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T-Mobile (HTC) Wing review: T-Mobile (HTC) Wing

With the addition of Windows Mobile 6, the T-Mobile Wing adds a powerful smart phone to the carrier's lineup; however, performance falls a bit short of the competition.

Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Bonnie Cha
11 min read
T-Mobile Wing


T-Mobile (HTC) Wing

The Good

The T-Mobile Wing smart phone runs Windows Mobile 6 Professional Edition and has integrated Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity. It sports a revamped design with a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard, and it offers a 2-megapixel camera and good call quality.

The Bad

The Wing is on the heavier side and is sometimes sluggish when numerous apps are in use. Without the backing of a 3G network, Web browsing and data speeds are on the slower side when compared with the competition.

The Bottom Line

With the addition of Windows Mobile 6, the T-Mobile Wing adds a powerful smart phone to the carrier's lineup; however, performance falls a bit short of the competition.

Since the release of Windows Mobile 6, we've anxiously awaited the arrival of new supported devices. And though we've seen product announcements (such as the Motorola Q 9 and the HP iPaq 510 Voice Messenger) in the past, we finally have the first Windows Mobile 6 smart phone to ship in the United States: the T-Mobile Wing.

Replacing the T-Mobile MDA, the Wing's revamped design and new features of Windows Mobile 6 make it a smarter smart phone for mobile professionals. You get more e-mail functionality and better PIM and productivity tools. However, it disappoints a bit in the area of performance. The device isn't the best multitasker--it can sometimes slow to a crawl--and compared with the 3G-enabled Cingular 8525, Web browsing on the Wing seems downright pokey with EDGE speeds. Still, for T-Mobile customers, the Wing is an attractive option for business users looking for a full-featured device to help them be more productive on the road. However, if you're not locked down to a carrier, you might want to check out the faster Cingular 8525, which is due for a Windows Mobile 6 upgrade later this year. The T-Mobile Wing will be available starting May 22 for $299.99 with a two-year contract.

When comparing the T-Mobile Wing and the T-Mobile MDA, you'll immediately note the big changes. Both smart phones feature a slider design, but the Wing trades in the business-suited silver casing of the MDA for a more casual midnight blue. Color is becoming a popular way for phone manufacturers and carriers to market devices to a broader audience, and the blue hue could broaden the Wing's appeal beyond business users to a younger crowd of gadget hounds and messaging fanatics. That said, from a woman's point of view, I think the color is pretty masculine and would almost prefer the old silver color or all black.

Aside from its look, the T-Mobile Wing has a different feel. The Wing now features a rubbery, soft-touch finish like the T-Mobile Dash, which makes it easier to grip and hold on to as you're using it. The device measures 2.3 inches wide by 4.3 inches high by 0.7 inch deep, so it's actually slightly thinner than the MDA (2.3 inches by 4.3 inches by 0.9 inch). However, at 6 ounces, the Wing is heavier than its predecessor, and the difference is quite noticeable. While the smart phone has a solid construction, the extra bulk can make it uncomfortable to hold during long conversations (though you can use a Bluetooth headset to alleviate that problem), and you'll probably want to use the included belt holster to carry the device, as its bulk makes for a very tight fit in a pants pocket.

With its blue casing and soft-touch finish, the T-Mobile Wing has a new look and feel compared to the T-Mobile MDA. However, it's also heavier.

Located on the front cover of the slider phone, the Wing's touch screen is a tad smaller than the MDA's, with a 2.8-inch (diagonal) display, compared to the MDA's 2.9 inches. But it 's still bright and sharp with a 65,000-color output and a 240x320 pixel resolution. We had no problems reading our e-mails and documents or with viewing pictures and Web sites. We did, however, have trouble seeing the screen outdoors under direct sunlight, which makes the display wash out. You can customize the Home screen with different themes, background pictures, and which items appear on the start-up page.

You can use the smart phone's touch screen or navigation array to operate the device.

In addition to the touch screen, you can operate the Wing using its various navigation controls. HTC has rearranged the layout and added a couple of extra buttons not found on the MDA. Below the display, there are two soft keys, the Talk and End buttons, a new shortcut to the Start menu, an OK button, and a four-way navigation toggle with a central Select key. On the right spine, there are quick-launch keys for the voice recorder and Messages, while there's a camera-activation button, a slider volume control, and a microSD expansion slot on the left side. For the most part, the layout of these buttons is spacious, and they're easy to press. You can also reprogram any of the keys to launch different applications, by going to Settings and selecting Buttons.

To access the full QWERTY keyboard, just slide the front face of the smart phone to the left and turn it on its side. The spring-loaded mechanism glides the cover smoothly into place and it locks with a satisfying click. The screen also automatically switches from portrait to landscape mode, although typically there were a couple seconds of delay, sometimes longer if we had numerous apps open, which got to be annoying.

The Wing's full QWERTY keyboard features large buttons, but we wish there was more spacing between the keys.

The Wing's QWERTY keyboard also got a makeover as the buttons are now square (rather than the MDA's oval-like ones) with no spacing between the keys--very similar to the keyboard found on the Cingular 8525. While the individual buttons are large and tactile, we missed that extra room and actually found it easier to type messages on the RIM BlackBerry Curve, which had smaller buttons but more key spacing. Numbers and symbols share space with the letter keys, which you can use by pressing the Alt button. Also, there are two soft keys and two small LEDs at the top of the keyboard that illuminate blue to confirm the Caps or Alt functions. There is adequate backlight for typing in dark environments.

Finally, there's a camera lens and a self-portrait mirror on the back of the device, a power button on top, and a mini USB/headset port on the bottom. The T-Mobile Wing comes packaged with a travel charger, a USB cable, a belt holster, a stereo headset, an audio/charging cable, and reference material. For more add-ons and tips, please check out our cell phone ringtones, accessories, and help page.

Clearly, the biggest news here is that the T-Mobile Wing runs the latest Windows Mobile 6 operating system, more specifically Windows Mobile 6 Professional Edition (formerly Pocket PC Phone Edition), which brings a number of small but notable improvements that make the Wing a smarter and more useful device for mobile professionals. Starting with basic PIM functions, the new Calendar ribbon gives a better view of your schedule at a glance. For example, in Week display mode, not only does it give you a good overview of your schedule, complete with colored blocks for appointments, but you also get details of the event, such as meeting location, right along the bottom of your screen so you don't have to open each one. If your company has upgraded to Exchange Server 2007, you can even forward and reply to meeting requests right from the smart phones.

The full Microsoft Mobile Office Suite is also on board for creating, viewing, and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. In addition, there's an Adobe Reader client for opening PDFs. We were able to transfer and view all four document types without any problems. Other PIM tools include a calculator, a clock, a ZIP manager, and a voice recorder. To manage your memory and optimize the device's performance, you can view the amount of available memory under the Settings menu and stop running programs with the Task Manager. There's nearly 40MB of user-accessible memory, and you can always expand the capacity by using the microSD expansion slot.

The T-Mobile Wing ships with Microsoft's Direct Push technology out of the box so you get real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. In addition, you get more of a true Outlook experience since your Inbox shows messages that are flagged, marked as high importance. There's a new e-mail search function that works like the Smart Dial feature on Windows Mobile 5 devices, where you start typing in a word while in your Inbox, and it will automatically pull up messages with that term in the subject or contact field. You even can search your company's global e-mail directory, and there are nine new e-mail shortcuts that let you easily reply, delete, move messages, and more. Once again, with the upgrade to Exchange Server 2007, you get more robust e-mail capabilities, such as setting up an out-of-office reply.

There is, of course, continued support for POP3 and IMAP accounts, but now you also can view e-mails in their original HTML format, regardless of account type. If there happens to be a hyperlink within a message, you go to that page directly; if a phone number is listed, you can dial out from that message as well. The T-Mobile Wing includes a handy wizard to help you set up various accounts; it's a simple process entering your user name and password. We were able to configure the Wing easily to retrieve messages from our Yahoo and Gmail accounts every 15 minutes. The Wing also comes preloaded with AOL, ICQ, and Yahoo instant-messaging clients and supports text and multimedia messaging.

For voice communication, the T-Mobile Wing offers world roaming capabilities, a speakerphone, and voice commands and dialing. The Wing's contact list is limited only by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts) and is quite robust. You can store up to 12 numbers for a single entry as well as home and work addresses, an e-mail address, an 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 one of 23 polyphonic ringtones. Call history is sorted to the appropriate contact page, thanks to Windows Mobile 6. It's a minor feature, but it's actually quite handy to see when you received and made calls to that specific person, times of the calls, duration, and so forth, all on the contact page. Finally, the Wing supports T-Mobile's MyFaves service, which gives you unlimited calling to five contacts, regardless of carrier. Plans for myFaves start at $39.99 a month.

Wireless options on the Wing include integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 1.2. The smart phone supports a number of Bluetooth profiles, such as wireless headsets and hands-free kits. Sadly, there's no support for the A2DP profile, so you can't connect to Bluetooth stereo headsets. For surfing the Web, you can use the built-in Wi-Fi to hop onto a hot spot or alternatively, you can connect via T-Mobile's EDGE network. With EDGE, you'll get data speeds of averaging around 90Kbps. Unfortunately, T-Mobile has yet to launch its 3G network so the Wing lags behind the 3G-enabled handsets from Cingular, Verizon, and Sprint where speeds average around 300Kbps to 600Kbps. That said, our review unit had no problems logging onto the Net via cellular or Wi-Fi network.

The Wing allows for full HTML Web browsing, and you also get the new Live Search function via Windows Live for Mobile. The app is really useful as you can search for businesses by location, get driving directions and Navteq maps (aerial and map), and check local traffic conditions. Note that there is no integrated GPS so you won't get real-time tracking (though you can use a Bluetooth GPS receiver to add this functionality), but Live Search is still great for getting directions on the fly. In addition, if a number is listed with a business, you can dial directly from the search results simply by tapping the number.

Disappointingly, the new operating system didn't bring any major enhancements to Windows Media Player Mobile. And once again, unlike the other carriers, T-Mobile does not offer a music or video service to get new tunes or clips. That said, the player supports a number of popular audio and video formats--AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV, to name a few--and if you have TV shows recorded on your Windows Media Center PC, you can transfer them to your device for on-the-go viewing.

The T-Mobile Wing now sports a 2-megapixel camera, located on the back of the device along with a small self-portrait mirror.

The Wing's has an upgraded 2-megapixel camera with an 8x zoom and video-recording capabilities. The options are pretty standard for a camera phone. You have your choice of five resolutions and four quality settings. There's no flash, but you get white-balance settings, including one for night shots, and various effects you can add to pictures. There's also a self-timer, a time stamp option, a picture counter, and flicker adjustment, among other things. For video, the Wing can capture clips with or without sound in MPEG-4, Motion JPEG, or H.263 format. There are only two resolution choices, but you get the same white balance and color effect settings.

The Wing's camera took sharp pictures, but there was a yellowish tint to them.

Overall, the T-Mobile Wing took decent pictures. Image quality was sharp, but there was a slight yellowish tone to them. Video quality wasn't bad; there was some of the expected pixelation but clips were still viewable. We should note that when shooting pictures and videos, take care where you place your thumb along the bottom edge (when held horizontally) as it was very easy to nudge the sliding cover.

We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) T-Mobile Wing in San Francisco using T-Mobile service, and call quality was excellent. There was very little background hiss or ambient noise during calls to friends, and we had no problems being understood by an airline's automated voice response system. In short, we were really impressed by the clarity of sound. Our callers reported a similar experience and added that they couldn't tell we were using a cell phone. Speakerphone quality wasn't as great, however. There was a bit of tinny quality to the sound, and volume was on the weaker side, mostly when carrying on a conversation in noisier environment. We had no problems pairing the T-Mobile Wing with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.

General performance was a bit sluggish. Armed with a 201MHz TI OMAP850 processor, 128MB of ROM, and 64MB of DDR SDRAM, the Wing couldn't quite keep up with our multiple demands and there was a noticeable lag when we had numerous apps open. Fortunately, it's now easier to close out of applications using the Task Manager utility, which you can keep at the top of your Today screen for easy access. The Wing definitely falls behind the competition in the Web-browsing experience. Where the Cingular 8525 has the benefit of Cingular's HSDPA network, the Wing only pokes along at EDGE speeds; pages took longer to load, and we grew impatient. Granted, EDGE isn't that slow, but you definitely notice a difference after having used a 3G handset, and for a device such as the Wing, that extra boost would make a powerful smart phone even more powerful.

Multimedia performance was OK. As we've noticed with many smart phones, music playback through the phone's speakers was on the weak side, and songs lacked richness in sound. Plugging in the pair of included earbuds helped, but we wish the Wing was equipped with a 3.5mm jack so we could plug in a pair of high-quality headphones. Video playback was OK, but we wouldn't recommend watching any full-length movies or such on the device.

The T-Mobile Wing is rated for 4.5 hours of talk time and 3 days of standby time. In our battery tests, the Wing got 9 hours of talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the T-Mobile Wing has a digital SAR rating of 0.717 watts per kilogram.


T-Mobile (HTC) Wing

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7