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What's with Windows Mobile?: Ask the Editors

CNET editors answer a reader's question about whether Windows Mobile devices are really unreliable or if it's all a bad rap.

Q: I need to replace my Palm Treo 650. Here's what I need. I need the organizing/calendar as well as contacts features. It needs to be a quad-band phone; have a screen similar in size to the Palm 650; a camera so it can record video clips and photos. It also needs to send text messages with photos attached and a QWERTY keyboard.

I'd buy another Treo, but I hear that Windows Mobile 6 works really slowly and is unreliable (at least on the Palms). I've also heard that Treo keyboards tend to die (like mine has). I've definitely ruled out the BlackBerry Pearls. Have I heard wrong about the Treos and/or Windows Mobile? What else is out there that fits my demanding feature list? Thanks greatly! -- thracker11 via e-mail


A: I'll be honest (and I don't think I'm in the minority here), the Windows Mobile operating system has its fair share of problems. It's not the most intuitive OS in the world, and it has a checkered past of stability issues and slow performance. So thracker11, you have reason for concern. That said, I feel like Microsoft has made strides in improving the OS.

Windows Mobile 6 and Windows Mobile 6.1 brought a number of enhancements, such as a Getting Started menu for quicker device configuration, a more robust Microsoft Office Mobile Suite, and new app shortcuts, that improved overall usability. In my opinion, performance has been more stable, but there's still some of that sluggishness that plagues the WinMo devices. The delays aren't so crippling that it prevents you from working, but it can be frustrating. Still, no operating system is perfect, and Windows Mobile offers plenty of good points as well, particularly for the business user, so don't discount it.

As for a Treo 650 replacement, I've listed some of my recommendations below based on your requirements. And a quick note on the Treo's keyboard. I haven't really heard that the Treos' QWERTY keyboards die quickly; I'm not sure how long you've had your Treo 650 but the model is at least three years old so it just may be a normal wear and tear. I'd also like to invite my readers to share any of their recommendations or Windows Mobile success/horror stories. After all, you're the ones using these devices day in and day out.

My picks:

AT&T Tilt
Palm Treo 680
T-Mobile Wing
Nokia E71
Samsung BlackJack II