Given that T-Mobile has yet to roll out its 3G network, you're left to surf the Web on the carrier's EDGE network. With it, you'll get data speeds averaging around 90Kbps, which may be fine for the casual user, but what can we say? We've been spoiled by the taste of 3G speeds. The good news is that the Shadow has integrated Wi-Fi, so you can access the Internet that way. The smartphone had no problem finding and connecting to our test access point. In addition, the device supports full HTML Web browsing, and you also get the Windows Live Search function, which allows you to search for businesses by location, get driving directions and Navteq maps (aerial and map), and check local traffic conditions. There's no integrated GPS on the Shadow but you can always get an add-on receiver, thanks to built-in Bluetooth. It also works with wireless headsets, hands-free kits, and (hooray!) stereo Bluetooth headsets.
Speaking of which, to pump some tunes to said headset, Windows Media Player 10 Mobile is onboard so you can enjoy your favorite AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV music and video files. If you have TV shows recorded on your Windows Media Center PC, you can also transfer them to your device, and the Shadow's screen can be switched from portrait to landscape mode for a better viewing experience. Unfortunately, T-Mobile does not yet have a music or video service like the other carriers to get new tunes or clips.
You can, however, capture your own multimedia gems since the Shadow is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera with a number of shooting modes, such as camcorder, sports, and contacts picture. In camera mode, you have your choice of five resolutions and four quality settings. You can adjust the picture with white balance and brightness options and various effects and frames. There's about 140MB user-accessible storage, but the microSD expansion slot accepts up to 4GB media, so it's a good idea to carry such large files on a card.
Picture quality was mediocre. Photos looked clear, but colors were washed out and looked slightly gray. Still, it's fine for quick snapshots or multimedia messages. Videos were a tad grainy but watchable in short spurts. We should also note that adjusting the settings of the camera is a bit awkward since the screen orientation automatically switches from portrait to landscape mode, and this makes it confusing to know what navigation controls correspond with what menu item.
Messaging options on the Shadow include support for POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts, and T-Mobile includes a handy setup page to walk you through the whole process. The carrier even went so far as to have separate wizards for all the popular e-mail clients, including AOL, Gmail, Windows Live, and Yahoo. Since the device is a Windows Mobile 6 smartphone, it also ships with Microsoft's Direct Push technology out of the box so you can get real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook e-mail, calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. For more instant communication gratification, you also get AOL, ICQ, Yahoo, and Windows Live Messenger apps.
And while the Shadow's target audience may not be the type to do a lot of heavy work from the road, they certainly have that option with the inclusion of the Microsoft Office Mobile Suite. This allows you to view and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint (view only) documents, and there's also a PDF reader. Other personal information management tools include a voice recorder, a task manager, a calculator, SIM manager, and others.
We tested the quad-band T-Mobile Shadow in San Francisco using T-Mobile service, and call quality was decent but could have been better. On our end, friends sounded a bit weak, even with the volume at its highest level. We were still able to carry on conversations and interact with our bank's automated voice response systems, but we were definitely left wanting more. Meanwhile, our callers reported good audio quality and had no complaints. Unfortunately, the speakerphone didn't fare well on either side, as voices sounded far away and tinny. On the bright side, we had no problem pairing the Shadow with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.
Equipped with a 200MHz Texas Instrument OMAP processor and about 63MB of free program memory, general performance was OK, but the responsiveness definitely slowed down a bit as we multitasked and demanded more from our device. Surfing the Net seemed poky given our Web-browsing experience on other 3G-enabled smartphones, but it wasn't horrible, and we're thankful for the ability to connect via Wi-Fi, as well. The multimedia experience was pretty much what we expected. Music playback through the phone's speakers was hollow and lacking bass and richness. Watching video clips in short spurts was fine. Though there was some blurriness during action sequences, images and audio always synced up.
The T-Mobile Shadow is rated for 5 hours talk time and up to 6.7 days of standby time. We are still conducting our battery drain tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Shadow has a digital SAR rating of 1.53 watts per kilogram.