Southern Man

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Phone Rants

To celebrate the holiday season Southern Man treated hisself to a shiny new toy - a T-Mobile "Wing" cell phone. It's a little big but very, very fancy. Big screen, unlimited Internet, all the trimmings.

It also runs the Windows Mobile 6 operating system, and while Southern Man gets along just fine with most flavors of Windows, he has discovered that he hates Windows Mobile 6 with a passion equaled only by his loathing of Windows Vista. For example:

The main "Today" screen is customised in the usual way by tapping Start - Settings - Today. And you can customise until the cows come home and your screen will NOT change. Until you also tap Start - Settings - System - Screen, change the font size, hit OK, change it back again, and hit OK again. And with some font sizes you can't customize at all - the phone stubbornly refuses to accept any changes. Added later - cured by a "hard reset." Which more or less obliterates all of your custom settings, address book entries, and so on. Fortunately these can be backed up to the PC through a handy little USB cable, so it's only somewhat painful.

There's a little icon that toggles whether or not the media player is shown on the main screen. It has no effect unless youy also go through the font-resize procedure above. This amusing little problem appears at random and can also be cured (usually) by a "hard reset" or two.

There's an icon to set up your Yahoo! email. Cool, Southern Man has Yahoo! accounts. Several frustrating hours of failure later, Southern Man finally stumbles on an obscure link on the T-Mobile web site that says that, well, this only works with Yahoo!® Mail Plus, not the free Yahoo! account. Never during those hours of frustration was this information indicated by Windows. Thanks for nothing, Bill. But Southern Man, being the stubborn cuss that he is, finally got it to work with one of his Yahoo accounts. Sometimes. No luck at all with his GMail accounts, though, which makes email on this phone fairly useless.

The phone has a lovely backlight that dims after a minute or so to save your precious battery juice. Fine. Every phone that Southern Man has EVER owned will light right back up if you press ANY button on the phone. Not the Wing - if the phone isn't lit those big fat buttons on the front do nothing. NOTHING. To relight the backlight you can either pull the keyboard out or press the teeny tiny on-off button on the top edge. That's such an obvious miss that Southern Man wonders if the builders of this thing did any usability testing at all. This misfeature alone will drive Southern Man insane.

The phone has a "lock" feature. Very handy. However, it automatically unlocks whenever you recieve a call, meaning that whenever it's ringing and you're trying to dig it out to see if you want to answer or ignore the call, you invariably end up hitting either the big fat "answer" or "ignore" button without meaning to do so. This is monumentally stupid. Did anyone actually use this phone before putting it on the market?

The operating system supports a sort-of address book called a "Contact" list. T-Mobile has a cool little feature called My Faves - basically, free calls to your five favorite people. Do these features get along? Of course not. If you modify an entry in the Contact list - say, update an email address or a ring tone - then you get to do it AGAIN for the same person in your My Faves. Sheesh.

But here are the two killers. First, this phone has the maddening tendancy to call someone other than the person currently displayed on the screen. From a user-interface point of view, that's absolutely insane; if there's a name displayed on the screen, that's the person that should be called. Second, when you get a text and try to read it, the phone takes you to whatever message folder you last browsed, not your inbox. In other words, this thing often fails to correctly perform the two most frequently used tasks required of a modern phone - making calls and reading text messages.

Naturally, Southern Man blames Windows for all of this and his next phone will definitely NOT be a Windows-based phone. The upcoming Google phone, perhaps. We'll see.


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