Wednesday, April 05, 2006

T-mobile MDA

My cell phone service is with T-Mobile. Their rates were better than the competitors, and they're GSM goodness (as you'd expect, since they're big in Europe).

My ancient Sony Clie PDA recently started acting up. The little edge connector that serves to charge up its battery is worn out. Rather than buy another PDA, I decided it was time to join the modern world and get a combined phone-PDA.

The obvious thing to do would be to get a Palm Treo. This is the "gold standard" of PDA phones -- more functional than a Blackberry, and backward compatible with my Clie (which runs PalmOS). But T-Mobile doesn't offer a "subsidized" Treo, meaning I'd have to buy an "unlocked" one for $600, then if I ever had problems with it, have problems dealing with T-Mobile's customer "service".

Looking at T-Mobile's web site, they have something called the "MDA". I checked it out, and it runs Windows Mobile and is a full-functioned PDA (not some kind of chopped-down hybrid) with a keyboard for data entry. And was almost half the price of the Treo. So, being a cheap penguin who would rather buy herring with the extra money, that's what I went for.

Preliminary conclusions:

  1. Windows Mobile is a *MESS*. PalmOS, while limited, is elegant and easy to use. The Treo, while antiquated, has a user interface that is simple, intuitive, and Just Works(tm). To do anything with Windows Mobile you have to chomp through a ton of menus, and while Windows Mobile has true multi-tasking, I can't figure out how to do anything with that other than maintain a "stack" of programs.
  2. The MDA has a *LOT* of neat features. It'll do WiFi. It has a web browser and can browse the web via WiFi. (It wasn't even very hard to set up to talk to my access point). It'll serve as a BlueTooth modem for your laptop computer if you purchase the GPRS/EDGE service (which is $29.95/month for unlimited Internet). It'll sync via BlueTooth with your Microsoft Outlook.
  3. It charges via USB. There's a seperate charger, or it'll charge from your laptop as long as you've still got 50% of your battery power (otherwise it pulls more power than the USB spec allows, though it still may work).
  4. The CompactSD slot rocks. I bought a 1GB card and stuffed it with mp3's. So now I have a combination phone/MP3 player/PDA.
  5. Battery usage is quite good. I played MP3's for several hours last night, and it went down from 85% to 55% over that time.
  6. It includes a nifty little holster.
  7. The included headset sucks. As you'd expect, since it's "free". It does sound pretty good when playing mp3's though. Expect to spend more money on a headset that doesn't feel like you're sticking clothes pins in your ear.
  8. Reception sucks. It gets about 1 bar less than my old phone. In my bedroom I get no reception at all, I always got at least one bar on my old phone.
  9. Using it as a phone without the headset isn't so hot. The little speaker is very tinny-sounding. It sounds like your caller is underwater.
  10. It's a bit slow as a PDA. TO keep the price and energy usage down, T-Mobile's source put a processor in it that's half the speed of the competitors.
Conclusion: Seven herrings out of ten. The poor reception and poor sound without headset pushes it down the list a bit. Windows Mobile's messiness pushes it down a bit more. The slow speed doesn't worry me -- my Clie was no speed demon either -- but may worry others.

That said, it's an economical and usable phone/PDA/mp3 player combo that'll definitely make you look less like Batman compared to hauling around all three seperately. Two flippers up, so far.

-- Badtux the Connected Penguin

Note: Chapter 5 is still delayed. I tried rewriting the expository lump last night, and don't like that one either. I think I know another approach to take to make it more palatable. Unfortunately the backstory info therein is necessary to understand later chapters, but I suspect that in the next draft, I'll spread that info out amongst several chapters instead of having it all sitting there like a lump at the beginning of Chapter 5.


  1. Waaaaait just a second here! Just how in hell could a penguin operate a PDA? Penguins don't even have opposable digits! I smell a rat (or penguin.)

  2. Complain about the poor reception. Had one like this at work and got it replaced, new one has great reception. I think they had a bad batch of them from the factory because the rep did not seem shocked that we had one with a bad antenna.

  3. I made a huge mistake getting this phone. I have used PALM Smart phones and Blackberrys, so I am very used to this kind of device. With the Windows Mobile OS everything takes longer and any program you open is still running even after you close it. It takes a 7 steps process to really turn it off. This thing hogs memory like no other device I have seen. It does not work well as a phone either. You can not hear people very well outside and it takes 2 hands to operate this thing. T-Mobile should be ashamed that it sells this as their premier phone. It has made me not want to ever use Windows Mobile or T-Mobile again.

  4. I have had horrible issues with this phone as well. It's impossible to use while driving as always it requires 2 hands, the phone reception sucks, and it doesn't even use a standard headphone jack to take advantage of the touted mp3 player capabilities. I can't believe T-mobile is charging $200 for this phone.

  5. DON'T GET THIS PHONE... horrible.. just horrible.. the touch screen dialing is horrible cause if you don't hit it just write you hit the wrong numbers.. loading and taking pictures with the camera is just a complete jackoff. while it loads up.. there's too much of a pause when actually snapping the photo. I attempted to load a few programs on there.. i loaded up photocontacts that worked pretty decent but loaded up another program.. i think pocketbreeze or something for themes and whatnot and it ran like an old 333mhz computer chocked full of crap. i immediately took that program off.. since then i haven't loaded any thing up. Another problem is reception (that deserves a completely different topic in itself) .. the internet! blah.. charging 29.99 for their so called hotspot and gprs is a joke. I've never actually surfed the internet from this joke of a pda. (again, another topic in itself).. but my biggest complaint about this this phone is.. (for the player that I am) It does something called... FATHOM DIALING... meaning if you don't lock this phone.. and put it in your pocket or purse, it will call just about anyone that the touch screen happens to land on. my (NOW) EX-girlfriend got about 7 and 1/2 minutes of me partying out with my friends acting very un-boyfriend like.. (not that I care anymore) but the simple fact that it left a voicemail on her phone while I was out having a good time made me really uncomfortable.. in all and all.. this is a horrible phone.. shame to t-mobile for selling this product.. if i wasn't trapped in it, I wouldn't get another phone by them.. they actually gave me a t509 for my troubles free just so I could really make a phone call and feel safe .. right now, my mda is for SOLITAIRE and some text messaging... it's a shame i have to have another phone just to make a %$^% phone call.. don't EVER get this product.. you WILL be sorry.

  6. Well, I eventually paid T-Mobile $200 to take this phone off my hands and went to Sprint and got a Palm Treo 700P. Windows Mobile just sucks *too* darned much... and the reception on this phone is terrible.

    A shame. It's a nice concept, but a combination of Windows suckitude and HTC (the manufacturer) ineptness just eventually irritated me to the point of slamming it to the wall as hard as I could and laughing when it finally disintegrated.

    - Badtux the Treo Penguin


Ground rules: Comments that consist solely of insults, fact-free talking points, are off-topic, or simply spam the same argument over and over will be deleted. The penguin is the only one allowed to be an ass here. All viewpoints, however, are welcomed, even if I disagree vehemently with you.

WARNING: You are entitled to create your own arguments, but you are NOT entitled to create your own facts. If you spew scientific denialism, or insist that the sky is purple, or otherwise insist that your made-up universe of pink unicorns and cotton candy trees is "real", well -- expect the banhammer.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.