The T-Mobile Sidekick and its almost annual iterations have been a success, but it became exclusively associated with the young and hip around the time Paris Hilton was spotted with one (it may have been diamond-encrusted). Meanwhile, purchasing a Blackberry or Palm-based cell phone seemed to require owning several black business suits.
Wisely, T-Mobile came up with the Wing, a device for those of us too young for the boardroom, but old enough to want a phone without the word “bling” attached to it. Released in May, the T-Mobile Wing was the first phone with Windows Media 6.0 and packs all the Sidekick features into a portable, if somewhat chunky device.
Features and Design
At three-fourths of an inch thick, the T-Mobile Wing isn’t as svelte as the ultra-compact Sidekick. In fact, with the (complementary) phone case, you won’t be carrying it in any of your pockets. Despite the size, it has a soft, almost fuzzy exterior that is nice to the touch. The screen is about 2.5 inches by 1.5 inches, with a beautiful range of colors, and below the screen are the standard call, end call and menu option buttons. There is also a little nubbin joystick for item selection.
A quick thumb press to the left reveals the keyboard. It’s a traditional PC QWERTY with the Windows button, arrows and an Alt key. Instead of being raised, the individual keyboard buttons are actually level to the rest of the phone.
Geared towards T-Mobile customers, the Wing uses MyFaves, a fairly new program that allows you unlimited calls to your five favorite numbers (they don’t have to be T-Mobile customers). It is also a quad-band GPRS phone (850/900/1800/1900 MHz), so, like many other T-Mobile phones, you can technically use it in different countries around the world (sans most of Asia).
The T-Mobile Wing is the first cell phone to use Windows Media 6.0, so PC-lovers have the full Windows Media player, Office Mobile and other cool Microsoft software. It also supports all the major instant messenger programs. Many of the programs are available by pressing the Windows button, a la a PC, and a quick navigation of the main menu.
The Wing has about four hours talk time; pretty short even compared to the iPhone’s weak six or so hours of battery life. The standby time is much more impressive, clocking in at around six days. As with other Smartphones, intensive use of the video and other multimedia stuff wears down the battery quickly.
Image Courtesy of T-Mobile
Setup and Use
Overall it is a solid device, but the T-Mobile Wing does have some design quirks that make it a little less ideal to use initially. As mentioned earlier, the keyboard is actually level to the rest of the phone which, from a design standpoint, makes perfect sense – T-Mobile wanted the keyboard to smoothly slide under the top layer when not in use. The problem is the lowered keyboard makes it easy to press the wrong button, especially for people with larger hands. The subtle spaces aren’t easy to differentiate.
Second, the tiny joystick feels clunky, rather than measured, when going through the menu selections. The circular directional pad does a strange pushback when pressed and, when accompanied by a disturbing clicking sound, makes it sound like the Wing is about to break. We didn’t get the opportunity to play any games on the Wing, but it’s hard to imagine it being a pleasurable experience. Having a few extra buttons instead of a click-based pad may have been wiser.
The 2.0 megapixel camera is what you would expect from an average cell phone. The pictures have crisp colors, thanks to the wonderful screen, but the now-cliché cell phone camera blurring effect is fully present here – anything less than a stone-steady hand will give you an unrecognizable shape. With its powerful architecture, it’s unfortunate that the versatile T-Mobile Wing couldn’t up the camera ante.
Finally, memory management is still a major issue despite (or perhaps because) of the Windows infrastructure. Open up a web page, then go to take a picture and chances are high the phone will tell you there isn’t enough memory to do both – even if you aren’t technically doing both. Active programs stay active until they are shut down, via a submenu on the Windows screen, and people used to their iPhone or Helio device will have to learn the ropes of memory management quick. However, traditional Smartphone users will be used to dealing with this issue and will probably feel right at home.
The T-Mobile Wing runs for $499.99 USD, which may be a bit pricey for Sidekickers used to paying just a few hundred dollars. As of September 2007, the company’s instant discount of $150, as well as a $50 mail-in rebate, will make it easier to swallow. Like most discounts, the instant rebate requires a 2-year commitment.
The T-Mobile Wing is a good balance between Sidekick’s user friendliness and a Blackberry’s raw power. It’s main selling point – Windows Media 6.0 – is now available on other smartphones such as the Moto Q, but loyal T-Mobile customers will appreciate the familiar keyboard layout and the MyFaves compatibility. Just don’t expect it to be as small – or as fast – as its younger Sidekick cousin.
• Windows Media 6.0
• Worldwide service
• Heavy memory management
• Clunky buttons
• Poor camera