capsule review

T-Mobile Shadow PDA Phone

At a Glance
  • T-Mobile Shadow

    PCWorld Rating

    With the Shadow, T-Mobile delivers a smart phone smarter than most; its tinny call quality may be a concern.

At first glance the elegant Shadow doesn't look like a Windows Mobile smart phone. When you first power it up, you may be confused: After the Windows Mobile logo appears, the home screen that greets you looks absolutely nothing like Windows Mobile, save for the familiar Start icon in the lower-left corner. Its keypad consists of 20 keys (a la Research in Motion's design with the BlackBerry Pearl) hidden beneath the slide-up screen.

T-Mobile worked with Microsoft and HTC, which manufactures the device, to refresh the primary interface to complement the handset's physical attributes. The result is a phone with easy-to-use controls, which include a back arrow to move back screen-by-screen (no matter where you are in the phone) and a masterful jog wheel that doubles as a five-way navigation button.

At the core of the redesigned home screen is an inverted-L design. Several menu choices-- MyFavesSM, Notifications, Inboxes, Calendar T-Zones, Media Player, Photo Viewer, and Settings--line the left side of the display, and pressing on the five-way navigation button lets you quickly cycle through them. On the right, any submenu options that are available to you for a given menu choice appear; you spin the jog wheel or press the wheel right or left to cycle through them.

Typing on the keypad took some practice, even with the device's predictive-text technology, but that may be partly due to my personal preference for dedicated QWERTY keyboards such as those on the Palm Treo or the AT&T Tilt (also built by HTC), for example. To me, the Shadow's keyboard isn't ideal for composing long messages, but it's still a better bet than tapping away at a normal alphanumeric keypad. Of note: The large keys are clearly labeled.

Considering everything that I liked about the Shadow, I was all the more disappointed to discover some of the phone's weaknesses. The biggest of those was the call quality: I heard tinny, slightly echoed audio through the handset's earpiece, almost as if the other party were on speakerphone (even though the speakerphone wasn't activated). Likewise, the people I spoke with said that my voice sounded a bit high-pitched compared with how I sounded on another handset over T-Mobile's network. The mediocre call quality, though tolerable, is surprising given the impressive audio quality I've heard recently from other HTC phones (including Sprint's Touch and the AT&T Tilt).

In addition, I didn't like the camera's operation. It took reasonably good-looking pictures  for a 2.0-megapixel device, but I found the shutter lag frustratingly slow. When taking a picture on a city street, I'd press the dedicated camera-shutter button to initiate a shot, and by the time I'd see the image on screen, a car would appear smack in the middle of the frame. Saving pictures between shots was slow, too.

I'm not convinced that this phone will induce anyone to switch to T-Mobile. Still, the Shadow's impressive design certainly distinguishes it from the muddle of Windows Mobile handsets. So long as perfect audio isn't a requirement when you shop for your next smart phone, I'd recommend it (the audio issue may be annoying, but it didn't keep me from clearly communicating during calls). With the arrival of the Shadow, "friendly Windows Mobile smart phone" is no longer an oxymoron.

--Melissa J. Perenson

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    With the Shadow, T-Mobile delivers a smart phone smarter than most; its tinny call quality may be a concern.

    Pros

    • Well-designed screen gives easy access
    • Smooth jog wheel facilitates navigation

    Cons

    • Audio quality on calls sounded tinny
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