AT&T Tilt continues the tradition of crappy Windows Mobile phones

So, I know that I said that when my phone contract expired I was going to switch to PalmOS or BlackBerry, because the software on the AT&T 8525 (a.k.a. HTC Hermes) was so sucky.

But when push came to shove and I needed to buy a new phone (because I dropped the old one for the nth time and the LCD broke), I looked at all the options and decided, despite my misgivings, that I was going to have to go with the Tilt, AT&T’s Windows Mobile 6.1 replacement for the 8525.  Here’s why:

  • As cool as it is, the iPhone is ruled out because tethering my laptop to the network through my phone is a non-negotiable feature, one that the iPhone doesn’t offer (well, it does if you jailbreak it, but I’m not willing to jailbreak a phone paid for by my employer and make myself dependent on features that the vendor doesn’t support).
  • PalmOS and Blackberry are both ruled out because none of the AT&T PalmOS or Blackberry OS phones support 3G.  Given how heavily I use the network through my phone, EDGE-only is simply not an option.  There are other reasons, too, but this is the biggest one.

(I’d love to go with the Google Phone, but it’s not available yet from AT&T and I don’t know if an unlocked T-Mobile Google Phone would be fully functional on the AT&T network.  Even if it would be, I’m sure it would take me a buttload of time to make it work, and that’s time I don’t have.  Really, I just want to be able to buy a PDA Phone from AT&T that does what I need out of the box and doesn’t suck.  Is that too much to ask?  Apparently, yes, it is.)

And so, although my gut was telling me that I was not going to be happy, I went ahead and ordered the Tilt.  “How bad could it be?” I thought to myself.  “Surely in Windows Mobile 6.1 they will have addressed the stability problems in Windows Mobile 6.0, right?”  Yeah, right, pull the other one.

I’ve had the Tilt for less than two weeks.  Not only is its stability no better than the 8525′s, it’s actually markedly worse.  In fact, it’s so bad that shortly after I got it, I started keeping a log of all the things that go wrong with it.  Here is the list of the bugs I’ve encountered so far.  These are not subjective, vague complaints about the interface of the phone, they are real, honest-to-goodness, nobody-can-argue-with-them bugs.  They are severe functional defects in major functionality that people use every day.  Most of them are issues that I have encountered multiple times and continue to encounter on an ongoing basis.

  1. Messaging (IMAP) redisplays messages that have already been read and deleted by the user.
  2. Internet Explorer stops being able to resolve DNS host names (unfixed from WM 6.0).
  3. The phone forgets to display reminders for upcoming appointments.
  4. The “Today” screen goes blank and doesn’t come back until you power-cycle the phone (unfixed from WM 6.0).
  5. When I tried to change the notification preferences for new email messages and save the new settings, the phone claimed that the settings was invalid because of a corrupt ring tone, even though the ring tone was not in fact corrupt and I didn’t change it anyway (this is probably a race-condition bug; I’ve only seen it once).
  6. The power button regularly “double bounces” when I use it to turn on the phone screen, i.e., the screen comes on and then immediately turns off, and I have to hit the button a second time to turn it back on.
  7. Icons suddenly disappear from the “Settings” screen, and the only way to get them back is to power-cycle the phone (unfixed from WM 6.0).
  8. When you are in the messaging application and you turn off the screen in the middle of a Send/Receive, the Send/Receive fails (unfixed from WM 6.0).
  9. I configure the backlight to dim when I’ve been idle for 1 minute, but it keeps switching itself back from the 1 minute setting I configured to 10 seconds.
  10. Every once in a while the phone spontaneously reboots.
  11. Once, the messaging application was suddenly unable to send outbound SMTP messages. To fix it, I viewed the server settings for the account, paging through them without actually changing any of them, and after doing that SMTP started working again.
  12. I’ve seen multiple crashes from the tmail.exe and shell.exe applications.
  13. I’ve seen at least one fatal exception from the PocketPC2003.exe application.
  14. The LED on the phone is supposed to blink yellow when there are new email messages, but it regularly fails to do so (unfixed from WM 6.0).
  15. The phone occasionally turns off WiFi or BlueTooth spontaneously for no obvious reason.
  16. Every once in a while the phone stops displaying the network status when you tap the bars icon in the title bar.
  17. [Added 11/5/2008] Pocket Internet Explorer suddenly stopped being able to display protected pages on my WordPress blog, even though this worked just fine (until it stopped working) and nothing has changed on the blog end of things.  I tried everything I could think of or find on the Web to fix this, short of wiping the phone, and eventually gave up and installed Opera Mobile.

Good grief!

What can I do?  Is there, somewhere on the market, a phone I can buy that will work with the AT&T 3G network (my employer’s preferred vendor); supports these features out of the box, or at least with a minimal amount of tweaking; and doesn’t suck?

  • Phone (obviously!)
  • Laptop tethering via BlueTooth PAN and USB
  • WiFi
  • 3G with fallback to EDGE when 3G not available
  • IMAP email (send, receive, display HTML, view IMAP folders and move messages between them)
  • Outlook email (send, receive, display HTML, view folders and move messages between them, Calendar and Contacts synchronization)
  • Decent HTML browser
  • Useable keyboard
  • Touch screen a plus but not a requirement
  • 320×240 or larger screen
  • Notes application
  • Camera (still a must, video a plus but not a requirement)
  • Google Maps or equivalent with GPS support (built-in or external BlueTooth)
  • Support for reading Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents a plus but not a requirement
  • Text file editor
  • SSH client a plus but not a requirement
  • Remote Desktop client a plus but not a requirement
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3 Responses to “AT&T Tilt continues the tradition of crappy Windows Mobile phones”

  1. [...] of crappy WindowsMobile phones; what phone can I buy instead that will dowhat I need? (From http://blog.kamens.brookline.ma.us/~…mobile-phones/) So, I know that I said (http://blog.kamens.brookline.ma.us/~…tract-expires/) that when my phone [...]

  2. DavidD says:

    I’ve had the Tilt (running WM 6.0) for over a year, and can honestly tell you that I’ve experienced maybe 10% of the problems you listed… and even then vary rarely.

    One thing which likely helped is that I did a hard-reset of the phone as soon as I got it, and then prevented the AT&T software cabinets from loading up. These can definitely cause problems.

    Also, the Tilt just recently came with 6.1. It was 6.0 when I had it, but others have upgraded to 6.1 with mixed results. You might have success with a downgrade to 6.0, or trying one of the “cooked” ROMs instead.

    Best wishes,
    -David

  3. Gerg says:

    One option you might consider is getting two sims and using a dedicated usb fob for the computer instead of the phone. Seems lame but at least here a lot of operators sell broadband separately from the phone accounts anyways.

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