T-Mobile Shadow with Windows Mobile 6 Standard

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INTRODUCTION

    You'd expect something
called the Shadow to be all black and sleek looking.
Well it is very sleek looking, but this one has a
brown "copper" paint job and it looks great.
T-Mobile seems to have been experimenting with
releasing abnormally colored phones that give you a
nice unique feel. Adding to the uniqueness factor is the "Neo" Home screen user interface, the result of a collaboration between Microsoft and T-Mobile. What sort of Shadow does this device cast? Read on for the thorough review!

WHAT’S HOT

    
There's something else about the Shadow that's new
for Windows Mobile phones… the keyboard.

(all images link to higher resolution)  

Slide out the top part
of the Shadow and you'll see a 20-key keypad with a
numeric layout in the middle, but a
2-letters-per-key QWERTY layout on top.

    
The 20 key keypad is
an excellent compromise. On most phones with a
numeric keypad, there are 3 letters assigned to each
number and in order to type out words, the software
has to predict what words can be formed from
combinations of each three letters. Furthermore,
this T9 layout is arranged in alphabetical order,
which will take some learning to develop motor
memory for letter locations.  With the Shadow's
QWERTY layout, you probably already know where the
letters are located since it's the same as any
desktop keyboard. Since there's two letters per
button, it's easier for you to remember which button
has which letters AND it's easier for the software
to predict which word you're trying to type since
there are less possible combinations.

   
Another advantage to this keypad style is the ease
of entering text one handed and with reduced eye
contact. There's a small ridge on the number 5
button which lets you know that this is the center
button. When you feel that ridge, you can tell that
you're on the G or H key. You can also easily feel
the corner keys so you know the upper left button is
the Q & W button. Count one button down and that's
the A & S key. This makes it very easy to feel your
way to the letters you want. Compare this to trying
to count and feel your way around a 40-button
keyboard and you'll see how much nicer it is. Or,
compare this to trying to type a message on a
touch-screen-only device with your eyes closed. A
12-button T9 keypad has less buttons to feel for,
but it's more difficult to memorize which letters
are associated with which buttons.

    
Anyway, what I'm
trying to say is that the Shadow's keypad is awesome
for instant messaging, texting and emailing with one
hand using one thumb. I can be out for a walk
carrying a bag of lunch in one hand and texting in
the other. I certainly can't do that with the TyTN
II's larger QWERTY keyboard.  But that's not
all!  If both hands are free, you can use the
Shadow's keyboard with two thumbs and it's even
faster than a larger QWERTY keyboard such as the
TyTN II!

    The new software is pretty hot, too. We'll get to
that on the second page.

WHAT’S IN
THE BOX

    The T-Mobile Shadow comes with; a USB sync cable, AC
adapter, stereo headphones with talk button/mic, stereo headphone/power Y-cable adapter, belt clip case,
software CD including ActiveSync
and a trial version of Microsoft Outlook 2007,
extensive
manual, Getting Started guide, and Tips & Tricks
pamphlet.

THE DEVICE

    The Shadow's size and form factor is small and light. If you
were a fan of the HTC StarTrek (Qtek 8500), this
could be a very nice upgrade. In so far as
specifications, the Shadow has a 201MHz TI OMAP 850
processor, 128MB RAM, 256MB ROM, Quadband GSM/EDGE, a
1.9MP camera, a 2.6" 320×240 screen, MicroSDHC slot,
WiFi b/g, USB 1.1, and Bluetooth 2.0. The battery is 920mAh. For a thorough list of specifications for those of you that like the details, check out PDAdb.net.

Device
Size (inches)
Weight (grams | ounces)
4.44" x 2.47" x 0.52"

132 | 4.65
4.44" x 2.27" x 0.63"

156 | 5.61
4.74" x 2.63" x 0.43"

157 | 5.53
4.33" x 2.09" x 0.59"

117 | 4.12
4.66" x 2.48" x 0.47"

130 | 4.58
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.64" x 2.36" x 0.48"

129 | 4.55
3.96" x 2.34" x 0.67"

133 | 4.76
4.68" x 2.44" x 0.67"

188 | 6.63
4.58" x 2.42" x 0.47"

120 | 4.20
4.56" x 2.33" x 0.65"

178 | 6.28
3.92" x 2.41" x 0.60"

137 | 4.83
4.24" x 2.09" x 0.53"

117 | 4.12
4.17" x 2.00" x 0.85"

151 | 5.34
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.57" x 1.70" x 0.64"

140 | 4.94
4.88" x 2.44" x 0.53"

130 | 4.56
4.21" x 2.20" x 0.55"

120 | 4.20
4.53" x 2.47" x 0.47"

146 | 5.15
4.63" x 2.19" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.35" x 2.07" x 0.67"

158 | 5.57
4.56" x 2.41" x 0.51"

125 | 4.41
4.44" x 2.36" x 0.55"

133 | 4.69
4.01" x 1.98" x 0.55"

124 | 4.37
8.28" x 4.67" x 1.08"

640 | 22.5
4.48" x 2.52" x 0.59"

154 | 5.43
4.17" x 2.38" x 0.68"

147 | 5.18
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.71"

165 | 5.82
4.41" x 2.24" x 0.49"

122 | 4.30
4.41" x 2.28" x 0.73"

140 | 4.94
4.01" x 2.00" x 0.45"

110 | 3.88
4.56" x 2.36" x 0.70"
200 | 7.05
4.30" x 2.40" x 0.60"
120 | 4.23
4.20" x 2.30" x 0.60"
136 | 4.79
3.70" x 2.30" x 0.60"
126 | 4.44
4.48" x 2.39" x 0.51"
116 | 4.09
4.60" x 2.60" x 0.50"

134 | 4.70

4.10" x 2.10" x 0.60"
150 | 5.30
4.40" x 2.32" x 0.75"
190 | 6.70

 

The T-Mobile Shadow
continues the tradition of using a soft-touch
slightly-rubbery body just like the T-Mobile Dash
and Wing. This is definitely a good thing. 

    On the front of the Shadow are 6
buttons surrounding a circular wheel which doubles
as a directional pad.  In the center of the
wheel is an action button. The four upper row
buttons are clear plastic, while the phone send/end
buttons include the copper paint job. It's a little
difficult to feel for the differences between these
buttons if you're trying to interact with the device
without looking at it, but you can usually find the
two soft keys at the top since they're smaller. 

The slide out keypad does both
numbers and letters in a very efficient manner.

When closed, the Shadow looks like
it's all screen. The majority of the top end is
glossy clear plastic, which unfortunately is very
susceptible to finger grease smudges. At least it's
not a touch screen.

 

 

    On the left side, there are
volume control buttons, an ExtUSB port, and MicroSD
slot. The ExtUSB port is located in the middle and
is covered by a rubber flap. I really hate this
because every time I plug it into my car stereo I
have to fumble with this silly flap. What's worse,
is the port is on the long side of the device so
you've got a big thick wire sticking out which means
it won't fit in my in-car phone cradle. As Mike Benton realized at AllShadow.com, you use a standard mini USB plug with the Shadow in addition to the ExtUSB that comes with.

 

At the bottom, is a microphone
hole and a loop slit for a lanyard.

 

    The right side includes a camera
button and a custom hardware button. When you first
press the custom button a dialog box comes up on
screen mentioning that this is a custom button and
allows you to choose which program should open when
you press it. This was a very nice touch.

 

The top end is void of any
buttons.

    On the back of the Shadow you'll
see a 1.9 Megapixel camera, speaker grill and the
battery cover. You'll also notice some "Shadow"
branding on the back of the screen when slid open.
You have to take the battery out in order to access
the SIM card. There's a little metal thing that you
have to pull in order to get the SIM card out.

    The MicroSD card slot can be
accessed without having to open the back and remove
the battery. It's extremely difficult if not
impossible to open with your fingers. If you plan on
swapping out MicroSD cards, you better bring a
paperclip or something small to pry this slot open.

 

Here you'll see from left to
right, Qtek 8500, T-Mobile Shadow, Nokia N95, and HTC TyTN II.

 

Here you can see a comparison of
the thickness. On top is the T-Mobile Shadow, then Qtek 8500, Nokia N95, and HTC TyTN II.


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INTEGRATED SOFTWARE

    The T-Mobile Shadow includes Windows
Mobile 6 Standard, but the most obvious enhancement
is the new animated Home Screen, which organizes all
of the most-used functions into a beautiful animated
and easy to use interface.

The Home Screen looks great. The default section is
the MyFaves interface. You can use the wheel on the
phone to spin through your Faves. Pressing down on
the D-pad moves to the icon below on the left side.

    The second icon down shows notifications. Calendar
appointments, emails, missed calls, and text
messages will show up here. One extremely cool
feature in this part is that when a specific person
is associated with the notification, their photo
appears (provided you've added a photo to their
contact information in Outlook.) 

The next icon down is the Message Center. Scrolling
with the wheel will jump through all of your
messaging accounts. 

The next icon down is your calendar. This will list
upcoming appointments and give you access to the
full calendar application.

The "T" icon has web browsing and T-zones related
functions.

The Media Player icon gives you easy access to your
music.  Pressing the "Full Screen"
right-soft-key will bring you to the full version of
Windows Media Player.

    Using the wheel on the Media Player icon will scroll
through other songs. Pressing the action button will
begin to play the newly selected song.  In this
screen, you see the right soft key is set to "Go to
Playing". Pressing that will bring you to the song
that is currently playing.

    The Photos section of the Home screen is great for
showing off some of your pictures.  You can use
the scroll wheel to spin through all of your photos
right from the home screen. The interface cuts off
the upper left corner, but pressing the action
button opens the image full screen in the Photos
Viewer. Shown here is one of my shots from a wedding
in Mexico.

The last icon gives you access to a number of
important settings and status indicators.

 

    Now, while the new "Neo" home screen is quite cool,
you may eventually realize that it's a lot of work
scrolling through all these animated screens trying
to find the information you need. It would be a lot
easier and efficient, if everything was right there
on the screen all the time so that all you need to
do is glance at it to see what you need to know.
Well, don't worry, you can easily switch to a more
standard Windows Mobile home screen.

 

    Setting up MyFaves has been improved even further
since the software on the T-Mobile Wing. Now the
contact photos in Outlook are resized so that they
fit in the circle without annoying white borders.
The downside to this is that they may look
pixilated. I think I'd rather have pixilation than
white corners.

    Once selecting a MyFave person, you are presented
with another circular menu giving you quick access
to a variety of options including calling, email,
text messaging, video messaging, IM, voice
messaging, and picture messaging. You can also see
an Activity Log for the contact as well as edit
their info and picture.

A new feature in the MyFaves program brings up
reminders for your friends' birthdays.

 

Pressing the "Start" softkey button on the home
screen brings you to the programs listing. You can add applications to Speed dial
here.

Microsoft
Voice Command 1.6 is included. I consider this
a must-have program and it's nice that you don't
have to purchase and install it separately.

    Windows Mobile 6 offers
suggestions not only for words as you type, but
complete phrases. As you can see in the above screen
shot, it's making word suggestions before I even
type them. The phrase suggestions
are based on phrases that you have typed before thus
making frequently used phrases extremely easy to
enter. If you want to accept the next word
suggested, you have to press the right arrow key on
the directional pad. Typing other words with the XT9
Suretype-style keyboard is also very easy.
Instead of having 3 letters per button, you've got 2
letters per button. This means you can still have
larger buttons that can be activated easily with one
hand, while also getting better accuracy due to the
smaller number of word combinations requiring
prediction.

    MSN Messenger has been replaced by Windows Live
Messenger. You've got a ton of new features here. It
now displays contact photos, links to MSN Spaces,
shows tabs at the bottom for conversations, etc.
The coolest new feature is the "Voice Clips". 
When you're in a chat window you can press the "Voice
Clip" button as the left softkey. It immediately
starts recording your voice, and pressing the left
softkey again sends the message. This is also a
newer, less buggy version than the one included on
the T-Mobile Wing and Dash.

Unfortunately, the MMS and SMS
messaging accounts have been integrated into one
"Text/Multimedia" account. That means you have to go
to Menu>New> and THEN choose which type of message
you want to create. 

    The Mobile Media Player was nicely
given a matching "skin". I hate it when
manufacturers create these great looking custom
themes for their Windows Mobile Today Screens and
Phone dialers, but then forget to skin the Media
Player. Thank goodness T-Mobile is paying attention
to design. 

 

T-Mobile also includes the OZ instant messenger for
AOL, ICQ, and Yahoo. Take note that this program
does use text messages so be sure you've got a good
text messaging plan.

The T-Mobile Address Book application is a nice
addition. This lets you sync your contacts with your
T-Mobile account online. This is great if you do not
sync with Exchange, or Windows Live over the air, or
your desktop Outlook via USB.

 

    The included WAP browser does not work when
connected to ActiveSync or WiFi. You have to connect
through T-Mobile's EDGE APN instead. This is
probably a good thing since you don't want your
account information to get sniffed by hackers…
especially if you're Paris Hilton.

The Set-Up Email program is really great. It's
easily accessed from the Home screen and you can
choose from a number of different types of email
addresses. This is very helpful and makes it very
easy to set up your email.

Since the Shadow does include WiFi you've also got
some HotSpot related programs for automatic log-ins.

 

The Communication manager lets you easily turn
on/off certain radio functions.


Review sponsored by:


HELP SUPPORT

    The T-Mobile Shadow comes with manuals discussing
basic operation in Windows Mobile as well as the
hardware. You’ve also got a great "Getting Started"
guide and a pocketable "Tips & Tricks" pamphlet.
Furthermore, you can dial 611 from your T-Mobile
phone at any time 24 hours a day 7 days a week to
talk to some one about any problems you may have.
You can also walk into any T-Mobile store for
support.

BUGS AND WISHES

    I think the worst part of the T-Mobile Shadow is the
920mAh battery. It seems to get drained pretty
quickly with all the animations it has to power.
WiFi also takes a pretty good toll on the battery. I
also miss having built in GPS, but that would kill
the battery even more.

     The other thing I hate about the Shadow is the
location of the ExtUSB port. It's on the left side
of the device instead of the bottom. That means that
when it's plugged into my car stereo for playing
music, the Shadow does not fit in my dashboard
cradle. The wire sticking out of the side is very
obtrusive. And as you already know, I also hate the
rubber flap that obscures this important port. 

     In terms of software, the new "Neo" Home screen
works quite well, though if you're a heavy multi-tasker
you'll notice a significant slow down. Also, when
you first boot up, the phone checks the SIM card for
"MyFaves" plan support and alters the phone
interface accordingly. This can make the phone seem
VERY slow on first use.  The "Neo" home screen
is very cool, but once you realize how much
scrolling, spinning, and moving you have to do in
order to get to certain pages of data you might long
for the older Home screen style which displays more
data at one time. Of course that's an easy switch in
the settings.

PURCHASING

    The T-Mobile Shadow is available at the T-Mobile website as well as T-Mobile retail stores for $149.99 when you sign up for a 2 year contract.

PROS


  • Twenty button
    Sure-Type style keyboard is great


  • Cool animated "Neo" Home screen


  • Highly integrated
    software/hardware color coordination


  • Directional button pad doubles as a scroll wheel


  • Small slider form factor

CONS


  • ExtUSB
    port is on the side


  • Battery life


  • Animated Home screen can be
    slow


  • No
    GPS

Value
Ease
of Use
Features

Overall

What do these ratings mean?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

    The T-Mobile Shadow has a great small
form factor for when I don't want to carry the TyTN
II, and the keyboard is awesome for one handed
usage. Seriously, there's a much shorter learning
curve for using this keyboard compared to the T9
Numeric keypads, Qwerty-bar type phones, and even
full qwerty slider phones. Not only that, but this
is the best one-thumb no-looking keyboard I've ever
used.

    Most people are saying
that the new "Neo" home screen interface makes the
Windows Mobile operating system easier to use. I'm
not sure I buy it. The Neo interface requires a lot
of scrolling and spinning to access the things that
are much easier to access on a traditional home
screen. I will say however, that the "Neo" interface
certainly is fun, good looking, and an impressive
design. If I wanted to show off something that looks
cool, I would use the "Neo" interface. If I wanted
to access my information without having to dig
through animated icons, I'd use the traditional home
screen. 

    Overall I really like
the T-Mobile Shadow. If you don't need HSDPA/UMTS/3G
internet access or a built-in GPS, the Shadow is it. 

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About The Author
Adam Z. Lein
Adam has had interests in combining technology with art since his first use of a Koala pad on an Apple computer. He currently has a day job as a graphic designer, photographer, systems administrator and web developer at a small design firm in Westchester, NY. His love of technology extends to software development companies who have often implemented his ideas for usability and feature enhancements. Mobile computing has become a necessity for Adam since his first Uniden UniPro PC100 in 1998. He has been reviewing and writing about smartphones for Pocketnow.com since they first appeared on the market in 2002.Read more about Adam Lein!