Why is my Motorola Q smartphone so dumb? Or why is Windows Mobile so hard to use?

Moto_Q_front_2, 11/22/05, 2:05 PM,  8C, 4054x2319 (650+2761), 100%, bent 6 stops,  1/25 s, R70.0, G56.9, B89.8 I have a love/hate relationship with my Moto Q smartphone.  I love the way it looks and feels.  It has a pretty decent little screen, bright fairly sharp and almost a good size.  I like the utility of the software, ok, SOME of the software.  When I got the phone, I loved having Windows in my pocket (there’s a really bad joke there, somewhere) but, as time has marched on, the whole Windows in my pocket seems a bit much.  Shoehorning the Windows UI in a phone is probably not a good idea, especially in non-touch devices.  But that is not my only complaint.  Usability is just not there.  For example, to make a call, I have to make sure I am either already in the dialer application or the home screen, enter the phone number, if it is a phone number that is not in my contacts then I have to press the menu button and select ‘call’ then press enter.  If the number is in the contact or recently dialed list, scroll to that number and press enter.  That’s just to make a call.  No wonder the iPhone fanboys laugh at WinMo.  It’s ridiculous.  On my wife’s Centro, there is a phone button, press it, enter the number and press the talk button.  Easy.  Now why can’t Windows Mobile be easy like that?  I’m starting to think that Paul Thurrot is right about Windows Mobile:  it’s ridiculous.

The UI is a mess and pocket Internet Explorer? Ugh, don’t get me started.  These smartphones CAN handle a real browser.  Even with the smallish screens, there is no reason a real browser cannot be included.   WAP?  Please. Oh, and Windows Media Player? What the hell is that?  It is barely usable.  Why?  My Moto Q, while considered ‘old’ now, is no slouch in processing power. Ok, it’s not a quad core, but it performs decently.  It could handle more than Windows Media, certainly it is capable of running a more fully featured media player.  My old Zire 31 from Palm had a terrific media player (TCPMP) that could do full motion video as well as MP3 audio.

I’m not opposed to Windows Mobile.  Indeed, I can develop applications for it (as I am currently working on a couple of things, including a port of Tiny Basic) but I think that Microsoft needs to revamp the entire platform.  There is a reason that people have gone nuts over the iPhone and it’s not because of the phone’s openness or it’s ‘innovation’.  No, it is because Apple paid attention to detail and usability-something it does well.  I am also not suggesting that Microsoft should just clone iPhone.  No, they need to concentrate on usability and the details and forget about cloning the iPhone.  Steve Ballmer confirmed that Zune features were going to be added to Windows Mobile.  Let’s hope that includes Zune’s UI.  Forget about the Explorer like shell and put the Zune UI in it’s place. 

There are bright spots, though.  Windows Live Search is fantastic.  I use it all of the time and it is pretty accurate.  The speech recognition is superb.  The maps and directions are top notch.  There are some great games and some really useful productivity tools.  Microsoft’s OneNote 2007 features a relatively easy to use-but rather plain-smartphone client.  I use it quite a bit as well.  In fact, I maintain a medical history for my son, wife and myself on the mobile version so that I can pull up medication history, doctor visit history, quick medical history, etc.  It has been invaluable.

Because I have a Moto Q-the original-I’ll not be able to take advantage of any new Windows Mobile.  The phone, apparently, cannot be flashed.  I’ll have to buy a new phone to get any new features.  I suppose that’s fine since it will be at least a year before a new Windows Mobile with Zune features will be available.  Until then, I’ll have to use a slew of third party tools to make the phone functional.  Alas, I’ll still struggle with placing calls.  I am, after all, not a rocket scientist.

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