voice 2 Go stacks up to the test or if it should be avoided, read on with our review.

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1

Astraware's Zuma and Glyph

Astraware is one of the best entertainment software companies around for the mobile environment. From Bejeweled to Tradewinds Astraware has cranked out some of the most addictive, entertaining games for your Windows Mobile device. From puzzles to strategy, these games help you pass the time, unwind from a long day’s work or when you just need a little break from it all. Glyph and Zuma hope to follow the tradition of it’s predecessors by not only being entertaining but also addictive. Both games are formatted for Windows Mobile Professional, requiring a touch screen to play and to see how these two chapters of the Astraware gaming library shakes out, read on.

 

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We're not going to be able to give you the full rundown on the Xperia X1a right away, but trust us when we say we're pretty darn stoked. See, I'm here in San Francisco with Rene from The iPhone Blog to cover Macworld (that'll be live-blogged too.  Heck, I'm doing A TreoCentral Live Blog as well for the Palm announcement). We stopped by the Sony Style store and asked if they were selling the Xperia X1a yet.  Answer:

We had them before but they took them away for some reason.  But we just got two in on Saturday.  Let me ask if we're allowed to sell them, they said we could start on Monday but let me confirm.

867 dollars (after taxes) later, WMExperts proudly has an an X1a to show off.  We'll rock it around CES next week and generally give it some time to sink in before we present our thoughts in greater detail.  Meanwhile, we recommend you hit up your local Sony Style Store to see what they have.  Apparently, the X1a isn't the great white whale we were afraid it was

After the break getcher unboxing photos and a couple comparison shots with the HTC Fuze. 

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Today we're wrapping up the Smartphone Round Robin for good. Well, except for my own personal “bonus round” with the Nokia N95 ...and a later “which smartphone is right for me?” article at the main Round Robin site ...and we'll also be on the Mobile Computing Authority podcast next week. ...and we'll do it again next year with new devices. So though we ARE wrapping it up today by announcing winners(!), the truth is that the Spirit of the Round Robin will live on forever in all of us. Gag.

So here's the deal: At each of the four participating sites (WMExperts.com, PhoneDifferent.com, CrackBerry.com, and TreoCentral.com) you'll find the winners of the Smartphone Round Robin Contest announced, plus a wrap-up article about each platform with some closing thoughts from the editors.

So - after the break you'll get tasty, bite-sized verdicts on Windows Mobile from my compatriots plus my own thoughts on their thoughts - a Round Robin Roundup. And then you can post your thoughts on my thoughts on their thoughts, but I know that you know that they know that I know what we all know: Windows Mobile is still my favorite.

Winners!

A gigantic thank you to the communities of readers, members, and commenters at all of our sites. We started the Smartphone Round Robin to give back to you, but of course it was your comments and posts on our articles that were the real fun. From those comments and posts, we've randomly chosen the winners.

Congratulations to the winners of the Smartphone Round Robin Contest! Here they are:

Grand Prize Winner: RickMG

For this post, RickMG wins the grand prize: A smartphone of his choice plus $150 to spend on accessories in a Smartphone Experts online Store. So, RickMG - what's it gonna be? I'm telling you, take a long, hard look at the Motorola Q9c - it's thinner than that 755p ya got there, has a better browser (Default Opera Mobile!), and a little bird tells me that Sprint is serious about unlocking GPS features for all their Windows Mobile devices early next year. :D

Runners Up: Antoine of MMM, Bla1ze, and LFD153.

Our runners up (click on their names to see their winning posts) all win our runner up prize: $100 good at one of the Smartphone Experts Stores!

I (Dieter) will be contacting the winners later today via their registered email addresses - so heads up, folks, emails with “You Won!” often end up in junkmail. :)

...Let's move on, now, to the final verdicts on the AT&T Tilt (and Windows Mobile):

CrackBerry.com's Kevin Michaluk on the AT&T Tilt

Read Kevin's First Look and Final Thoughts on the Tilt

The Tilt was actually the first smartphone other than my BlackBerry I had ever experienced. I thought “withdrawal” would quickly get to me, but with Windows Mobile 6 running on the feature-packed Tilt I found myself able to do everything I could on my BlackBerry and more. The Tilt even supported BlackBerry Connect, so I was easily able to maintain the BlackBerry “Push Email” I have grown so accustomed to.

Though the Tilt offers tremendous capabilities, for me it fell short on delivering everyday usability. Part of this was the Tilt's form factor – it is about as far away from a BlackBerry as you can get. While the Berry is very much a one-handed device, the Tilt's slider form factor w/ touchscreen offered so many input methods that I never quite found a comfortable way to use it. Form factor aside, I didn't like the WM user experience. While the BlackBerry OS is designed for the way a mobile user works, WM still resembles a computer experience forced into a handheld. Everything I could do on the Tilt I could do two or three times faster on my BlackBerry and for 3x long (the Tilt's batter barely made it past 3pm). If you need WM capabilities and have the patience to tweak, a WM device is a great solution. If you want ease of use and the ability to get the job done quickly, think BlackBerry.

PhoneDifferent.com's Mike Overbo on the AT&T Tilt

Read Mike's First Look and Final Thoughts on the Tilt

Windows Mobile is an incredibly powerful smartphone platform. There's over 100 different phones to choose from. The default setup isn't very intuitive so you may want to check out one of the many 3rd party apps that “fix” Microsoft's mistakes choices. Every Windows Mobile phone apparently ships with a different set of software on it so no two are alike, hardware or software.

If you've got a lot of time and energy to put into a phone, this is an excellent choice. There's almost nothing you can't do with it, and anything you don't like about it, you can change, given the time and money to do so. So if you eagerly anticipate spending a lot of time researching which phone you want, and figuring out exactly how you want to tweak it once you do have it, Windows Mobile will be great for you. If there's a form factor you like that isn't available with any of the other smartphone platforms, odds are decent that Windows Mobile has one floating around. You just have to hope that the acronym soup of the phone matches the acronym soup of your carrier. Ridiculously powerful, and an easy recommendation to anyone that is infinitely patient or very savvy technically.

Using Windows Mobile is exactly like using Windows 95. If that makes you shudder, mission accomplished. If that makes you yearn for Windows Mobile, mission accomplished. Every wart is mitigated by an upside, and there are a lot of warts to consider with Windows Mobile, I'm prone to think that all the choices and decisions are paralyzing unless you already know exactly what you want. If capability and usability really are a tradeoff, Microsoft definitely erred on capability's side. If capability and usability are on a seesaw, capability is a 300 lb gorilla and usability's feet don't ever touch the ground. For all the negative things that I say about this platform, it's still my second choice. If I weren't technically savvy, it would be my last choice.

TreoCentral.com's Jennifer Chappell on the AT&T Tilt

Read Jennifer's First Look and Final Thoughts on the Tilt

The Tilt is a like a mini computer on steroids. It's packed to the hilt with everything you need and then some. The Tilt has enough bells and whistles to nearly deafen you with its built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, camera, slide out and tilting keyboard, and fast 3G. Coming from the Palm OS side of the fence, I appreciate the touchscreen and of course the built-in WiFi. I also appreciate that there are numerous 3rd party apps available for the WM device. The Tilt is a great device to have, especially if you don't want to be chained to your laptop.

Unfortunately, with all its power and features, the Tilt is a little sluggish at times. I guess powerful doesn't always mean speedy. The out of the box experience of the Tilt is a little weak. Some 3rd party apps go a long way towards bettering that experience though. You can find apps that let you use a lesser amount of taps to get things done. And you can find enough apps to tweak the Tilt just about any way you want it. The battery life was also a little disappointing. The WiFi really eats the battery up. Of course you can easily swap your battery out with a fresh one. If you're looking for a tweakable powerhouse that is feature packed with a great phone, here ya go.

WMExperts.com's Dieter Bohn on the AT&T Tilt

So the verdict from the Round Robin on the AT&T Tilt looks to be this: super powerful, super hard to use.

Hmmm

Well, yes, that's true and it's pretty much what I expected. Windows Mobile is a great business OS, a wonderful tweaker's OS, but not the easiest to use OS. The Tilt runs Windows Mobile 6 Professional - i.e. the version of Windows Mobile that is designed for touchscreens, often requires a stylus, and descends from the classic PocketPCs of old.

A common theme both here and in general with WM6Pro is that it's analogous to Windows on the Desktop. I think the desktop metaphor is unfair to Windows Mobile, actually, and I wish Microsoft hadn't encouraged it. WM6Pro has its own “User Interface Philosophy” that's separate from desktop Windows - it's not ideal, but it's certainly not a carbon copy. Honestly, I wish Microsoft had more fully abandoned the desktop metaphor on WM6Pro (I'm looking at you, Start Menu and “X” button).

WM6Pro is powerful, but unless you either “get it” or “tweak it,” it's bound to confuse you. I “get it” and “tweak it,” so I love it. Sometimes a company “gets it” and “tweaks it” before they even sell it (hi Windows Mobile on the Palm Treo!), which is helpful. I still refuse to say that Windows Mobile as a whole is not accessible to the average user, but the Tilt, well... it's pretty much not accessible to the average user. I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

Windows Mobile 6 Standard

What I'm saying here, basically, is I think we might have been better off if we'd chosen a different Windows Mobile smartphone, one based on Windows Mobile 6 Standard - the non-touchscreen version.

Windows Mobile 6 Standard has a 'back' button (which CrackBerry Kevin would love), seems to do a better job managing memory and open programs without hassles (which Treo Jennifer would probably appreciate), and has a more consistent User Interface instead of a mix of “start menu” and “programs folder” and so on (which would please iPhone Mike). It's not quite as powerful in most cases, though, but perhaps the Round Robin has taught us that power isn't everything. Plus - hotter form factors. :)

So next year, maybe that WiFi Motorola Q9h with Windows Mobile 6.1 will be shipped across the country for the Smartphone Round Robin. I know that I myself am realizing that I prefer the Standard, non-touchscreen version of Windows Mobile lately.

Conclusion

Meanwhile, despite the usability warts pointed out above, Windows Mobile is clearly the powerhouse of the entire bunch. The Tilt especially, which can do basically anything you could ask a smartphone to do - it just might not do it with the grace and dignity of the other platforms.

The thumbnail overview seems to be this: BlackBerry for email, PalmOS for simplicity, iPhone for media, Windows Mobile for power.

Want power? Get Windows Mobile.

Congratulations again to our winners and thanks again to Mike, Jennifer, and Kevin for doing such a great job reviewing all these gadgets in such a short space. Most of all, thanks to our readers and members who participated in the Smartphone Round Robin Forums here and elsewhere!

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2

Review: Parrot MINIKIT Bluetooth Speakerphone

For those that are afraid of Bluetooth headsets, options are limited when attempting to comply with various state and local laws regarding operating a cell phone while driving. A speakerphone of some sort, whether built into the car or a third party product such as Parrot’s MINIKIT, is probably your best option.

We’ve reviewed several speakerphones here at WMExperts. Jabra’s SP700 and SP5050 as well as Motorola’s T305 are all notable entries in this remarkably underserved market. With the MINIKIT, Parrot takes the hands free experience up a notch by integrating voice recognition technology. This may or may not be a big selling point, considering many Windows Mobile phones (including my AT&T Tilt) come bundled with Microsoft’s Voice Command or similar software. But the fact that this functionality is built into a speakerphone of this quality, makes the deal just that much sweeter.

A detailed review of all the features follows after the break.

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I'm gonna be honest here, folks, this is a tough one for me. My goal in the Smartphone Round Robin is to look at another platform from a WinMo perspective. Of course, the Treo Pro runs Windows Mobile, so it's a pickle. Not to mention that WMExperts has already:

What to do? Well, for one, I ought to explain why we went with the Treo Pro instead of the Centro. Find that in the video above, where you'll find that I'm eschewing our traditional Round Robin format and replacing it with a trip down Treo memory lane. The goal: I'm trying to work my way towards the full review later this week, when I'll examine what makes a Treo a Treo and how exactly that design philosophy can jive with Windows Mobile.

It's just a start for today, the video above poses the questions but doesn't provide the answers. It certainly feels like there's a "Treo-ness" up there in the world of Platonic ideals that applies to Palm's products more so than it does to others. It has something to do with the fact that Treos seem to hit all your standard smartphone functions at 75% efficiency but none of them at 100%, whereas most smartphones will give you 90% at one feature but only 50% at the rest.

Rather than show you all of my cards now, I'm hoping y'all can take advantage of the Smartphone Round Robin contest and comment on this post with your feedback. What makes a Treo a Treo and how can Palm find a way to not become 'just another Windows Mobile manufacturer?' Who knows, maybe your answer to that question will net your the HTC Fuze and the Redfly that Celio has generously sponsored for a lucky reader. (I haven't really hit on it yet (I will), but stuff like the Redfly is a big reason I'm a fan of Windows Mobile).

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15

Briefest of Hands-on with the Touch HD

Well, folks, the Touch HD blew through our office last night, so we were able to have a hands-on with it for the briefest of moments. It was fleeting, really, and as you can see from the video, we're a little shook up from the experience.

The screen was big and bright (at 800x480, it should bd) and most of all responsive. TouchFlo 3D was big and bold and worked as well as it does on the Fuze and the Sprint Touch Diamond -- which is to say pretty darn well. Our only gripes were with the full QWERTY Keyboard (it's not quite there yet) and the fact that the soft-buttons are so close to the main touch 'button zones' on the bottom that we occasionally hit one instead of t'other.

While we're no market segment experts, it certainly seems to us that the Touch HD would have had a sportin' chance here in the US. Maybe HTC blinked when they thought about average consumers comparing it too directly to the iPhone, given that at the end of the day it's still jarring to switch between TouchFlo 3D and the standard WM interface. Maybe AT&T put the kaibosh on it. Maybe, at the end of the day, they figured they wouldn't sell enough of them to justify the development costs, but we know our team would have been good for a few purchases.

Alas, it's not to be. As you know, HTC confirmed via Twitter that they have no plans to bring the Touch HD to these shores:

sad news, US. we looked into it- by the time we could bring Touch HD to the states, it would be old news. we do have other cool stuff coming

We're going to focus on the “cool stuff” -- because we try not to think about what might have been.

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