On the soon to be released MobileTechRoundup podcast Matt Miller and I both agreed that we were surprised how pleasing the user experience is with the HTC Advantage. This experience reminds me of the first impressions that many new owners gave of the iPhone, the thing is just darned fun to use. The Advantage is fun and also a very full-featured mobile device and everyone I show it to quickly realizes how useful it is. I have been using this thing constantly since I received it from HTC (big thanks, HTC, for supplying this evaluation unit) and my appreciation of it is so obvious that my wife is predicting I will buy one of my own soon. I can’t make that prediction yet but I can share what I am doing with the Advantage that makes it so useful and explain what programs I am using to do it.
I am finding the HTC Advantage to be a great web appliance. I use Google Reader in the pre-installed Opera browser to follow my feeds and keep up with the subjects that interest me. The five inch screen on the Advantage is tailor-made for web surfing and I enjoy everything about the experience. I either surf in mini-laptop mode or hold the device itself (sans keyboard) in my hand in portrait orientation which is great for using the VueFLO which scrolls the web page by tilting the device. It’s kind of like surfing the web with an iPhone but without even using a finger.
I signed up with AT&T today to be able to get HSDPA 3G connectivity which the Advantage can handle. I am in a fringe area and routinely getting about 600 kbps throughput with it and am quite happy to pay the EFT to T-Mobile and say bye-bye. Since enabling HSDPA I haven’t used WiFi at all and don’t feel I’ve given up much speed at all. The high speed wireless connectivity really turns the Advantage into a mobile office. Working with email is very easy to do, everything is snappy, and the push email works as expected. I have picked up Resco Pocket Radio and am enjoying streaming radio all the time. I can see I’m going to need some good Bluetooth headphones to use with this, anybody got any recommendations for a good set? I can see how a subscription music service like Yahoo would be great on the Advantage.
The phone features of the Advantage are what you’d expect from WM6, well implemented and easy to use. I don’t use the device as my phone but it’s nice to sometimes make a quick call over the speakerphone, which is as good as I’ve seen on any device. I also use Skype with the speakerphone and it works as expected. Some echo feedback but if you turn down the external speaker it’s passable. The chat feature of Skype works very well on the Advantage using the little keyboard. HTC has included Voice Speed Dial which I prefer over the richer feature set of Microsoft’s Voice Command. I have a lot of contacts in my database and I find it more efficient to train voice tags for the few numbers I call frequently. Voice dialing works very well, even with the internal microphone on the Advantage.
To handle all my PIM needs with aplomb I’ve installed Pocket Informant, a program I used for years but got away from recently. The big Advantage screen makes PI a true joy to use, I can see so much information at once which is very productive. I am just starting to experiment with the notes feature in PI, inking them works very nicely although I miss the ability to search the ink. I find it good for quick stuff, though. PI includes a today screen module but I don’t use it, I prefer to keep my today screen pretty lean and mean but it’s there for those who like lots of information up front and center.
I have extended the utility of Windows Mobile 6 by adding SPB Mobile Shell. I get a nifty "NOW" screen along with a lot of other useful features. I highly recommend this for Windows Mobile 6 Pro devices. I have also added Google Maps which I use with the integrated GPS. I get a quick satellite lock-on and while I use my TomTom for most GPS stuff it’s useful to have this in case I want to look up the directions to something while I’m out on quick trips.
The Mobile Office suite in WM6 works very well and HTC has pre-installed Adobe Reader so I can review virtually any document I receive. I have copied my entire My Documents tree from my Tablet PC onto the 8GB MicroDrive on the Advantage and I refer to work documents all the time. PowerPoint Mobile works really well and with the included VGA dongle the Advantage would make a stellar portable presentation device. I wouldn’t create big documents using the Advantage’s little keyboard but it is perfect for editing them, especially Excel spreadsheets. I am finding that the Advantage is much more useful in this scenario than I thought it would be, and I can see how you could leave the laptop at home for short business trips. I do use the iGo Stowaway Bluetooth keyboard for longer documents and it works well with the HTC. It’s cool having the Advantage keyboard to provide a convenient stand for such usage with the external keyboard.
The little keyboard serves another purpose than just providing a keyboard, it also serves as a nifty protective cover for the screen for those times when you don’t bring the leather case. The keyboard attaches to the screen via the same strong magnet used to attach it to the bottom of the device for typing and when attached as a cover a little Windows SideShow-like strip of information appears automatically. It reproduces the menu bar of the WM6 screen but through the clear slit of the keyboard cover. It’s a cool way to check the status of the device while it’s in standby and conserving battery. You can toggle through three different screens to get different information while covered.
I’ll admit that I haven’t done much multimedia stuff with the Advantage yet, other than the music streaming with Resco Radio I mentioned. I’m going to put some movies and music so I can check out how well it works. The big vivid screen would be ideal for watching movies on trips. I’ll report back on that when I’ve given it a good whirl.
That pretty much sums up my experience with the HTC Advantage x7501 running Windows Mobile 6. The device has totally surprised me that it is as useful as it turns out to be and I am thrilled about that. I haven’t run any battery life benchmarks but I am getting more than a full day of very heavy usage so I’m happy with that. I am getting closer to believe that the Advantage provides more than enough utility to justify that $900 price.
UPDATE: I totally forgot to mention how well the Advantage handles reading ebooks with MobiPocket Reader. This is rapidly becoming my favorite device to use for reading ebooks, what with the 5 inch screen. I read them in portrait orientation and toggle full-screen view which provides a pleasant experience. The MobiPocket Reader does just about everything I could want in a reader and does what I think is essential in any ebook reader- it gets totally out of the way and lets me read books.