For a few months now, Sprint and Verizon Wireless customers have had to watch while their GSM counterparts at T-Mobile and AT&T got one new smartphone after another. Yet things are starting to look up--for Sprint subscribers, anyway. Today, the carrier announced the Sprint Mogul by HTC, the long-awaited successor to the Sprint PPC-6700. Sporting a thinner design and updated features, including Windows Mobile 6, the Mogul is a powerful Windows Mobile smartphone for the most demanding user. On the downside, the speakerphone quality is weak and the device can be sluggish, but we think it's worth an upgrade over the two-year-old PPC-6700 not to mention a good alternative to Sprint's Palm Treo 700wx. The Sprint Mogul will be available online and through business sales channels starting June 18 and in retail stores nationwide by mid-July. Pricing starts at a wallet-crunching $399.99 with a two-year service agreement.
The Sprint Mogul's design pulls a fast one on you. Without consulting the specs, the Mogul looks quite a bit smaller than its predecessor. Perhaps it's the lack of an external antenna that gives this illusion, but in reality, the Mogul is heavier and taller than the PPC-6700 and only marginally thinner (4.3 inches high by 2.3 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep and 6.5 ounces for the Mogul vs. the PPC-6700's 4.2 inches by 2.3 inches by 1 inch and 6.1 ounces). The overall look is reminiscent of the Cingular 8525 and the T-Mobile Wing, though we think the Mogul isn't quite as comfortable to hold as the Wing since it lacks a soft-touch finish. In addition, the back battery cover has a plastic, flimsy feel, so we worry that it might crack after some use.
If you take a quick, 360-degree visual tour of the Mogul, you'll notice a lot of buttons adorning the device. While they can be a bit overwhelming at first, they do allow for easier and faster one-handed operation. On the right side, you have the power button, a Communication Manager launcher for all your wireless connections, the camera activation key, and the stylus holder. The camera lens is located on the back along with a flash, but there's no self-portrait mirror. The left side holds a thumb wheel for faster scrolling, as well as an OK button, a voice recorder key, and a switch that lets you turn on the Wi-Fi. Finally, there's an infrared port, a microSD card slot, a reset button, and a mini USB port on the bottom of the unit.
Of course, you'll spend a majority of your time using the touch screen and full QWERTY keyboard to enter text and launch apps. Fortunately, you shouldn't have many problems with both tasks since the touch screen is responsive and the keyboard is roomy. What's more, the screen measures 2.8 inches diagonally with a standard 65,000-color output and 240x320 pixel resolution. Text, images, and Web sites looked great, and it's readable in most lighting conditions except for direct sunlight. You can adjust the backlighting and customize your home screen with different menu items, background images, and themes. An array of shortcut keys surrounds the display; at the top, you have quick-launch buttons to your messages and Internet Explorer Mobile, while there are two soft keys, the Talk and End buttons, a Start menu shortcut, an OK button, and a four-way navigation toggle below the screen. The only thing that really gave us a problem was the circular toggle; it's stiff and sticky, and the plastic button feels cheap. In fact, the top portion was actually out of its socket and we had to pop it back in. HTC makes some high-quality smartphones, so we expect better.
To access the full QWERTY keyboard, just push the front cover to the left. The sliding mechanism is smooth, and the cover locks into place with a satisfying click. The screen switches automatically from portrait to landscape mode, but like the Wing, the transition took a few seconds, especially when we had numerous apps open. The Mogul's keyboard is similar to the ones found on the T-Mobile Wing and Cingular 8525, though the two soft keys have been moved to the top of the keyboard. There isn't much spacing between buttons, but the squarish keys are large and tactile enough so that most users shouldn't have too many problems typing on it.
The Sprint Mogul comes packaged with a healthy set of accessories, including an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, a 512MB microSD card, a leather carrying case, a clear screen protector, a reference material, and more. For more personalization options, check out our cell phone accessories, ring tones, and help page.
Like the T-Mobile Wing and the HTC Touch before it, the Sprint Mogul follows suit and upgrades to Windows Mobile 6 Professional Edition as well as adding a 2-megapixel camera. To differentiate itself from the competition, Sprint adds some goodies of its own to the Mogul, which we'll discuss throughout this section.
Starting with the basics, the Mogul's voice features include a speakerphone, voice commands, smart dialing, speed dial, vibrate mode, and text and multimedia messaging. The contact list is limited only by the available memory, and each entry includes storage for as many as 12 numbers, home and work addresses, e-mail, IM screen name, birthday, spouse's name, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, a caller group, or any of 24 polyphonic ring tones. Call history is now sorted to the appropriate contact page--a new function of Windows Mobile 6. It's a minor feature, but it's actually quite handy to see when you received and made calls to a specific person, as well as the time of the call, the duration, and so forth all on the contact page.
Wireless options on the Sprint Mogul run the full gamut. It has built-in Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi, and EV-DO support. You can use the Bluetooth to connect to wireless headsets, hands-free kits, general object exchange, dial-up networking, and A2DP for Bluetooth stereo headsets, among others. For Web browsing, you can either hop onto a hot spot or take advantage of Sprint's EV-DO network, which can give you data speeds of as fast as 2.4Mbps in bursts, though you'll average closer to 300Kbps to 600Kbps. Even better news, it will be upgradeable to EV-DO Rev. A when it launches later in the fall.