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HTC P4350 Communicator

Simplicity seems to be the selling point

Once WLAN was configured, the device constantly informed us of new networks in the vicinity. Which, since this reporter lives in an apartment block, was about once every 45 seconds. In this sense, at least, Windows Mobile perfectly replicates the Microsoft Windows desktop experience: with endless popups you don't need to see.

HTC also has added another distracting feature: blinking lights. The control panel also proved to be something of a tarpit: more than once it required a reboot to exit the Connections tab.

On the telephony side there's been progress, although device was strangely hesitant about hanging up a call. Call quality was average, although boosted by a decent loudspeaker. In landscape mode it was not possible to start Word Mobile or Tasks. There seems to be no sense behind this decision. And while the variety of pen input methods was welcome, there seemed no logic to when the text entry box would appear or disappear. Sometimes it just liked to hang around.

Cursive handwriting recognition was impressively accurate, but the agonising delay between inputting and rendering the text makes using it feel too much like a game show. It'll get there, with more processing power.

We also longed for more logical navigation than using the Start menu as a task-switcher and a more sensible option than an OK button, which also closes, or sometimes dismisses - one is never sure - the application with focus.

The parts of the Windows Mobile that work best are the parts that Microsoft has written, or had the most control over. This business model permits original design manufacturers (ODMs) to innovate and customise their devices, but there's little evidence of innovation and the "customisation" has resulted in a user interface disaster. Perhaps it's because the ODMs rarely meet the end-users, being insulated by operators, and other companies who re-badge the product.

Verdict

The parts of the Windows Mobile that work best are the parts that Microsoft has written, or had the most control over. This business model permits ODMs to innovate and customize their devices, but there's little evidence of innovation and the "customization" has resulted in a user interface disaster. Perhaps it's because the ODMs rarely meet the end-users, being insulated by operators, and other companies who re-badge the product.

IT departments whose primary need is contacts, calendar and mail sync do look for a native Microsoft option, but the quality of the Windows Mobile devices in so many other areas is severely compromised. It's little wonder they've turned to Blackberry devices, or Good software, or a third-party Exchange sync running on a superior, easier to manage mobile device.

Nokia offers far superior hardware to anything Microsoft's Asian ODMs can offer, and Motorola's return to the UIQ fold gives it a first-class product with global reach to market. With only incremental improvements on the horizon in Windows Mobile 6, Microsoft should look at new development models and routes to markets. The current approach offers users few disadvantages, and a great deal of trouble. IT departments with considerable investments in Microsoft infrastructure deserve much better than this.

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HTC P4350 Communicator

HTC P4350 Communicator

Must try harder...
Price: £345 RRP