March 25, 2005
The details of my quest to actually get that phone is detailed here, so I'll leave that story off as well.
Yes, it is a Windows Mobile 2003 device. If that really bothers anyone, well, they need to deal with that on their own. Aside from OS wars, how does it function as both a phone and a PDA/PDT (Portable Data Terminal)? In order, quite nicely, and absolutely fantastically.
The 6600 has both onscreen dialing, or a slide out QWERTY keypad. I use the onscreen keypad mostly because the slide out keypad buttons are just tiny. Of course, all QWERTY keypads of this size have small keys, it's a physical limitation. Since the onscreen keypad is nice and big, (the buttons are bigger than traditional touchtone buttons, so they're easy to hit, even if you have paws like mine), i can easily dial with one hand. Now, one downside of a screen keypad is that you can't dial by feel. There's no keys to feel your way around. However, the keys are big enough, and respond well enough that you can eventually train yourself to do this. Considering the form factor of the 6600, there's no real way to get around that.
The one thing that really annoys me about the phone dialing is the speed dial. On my Kyocera, I could punch up a speed dial number, and hit “talk” to dial that number. So, punch in “1”, dial the number in speed dial slot 1, etc. With the 6600, I have to hit the “Speed Dial” button, find the entry, push the button next to it, and then I'm dialing it. This works out to two buttons and a scroll to do what took two buttons. It's not a lot more work per se, but I can't do this as well with only one hand, so it's a bit of an inconvenience.
Other than that, it's a fine phone. Good reception, at least as good as the Kyocera, which let me get clear reception in the bowels of the Moscone. The speakerphone is as good as the Kyocera's, (and that phone has an excellent speakerphone), it's easy to talk on in a normal voice, and, unique among cell phones I've used, the 6600 appears to have sidetone. Sidetone is the way that a normal land line phone lets you hear your own voice in the earpiece when you talk. This is a pretty critical feature, and the lack of it is one reason why so many people on a cell phone tend to SHOUT ALL THE TIME. Talking on a cell is kind of like going deaf in one ear, so you talk louder to compensate for that. But with the 6600, I can hear myself in the earpiece when I'm talking. I don't know if this is a case design, or an electronic one, but it's very welcome, and I hope more cell manufacturers implement this. Everyone not talking on a cell phone will be forever grateful.
The one feature of the phone that really sold me on this device is the address book. It has room not just for the usual home and work postal addresses, but for an additional third address. The Kyocera didn't even do this. I also have functional room for three email addresses that I can use with the built - in email client on the 6600. It's even got room for pictures of the contacts. About the only thing it doesn't have that I wish it did was per-contact custom ringtones. Of course, the Kyocera didn't have this, and I always have my phone set to vibrate only, but I still want to be able to do it, even if I never use it. In any event, this is the best address book I've ever used on any phone anywhere. True, the phone has to talk to Outlook, so it has to be more than the minimum, but it's a real pleasure to use.
The only downside has been the bluetooth headset I bought. I chose the HS820 Bluetooth Headseat from Motorola. It's lightweight, stylish, easy to use, but for me, unusable. I have a head that can best be described as “a melon”, so the speaker for the headset, which is not that loud to begin with, sits about half an inch too high. The microphone faces front, and has no noise reduction worth talking about, so if there's any wind, you can't hear me talking. Basically, it works well inside, if i'm in a quiet room. So, I think I'll be looking towards a Plantronics or a Jabra headset as a replacement.
On the PDA front, the 6600 is top notch. While Windows Mobile is cramped on something like the Motorola mpx200, on the larger screen of this device, it has room to breathe. It's easy to use, via stylus, the trackpad/button navigator device, or, and this is important, via my index finger. The menu layout is logical, although I'd like to be able to have more than 7 “permanent” items in the Start menu. The bundled applications are solid, but I did add a few things:
Acrobat Reader should ship with the OS, we all need to read PDFs, especially if you're a sysadmin. The SSH client allows me to run my Linux and Mac OS X boxes with ease, just as the supplied Terminal Server client lets me run my Windows network. Snood is just too fun to not add, Newsbreak is an excellent news reader for Windows Mobile, and AIM is the message system of choice for me, although, annoyingly, I can't really chat well with .Mac iChat users. AOL needs to update the AIM client for Pocket PC, and they also need to stop charging for it.
So with those apps, I can do all the work I need to do. However, this brings up the rather fascinating joy that is dealing with getting files on to a Windows Mobile device. It's an interesting proposition from a Mac, although, to be honest, it's kind of bizarre from Windows too. Now, ActiveSync is a neat idea. It's always on. You attach your device, and you're syncing. Apple and Palm could both learn something here. It's not like it's hard with USB or Bluetooth. USB tells you when something's connected, and with Bluetooth, you can easily check.
But what I can't do is just bring up install files, drop the file I want installed on the screen, click install and have that happen. The file either must have an installer that runs in Windows which then kicks off ActiveSync's installer mode, or I have to manually drag the file over to the phone. The latter method is a tad tedious, because you don't know if a file is going to run on the device or not. You kinda guess.
Guessing is not a good way to do things.
I know there are a few utilities for synching my device with a Mac. I tried all of them. They all don't work, although there are other possible reasons for this, which I'll not go into here, but it's probably not all their fault. I did try to use ActiveSync in Virtual PC 7. It worked once, and I didn't write down the rubber-chicken dance I had to do to make that happen, so it's never worked again. Luckily, at work, I have a Toshiba desktop that only gets used as a Windows Terminal Server, so I can use that.
What bugs me about this whole issue are two things:
- Why doesn't Apple let iSync talk to Windows Mobile? Yes, yes, I know, it's Windows, but if that was the case, why bother with Samba at all. There's obviously value in integrating with Windows devices, why not take the extra step and talk to Windows Mobile devices? It doesn't take away from anything, and indeed, takes one more reason to not use a Mac in a business setting, and makes it less valid. There are a lot of Windows Mobile users, why not make it easier for them to use a Mac?
- Why doesn't ActiveSync run on everything? This seems to be a no brainer. It's just a sync program, not Word. My god, if it was dead simple to use a Windows Mobile device with Mac OS X, *BSD and the 23412321556534 flavors of Linux, there would be a lot of people who aren't using Windows Mobile devices seriously thinking about switching. Why would you make it harder for people to become Windows users? It's not like MS wouldn't make money off of them just because they only use Windows Mobile. ActiveSync everywhere in 2005!
- Oh, one other thing, (I know, I know, I said only two...I lied)...the web designers for Microsoft's Windows Mobile site need to be taken out back and made to clean dog droppings off of Microsoft's yard. The Windows Mobile site looks like utter garbage in everything but IE 6 Win. Well that is until you switch your user-agent to lie and say you're IE 6 Win. Then you get the proper site. Come on guys, using the user agent to make the Windows Mobile web site suck is lame. I'm one of your customers. I'm never going to use IE 6 even when I'm using Windows, which isn't that often. Get over it.
Another suite I installed on my 6600 was GoodLink, from Good Software. This is a software suite that allows you to have your Palm or Windows Mobile device talk to an Exchange server without needing to have ActiveSync running. It pushes changes like email and appointments out to your handheld, and gets changes from the handheld to be sync'd to the Exchange server. This at least allows me to keep my calendar, email, and address book nicely sync'd between my 6600, Entourage, and Exchange, neatly sidestepping the annoyances of sync'ing such data on a Mac.
The installation of GoodLink was pretty simple. You need to be running the latest version of GoodLink, (4.X as of this writing). You enter in the phone model, the esn number, the carrier, and other pertinent information, like your Exchange login info. You then get an email with a PIN, and a location to download the GoodLink OTA start application. OTA stands for Over The Air, and allows you to install and configure GoodLink on your handheld without needing to physically connect to the server. You can do this via USB, but when OTA works so well, why bother?
Running the software install is pretty straightforward, although I did have to restart it a few times. Since you can resume where you left off, it's annoying more than anything. Once it's done, you should probably do a soft reset of your system. At this point, you run into a few quirks, one which is very annoying, the rest of which just don't make a lot of sense. The first one is that GoodLink replaces the default device access password entry screen with it's own. This wouldn't be so bad if it worked as well as the default screen, which let me just use the on - screen keypad to enter in the passcode. With GoodLink's hack, I have to use the physical keypad on the device. GoodLink's password screen doesn't increase functionality or security in any way, so I'm not sure why they even bother.
The other thing is that GoodLink has its own calendar, address book, email application, notes, tasks, etc. While I can see this on a Palm, where those applications aren't designed with Exchange in mind, on a Windows Mobile device, this makes no sense, especially considering that the versions provided by GoodLink aren't nearly as nice to use as the default ones, with perhaps the exception of the preview screen in the email application. Considering the preview is maybe four lines high, it's not that cool anyway. Since my device already has the necessary data store(s) and applications, don't replace them, just set things up so I can get my Exchange data. Even worse, they make it look like you can't use the non - GoodLink versions of these applications. All they really do is hide them from the Start Menu, and behind a different theme, but still, i didn't say I only wanted to use Exchange. Don't go changing my setup like that without asking me first. On the Palm devices, it's probably worse, because from what we can tell, once you install GoodLink, you can't get to VersaMail or your non-GoodLink calendar/note data at all. (If anyone has a way around this, please let me know in a comment, there's a few people who would be grateful)
Other than that, the GoodLink software does its job, and nicely. I can get my Exchange work done, without a lot of pain or drama, and that's all I want.
The battery life on the 6600 could be better, and you can be assured I'll be getting a couple extended life batteries for it as soon as they are available.
As a PDA, it's the best i've ever used. It's a hell of a mobile data terminal too, and while I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time on the web with it, it's good for getting basic information. The connectivity features of the device, combined with Sprint's excellent data network, and unlimited data plan for my device for only $30 a month means I can use the thing without worrying that I'll lose connectivity, or need to sell blood to pay for using it.
If you are in the market for a smartphone, this is well worth looking at, even if you are a Mac user. OS prejudices aside, Palm doesn't have anything that can touch it.
CommentsWarning for Notes users: The commenting system uses HTML.
I know this will be scary for some of you, especially Notes fans. However, open standards, rah-rah.
If you want to use less-than or greater-than signs, or other similar characters that HTML reserves,
you'll simply have to learn to do it the HTML way. Luckily, HTML is kind of popular, no matter what
your re-educators have told you, and you can easily find help on the intertubes.