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Ten Days with a WinMobile Phone -- My Review

Bill Malchisky  November 23 2010 01:30:00 AM
When I purchased my Palm Pre Plus from Verizon Wireless, I was told that it was international capable. Thus, I looked forward to using my Palm Pre during international business trip for all my needs. Two days before departure, I went to Verizon to have them enable the international access and was told that my model did not have that feature. I'll omit my response, as there might be minors reading this post. With less than two days before my flight departed, I needed a phone. Verizon's rental program provided the hardware I needed. So, they FedEX'd a phone overnight and got me setup. When I attended UKLUG 2009, my rental phone was a Blackberry. This time, I was sent a Samsung Saga WinMobile 6 phone. Getting passed the surprise I took the opportunity to learn and see if my previous thoughts were correct.

N.B. over the years, I have used several phones from Motorola then moved to smart phones by RIM (six models), Motorola (Android, demo usage), Palm (Pre Plus), and light usage with an iPhone, so I can draw upon that experience plus my degree for ascertaining design strengths and weaknesses across multiple designs and versions therein.

Executive/geek abstract
: If you want a proper textbook case of what a bad GUI or user experience would be, get a WinMobile phone. If anything, the WinMobile experience made me appreciate my WebOS phone even more.

"If you used any other smartphone, you would never choose this phone."
-- Cellular Vendor's Global Support Representative

Detailed Analysis

1. the issues I encountered are with the phone's OS and not the hardware itself; thus Samsung delivered a quality product for the components that they directly controlled and I surmise that the issues I encountered are specific to the OS and would occur on any hardware running this product.

2. I used the phone 95% while roaming internationally and admit that if you only use your phone domestically, you should never see some of the matters I experienced

3. Setup two e-mail accounts, which existed on the same mail server and allowed for access to all my e-mail: one personal and one business;

4. My Palm Pre did work well on the conference LAN, and received mail and tweets with ease; but didn't route mail due to the hotel network's DNS look-up delays from our traffic...which apparently exceeded the time-out threshold; received feedback that this occurred on several laptops as well, when accessing web sites, so not a Pre issue per se.

5. I tried all of the failed tests in UK, back in the US upon arrival and both e-mail and web performance were the same


  • The phone provides a familiar Windows interface with either a mouse or 4-way navigation system, defined in the mouse settings option
  • The flat black circle in the phone's center is provided to allow for multi-way navigation...but is slightly counter-intuitive
  • Four-way navigation does not allow for an easy way to access the top row of information icon shortcuts (same row as the start button)
  • The mouse control preference setting would randomly lose the setting and defaulted back to the 4-way navigation; this event I found annoying
  • The only way I found to properly and easily get to all of the features on the phone was with a mouse; i.e. same old Windows
  • If you remove an icon from the phone's front four navigation tabs, it is not entirely clear how you get it back
Web Experience
  • Properly zooming in for a web page proved inconsistent and irksome. Tapping would allow for it to move, but my model lacked any landscape option so, it made for a suboptimal viewing experience
  • Page loading is slow and would sometimes time-out
  • The default browser is.... wait for it...Opera! Yep, no way to pair-down the mammoth beast that is Internet Explorer for a mobile phone; kudos to Microsoft here, as the Opera mobile choice for this system is quite good and worked well for most things
  • Difficult to scroll down pages...another inconsistency in design, as there was no vertical scroll bar here, so the mouse proved useless, you needed to use the Palm/Android/iPhone approach utilize one's fingers to scroll down
  • Finger navigation did not work consistently or at all across applications
  • Default setting is to warn you every time you Send/Receive mail manually that you are (a) roaming, and (b) could incur higher data charges--every time you click Send/Receive Mail
  • Thus, setting the automatic update frequency doesn't work when roaming
  • There exists a setting to not show the warning message...but  you need to dig deep into the hidden settings and set per account!
  • After removing the warning message, the automated mail delivery still didn't work; I needed to manually check my mail; rebooting the phone didn't help
  • Arbitrarily would decide that it could only connect to one of my e-mail accounts and inconsistently pulled mail from the other, but only randomly
  • Many times, the only way to get the phone to pull mail was to reboot the phone
  • Each case when mail would fail, the user would see, "Receiving headers", "Receiving folders", then the dialog box would appear stating that the phone could not receive messages; if the device already received the message headers, and some to all of the folders, why is it now stating that it can't get the mail? Bad process design
  • Never could receive mail from both accounts during any time when I wanted to receive mail: always one or the other
  • In all cases when I tried mail, the phone displayed four or five bars for signal strength and the battery was over 50% charged (except the last day when it was 25% charged and it pulled down my personal mail)
  • The mail application had a vertical scroll bar, which could not be reached when utilizing the four-way navigation, making viewing messages difficult, and thus really needed a mouse
  • Same goes for the Inbox
  • The default setting is to receive only 2k for each message; so you really only receive the message headers.
  • When I opened up a message I would see nothing in the body except a hotspot telling me to click to read the full message; then I needed to wait for the next Send/Receive cycle to read it. For Every Message!
  • This feature ensured that I had plenty of time to do other things on the plane, as I had zero data for the flight from LHR to Belfast
  • Re-read the part on message retrieval success
  • I did find a way to increase the message retrieval amount, buried down multiple levels of menus and did minimize the pain, but the 2k default is far too low
  • There are no decent free Twitter applications for this phone, for many fee based clients either; thus, I weighed the benefit of adding a short-term app for $4 while roaming internationally, without any guarantee that it would complete the download and thus charge me for the purchase again. I opted out and used my laptop and Palm for Twitter
Phone Experience
  • The phone would display missed calls despite the phone never ringing; I chose to have the phone in the vibrate setting, during the conference and enabled the audible ringer when in the room at night. I missed five calls when I had the phone right next to me with good coverage and it never rang
  • Vibrate setting would arbitrarily get reset to audible ringer, which is a software setting under two menu levels...uncertain how this occurred
  • Did drop calls 50% of the time--might be a hardware issue, uncertain here as troubleshooting it was not that important for me
  • The main screen doesn't disengage when speaking on the phone, making it entirely possible to allow for the inconsistent finger navigation to engage a menu setting--which it did for me a few times until I learned to keep the phone away from my face


Overall, the exciting prospect of the new phone interface quickly became overshadowed by the interface's realized short-comings. The applications do not work together at all (in my experience) and the navigation seemed antiquated after using my WebOS based phone. My biggest issues are definitely the inconsistency of mail retrieval and settings changing without apparent rationale. When a user sets something in an application, it should remain in that state until they actively change it, or engage a setting that enacts a time window for effectiveness. Software design is important and for any device that allows for workflow, the entire process of usage across personas should be considered. Despite the devices apparent shortcomings, there is a market for this phone and people to purchase Windows-based smartphones.  If all a user ever knew was Windows on their desktop and on their phone, then they might be quite happy with this device. More demanding or sophisticated users will want a Linux/BSD-based phone OS. As with anything, your experience may vary based upon usage patterns, requirements, expectations, and importance weighting.

Image:Ten Days with a WinMobile Phone -- My Review

1Volker Weber  11/23/10 1:30:51 PM  Ten Days with a WinMobile Phone -- My Review

Windows Mobile is awful. So awful that Msft replaced it with Windows Phone 7.

2Keith Brooks  11/23/10 1:55:48 PM  Ten Days with a WinMobile Phone -- My Review

Since I own a Windows Mobile phone I will simply say that if you had the time to read it/hack it and set it up properly it isn't as bad as all that.

That said, there is a good twitter client for free, as well as facebook and other apps.

Also you should have used traveler on sms if you had an unlimited account.

The OS does indeed suck.

Memory hog and a sloth next to any other phone.

At the time i got mine, the only choice I had for a touch screen(i have had touch screens since 99) was the older iphone or this phone, the blackberry at the time was not even up to spec on the touch screen or web browser side.

My next phone will most likely be an android phone, but you never know.

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