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23 Temmuz 2008 Çarşamba

iPhone 3G vs. Windows Mobile smartphones

The Apple iPhone 3G can do everything, right? Not so fast. Infosync editor Philip Berne talks about his favorite features on Windows Mobile smartphones, features the Apple iPhone still can't match.

The Apple iPhone 3G is currently our multimedia smartphone of choice, but that doesn't mean it's the perfect phone. In fact, we think that Apple could learn a lot from its oldest nemesis, Microsoft. For all its flaws, there are some things that Windows Mobile does quite well, better than any of its competitors, in fact. The smartphone market is all about operating systems these days. Google's Android is on the way. Palm's newest OS is around a very long, sharp corner. RIM's BlackBerry OS will get an update on the BlackBerry Bold this year, and even Symbian has been forming new partnerships and gaining new ground. Here are a few things that the beast from Redmond can teach the rest of the pack, especially Apple's rarefied device.

1. Scheduling and productivity

Like many business folks, our job sometimes seems to revolve around meetings, so a good calendar app is a must for a smartphone. Microsoft's OS includes a feature for scheduling that is so simple, it's obvious. With Windows Mobile smartphones, you can invite other people to meetings. It works the same as on Outlook, which is no coincidence. We've never scheduled a meeting for just ourselves alone, so inviting our colleagues is a must. WinMo offers this feature and the best integration with our desktop Outlook client.

Windows Mobile also comes preloaded with Microsoft's Mobile Office suite. There are plenty of great options for opening office documents, some that might even be better than Microsoft's own edition. DataViz's DocumentsToGo and QuickOffice both come to mind. These are all good options, but Windows Mobile is the only one to offer real Office document editing on every single phone. From the lowliest clamshell to the high-end AT&T Tilt, everyone can read and edit Word, Excel and even simple PowerPoint documents.

2. Searching for contacts and other stuff

On a Windows Mobile smartphone, from the Today screen, when you start typing a name, the phone instantly pulls up your contacts and starts narrowing the list as you type. You don't have to go digging through menus to find your address book, or remember keyboard shortcuts. Other phones have started using this same trick, and we love it. It's the quickest, most convenient way to find a contact, and it's a great reminder that whatever else the device can do, at heart it's really a phone.

Microsoft's Windows Mobile has also pushed searching to the top level, up to the Today screen. On the last Windows Mobile smartphone we tested, the Palm Treo 800w, the Today screen was dominated by searching of all types. There was Internet searching via Windows Live, and also location-based search using the Treo's GPS and Palm's own point-of-interest database. Sure, any smartphone can perform the same functions, but we like that Microsoft has made searching a real priority on Windows Mobile, and so looking up contacts, looking up answers on the Web and searching for a local coffeeshop or gas station is quick and easy on a WinMo device.

3. Tethered modem support

When we're on the road, which is quite often, we hate relying on hotel Wi-Fi services that overcharge for limited use or, even worse, having to find a free Wi-Fi spot. We prefer to rely on our 3G smartphone to connect us to the Internet. While most smartphones, except for the Apple iPhone, can handle this task fairly easily, there is no easier way to connect your laptop to the rest of the world than Windows Mobile's Internet Sharing app. It isn't a program that every carrier and manufacturer uses, but when we find it on a smartphone, we feel like we've struck 3G gold. It's so simple to use: simply press the "Connect" button, plug your phone into your laptop and you're all set. No proprietary software, no confusing dial-up prompts. Just one touch and you're surfing the Web. This is how every smartphone should connect.

4. A variety of devices

One of the best things about Windows Mobile is that it scales nicely to a variety of devices. Unlike any other smartphone OS, WinMo shows up on full-QWERTY touchscreen phones, QWERTY slab phones with no touchscreen, and even simple clamshell phones with only a numeric keypad for input. There are Windows Mobile smartphones with no hardware keyboard at all. You might expect that only the Professional, touchscreen version of the OS is worthwhile, but in fact the Standard edition, which works on non-touch phones like the Motorola Q9 and Samsung BlackJack 2, might be even better, thanks to some recent improvements to the Today screen and the user interface. All Windows Mobile phones perform the feats we've discussed, from contact searching through real Office document editing. The ubiquity of the OS is impressive, and even venerable smartphone makers, like Nokia with their Symbian S60 OS, are trying to catch up to the breadth of device options Windows Mobile offers.

5. If you don't like it, change it

One of the nice things about Windows Mobile is that it doesn't have to look like Windows Mobile. Of course the user can hack into the phone's registry file and mess around there, but that's beyond our ability and interest. What we really mean is that manufacturers have been doing a very good job streamlining and in some cases hiding Windows Mobile from the user. HTC comes to mind first, of course, with their TouchFLO interface on the HTC Touch and the new HTC Touch Diamond. But even Sony Ericsson has gotten into the Windows Mobile game, and we doubt that users of the upcoming Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 smartphone will even notice that there's a Start menu under all that glitz and glamour.

For any other smartphone OS maker, such camouflage would be an anathema. But Microsoft has unashamedly embraced these modifications, and the Windows Mobile market is better because of it. Of course, we would prefer to see Windows Mobile with a shiny new user interface of its own, which would relieve the necessity for such modifications. But until a new version of the OS surfaces, we're content to enjoy these important smartphone features, and we're unwilling to toss our Windows Mobile phone aside completely in favor of the Apple iPhone.

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