Just before Christmas I got to test a HTC Touch Dual with Windows Mobile 6 at work. It was partly my own idea to introduce HTC Touch or Touch Dual as a possible alternative to our mainstream Nokias. That’s why I chose to ignore my mobile-savvy colleague as he offered his condolences when he saw the black HTC box on my desk. He was right, though. Windows Mobile and mobile phones don’t mix.
This was my first hands-on experience with a Windows Mobile phone as I’ve always used Nokia. I have used Windows Mobile devices before, though, as I’ve owned several WM based PDAs. They weren’t perfect but I could live with them. But, as I was to find out, the usage of a PDA differs a lot from that of a phone.
I was looking forward to the WM6 Exchange server integration (“push mail”) and to have an always updated calendar with me. And these features did work fine-ish. Except for the crummy calendar design that forces you to use the stylus constantly, that is. But even so: After five days I gave up the fight with Windows Mobile 6: What a genuinely stupid OS for a phone. Bad, bad UI design.
I think Microsoft has made a huge mistake to try to move an OS from a pc to a phone. Already after a few hours I got very tired indeed from having to get out the stylus just to close a window or to cancel an error message on the ridiculously tiny close-box in the corner of the dialogs. I don’t care if it looks like the GUI on my Windows pc – it just doesn’t work on that little screen. On a device that tiny you do one thing at the time – you don’t need the windows metaphore to allow for multitasking (it hardly works on the pc anyhow).
Also, several times when I was trying to phone someone, WM6 – being absolutely clueless about my priorities – would pop up with some reminder or other alert that really shouldn’t popup at all while I’m dialing. Just like Windows XP does, WM6 made me feel that the system comes first and the user second.
I soon started feeling that I was spending time fighting the system instead of using it. Exactly as I feel when trying to get Outlook 2007 to start in less than 15 minutes or that thrre to four hours every month I spend massaging my Windows XP into working without too many alerts or errors. Yep, Microsoft surely has succeeded moving the Windows experience to a handset. And that’s a pitty.
Three times a call simply didn’t come through (it’s a phone for crying out loud!) and four times I dialed my fathers number by mistake because of a design flaw in HTC’s TouchFLO interface (which has been added to patch some of the even bigger flaws in WM). The device insisted on merging all my Live! Messenger contacts with my professional contacts making tons of duplicates and adding a lot of contacts without phone numbers to my phone book, making finding the right version of the contact (the one with the phone number) annoyingly difficult.
I have the feeling that Microsoft’s brand managers have had too much influence on the design. A lot of stupid compromises have been made to make the phone interface look like Windows, instead of genuinely making the OS work on a tiny screen and in a mobile user context. The design flaws combined with the Touch’ sluggish response and not always too precise touch screen makes this gadget a big no-go to me. WM6 doesn’t seem mature and personally I think it’s fundamentally flawed. I think it’ll need a complete rewrite.
One thing is spending time in front of the pc tweaking and tuning. But to have to combat your mobile phone just to get it to work the right way – that’s not OK.
I felt that I could not trust this piece of hardware to work when I needed it to – and as I rely heavily on my mobile phone I’m now back on my trusty old Nokia 6230i. No push mail – but no wasted time, missed calls or hypertension either.