Thursday, April 20, 2006

Windows Mobile and iPAQ hw6515

I was into PDAs before either Palm or Microsoft entered that market. Of course, I'm talking about Newton MessagePad by Apple, recently voted one of the worst gadgets ever by Laptop Magazine (which was the month I stopped buying Laptop Magazine - I mean, are they serious?). Well, after spending a considerable amount of money over the years and going through numerous Pilots, Palm Pilots, iPAQs, back to Palms and Symbian, I am currently using one of the latest products from HP, iPAQ hw6515.

My Symbian device is two years older than this iPAQ, a Sony Ericsson P900. As a PDA it gets 6 out of 10, and as a phone it doesn't do too much better at 7/10. So when I got my latest iPAQ with built in GSM/EDGE/Bluetooth/GPS I was really expecting to see some appreciable advancement.

As a PDA Windows Mobile has matured and does very well. It still has many small annoyances sprinkled throughout but overall I can cope. I would say it gets 8/10. But I was more curious to see how it does as a connected device and as a phone. Well, after a few weeks of use I have to say that this is one of the worst phones I have ever owned!

For example, the device has a clear plastic screen cover that is supposed to shield the screen while you use it as a phone. Unfortunately, Microsoft really did not integrate the keyboard well enough with the phone part of the device so that you are constantly lifting the screen and hitting a small nub of a button displayed in the corner.

Even though the device has an OK key on the keyboard it does not work that often. It will close some dialogs, while on the others you can use the ever-so-tiny Tab key to nudge the focus to the Close/OK button on the screen and then use the OK key to close it. But the worst are stupid notification popups that have a tiny Close button in the corner that cannot closed with any combination of Tab/OK key pressed. This is great if you're just about to dial, or are in the middle of a phone call.

Sorely missing from the tiny keyboard is also a Back/Cancel key! For example, you can conveniently press Joystick Up to see if you missed any calls, but guess how you go back to the phone dialing pad? Open the screen cover and use your nail to tap the tiny OK button to dismiss the list. If you press the OK key or the Phone key on the keyboard you may dial the entry displayed in the list. I thought hang-up button would be useful for this purpose but unfortunately it will just stop an active GPRS connection and return you to the Today screen.

Otherwise, phone application is almost devoid of features! It took me a while to figure out how to enable speakerphone (on P900 just flip the lid open). Speed dial is hidden under the joystick. Every so often I get a weird error popup on the screen - Rogers (my network provider) suggested I reset the device on a regular basis to avoid those (grrrreat!). Today I had a pleasant experience of the device locking up as I pressed on the Call Answer button to take an incoming call. So reset again, wait for reboot and hope I can call the person back in time.

The device does have other redeeming properties, but its phone functionality is pretty abysmal. I have stayed away from Windows-based phone device for years fearing exactly this type of scenario. This year I figured they had enough time to sort out the bugs and reviews were generally positive. I just don't understand how Microsoft hasn't gotten this right after all this time.

Update 5/14/2006: I would feel bad if I didn't update my experience with this phone after using it for another month:

The phone has built-in profiles to switch between silent mode, meeting mode, etc. It is activated by pressing and holding the power button. Unfortunately, every once in a while when I switch to a regular (non-silent) mode the device decides to turn my volume all the way down and disables vibrate. To cap it all off, the volume icon doesn't change to indicate silent mode - so you really have no idea you're missing calls. This certainly shakes my confidence in this phone.

My call waiting feature has stopped working, and not on the network level! I can hear the incoming calls beep while I'm talking to someone else but the screen no longer gives me a dialog box that lets me switch calls, the phone simply shows nothing on the screen. The worst part is that after I finish the current call there is no record of me missing or receiving the missed call! So I have no idea who I missed unless that person leaves me a voice mail.

Additionally, the locking up still happens: every once in a while when I press the green Answer button to answer an incoming call the phone responds by locking up. Just solidly locking up. That's gotta be the worst time for a phone to crash and it's happened about 6 times so far. I then have to pull out the pen, perform a reset, wait for it to boot up and call back.

Finally, last week I decided that hw6515 is a great PDA/email device and a bad, bad phone, even for a light phone user so I have placed an order for a proper small phone to accompany me. The irony is that I have not installed any downloaded software on my hw6515 so the instability I'm seeing can only be blamed on HP, Microsoft, Rogers or all three together.


Blogger FatAss said...

Hello Slaven,

I was really glad to find your post about the HP6515, as almost every other article about it on the net only mentions the specs, etc (basically what you can find out yourself by visiting Your article was refreshing to hear, although I was disappointed to hear that a phone I am thinking of purchasing kinda sucks. Perhaps the HP6915 will be better.

I have a question for you. Have you tried the GPS functions on it? If you have, how is the software? The reason I ask is that it is the software and maps that make or break GPS device (since anyone can stick a gps receiver on anything now).

I'd like to hear from you. You can email me at a_cerase @ if you'd like.



6:37 PM  
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