The sad state of Windows Mobile

Kate and I recently upgraded our phones. This is the second time around that we get identical phones (well, almost identical, mine is red). We ended up getting the Samsung Blackjack after an afternoon of going to all the cellular stores having Kate play with all the keyboard phones. I had actually been eying the Palm Centro because of its bigger and touch capable screen as well as built in threaded messaging, but decided against it as I had a friend run in to problems running Opera mobile on it. I’m also not a big fan of Blackberrys, so I too decided I would give Windows Mobile a try, thinking that because it’s a windows device, there should be a good amount of decent software for it. I was mistaken, to some extent.

One of the nice things about the Windows Mobile platform, is that if you’re capable, it’s somewhat simple to create your own custom home screens. There aren’t too many resources available, or plugins for that matter, but it is a possibility. The home screens are simple xml files that contain information on which plugins to use as well as simple layout information. All the home screen files are kept in \Application Data\Home folder of your phone. You can just place a new file there, and the display settings will read it up. I just used the ones that came with my phone as reference, and moved some stuff around to create something that I found useful.

Decent software has been a little bit harder to get a hold of then I originally thought. While there seems to be a renewed interest in creating good applications for the windows mobile platform, it seems to all be directed purely at copying the success of the iPhone. This means that all the really nice applications are touch only. I tried downloading some of the applications at I (Heart) Windows Mobile.com but couldn’t use any of them because they are touch only. I actually encountered that with several applications I installed. Thankfully, the creators of iContact added regular input to it so that I can still use this application without the touch feature.

Even iContact makes me feel like a secondary citizen. Without touch input, I can access some of the buttons on the screen! Use of the soft buttons, as well as the back button in windows mobile devices is not consistent at all. ExtremeText, the application I’m using for threaded messaging, doesn’t do anything when I press the back button, same thing with the IM app my phone came with. One would hope that pressing back would take you to the previous screen, but this apparently needs to be done in the app level.

Setting up ActiveSync in vista has been really simple though. So, at least that’s a nice break. It’s really nice to be able to sync your pictures and music from phone to your computer. Syncing is so painless, I’ve been thinking about trying to get podcasts to load onto my phone. I did have one snafu though trying to connect sync through bluetooth. After syncing with the computer through a USB cable, and setting up the bluetooth connection, you still have to run the ActiveSync app on you cellphone to connect. Still simple, but an extra step I hadn’t though of until I googled it.

July 28, 2008 10:56 PM Gadgets and Hardware


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