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PocketPC phone usability horror story (Verizon XV6800 review)

Posted by Igor Moochnick on 12/27/2007

I’m a Verizon member not by choice but by "no choice at all". Like in: I don’t have any other choice of a provider in my house. T-Mobile, ATT nor others have any acceptable service level in my house. I think, mainly, because my close proximity to Newton and Brookline. This article will not be about Verizon’s service and support (I have a lot to say here) and not about the worst choice of the devices between all the providers out there, but about my user experience with the mobile communicators that I’ve had recently.

XV6700 with keyboard openI have a corporate phone/communicator and using it a lot to reply to my office e-mails. As you know it’s not easy to type on keyboard that has tiny buttons, like Treo or similar. The best keyboards out there are on Blackberries (it’s a shame Symantec doesn’t use them) and on a slide-out keyboards of the HTC devices (or alike). So, being an forced Verizon customer, I had no choice by to chose HTC XV6700 as my communicator.

This is when my nightmare began. The exterior design of the phone looks nice until you start carrying it with you all the time. Since the joystick is sticking out, the carrying case starts to control the phone. Yes, literally.

The phone was calling other people on it’s own, answering phone calls without asking me, adding appointments and deleting calendars, etc, etc… It was like the phone was leaving it’s own life. And the worst of all – when the phone call came it was hanging (to the point of soft reset). A total nightmare …

So, after talking to Verizon, I got an OK to replace it. With what? That was my main question. I had no alternative, but to wait. I’ve suffered for more than a year (from Jun/2006 to Nov/2007) and, finally, had a chance to replace the phone to it’s successor XV6800.

Verizon XV6800 Overall impression: the phone is better than it’s predecessor but not drastically. It has more memory, I should give it that, but the usability was not improved. Actually it has improved in the joystick area and became worse in others.

Joystick is not sticking out as it was before, but the buttons on the sides of the phone are soft. Every time you’ll want to pick the phone out of the pouch – you’ll 100% press one of them.

The biggest design flaw of this device, as I see it, is a headset adapter cable. There is no headset outlet on the phone, so if you’d like to plug-in one, you’ll need an adapter. It’s a thick cable 4-5 inch long with huge plugs that will be sticking out of your phone while you’re walking – horrible view and very inconvenient. Be very careful with this adapter, it’s easy falls off the phone and it’s small enough to be easily lost, BUT… you can’t find a replacement in any of the stores nor online.

All said above is not even begins to convey how bad is the Windows Mobile usability aspect of BOTH of the devices. Let’s start from the worst part:

  1. It’s impossible to make the phone to auto-lock. So, if you want to lock the phone, you have to go to "Today" screen and press the lock button ON THE SCREEN. Yes, it’s not a hardware button. There is no way to assign a hardware button to this action.
  2. It’s impossible to turn the screen off while the device continues to work. I need it every time when I start a media player and put the device in a pocket or in a pouch. At this moment the phone is prone to accidental button and screen actions.
  3. The phone turns on once in a while. It’s fine with me, but, at the same moment, the screen and the buttons are activated. So… you get my drift (all from above applied here).
  4. The phone synchronization is a nightmare. ActiveSync is very unreliable, self enclosed, rigid and impossible to make it do what you need. This is not a stone into the XV6800 backyard, but it adds cons to the whole experience.

I can go on an on, but, I think, I’ve said enough.

To conclude the story, I’d like to say that, to my taste, the whole user story is not completely backed and we’re still in a very deep deep Beta of the product. Under the product I mean the device(hardware) + software(OS). At this moment it looks like there is no common team that owns such product. There are hardware companies that create the hardware and Microsoft, that have fun creating an software for an abstract device.

So bottom line I have a very bad user experience with this device. I’m looking forward to the next Windows Mobile release and hope the things will change to the better.

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