29 November 2010

Windows Mobile 7 on HTC Mozart - A Marriage Made in Hell

I've long been an advocate of Microsoft products, telling people everywhere I go how much development work goes into a system like Windows; that it's much better and secure than it looks, and that if one knows how, one can create an environment under Windows as customizable and professional as under Linux.

I've used simple mobiles, Palm OS, and Windows Mobile 5. Then, we decided to get an HTC Mozart form Orange with Windows Mobile 7. We shouldn't have.

Although the hardware is as advanced as that of any state of the art iP* product, unless you want to spend your time watching videos you can't download or listening to music you can't buy, my old Nokia 2630 seems to be more flexible and customizable than this -- for want of a better word -- monster.

You simply can't customize HTC Mozart, even if you want to change the simplest things. There are no profiles that would allow you to change all sound / alert / vibration settings at once. You can only select from 10 short alerts to notify you about an incoming message or e-mail, which is useless if such messages are supposed to wake you up during the night. You cannot change the theme -- you are stuck with large colourful rectangles that are visible from yards away, and take up way too much of the otherwise large screen. There is no extension SD slot, and no explorer to give you a hint about data, resources (horrible dictu, files) on your device. Oh, and you don't get a Windows Mobile 7 DVD from Orange, for reasons we couldn't discover.

It won't communicate with ActiveSync; you need a Zune account to upload something to your phone, and an Xbox Live account to play a game. The oversimplified OS seems to be designed for playing music, videos and games -- but it's pretty useless for anything else. Earlier versions did a much better job at putting your office into your hand.

As a sample, here is the menu you see on the phone:
  • Phone (I think; I haven't inserted the SIM card, so it says "No SIM")
  • People (get contacts from your SIM and Facebook)
  • Messaging
  • Email setup (why not integrated into messaging?)
  • Orange Weds
  • Orange Maps -- Coming Soon
  • Your Orange
  • Orange Daily
  • Internet Explorer
  • Games -- Xbox Live
  • Calendar
  • Pictures (connect to Facebook to upload quickly and easily pictures you really shouldn't)
  • Music & Videos
  • Marketplace
  • HTC Hub (a nice combination of the marketplace and today's weather)

By touching the "right" arrow you finally get to a more detailed list of what you can do with your phone. Here, in addition to the above, one can find:
  • Alarms
  • Calculator (no square root)
  • Camera
  • Maps (nice and quick, with satellite view)
  • Office (simple but works)
  • Orange Maps Navigation
  • Settings

And that's it. Why bother with task manager or advanced config? Memory or power management? But these weren't my immediate concern. Desperate to find a way to change the message and e-mail alerts, I hoped I could use a recorded message. But there is no built-in application to record some sound. Or leave a voice note. I searched the marketplace, but still couldn't find anything. I connected the phone to my computer running Windows 7, expecting that I could upload an mp3, or find a hidden folder to add my file to so that it would appear in the menu. Obviously, they couldn't communicate; you're not allowed to access your phone even as a simple storage device. And I thought I wouldn't have to hack into a mobile to change the way it rings.

With Windows Mobile 7, Microsoft seems to have recreated the claustrophobic feeling I had with iPods. "Perhaps too simple," suggests Daniel Robinson in his review. Well, it turns out to be an understatement.

Update: Windows Mobile 7 doesn't seem to communicate with Outlook, and you can only install software from the marketplace. You cannot enter the name of a wifi network you'd like to connect to; you can only select from the visible ones, which means that the phone cannot connect to hidden networks at all.