One Line Wisdom: Windows Mobile Edition

In the past we’ve asked you to share your best tips with the community, and in the same vein comes my newest talking point, the elusive yet useful joys of a small nugget of wisdom. Your mission, dear community, is to share one short line of wisdom that you might give to new users of Windows Mobile devices, old vets, and recent converts from “dumbphones”. Feel free to expound on your one-liner, but the one-liner should be able to stand on it’s own. Here’s mine:

When it comes to software, less is more

My line refers to the temptation some users get to trick out their phones with every conceivable application under the sun. And trust me – I was no exception to this when I started out with Windows Mobile. I had (still have actually) registration codes for easily the top 30 applications for Windows Mobile. I tried everything, bought most of it, and today use almost none of it. Aside from 3-5 applications I install, my device remains stock. Why? Well it isn’t that the software isn’t well written, it’s simply that I know what I use and try to avoid the clutter of unused doodads. When you find the software that really works for you, you don’t need to spend hours tinkering with everything else. Your smartphone just works, smartly, for you.

Now it’s your turn – share your line of wisdom and explanation (Perhaps it’s When it comes to software, use everything!”)!

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Feel In Touch: The Samsung Omnia Reviewed

http://omnia.samsungmobile.com/

Product Category: Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional SmartphoneManufacturer: SamsungWhere to Buy: Expansys [Affiliate]Price: $689 USD (16 GB), $634 USD (8 GB)Specifications: 5 MP Camera, 3.2 TFT WQVGA Touch screen (240 x 400), Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi 802.11g, Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE, HSDPA 7.2 Mbits, TV-out, FM Radio, Integrated GPS, microSDHC, 1440mA battery

Pros:

  • Fun to use & responsive;
  • Sleek design;
  • Innovative value-added features (e.g. flashlight, haptic feedback).

Cons:

  • Widget Bar: full of promise, low on usability;
  • No multitouch ability;
  • Price and availability.

Summary: I’ve posted news on the Samsung Omnia over the last few months and found it to be interesting enough to purchase. What I found when I opened the box got me excited to be using Windows Mobile again, something I doubted could ever happen. Read on for my experience re-discovering the OS through Samsung’s vision of usability.Getting To Know The Omnia

The Omnia measures 113 x 49 x 15.1 mm (4.45 x 1.93 x .59 in) and weighs in at 140g (4.94 oz). It feels nice and light to the touch without feeling cheap. The first thing that a Windows Mobile user will notice is the absence of a normal D-Pad. The Omnia sports a call send, call end, and action button on the front, with the action button holding a surprise. Not only does it work like the normal center button on a D-Pad, it IS the D-Pad. Moving your finger from side to side or up and down will scroll as if using a normal D-Pad. And if that doesn’t float your boat, Samsung has also built in a mouse function that will let the little black action button control an on-screen mouse pointer. Functionality similar to a laptop’s touch pad is provided, with fairly good accuracy while mousing around the screen. Turning the device on shows Samsung’s unique homescreen, slightly customized below (I needed a time readout!).

Figure 1: Samsung’s widget bar, which is shown by clicking the arrow has widgets that can be dragged onto the home screen. The widgets, however, are not customizable (e.g. you cannot add new or remove existing).

For those of you not into Samsung’s new look, they also provide a more normal home screen layout sans widgets. Below is the layout I’ve been using.

Figure 2: Alternate home screen, pressing Settings slides the icons to the right and shows Figure 3.

Figure 3: The settings panel, allowing you to quickly toggle vibrate, Motion (the ability to detect orientation changes and adjust screen rotation), USB mode (Activesync vs. Mass Storage), on-screen mouse, and flashlight (activating the LED flash in continuous mode).

In addition to the funky home screen that is pretty usable, the device also has its own Main Menu, in a further attempt to prevent you from ever having to deal with Windows Mobile’s ugly Programs menu (well, ugly by some standards – I actually like it…)

Figure 4: Samsung’s Main Menu.

Figure 5: Modifying the Shortcuts.

The Omnia also includes Samsung’s “Touch Player”, a more finger centric and friendly interface to listen to music compared to regular old Windows Media Player that we’ve had since the stylus-intense days of old.

Which brings up an interesting point regarding a stylus and the Omnia – namely they don’t want you putting the thing anywhere near the screen. Sure, they include a stylus (a retractable one at that), but it doesn’t have a silo in the device to store it. In fact, the best they can do is put a loop on the end of it so you can hook it to a hook on the device. Why? Well, they want you using your fingers see – and they will not be deterred by us old timers who long for our styli!

Figure 6: Samsung’s Touch Player

Integrated Camera

The Omnia sports a 5mp camera, with LED flash as well as video recording support. The camera works very well under direct lighting, and in the dark thanks to the flash. It’s medium lighting situations where you may get some blurring (as in the third example shot below). Overall the Omnia’s 5mp means that I don’t have to carry around my pocket camera/camcorder, however I find myself still putting it in my bag – just to be on the safe side. For each of the sample shots below, click on the image to get the full, undoctored, picture.

Figure 7: Looks warmer than it really is…

Figure 8: Everyone needs a dressed-up Jamaican Head.

Figure 9: Notice how the medium light makes this picture the blurriest of the three.

“Wow Cool” Features

The Omnia shines in the areas that Samsung has taken the time to improve over a stock Windows Mobile 6.1 core. While WinMo 6.1 is extremely powerful, it’s not anything new or interesting for those of us who have been using these devices for quite some time, and it darn sure isn’t anything that would make you stop and go “Wow… Cool”. But here are some things I found somewhat innovative and “Wow… Cool”-ish about the Omnia.

  • The front camera that is actually useful for those without voice calling: it detects light level to increase or decrease screen brightness, and also (in conjunction with the accelerometer) can enter an “etiquette” mode. You turn the phone over on its face, and it automatically mutes all sounds.
  • The Finger Mouse. Toggle-able from the homescreen, it turns the D-Button (the black button that is sensitive to touch and can act like a D-Pad in one mode or control an on-screen mouse in another). Not useful in all situations, but in some it really shines. Hence the much appreciated toggle on the Samsung today screen for it.
  • The built-in Samsung SIP that’s actually surprisingly useful for someone with big fingers to enter text into. For the ultimate dream though, a third-party app like SPB’s Full-Screen Keyboard really makes one forget about a dedicated keyboard.
  • The flashlight feature that lets the light used for a “flash” actually serves some function. Hold the volume key down for 5 seconds and it turns on, letting you navigate your way through a dark room.
  • The haptic feedback (how did I get to bullet four without mentioning this already): it’s very nice to get some responsiveness after a keypress, a screen rotation, even a quick button press. The weird thing? This could have been implemented years ago – we all had “vibrate” motors!
  • The value added applications such as an RSS feed reader, world clock, reader, converter and even video editor. Nevermind the FM radio built in as well as TV-OUT capabilities.
  • The smoothness of integration. While some gaps are present, Samsung excels at providing one of the best integrations of OEM components and Windows Mobile that I’ve seen to date.

Head to Head: Omnia vs. Touch Pro

The Omnia came to me mid-October, and after playing with it for awhile, I realized that I needed to view it in comparison to another popular device of its generation, the Touch Pro (a.k.a. the AT&T Fuze). So, without another Windows Mobile Maven around me to bum a device off of, I did the only sensible thing – I bought a Fuze at my local AT&T store (WM Devices are my only real vice, I decided to forgo excessive drinking in my undergraduate days to have cash for them..;). Anyway, it is that purchase that was the genesis of this piece of the review: the head to head comparison. I’ll compare the two devices on four important qualities: Touch Responsiveness, Windows Mobile Customization, Daily Use, and Subjective Value (i.e. my own opinion).

Touch Responsiveness

Quick Response is something near and dear to most Windows Mobile Enthusiasts, and let’s face it, our beloved operating system can at times have the quick response of a party-loving college freshman on Saturday morning. Especially important is the fact that these devices need to respond quickly to touch as touch is really the only thing that you’re encouraged to do with them. The Omnia has a nice haptic feedback feature that I’ve already mentioned that lets you ‘feel’ when some touches are recorded, which is nice if the screen doesn’t draw quickly to let you know that you’re changing. But the Touch Pro will not be outdone – its screen draws in a side-by-side comparison were faster about 80% of the time for me. I know others out there have been critical of the Touch Pro and Touch Diamond’s graphics performance, but at least for the devices I’m using, it seemed to draw quicker. Finally, the last test is entering text. Samsung gives a nice finger-keyboard SIP they custom designed, as does the Touch Pro. I swapped Samsung’s out for a copy of SPB Keyboard 3.0 and was not disappointed. But as it comes stock, I do have to admit that the Omnia does a bit better keying in data, of course the Touch Pro has a real keyboard that can prevent finger-tap-keying in the first place. It’s a touch decision, but in the end I’ll have to go with the one that vibrates.

ADVANTAGE: Omnia

Windows Mobile Customization

Samsung certainly has made a bold statement with their widget bar, and the Touch Pro’s TouchFlo interface doesn’t much resemble the home screen we all known and love (loathe) either. If you’re after information, and a quick way to find it, you’ll like TouchFlo much better than the widget bar, or even Samsung’s alternate interface (See Figures 2 & 3). TouchFlo, however, can be a bit sluggish until you learn the tricks (e.g. that you can hold down your finger on each icon at the bottom and rapidly scroll to the other icons). In the useful category, I’m going to have to give HTC Props, but in the “cool” category, the widget bar does have a more impressive show to put on. Which wins out in the end?

ADVANTAGE: Touch Pro

Daily Use

I recently took a trip to Chicago for a conference and brought both the Touch Pro and the Omnia along with me. Over four days I used the Touch Pro for 2 and the Omnia for the other 2. Interestingly enough, I found that while the Touch Pro could be excellent to browse quick e-mails (e.g. by using the e-mail and text tabs in TouchFlo), it had some strange quirks. The version of Google Maps I’d loaded on it took forever to get a GPS lock, even with a fresh “hint” file download. Google Maps also had the strange habit of going zombie on me. It would minimize but refuse to re-open, even if I stopped it in memory and tried to open it again. Only a soft-reset would help, causing some rather embarrassing moments while trying to navigate my way around another city (But on another note, Thank goodness for Google’s new public transit routing in major US cities!). The Touch Pro, aside from its zombieness did do an admirable job and does have a beautiful VGA screen that puts Samsung’s WQVGA to shame. It is my go-to device when I know I’ll need to enter a lot of text. The Omnia, however, never zombied up on me, got quick GPS locks, was adequate to read my e-mail, and has remained my daily driver ever since the trip.

ADVANTAGE: Omnia

Subjective Value

Subjectively, I like both of these devices (after all, I bought both…). But the Omnia seems to have a certain sexiness that the boxiness and thickness of the Touch Pro lack. Now I know that the Touch Pro needs to be a bit more bloated since it has a keyboard, but why couldn’t it include some of the “sexy” features like a 5mp camera, or better use of the accelerometer like the Omnia does out of the box? But like I mentioned before, if I plan on doing a lot of work using text input, the built-in keyboard will always win over the graphical based one. So My recommendation: if you do a lot of text, grab a Touch pro. If you don’t, or you just really love finger tapping out letters, go with an Omnia.

ADVANTAGE: Draw

Conclusion

After using the Omnia for about a month, I can actually say something I’ve been wishing were true for awhile: this is a device that makes me excited to use Windows Mobile again! Samsung has done a good job on their first attempt to seriously tweak the OS, and may have even outdone modifying kingpin HTC in some areas. I didn’t even mention the fact that the Omnia has at least 8 GB of on-board storage to play with, and there are many other nuances that make the Omnia very attractive. The Omnia is my new daily driver, and I’m eager to see what the next generation hardware/software combo from Samsung will be.

Jon Westfall is a Microsoft MVP, frequent contributor to the Thoughts Media family of sites, avid City of Hero player, and most importantly a person adrift in the sea of a doctoral dissertation, looking for an island on which to rest. Track his journey and learn more than you really want to know at JonWestfall.Com

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Verizon Announces Samsung Saga

http://www.samsungmobilenews.com/20…rizon-wireless/

“Verizon Wireless and Samsung Telecommunications America (Samsung Mobile)1 announced the addition of two new phones to Verizon Wireless’ robust portfolio of global phones – the Samsung RenownTM and the Samsung SagaTM The Saga is a smartphone that features a 2.55″ advanced touch screen and a full QWERTY keyboard that provides business professionals with an easy way to send e-mail, text and instant messages. This productivity powerhouse is equipped with Quad Band GSM/GPRS capability, an optical mouse, Wi-Fi access (802.11 b/g), Opera mobile browser and Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional to keep customers connected to their offices when they are at home and abroad.”

Hopefully the Saga won’t simply “be a a medieval Icelandic or Norse prose narrative of achievements and events in the history of a personage, family, etc” but will be an honest to goodness Windows Mobile device that brings some options to those on VZW. Opera is getting bundled more and more these days, and for good reason. Now if VZW can simply find a way to charge by the keypress, they’d be all set.


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Pharos Unveils New Traveler 117 and 127 Phones

http://www.pharosgps.com/buzz/buzz_…eler117_127.pdf

“Pharos introduced two new GPS smartphones that offer full-featured navigation and lightning-fast 3.5G connectivity on an unlocked, Windows Mobile handset. The Pharos Traveler 117 and 127 are Pharos’ first phones to include Pharos Smart Navigator, a unique hybrid navigation product that is the first to combine navigation software + location services on a Windows Mobile device”

I’ve long been a fan of Pharos Ostia GPS package, and their new hybrid phones that include the Smart Navigator component look pretty nice. Pharos has been at this phone thing now for a year or two – anyone out there have one or have an opinion on one?


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Touch Pro Reviewed at Mobile Tech Review, 4WinMobile

http://www.mobiletechreview.com/pho…C-Touch-Pro.htm

“The HTC Touch Pro is undeniably one of the hottest PDA phones of 2008. And in the US, just as with the HTC Touch Diamond, Sprint customers get to sample it first. Previously available only as a GSM import with no US 3G, the Sprint version is the first carrier-branded Touch Pro. Rumor has it that AT&T will launch their version soon as the Fuze, and Verizon will have a version with a slower CPU and less memory (again, these are just rumors as of this writing). What is the Touch Pro? It’s the keyboard-ed version of the Diamond, and it’s light years ahead of the Mogul on Sprint or the Tilt on AT&T. It’s smaller, more modern looking, has a flush VGA touch screen display and all the bells and whistles you’d expect on a flagship smartphone. Specs include Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, a 528MHz CPU, 288 megs of RAM and 512 megs of flash storage, an SDHC microSD card slot, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth and a 3.2 megapixel camera. For messaging and content creation types, the most salient feature is the Touch Pro’s slide–out QWERTY keyboard.”

The Touch Pro is getting quite a lot of attention as of late. With the review quoted above and another at 4WinMobile, it is interesting to see it getting some very high marks from reviewers around the world. I’m certainly interested in it as well as the Omnia – what about you?


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Inside My Scottevest

Here is a quick list of what is in my Scottevest Tactical 4.0 jacket:
2 cameras, 2 smartphones, wallet, pen, Ring Thing, laptop charger, proporta battery, sync cable, apple, orange juice, Thinkpad X60, ID badge, and I think that’s it!
Off to MS Campus

Device Change Again!

OK, this may be a new record. 24 hours using the Dash! But I have a good excuse – it was in a soft-reset loop…. now how did that happen?

Well, this afternoon I was a busy beaver loading up a bunch of software on Dashy because I wanted This Today Screen. And ya know what? I got it. It ran pretty good, but was a bit of a memory hog. No worries, it was soft resetting alright, and I wasn’t too concerned.

Then tonight I figured I’d drag out my Think Outside Stowaway Keyboard & Mouse and make sure they still worked. I loaded up the Smartphone drivers on Dashy and BOOM – soft reset loop 🙁

I’m not going to point fingers or blame anyone here – I’m pretty sure I’m to blame for overloading it. Still, I’m a bit miffed (Well, a lot miffed considering how the Indians are doing right now) that all my hard work paid off like this… GRR.

But on the upside, the device will be ‘fresh’ the next time I use it (It’s finishing up it’s cool reboot now). Now let’s see, what device should I choose next? I think we’ll try Mr. Treo. He has a fresh WM 6 installation on him (Flashed the official upgrade right before it went into storage last time). Maybe I’ll have better / longer luck.

I Was Tagged!

Talk about being out of the loop! Nearly 10 months ago, Doug over at Just Another Mobile Monday, Tagged Me! In this wonderful virtual-tag game, you give 5 little known facts about yourself, and then tag 5 other people. So since I’m already tardy, I’ll get straight to the facts!

1. I’m a closet Star Trek: The Next Generation fan. When I was younger, I was an extreme Trekker. I mean winning-trivia-contests-had-my-own-captains-uniform-watched-ever-show type of Trekker. Now that I’m a bit older, and not to amused by subsequent Star Trek efforts (e.g. Enterprise), I just quietly sit back and keep my little geeky secret hidden. However I do fall prey to watching re-runs of favorite episodes, from time to time!

2. I’m really anal about organizing SOME things and not others! Those who know me will probably find it amazing (given the way my bedroom and home office look most of the time) that I keep my office at work organized meticulously. My files are in order, and my computer’s hard drives have organization all of their own. I can find 99% of all files I’ve ever looked for. Now if I could only say I can find 99% of all socks I’ve ever looked for, i’d be in business!

3. I’m into music, just not in the same way as others! Most people I meet like certain genres of music, or certain bands. I like music too, but in a weird way that just screams “Yea, he once played violin, poorly, in school”. I’ll listen to a song from any genre and find the oddest things about it to like (e.g. the way its mixed, the way two instruments happened to sound together). I get the feeling most of my quirky musical likes are accidental by the artists. A good example is the song Eminence Front, by The Who. When the first line of the refrain is sung, the original mix has an error in mixing that causes a wonderful syncopation effect (Sorta like you’re hearing “Eminance Fron-Front”) that I love. Too bad they corrected in other mixes!

4. OK, I guess the secret is out in #3 – I have played Violin for a substantial part of my life (4th grade through 11th grade). I was awful at it. Really bad. The kind of bad that keeps you second-to-last-stand of second Violin for 3 years (And I’m convinced this was just because my teacher felt bad for me so she threw some underclassmen behind me). I still pick up my fiddle from time to time (Modern music isn’t too bad to play compared to classical), but not enough for others to notice.

5. And lastly, something that only a few people know about is the fact that I revel in the mundane things in life! It’s the little things that make me very happy. If I can beat a traffic light because I drive the same route and know exactly how fast to accelerate so I beat the light a mile down the road, that makes me happy. If I clean out an old file and move things to archives, that makes me happy. Backups make me happy. And having a kick-ass gel pen that writes well makes me happy. I suppose this is why I’m pretty laid back – I don’t look for an exciting life, just a mundane one with small joys!

OK, enough about me! Now it’s time to tag 5 other people. Since I have a pretty low-traffic blog here (I actually have 2 low-traffic blogs that are syndicated to a low-traffic homepage named after myself…), I guess most of these people will wait 10 months or longer before finally getting around to posting their own questions. And the game of tag will go on and on and on due to mutual procrastination and lack of obscure knowledge!

Here’s my list:

1. Karey Westfall (My Wife). She’s had a WordPress blog at karey.org now for a few years and NEVER written in it. Lets see if this gives her the impetus to start! She and I do have a pretty good cookbook over there though…

2. Jason Dunn (From Thoughts Media). I’ve recently started regularly checking out Jason’s personal blog (With a kick-ass theme created by Darius Wey) and figure he doesn’t have enough to do in his life so I thought I’d add this tag game to his list ().

3. Vijay, from XDA-Developers and his own site, Vijay555.com. He’s coded a half-dozen and more pretty useful little programs for Pocket PC and shares his knowledge over on XDA-Developers forum to a great degree. Plus, I’d love to know 5 little-known facts about him!

4. Ed Hansberry from Pocket PC Thoughts. Ed is the resident voice of sarcasm and wit at PPCT, and his K-JAMMING blog could really use an updating. So Tag – you’re it Ed!

5. Hal Goldstein, THE main man at Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine! Another person whom I’m sure has Way too much freetime and would love to fill out this tag game! Hal works pretty hard (as does the rest of the Magazine team) to put together a quality product I’m proud to read and contribute to.

So there you have it. I’ve completed my tag, and tagged 5 others. Now they’ll find out when they invariably google their own names (Come on, we all do it) or hear about it from someone, and perhaps they’ll post a comment here letting me know they’ve decided to keep the tagging game alive!

Offsite Articles & Reviews

The following articles and reviews have been written by me, and posted at Pocket PC Thoughts


Articles

Missing Parts and Bad Communication: The AKU 2 / A2DP Situation


Tips

Goodbye Annoying Password Time-Out Problem

Casual Developers – Create A Virtual Development Workstation


Software & Accessory Reviews

ThumbMagic (Quick Look)

Multidmedia's Zinc V2 For Pocket PC

Boxwave's VersaCharger Pro

Mastersoft's SuDoku & Kakuro

SCOTTEVEST's Hidden Cargo Shorts, TEC Hat, and Performance T-Shirt

Spb Insight
Pocket PC Techs Extended JASJAR Battery (Quick Look)
SCOTTEVEST's Tactical 4.0 & Ultimate Hoodie
Spb Mobile DVD

Innobec Sidewindow

SCOTTEVEST's Performance Polo & Performance Pullover

Impactica ShowMate

SCOTTEVEST's Evolution Jacket

Delorme Street Atlas 2008 DVD Edition


Pocket PC Reviews

HTC TyTN II

HP's hw6915 (hw6900 series)

Sprint's PPC 6700

i-Mate's JasJar

 

 

The following articles have quoted me or mentioned my work, so I figured I'd post them here as a way of saying "Thanks"!

 

The New York Times

Just Another Mobile Monday (They tagged me!)

Smartphone & Pocket PC Magazine (Board of Experts 2006, 2007)

 

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Windows Mobile Devices, Meet Your New Brother…


Picked up a shiny new T-Mobile Dash today, and have been uber-impressed with it so far. My previous smartphone was the Mpx 220 (Shown in the lower left), but 2003 OS was SO 2005…, so I went for a WM 5 with AKU 2.3 on it. I think it’s pretty, but the Pocket PC Phone Editions keep looking suspiciously at it. I’ve boxed them up so they can’t conspire against their new little friend.
On a serious note, this thing is really fricking small – smaller than I thought from the pictures. It’s a good 3 cm less wide than the iPaq 6915 series (Shown upper left), and MUCH thinner than any of the other devices. The T-Mobile version lacks the JOGGR application, however the volume slider strip has not blown me away thus far. Since I’ve never been much for scroll wheels or jog buttons, I doubt I’ll miss the JOGGR feature on the stock HTC s620.
A friend asked me today why I had 5 cell phones that I use. I figured it was only fair to let e
veryone know why I firmly believe each phone has it’s uses and what particular tasks I’m planning to use each one for:
Dash: Daily driver smart phone. Good to pair up with Jasjar for business trips / meetings where I can use the Jasjar for notes and such, and then stow it and play with the dash outside the office.
Mpx 220: Rock sturdy, and cheapest to replace should it die. Used for hazerdous areas, such as theme parks, outdoors activities, etc…
K-JAM: For those times I need a Pocket PC + Phone and want the smalest possible package.
iPAQ: For those times I need a Pocket PC, Phone, and Fast data entry.
JasJar: Mostly used unconverged (although I’ll pop a SIM in it in a pinch). Great for gaming, web browsing, etc.. over a Bluetooth EDGE session with the iPAQ, K-JAM, or Dash. The mpx 220 will give it GPRS speeds as well.
Different day, different phone. Variety is the spice of life!