Art Imitates Life

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Earlier this year, it became clear that it was time for a new cell phone. I was hoping to hold out for something featuring the Android OS, but it was not meant to be. My phone decided to leave this mortal plane before an Android phone was released, forcing me into a decision. Since I was shopping for a new phone, my wife decided it was time for her to take a look at something new, too. Good idea, I thought. She certainly deserves it. My wife and I are both Verizon customers, so we figured we’d stay with them. We’ve been pretty happy with the service. We took a Saturday to visit the Verizon store, and each bought a phone. I sprung for a one of the Blackberry models, and my wife picked the HTC Touch, which Verizon renamed the XV6900 (catchy), a nice touch screen Windows Mobile (hereafter referred to as WinMo) based phone. After playing with my phone for a few days, and then playing with hers, I exchanged my Blackberry for an XV6900 for myself. I like it.

There is one problem, though. After you get past the basic HTC screens, Windows mobile is ugly. Butt ugly. Ugly, and not very touch friendly. That’s why the phone comes with a nice little stylus; you really need it if you intend to do any serious input or navigation. After seeing people show off their nice little finger friendly iPhones, I thought I’d look around and see what kind of options there are for a WinMo phone. It turns out, there are quite a few options to make your touch screen WinMo phone almost as much fun (and useful) as the iPhone. Here are my favorite interface and Internet apps.

iWindowsMobile Communication Suite ($39.95)

The Communication Suite is a bundle of four of VITO Technology’s best WinMo Applications:

  • Winterface
  • FunContact
  • SMS-Chat
  • ZoomBoard

Winterface is an elegant application launcher, and is highly configurable. It is very responsive to taps and swipes, and features a swipe-to-unlock feature, which is handy. FunContact is a souped up contact manager, also finger-friendly enough the eliminated the need for the stylus. SMS-Chat is interesting, presenting your SMS messaging in IM-like format. It’s not quite like the iPhone’s implentation of the idea, but I think I like it a little better. ZoomBoard is a more touch-friendly keyboard, although my personal preference is for the SPB keyboard. It is part of the bundle though, and certainly no slouch. It’s definitely an upgrade to the built-in keyboard.

NetFront Browser (Free)

The NetFront browser is in beta at this point, but it’s a pretty nice little application. Opera Mobile is awfully good, but in my opinion, NetFront beats it out. Zooming in and out of a page are quick, scrolling is very responsive and smooth, and the mobile-friendly rendering is almost always perfect. It is truly a treat to use. And almost anything beats PocketIE (although I’ve found a few online apps that require it – damn you, Logmein).

Quakk (Free)

Quakk is the best Twitter client I’ve found for WinMo. There are a few other strong contenders (TinyTwitter and ceTwit are tops), but I think for basic Twittering, Quakk offers the best performance and display options. If you want TwitPic functionality, I would favor ceTwit.

Palringo (Free)

Palringo is a nice multi-service IM client. I can chat with my MSN and GoogleTalk contacts in one place, which has come in handy a few times. We use chat to keep in touch quite a bit at work, and this has helped me get into work when I’ve forgotten my office keys. Seriously. I’m that helpless.

The Rest

There are a few other applications I use fairly often. Google Maps (free), now that I can use my GPS chip, is very handy. Task2Gather ($.99), a finger-friendly task list that’s almost there, looks like it’s going to shape up to be a great little app. Fusion Voicemail (free, but a miserable website experience) is a nice visual voicemail program. Google’s GMail, Reader and Picasa mobile interfaces are a treat, doubly so with NetFront. And Pandora for the XV6900 (free) isn’t too bad, although I thinks it’s hampered by Verizon’s bandwidth. These are the programs that have turned my phone into a highly useful mobile computer.

Oh, and it turns out that having the XV6900 doesn’t mean I can’t run Android. But that’s a story for another day.

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