Jun 24 2006
After 8 years of using a Palm OS-based PDA, I’ve moved a Windows Mobile-based one. This is more an experiment than a well thought-out decision.
I won’t go into the details about the phone/PDA itself, which I’m fairly happy with, but I wanted to write about the operating system, as a long-time PalmOS user.
On Windows Mobile, you have all the applications that you find on a Palm: calendar, to-dos, address book, mail client, Web browser, and because it’s a phone too, SMS and phone applications. The SMS application is the mailer, which makes sense.
There is a good number of third party applications, both shareware and freeware, and it’s comparable to the Palm (you even have Métro and HandyShopper reading the same PDB files). In addition, there seem to be quite a number of hackers playing with the devices, and you can find tons of tips and tools to tweak your registry, your ROM, etc. I’ve even seen programs to help you unlock your phone for free.
The interface is much more colorful. It’s pleasant to see, but it can be confusing sometimes as there’s too many things on the screen. The PalmOS interface is very simple, and you usually only have the information you need on the screen, and no bells and whistles. So I prefer the PalmOS interface as I’m always for convenience rather than look, but this is fine. Surprisingly though, Métro doesn’t look as good on a PocketPC as it does on the Palm. But it works fine.
The input methods are varied. If you have a keyboard, you can obviously use it. With the stylus, you can use an on-screen keyboard, a letter recognizer (you write a letter and it’s identified), a block recognizer (which is very similar to Graffiti), or Transcriber which allows you to write full sentences on the screen. It’s pretty cool and works well, although it uses a dictionary to guess what you wrote, and it doesn’t work well if you write in English on a French model. I was excited to use this one, but gave up after failing to change the dictionary to an English one.
The OS is really multi-process. For example, you can be synchronizing your device with your computer, while looking up an address or taking some note.
Hardware-wise, you have more choice than with Palm: the model I got does GSM, GPRS, Edge, WiFi, Bluetooth, IrDA, and it wasn’t the only one doing all that. Comparatively, Palm only offers you the Treo 650 for all that, and you’ll have to buy a WiFi card.
I find the OS surprisingly stable. Yes, I rebooted my phone a couple of times, but I remember having to do that to my Treo much more often (or it was even doing it by itself sometimes). I have to say that the fact that PalmOS not being able to always gracefully cancel a synchronization operation and requiring a soft reset had gotten to me, especially when the version number is 5.4.
On the downside, compared to the Treo 650, the OS seems much more demanding in terms of CPU and battery, so the autonomy is not as good as the Treo and it doesn’t feel as fast (the SPV M600 does have a slow processor which makes this extra-visible), though I had the feeling that the Treo 650 was exceptionally good.
Also, because the OS is done by our friends from Microsoft, synchronizing with anything other than Windows is a pain, but the alpha version of The Missing Sync for Windows Mobile works fine on the Mac.
All in all, I’m pleased with my experiment so far. I’m not convinced that it’s really superior to a PalmOS solution, but Windows Mobile fits the bill, and it does the job pretty well. The early conclusion I’ve reached is that it’s more about the hardware than about the operating system when it comes to PDA-phones at this point.