I’m Going to Become a Windows Mobile “Hater”

I’ve decided that I”m going to become a Windows Mobile “Hater”. That will probably seem unreasonable and illogical to many, but so be it.

That does not mean I am going to become a Microsoft “Hater”. I won’t become a mobile device “hater". I won’t become a Windows “Hater”. My “hating” is going to be specifically directed at Windows Mobile. That includes Microsoft’s Windows Mobile team, their “partners”, and the telcos, at least in regards to Windows Mobile.

I am going to become overly critical of the platform to the point where I do NOT recommend it. If you’re considering a Windows Mobile device, please, to preserve your sanity, don’t get one. Get a BlackBerry or an iPhone instead, or just get a plain old dumbphone.

I’ve had several Windows Mobile devices over the years. I’m tired of the same annoyances and performance issues that are common to every device I’ve had. Here is my device history:

Summer, 2003: Bought an HP iPaq 3765 from a coworker. It had Windows Mobile 2002. The switchboard assembly started going bad, and I couldn’t synchronize it except through IR with an old Pentium II laptop that I had. I finally replaced the switchboard and was able to sync it again. When the switchboard was bad, I could not reboot the device. Because the battery was not “user serviceable”,I had to keep the screws off the back, so when it crashed, I had to pull the back off and disconnect and reconnect the battery. Then I had to reload everything and resync my calendar and task list. Every now and again, I could crack and close the back of the device just right and get a “soft reset”, which didn’t lose all of my data. That was rare though.

Spring, 2005: Bought a Dell Axim x30 from a friend. It had Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition

Spring, 2006: My mom passed away. I inherited or claimed the HP iPaq hx4705 that she bought shortly before her time came. It had Windows Mobile 2003 SE. I paid for the Windows Mobile 5 upgrade that HP sold. Upgrades are highly uncommon in the Windows Mobile world due to the nature of the platform. OEM’s would rather you buy an entirely new device than spend the time releasing an operating system upgrade for older (even if it’s less than 6 months old) devices that often cost you $400 or more, even if subsidized by a carrier. Microsoft doesn’t care, or shows no sign of caring. Actually, the model sets things up so it doesn’t matter if they care or not, since they don’t deal with the end user anyway.

September, 2007: My hx4705 died on me in September. I talked my dad into buying me a Windows Mobile phone as a graduation present, since I was in my final class at the University of Phoenix. I first selected a Cingular 8125 from an Ebay “Buy It Now” auction. The 8125 was manufactured by HTC. It came with Windows Mobile 5. I had it for a week, and was able to use it for about 24 hours. The seller shipped it to me within 24 hours, but included the wrong battery. Once I discovered this error, it took 5 days to get the correct battery from Virginia to New Jersey. I could have driven down and picked it up. I wonder if they purposely paid for slower delivery. Once I put the battery in, I was able to use it for 24 hours when the camera button started to stick. The camera kept coming on, and I rebooted. I was met with a funny screen. I found out that rebooting with the camera button on brings up the bootloader. Even if I disabled the camera button within the Windows Mobile Control Panel so it didn’t come on while the phone was running, there was no way around the frequent reboots that Windows Mobile requires, being the unstable piece of crap that it is. I could see if it only had to be rebooted about every 3 weeks, but sometimes Windows Mobile refuses to work properly if you don’t reboot it 3 times in a row, pull the battery, and reboot it 2 more times. You think I’m exaggerating? Fine, you deserve a Windows Mobile phone. Go buy the most expensive one you can find. Surely spending more money will ensure a better experience, right?

September/October 2007: Because I’d gotten so used to having a Pocket PC around and using it for my calendar and task list, I was having trouble keeping up with work and school without one. I borrowed my mother-in-law’s HP iPaq 1940 for a few weeks while the 8125 and 6945 saga played out. It took a couple of weeks for all that to happen. I think it was 5 weeks between my 4705 dying and finally getting the 6945.

October 2007: After returning the 8125, I talked my dad into buying me an HP iPaq 6945. The 6945 was a Windows Mobile 5 unlocked GSM device. It was my first Windows Mobile phone. I don’t count the 8125 because I barely used it for 24 hours. Prior to the 8125/6945, all of my Windows Mobile devices were stand-alone, or they had no phone. I ran the 6945 hard, especially when I started my current job and began travelling a lot. It rewarded me for my trust in it’s supposed power and utility by crashing a lot. I had to hard reset in the middle of trips sometimes. I couldn’t get 6 weeks out of this phone without having to hard reset it. It would just stop working right all of a sudden, or suddenly an application wouldn’t work. I remember the time I went to check if my flight was going to be on time when I realized that Pocket Internet Exploder was absolutely not going to work again until I hard reset. Such was life with the 6945. I always kept a trial version of Opera Mobile on my storage card for those occasions. Opera Mini wouldn’t work at all because the 6945 didn’t support Java, even though most comparable devices from that same period did. I should also take this opportunity to complain about ActiveSync/Windows Mobile Device Center. I’ve been slowly moving away from synchronizing with Outlook, but until recently I had to. On my first trip to Norfolk, since ActiveSync can’t handle comparative logic, for some reason ActiveSuck (which is what I call it) decided to duplicate 4000 Outlook tasks, which filled up my device memory and ground my 6945 to a halt. It didn’t have enough RAM left to select and delete more then 1 task at a time, so I had to spend most of breakfast and every chance I got throughout the day manually deleting one task at a time so I could use the phone to take notes during the meeting that day. I had to hard reset again once I got home. ActiveSuck/Windows Mobile Device Center is yet another aspect of the Windows Mobile experience that has seen glacier like progress through the years. I’ve seen Apple implement a lot of neat new features and fix bugs in ONE iTunes update. I’ve never seen any real fixes or feature additions in ActiveSuck. If anything, they keep taking useful features out, like the backup feature that used to exist in ActiveSuck 3.8, and the synchronization through wi-fi that was removed in ActiveSuck 4.

September 2008: My wife has had problems all along with AT&T. I was getting tired of the instability problems on my 6945, and I managed to delude myself into thinking that surely by getting a new, Windows Mobile 6 or 6.1 device, my problems would go away. Since we were eligible for an upgrade, I proposed a theory to my wife. I told her that maybe the problems she’s been having with our AT&T service are because she always gets the cheapest phone she can find. Seriously, she always gets cheap phones. I suggested that she try a better phone and maybe her service problems will go away. We went to the AT&T store and settled on the BlackJack II. My theory was wrong. I was wrong on both counts. My wife’s service problems continued. We got her a new phone number, yet they still persist. In my case, Windows Mobile 6.1 sucks just as bad as Windows Mobile 2002, 2003, 2003SE, and 5. It’s just as unstable and unreliable, and any actual progress on the platform is purely cosmetic, like when the device boots up, the Windows Mobile screen is green rather than blue on Windows Mobile 5. That’s what we call progress in the Windows Mobile world. I hope Windows Mobile 7 goes for a red bootup screen. Also, Windows Mobile 6 has a built in, that is, purposely designed in email flaw. There is an smtp error. Whenever Pocket Outlook encounters a problem sending email, the entire account becomes corrupted. You literally have to delete and recreate your mail account. Supposedly there is a fix for it, but that fix didn’t work for me. Also, even though Pocket Outlook FINALLY supports html mail, it’s still a horrible implementation. I’ve been using WebIS FlexMail since vers
ion 2, and it can format email for a small screen. Pocket Outlook has to ask if you’d like to download images from each individual source that an email has images from, and it’s formatted for a full size screen rather than a 2.4” screen, so you have to scroll back and forth to read a line. This is IDIOTIC! I paid for the FlexMail 4 upgrade, even though I have ongoing issues with FlexMail, but WebIS tech support is working with me on them.

October 2008: The Samsung Epix comes out. I wasn’t entirely happy with the BlackJack II. It was an interesting device, but I’d always had touchscreen Windows Mobile devices, and I just couldn’t adapt to a non-touchscreen. The battery on the BlackJack II wasn’t very good, and of course the smtp email bug was driving me nuts. I was within my 30 day return period, so I took the BlackJack II back and got the Epix. WHY DIDN’T I JUST GET THE iPHONE?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???

That’s 8 Windows Mobile devices.

From 4 manufacturers:

  • 4 were HP (The 3765 was a Compaq branded device, from just before or right around the acquisition by HP)
  • 1 was HTC (actually 2, as the 6945 was manufactured by HTC for HP branding)
  • 1 was Dell
  • 2 were Samsung

That’s 6 versions of Windows Mobile:

  • Compaq 3765- WM 2002
  • Dell Axim x30- 2003SE
  • HP 4705- 2003SE/WM5
  • HP 1940-2003
  • HTC 8125-WM5
  • HP/HTC 6945-WM5
  • Samsung BlackJack II-6.0/6.1 (Came with 6.0, but 6.1 upgrade was available, and I upgraded)
  • Samsung Epix- 6.1

And yet, I’ve had the same problems across the entire line. There has been darn little progress. Let’s look at a few milestones in Windows Mobile:

Windows Mobile 5- persistent storage is introduced. This was a big deal at the time. Prior to WM5, if your device lost power, you lost all of your data and had to restore your device from scratch. Persistent storage is especially useful on the Epix because I keep having to pull the battery when it locks up. If I had to restore from scratch 4 times a day, I’d be very, very angry. I’ve had 3 Samsung Epixes (is that the right plural?) and I’ve had the same problems with the original and the two warranty replacements.

WM6- introduced Internet Connection Sharing. Also html mail. I don’t know why html mail wasn’t around prior to this. Seriously, I’ve been on the Internet since 1996, and Windows Mobile was the ONLY place I didn’t have access to html mail. OK, I don’t have it on my BlackBerry, but I get the feeling that the BlackBerry is designed more as a mobile communications platform. It’s not designed to read html formatted newsletters. When html mail was finally rolled out on Windows Mobile, it sucked really bad. It was anti-climactic. It’s like the time I thought my car had a dead battery, so I finally spent the money on a battery and discovered the problem was really the fuel pump. I will say that Internet Connection Sharing is a huge deal though. I’m quite fond of this, and I will miss it on the iPhone when I finally get one.

Device memory is pathetic. The Epix has 150MB of onboard storage. This is really pathetic. Most enthusiasts will say “but with hot-swapable storage cards, you have theoretically unlimited storage!” Yes, but consider how many programs HAVE TO BE INSTALLED IN MAIN MEMORY. I can’t believe how many programmers STILL build their applications so that they have to be installed in main memory. I use quite a few that won’t run properly from a storage card. Of course, every ounce of main memory taken up by lazy programmers isn’t available as RAM. I’ve gotten “Out of memory” errors on my Epix that required yet another reboot. The iPhone debuted with 4 and 8 GB, and then went up to 16GB. My first generation iPod Touch has 32 GB. Why are so many Windows Mobile devices still stuck at under 200 MB? I know some are coming out with 8 GB, but it’s too little, too late. Also, Pocket Internet Exploder stores it’s cache to main memory, unless you perform a registry hack. You’d be amazed how quickly PIE cache can eat up your memory. I went for the registry hack to keep my cache on a storage card.

I’ve spent too much money and wasted too much time on these devices over the last 6 years. I’ve seen too little progress. I’m sick of it. That’s why I’m going to become a Windows Mobile “Hater”. I’m actually not fond of that word. I’m using it for convenience. Could we say I’m a “dis-enthusiast”? Maybe I”m “athusiastic” about it. I like making up words.

I guess we’ll just say that I’ve given myself permission to have nothing good to say about Windows Mobile for a while. Don’t buy a Samsung Epix. Don’t buy any Windows Mobile device, unless you don’t believe me or you’re a masochist. Get a BlackBerry, or an iPhone, or even one of those idiotic “iPhone killers”, which can’t be any worse than Windows Mobile. Don’t spend money on any device with Windows Mobile, at least until the ecosystem learns how to deliver a quality user experience for the money. Don’t buy them until we get some real progress on the platform. Windows Mobile 6.5 is going to have some kind of honeycomb pattern iPhone like touch screen. Sure. let’s copy the external aspects of the iPhone rather than copy the smooth user experience. That’s the thing, that’s why Apple has been successful: they focus on design and operation. Until Windows Mobile does that, they can copy the external aspects all they want, but Windows Mobile is going to continue to suck. Let’s see, I’ve had to pull the battery out of my Samsung Epix 3 times today, and I’ve had to reboot it 4 times. I might, when I’m using it heavily, have to reboot my iPod Touch every 3 weeks to 4 months. Until Windows Mobile starts copying THAT, they’re going to produce crap. They could copy the exact same screen of the iPhone, but it’s still going to have to be rebooted 20 times a day because it’s Windows Mobile and it’s unreliable and Microsoft and it’s “hardware partners” don’t work together to produce a smooth and reliable user experience.

Heck, even when I’m using my obsolete BlackBerry 7130e heavily, I can go weeks without having to pull the battery. If only Windows Mobile could copy THAT aspect of the user experience.

Seriously, don’t buy Windows Mobile. If you need a new phone, try one of these: (I can’t get an Amazon Affiliate link to the iPhone)

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