When the first images of the Shadow (codenamed “Juno” by HTC, the manufacturer) started to hit the web, there was a lot of excitement around this elegant phone, powered by Windows Mobile 6, and equipped with a sliding keyboard. Even though it does not have the rumored 640×480 VGA display, hopes were high that this was going to be a great Smartphone.
From the outside, the Shadow has everything a good Smartphone should. Sure, it has a Pearl-like keyboard, but it is fine if you don’t text a whole lot (if you do, close this window and get a real QWERTY phone) and it is better than typing on a numeric pad. The display is nice, bright and the phone feels great in the hand. After a week of testing, it’s time to tell you if the T-Mobile Shadow lives up to the legend. (Photo gallery)
It’s important that you know our test conditions, so that you to figure out how much of our experience might translate with your own: The phone has been used for several days, using Push-Email (24/7), moderate web browsing and little voice usage ( <20mn/day).
Good sound? Yes.
Easy to dial? Yes
Easy to find a contact? More or less, Yes
How is the sliding in and out? Good.
Setting up the WiFi network was pretty easy, we just had to enter our WEP key (more about this below…), and voila, we could browse the web at speeds that exceed 3G. WiFi The downside is that WiFi drains the battery much faster, and that is a problem, because the battery is not that good to start with.
The battery life with WiFi was quite disappointing, so I tried to turn WiFi off. Without it, the phone could not last for 12 hours of mild usage. That means that it will have to be charged everywhere (car, job, home) if you use it normally. Heavy users will probably get frustrated with it.
Home Screen: The T-Mobile Shadow features a special user interface developed especially for T-Mobile by HTC. While it looks very nice, the new home screen doesn’t really improve the usability (and even less the productivity), at least in my opinion. It is a little like the Windows Vista user interface effects. It’s shiny, but I turn it off so that I don’t wait for two seconds (until the animation finishes) each time that I navigate a menu. Fortunately, it’s up to the user to choose: it is possible to switch to the default Windows Mobile home page.
Wheel: the wheel is a good idea. It works fairly well, except that it would be even better if the user could tweak the scroll speed.
Settings: well, it’s Windows Mobile, so navigating the setting isn’t always fun, but hopefully, most users won’t have to do it too frequently, if at all. On this particular phone, there are screens that are very well done, such as the Comm Manager screen, where you can see which connection is ON or OFF.
The Ugly: Now there one thing that ruins the experience: the XT9 predictive text. If you don’t know, XT9 basically tries to “guess” what you are trying to type (based on a dictionary) and tries to save additional key taps. Now the issue is that it auto-complete stuff like URLs or WEP keys, which makes it a pain to use. It wouldn’t be bad if it could be disabled, but in fact, even if you uncheck all the XT9 options in the settings… it is still active! There are hack out there, like removing the XT9 files, but these hacks did not work for me and secondly, it is just idiotic to not be able to shut down XT9. A search on the web
The T-mobile Shadow could be a good Smartphone, but this particular version has two weaknesses that are difficult to overcome: XT9 (annoyance) and the short battery life (killer). The XT9 issue might be fixed in an upcoming update, so if you like the form-factor, keep your eyes open. I think think that XT9 isn’t that bad, may be you will tolerate it, but you have been warned. The Pantech Duo (read review) could be an interesting alternative.
T-Mobile Shadow page