T-Mobile MDA vs. Wing: Should You Upgrade?

Now that the T-Mobile Wing is out and available in the stores, there’s probably a healthy amount of MDA users out there wondering if it’s worth the price to upgrade. Now, far be it from me to tell you how to spend your money - 500 bucks before contract discounts is a lot of money. And on paper, the Wing doesn’t exactly blow the MDA out of the water. Take a peek at what hasn’t really been upgraded:

  • Processor: the same, though the Wing is clocked a whole 6MHz faster at 201MHz
  • Weight: The Wing weighs 1 gram less.
  • Memory: The Wing actually has less available memory to the user. MDA has 50mb storage and 47.46Mmb program compared to the Wing’s 41.42mb storage and 43.8mb program. It’s even worse in that the Wing seems to eat up more program memory after a fresh boot with the T-Mobile MyFaves app running (and it wants to always be running.
  • Screen: The same
  • Data: Both are quad-band EDGE phones with WiFi and Bluetooth 2.0. Heck, the MDA has infrared and the Wing does not.
  • Battery Life: The Wing’s battery is smaller, at 1130 mAh to the MDA’s 1250mAh.
  • Audio Out: The MDA has a 2.5mm audio jack, the Wing makes you use HTC’s funny little mini-usb adapter.

What specs are better? Well the Wing has a 2 megapixel camera, the MDA’s is 1.3. That’s about it, actually, except…

So the main differences come down to two things: Windows Mobile 6 on the Wing and the Wing’s improved form factor. I won’t get into WM6 too much here (it’s better, but in my opinion it won’t knock your socks off); instead let’s look at the form factor differences. Read on for a photo-fortified-form-factor smackdown between the Wing and the MDA.

Thin + "Swoop" = Joy

That's the biggest difference between the two, the Wing is thinner. Big deal - well, actually, yes. It's not just thinner, its much thinner. I know - .9 inches vs. .7 inches doesn't seem like a big change, but it's a big .2 inches. It feels even bigger because the Wing has a bit of a "swoop" to it on the back (and, more subtly, on the front as well). You can sort of see the swoop on the image below (click for full size):

Anyhow, the thinness really does make a difference in terms of the pocket-ability and the feel of the device. You can really tell when its slid open and you're typing on it - it's much more handle-able, especially with that ridge from the swoop.


The other form-factor goodness that you're not going to get from a spec-by-spec comparison is the quality of the keyboard. The new keyboard on the Wing is stupendous. Truly, it's the first slider keyboard that I can use one-handed. One-handed use has always been my biggest complaint about the slider form factor. It's not easy to type one-handed on the Wing, but because of the thinness and the soft-touch paint, it's actually possible.

Tactile feedback actually isn't all that different, both keyboards are relatively "clicky," which I like. The Wing's keys, though, feel much bigger despite the fact that the actual area of both keyboards is virtually identical.

It's difficult to put in to works - the Wing's keyboard just feels much more polished and usable.

The Little Things

There are a bevy of other, subtler form factor difference between the two. The Wing comes with an honest-to-God stylus instead of the telescoping hack job you find on the MDA. The Wing has the "soft-touch" paint that makes it much more grippable. The Wing actually sits flat on a table when you have it slid open, whereas the MDA has more than a little wobble to it.

Heck, the Wing even has little indicator lights for "caps" and "alt" so you can have a better idea what you're typing.

Downsides? There aren't many. With the slider closed, there's a small wiggler between the two halves of the Wing which can be a bit annoying. As for "extra" buttons like dedicated email, Internet Explorer, etc, it's a bit of a wash. The MDA is absolutely bristling with buttons on nearly every square inch of the device, whereas the Wing is a bit more restrained.


So now we come to it: should you upgrade? I'd say it's a qualified "yes." Qualified in that, "Yes, the Wing looks and feels ten times more professional, but really, it's not all that different." Windows Mobile 6 does make a big difference and is another point in favor of upgrading - but it's still not perfection. For example, I still often get a "out of memory" error when I try to launch the camera. That should never happen and I'm mystified as to why it does.

Look at it this way: it's highly unlikely you're going to see anything better hit T-Mobile until they get their act in gear and upgrade their network to something approximating 3G. If you have the cash, I can think of worse things you could spend it on than an upgrade to your tired and clunky MDA.

WC Staff
  • i just recently got one, and the thing that bothers me is that. why didnt the makers of the wing make it more stronger to compete with, lets say apple I-phone. Also, why didnt they improve on the internet speed. plus the video and music playback. those two function jumps alot for me. It would of also been nice to have a decent size internal memory. It seems to me that t-mobile only seek left over money that these major company always rakes up. sidekick 3 came out, it was substandard to alot of phones, wing came out (mda vario2) and it too is also substandard to alot of phones. Also it is not compatible to t-zones apps for christ sake. The price asking, we should expect more. If i would of read this article (blog) i think i would of saved my money for the I-phone at least, or stayed with my side kick. please somebody prove me wrong about the wing, because im 50/50 about the wing.
  • dude mda rocks iphone wtf is non customizable ring tones and mda is great for emulators / pirated software
  • to avoid the 'out of memory' error, try the following: go to settings > system > memory and cancel any running programs that you aren't using, go to internet explorer and delete stored data.
  • I've had my WING a couple of days, it's faster and smoother than the MDA ever thought about being and no more call drop bug (because tmobile's network doesn't support simultaneous data and voice) like the MDA had bad (especially in a difficult reception area like my neighborhood--up on a hill with lots of trees). I upgraded to a wing because MDA didn't offer myfaves support, I'm disappointed that there is less memory, they should not have done that...now I have to replace iguidance with another gps package because it won't run on the WING, probably going to Odyssey 4 after I try the trial to be sure it works. There is garbage you can get rid of on the wing to open up some memory but for what this guy costs I expected to be able to run my existing windows mobile software without these kinds of issues. The wing does not feel as solid as the MDA, I've dropped the MDA a few times and it survived but I'm not sure I'd believe the WING would do as well. Calls are clearer and louder and no one says they can't hear me like occasionally happened on the MDA, power management is HUMONGOUSLY improved here over the MDA, you can leave bluetooth on and it won't kill the battery like it did on the MDA, data tethering for the laptop is also a bit easier to use on the Wing than it was on the MDA (but both can do it). The internet browsing on the WING works tons better than it did on the MDA and more websites load quickly and work correctly over the wm5 on the MDA. I like the phone a lot, it's disappointing that they hobbled this terrifically improved machine by not providing as many resources as what the MDA had (I suspect the extra bells and whistles are the culprit, so they should have boosted the system RAM since they should have known this would happen). I don't use the head set (I have a bluetooth) but next time I need to record a phone call its going to be a bit harder than it was on the MDA (I had to play a recording over the phone and record it on my pc, that was easy with the headset jack that is lacking here).
  • I lost my job and my company phone with it.
    I had a T-Mobile MDA in my desk and I could use the WI-FI.
    T-Mobile tells me I must have a phone plan in order to use the WI-FI. (I have a prepaid plan)
    Is there away to use this phone without a phone or data plan. T-Mobile can't reassure me that if a get a phone plan at $30 a month that I may still need to add a data plan for a extra $20 a month. (NOW HERE'S THE RUB A FRIEND OF MINE HAS A I-PHONE HE FOUND NO PHONE PLAN OF ANY KIND AND USES HIS WI-FI ON MY NETWORK.) T-Mobile can't answer my question so they push the data plan to bypass the WI-FI.
  • Re: Needing data plan/T-mobile vs WiFI That is not correct. I have prepaid, no data and using Wifi no problem
    I have ATT for Internet, and I use that login info at their Hotspots, avoiding T-mobile part of it. No issues at all, T-mobile prepaid for phone connection part, and going to WIFI bypasses all of that
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  • I like T-mobile, Interesting is the useful keyboard quickly text message. Good Contact Manager. It could be a bit 'faster processing. External buttons usually accidentally when you're on the phone. Overall its a good product.