Here are some of my early impressions of the Sprint Mogul and Windows Mobile 6. (All pictures are thumbnails so click away.) I’ve already installed SPB’s excellent SPB Mobile Shell which has been updated for Windows Mobile 6. It seems ready-built for the Mogul.
Size and Construction
The Mogul is smaller and lighter than the PPC 6700 and fits in my hand perfectly, regardless of how I’m using it at the moment. I really like the finish and the brushed metal color. Although I’m not sure if it is the same material or not as the PPC 6700, it feels a bit sturdier, with one minor exception, which is the Dpad. It feels a bit flimsy. The Mogul also looks sexier. The antenna knob from the PPC 6700 is gone and there is now an internal antenna. Everything just feels right when I hold this in my hands and maniuplate the device. I’d use the adjectives, slicker, faster, and cleaner to describe the device.
Sliding the keyboard in and out works like a charm, much like the PPC 6700. It took me awhile to get used to the fact that it slides the opposite way from the PPC 6700, and I still try to slide it the wrong way occasionally. I liked the small keyboard of the PPC 6700 quite a bit and the Mogul actually improves on that. It has two indicator lights that tell you when the CAPS LOCK is on and when the FN key is on, which is a nice feature. I also like that the number keys are set up similar to a numeric keypad (they are shared with the YUIHJKBNM keys). Accessing them this way with the FN key is much more natural to me than the QWERTY arrangement across the top row on the PPC 6700 keyboard. One finger (or thumb) on the FN key and one on the number keys and off you go. While some symbols are arranged on the keyboard and accessible with one press of the Function Key, others (presumably less used) can only be accessed with a press of FN and the Tab key which brings up an on-screen selection of symbols. The same is true with accented characters which can be accessed with a FN Space combination. Accessing those accented characters from the keyboard is new to the Mogul.
I’m glad the Mogul did not follow the trend I’ve seen in other HTC sliding keyboard devices by not placing the keyboard softkeys at the extreme left and right of the keyboard and kept the PPC 6700 convention of having them directly below the screen commands that they access. The Mogul keyboard has a backlight and an auto sensor to tell if it is needed, presumably to save on battery life. But, like others’ experiences, this auto sensor just doesn’t seem to work correctly. I stood in a darkened closet and the backlight wouldn’t come on, so I’ve disabled it.
Button, button who’s got the button. There are plenty of them on the Mogul just like on the PPC 6700. That said, the arrangement makes more sense to me and so far I seem to be avoiding triggering unexpected actions by brushing the buttons as I did frequently on the PPC 6700. Two new additions are a button that toggles the WiFi radio on and off, and one that calls up the Comm Manager. The Comm Manager allows you to turn the various radios and ringer on and off. Curiously a WiFi control has been removed from the Comm Manager. Not a big thing, but a curious one. In very early usage (3 days) I have to say the button arrangement seems to make one handed usage of the phone and PDA functions easier and it feels more natural. The same thing can be said in my case for the arrangement of the soft key buttons, the phone on/off buttons, the Windows Key, the OK buttons (one on the face and one on the side) and the Browser and the Mail buttons. Their placement just makes more sense on the Mogul than they do on the PPC 6700 in my opinion. A nice feature continued from the PPC 6700 is that various buttons can be easily programmed to launch applications or functions that you need at your fingertips. The Dpad feels a little cheaper and flimsier than the one on the PPC 6700, but it is just as functional in early testing.
Another new addition is a Blackberry like scroll wheel on the left hand side of the phone. It works well for scrolling through menu items or feeds or links online. In some instances a push in of the scroll wheel selects the item highlighted. Sometimes this isn’t the case, which is puzzling and a bit troubling as you need to hit the Dpad in those cases to activate the selection. I would have though that the OK button adjacent to the scroll wheel would do that, but it doesn’t appear to.
This has to work first and foremost as a phone and it works quite well whether or not I’m holding it to my ear or via a Bluetooth headset. Sound quality is good on both receiving and making calls so high marks there. See some further comments on Bluetooth Audio below. Some have reported an echo of their own voices coming back through the speaker due to how the audio duplex is configured but I haven’t really experienced an issue with that.
The battery life on the Mogul is advertised as a 20% improvement over the PPC 6700 which never met a battery it couldn’t drain. It does seem better but it will take some more usage to really determine how much better the battery life is in my scenario. Battery life claims mean nothing to me in a vacuum.
Nothing but positive changes here from the earlier PPC 6700, the Touchscreen is nice and responsive. It is brighter and crisper to my viewing. I’m not a fan of the way Ink is used on Windows Mobile devices, but in a pinch this would work to jot a quick note with a stylus. By the way, the stylus which used to be stored in the antenna on the 6700 is now stored on the bottom of the unit and is collapsible. As far as styli go, I would rate this one mediocre at best, though for me that isn’t an issue as I rarely use one in these devices.
The Mogul still skimps a bit with only 64MB or RAM available but it does increase the flash memory from 128MB to 256MB. Given how I use the device this isn’t really an issue for me, unless I’m in a wild and crazy testing applications mode, but I know others find this a big drawback.
Windows Mobile 6
Nice. Very nice. I really like Windows Mobile 6. It seems cleaner, more stable, and more efficient from top to bottom. It runs much faster from boot up to moving between applications. I don’t know if this is more on the Mogul or on Windows Mobile 6, but things that took a few twists and turns in version 5 to set up (like WiFi) are a snap on this device. I am by no means an expert on the whole Windows Mobile thing but what I see here is a vast improvement all the way around over version 5. Syncing on the Mogul is working seamlessly with the ThinkPad X61 Tablet PC running Vista and the Windows Mobile Device Center. I know some had syncing issues with version 5, but my experiences even on that earlier version, were always good. Now they are better. In my limited opinion, Windows Mobile 6 is a more than significant upgrade.
For those looking to use the Mogul as a modem (tethering) Sprint has included an Internet Sharing application that makes this possible. You do need to purchase the Phone as Modem option for this to work through Sprint’s Internet Sharing. Tethering also works well with June Fabric’s PDANet which now has a new version (1.8) in pre-release designed for Windows Mobile 6. This all worked seamlessly for me either using a USB connection or BlueTooth on the PPC 6700. That said, the Internet Sharing was much too complicated to set up under the earlier version of Windows Mobile on the PPC 6700. (It wasn’t even called that on the PPC 6700.) It is much easier this time around. At least Sprint recognizes that users want and need this service, unlike other carriers. Although curiously there is no section in the manual describing this.
The PPC 6700 didn’t handle Java or Java apps well with third party add-ins. In fact so poorly I stopped even trying. The Sprint Mogul changes this, making those applications (can you say Opera) a real possibility. I haven’t gone down this path yet, but am looking forward to testing this out.
Some Niggles and Complaints
There are very few negative things to say from my early testing, but I do have a few niggles and complaints. The Mogul now uses a microSD card format moving away from the miniSD format. Not a big deal, (I picked one up a 2Gig card for around $28 and they can be had cheaper) but I wish manufacturers would standardize on these things. The Mogul comes with a 512mg card so you’ll be able to start off if you don’t have one.
What no headset jack? You heard that right. The Mogul uses a dual ““YÃ¢â‚¬Â adapter that plugs into the mini-USB port that you then insert the headset plug into. This allows you to have both the headset and your charger connected simultaneously but the adapter is big, inflexible, and clunky and in my opinion really a bad solution. Fortunately I don’t use a wired headset on the phone, preferring a Bluetooth headset. But I’m sure others will find this just as silly and poor a solution as I do. The jack on this is also a 2.5mm jack instead of the more standard 3.5mm. Dumb.
Bluetooth Audio issues: I’m experiencing a slight degradation in Bluetooth audio as are many folks who’ve gotten their hands on a Mogul. Apparently Sprint and HTC are aware of this and are working to correct it with a firmware update. There is a firmware update available that adds Sprint’s Music Store feature, and some have claimed it fixes the Bluetooth audio problems. Be warned though that others are reporting that the update causes issues with other things, notably Windows Live Search and some keyboard issues.
CRAPWARE: Lordy, lordy, we’ve got CRAPWARE. Sprint has more applications and services to offer than I would care to see on a new device in my lifetime. And of course they aren’t easy to get rid of. If you’re into adventure, here’s one method I’ve discovered, but haven’t tried yet.
Lights: The Mogul has enough indicator lights to land a plane with. Email, Internet, phone on/off buttons, and blinking lights that indicate which radios are on. In a dark room at night it is quite a show and a bit too much.
Camera: The camera has been upgraded from the PPC 6700 jumping from 1.3 megapixels to 2.0 megapixels. It is a bit better but nothing to write home about. It would do in a pinch.
Not a big deal, but the case that comes with the Mogul (nice that one is included) feels and looks much cheaper than the one that came with the PPC 6700. It also fits more snugly and I find it harder to get the phone out. I used the included case for the PPC 6700 and found it satisfactory but I’ll be looking for another case for this soon.
Why The Sprint Mogul and not an iPhone?
Yes, I did look closely at an iPhone. Very closely, and I was sorely tempted. The Mogul is no cheap phone either (a steep $579 without a new contract, $399 with two year servitude) so price is not part of the issue here. But for a number of reasons the iPhone would have been a purchase that made no sense when I took a look at my needs.
First and foremost, here in The Land That Over The Air Connectivity Forgot, what I can pull down using Sprint’s 1X coverage is faster than Edge. I compared this in the AT&T store with my PPC 6700 and left a couple of AT&T sales folk quite upset about that fact. EVDO hasn’t reached here yet, although the word is October will see its debut. I don’t really use a mobile handheld with that in mind here locally, but do so when I’m on the road. Everywhere I’ve traveled with the PPC 6700, EVDO is available and works well. I don’t anticipate any issues with the Mogul on that front.
In our area, Sprint’s phone service is the most consistent that we’ve found. We have a variety of new actors and artists in and out all season long and with each one comes a different mobile phone solution. Over the years, we’ve discovered that Sprint’s service performs more consistently than AT&T, Verizon and the smaller companies by far. Note I didn’t say performs flawlessly. Consistency is the key.
I’m also not a fan of the locked down nature of the iPhone on any number of fronts. Nor am I a fan of not being able to replace the battery myself. These things might change in the future, but until they do I was looking for something that would let me do my work when I needed to and how I wanted to. Practicality rules in my book when it comes to these large purchases. Besides, by the time decent 3G service hits our area there will probably be a 3G iPhone available and I’ll reconsider things at that time. Assuming that the closed silo lovers loosen up a bit also.
I also have to admit that while I flirted with the iPhone, the local AT&T folks left me feeling less than enthused about locking myself down with them. Not that Sprint is run like a well oiled machine, but the number of different stories and sales pitches I was given by AT&T personnel just made me want to walk out the store. I know customer service and front line sales people are more like butter knives than the sharpest knives in a drawer, but you at least need to be able to spread the butter without destroying the toast. When confronted with information that contradicts the pitch, a salesperson should at least acknowledge that the customer has a small sliver of knowledge about the product he/she is shopping for instead of telling them they are wrong. Nothing about the experiences indicated AT&T wanted me as a customer. Just my money. Again, Sprint is not a perfect solution either, but I’m at least comfortable with using that butter knife, dull as it may be.
I’m happy and content with the choice I’ve made. I like the Sprint Mogul and how it operates. I’ll be using it for the foreseeable future and am looking very much forward to that. I don’t think there is a perfect mobile device out there, but for my needs the Sprint Mogul comes more than close enough.