HTC's Mogul (PPC-6800) debuted at the top of Sprint's smartphone lineup, taking the place of the much beloved PPC-6700. A Windows Mobile 6 Pocket PC device backed by Sprint's Power Vision EV-DO network and HTC's impressive track record of solid hardware design, Mogul brought with it high expectations from power users looking for a compact, versatile way to stay connected. I took Mogul with me on a three-week trip across the US and came home duly impressed. HTC did a great job designing a compact device with a quality touchscreen and excellent slide-out QWERTY board. And Sprint's network continues to impress me.
While Windows Mobile has never been my favorite smartphone operating system, its impossible to deny its extensive user base, capacity to sync with corporate networks, and the myriad installable applications available to extend its functionality. WM6 is more about under the hood tweaks than a full-on redesign, and while I still have my issues with the platform, Windows Mobile on Mogul made for a pleasant - and very productive - experience all in all.
Mogul looks like the PocketPC device it is, what with its large front-mounted touchscreen and lack of anything resembling a dialing keypad. It's quite similar in appearance to the HTC-manufactured Cingular (AT&T) 8525, in fact. The device is finished in a smart, understated silver grey plastic that's smooth on the front and sides and ridged on the back panel. The exception to the all-grey color scheme comes in the form of a slide-out QWERTY keypad that'sblack with white and blue labels.
Considering all that Mogul does, 110 x 59 x 19 mm of size and 164g of weight really isn't bad. Mogul comes with an HTC-branded hip holster for safe-keeping, but if you don't mind endangering that nice, big touchscreen (or fit it with a screen protector), you can pretty easily slip the device into your jacket or pants pocket. Unless you rock those skintight jeans. I don't - I actually wore cargo shorts quite a bit while reviewing this phone, and it fit very well into either the hip or lower pockets of every pair of shorts I happened to try it with. But enough about my fashion sense ...
Mogul's screen is flanked by buttons for Email and Web (there's that Internet Explorer logo!) and dual LED status lights on the top and a control array below that features a circular D-pad, two softkeys, a Windows key, an OK key, and call and cancel buttons finished in silver for higher visibility amidst all of that grey. That's a fair number of buttons and we?re not even on to the sides or QWERTY drawer - but trust me, all of those buttons made Mogul much easier to use once you learn what they?re there for. Flip the device over and the back panel is one big removable battery cover save the circular area in one corner that houses the 2MP camera's sensor and flash assist light.
The right side of the device holds a nifty button that takes you straight to the Communication Manager (for managing your various wireless connectivity options) along with camera and power buttons and a slot in the corner that holds the stylus. Along the left side there's a thumbwheel that scrolls and pushes in, an OK button (which replicates the one on the front), a dedicated voice recorder key, and an on-off switch for the integrated Wi-Fi antenna. That Wi-Fi switch is the kind of thing that's earned HTC a devoted following amongst smartphone users -- WiFi's great when you?re using it but it also drains precious battery life, so it makes sense to have access to turning it on/off without having to dig through a bunch of menus. Mogul's bottom edge houses an infrared port, mini USB port (used for charging, data transfer, and headphones), reset button, and microSD card slot.
Phew. But we?re not done yet. A nice, solid, spring-assisted mechanism controls the slide-out QWERTY keyboard that is Mogul's calling card. If you want, you can find debates around the Web as to which of HTC's smartphones packs the best QWERTY board of them all. I?ll stay out of that one for now, and merely offer that thumb typing on Mogul's keyboard was an extremely pleasant experience (at least for me - I've read reviews calling Mogul's keypad ?mushy?). The keys are roomy, finished in a nice tactile soft-touch plastic, and give good feedback. Access to Alt keys, symbols, and the like is about as good as can be expected on a device that fits in a pocket instead of taking up a desk. In addition to the QWERTY layout, there's a four-key cursor control array, yet another OK key, another Windows key, and two more softkeys. Again, lots of buttons but they?re intelligently laid out and honestly are all there for good reason.
Mogul can do a lot of things. A lot. It's one of the first devices to ship with Windows Mobile 6, which means if it can't do something out of the box there's a decent chance somebody somewhere has written software you can install to do it. That's the nice thing about having a smartphone. WinMob 6 Professional doesn't add a ton of functionality as compared to its predecessor, but it does add a few notable messaging features and also runs a bit smoother.
The Today (home) screen is the first thing you?ll see once you've booted up your Mogul. Here you can keep track of your appointments, new/unread messages (voice, SMS, and email), tasks and application shortcuts. This screen is probably my favorite thing about Windows Mobile - like the Active Standby display on Symbian devices, it really makes it easy to glance at your phone and decide if you need to click through menus for more information. Myself, I tend to forget exactly what time my appointments throughout the day are scheduled for, so Today saved me from having to unlock Mogul and tap through a few screens to check.
It's impossible to detail everything this device can do in a reasonable amount of space. Suffice it to say that it ships with robust calendaring and contacts applications that whose functionality is enhanced by the device's touchscreen, thumbwheel and QWERTY board. More importantly, Mogul's 400-MHz processor is fast enough to smoothly power all the device is meant to do, and the overall experience of running WM 6 on Mogul is much more satisfying than on the HTC Wing, a similar-looking T-Mobile smartphone that's powered by a much slower chip. Aside from problems that crop up when running five or six applications at once (WinMob needs a more intuitive means of managing and quitting active tasks), and some issues with Internet Explorer that I?ll get to later, Mogul performed very well - launching applications was acceptably fast and screen redraws when switching from landscape to portrait views were quick and smooth.
Also worth mentioning is an integrated contacts search that can be initiated by typing on the QWERTY board from the home screen, the excellent On Demand application for quick news, weather, and information updates, and compatibility with Sprint's online Music Store, which offers 99-cent per track downloads direct to your mobile device. While my review sample came before the store was made available for Mogul, I've used the system on other Sprint phones and it's the best in the business. In need of an interface reworking? Yes. Fast, cheap, and stocked with a decent selection of music? Absolutely.
Mogul also came loaded with mobile versions of MS Office apps, and combined with the phone's Email and Web functionality, I was able to research, write, and email a couple of articles in Pocket Word while waiting for a flight at the Las Vegas airport. Windows Media Player can handle protected and unprotected audio and video files, but not songs purchased from the iTunes store. I was able to play music sideloaded from my computer onto the device via microSD memory card, but not mp3 files sent to Mogul over Bluetooth. Video playback was actually a bit unsatisfactory, with clips suffering from jerky motion and artifacts a bit more than I expected.
Note that Mogul is slated for compatibility with Sprint's faster Rev. A EV-DO network pending a forthcoming firmware update. This will only enhance any network-dependent features on the device.
HTC built Mogul with a two megapixel camera with LED assist light and video capture capabilities. The camera's performance was about average for a cameraphone, but certainly not on par with the best in the business - chalk that up in part to a fixed-focus (not autofocus) lens. Still images captured in natural light and well-lit indoor conditions looked pretty good, with some shots exhibiting a better-than-average amount of detail and good color saturation. But Mogul's tolerance for less than optimal lighting was a bit less than other 1.3 and 2 MP cameraphones I've tried, and low light tended to result in photos that were not only grainy, but blurry as well. Using the flash assist light didn't really help that much - photos came out a bit more recognizable, but were marred by unnatural color. The camera software features a wide variety of scene modes and adjustments, and digital zoom is available on all but the highest resolution settings (which, come to think of it, is a bit annoying).
Video capture on Mogul worked fairly well for a cameraphone, but was limited to 176x144 pixel clips at 15 frames per second. Mogul does record audio with video clips. Images and videos may be attached to email messages or transferred to a computer via USB cable, Bluetooth, or microSD card, but MMS messaging is not supported.
Mogul's display is a 2.8? touchscreen capable of 320 x 240 resolution 65,000 colors. While the color resolution is on the low-end of current handsets, it didn't affect the display much in practice. I found the screen to be sharp with good color saturation and plenty of brightness in almost all lighting conditions. Text, graphics, and images all displayed clearly and accurately, and the only real trouble I had was the aforementioned jerky video playback inside of Windows Media Player.
Mogul's touchscreen sensor also worked well. Though using a stylus is obviously the preferred method, I was able to navigate most situations with a fingertip (though scrolling through web pages via arrows located in the corners of the screen was tough with my big digits). The only problems I consistently had came with clicking links in Internet Explorer, which I?m pretty sure was a function of the browser itself and not Mogul's hardware.
The handset shipped with a leather holster case and a stick-on screen protector. I didn't apply the protective film and generally carried Mogul in a pocket instead of the holster during my three weeks or so of testing. At the end of my tests the display was still scratch free.
I tested the CDMA Mogul in Nothern California, Las Vegas, Nevada, New York City, and in homes, cars, and on beaches between New Haven, CT and Wellfleet, MA. Voice calls were generally loud and clear with a little bit of fuzz here and there but no notable reception problems or dropped calls. The internal speaker was plenty loud for voice calling, but the speakerphone was just okay at best: the one time I tried using it in a group conference call situation we wound up switching to a land line in order to better hear the other parties.
A set of wired stereo earphones with an inline microphone is included. The phones connect to Mogul via a mini-USB plug, and a USB-to-2.5mm adapter is also included. I used the earphones quite a bit for handsfree calling and found them to be a bit better than your run of the mill stock earbuds in terms of both comfort and audio quality. The earphones also make for decent music listening.
Mogul supports mono and stereo Bluetooth audio, and I had no trouble pairing headsets with the device. Audio quality over Bluetooth was very good, both for voice calling (mono) and music playback (stereo).
Messaging on Mogul is excellent, so long as you don't need to send MMS messages. I really found the slide-out QWERTY board a pleasure to type on, and the speed of Sprint's EV-DO network made sending and receiving Email quick and easy. Windows Mobile 6 provides support for multiple POP and IMAP email accounts and while there's no ultra-friendly setup wizard, I was able to configure a few of my accounts - including server options and signature files - with no trouble.
Outlook Mobile features good integration between messaging accounts and contacts, and Windows Mobile 6 upgrades Outlook to support full HTML email. Email attachments are also supported, and as mentioned, Mogul ships with pocket versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint which allow for document creation and editing in addition to viewing. Really, with Mogul in your pocket you've got nobody to blame but yourself if you?re not productive on the road.
Web Browsing using the included Internet Explorer browser was okay, but things perked up considerably when I downloaded and installed Opera Mobile. IE has never been my favorite browser, and the mobile version suffers from quirks and crashes more than its desktop counterpart does. I also experienced some difficulty clicking Web links using IE on the Mogul - on a fairly regular basis I would click a link, but instead of taking me to a new page, the software would instead highlight the link I just clicked. Clicking again would trigger the pop-up contextual menu that's supposed to be launched by clicking and holding. It happened enough times that it became a pretty big annoyance.
That being said, IE did a generally okay job of rendering Web pages but the experience on Opera Mobile was just an all-around smoother, better one. Sprint's Power Vision network is fast enough that I rarely thought to turn on Mogul's Wi-Fi antenna to search for an open 802.11 network when browsing the Web - I just used EV-DO instead. Not to say that EV-DO is on par with Wi-FI, because it's not. But average download speeds between 400-700 Kbps were plenty fine for browsing, and those speeds should increase by up to twofold when Mogul gets upgraded to Rev. O.
Mogul may also be used as a cellular modem, and Sprint's new Internet Sharing app makes the process even easier. For the record, I was able to get strong EV-DO signals everywhere I went during my three-week trip, though I was in or near a major US city basically at all times.
The HTC Mogul for Sprint is locked to the Sprint network in the United States. It combines a CDMA cell phone with EV-DO data services for Email, Web, and other Net-based applications. The device ships with 151MB of onboard memory accessible to users, and another 512MB of storage in the form of a microSD card. Cards of up to 2GB are officially supported.
HTC built Bluetooth v2.0 into the Mogul, and file transfer, information synching, voice dialing, laptop tethering, and both mono and stereo (A2DP) audio are supported. The integrated mini-USB jack can be used to connect to a computer for synching, file transfers, and use of the Mogul as a cellular modem. The USB jack is also used for charging the device and for connecting to the included stereo earphones. A dual port-replicator/2.5mm headphone port USB cable is also included..
I've always been on the fence about whether or not to own a smartphone for personal use. On the one hand, I really like small handsets that slip easily into my pocket when not in use. On the other hand, the convenience and productivity enhancements offered by QWERTY keyboards and robust operating systems make today's smartphones more and more appealing. HTC and Sprint did an excellent job of taking everything that made the Sprint PPC-6700 smartphone such a success, and pack it into a smaller, more powerful body in the Mogul.
While some found fault in Mogul's keyboard for being too mushy or otherwise not providing enough tactile feedback, I really enjoyed using it for everything from calendar entries to writing and emailing blog posts. Mogul's compact size is small enough to slip into a (roomy) pocket, and its solid build quality and 400 MHz processor speak to its road warrior mentality. HTC has become the leader in Windows Mobile smartphones, and clever design and top-notch quality are two big reasons why.
Backed by two solid connectivity options - 802.11b/g WiFi and Sprint's EV-DO network - Mogul is more than capable of keeping you connected and productive (or entertained) while you?re away from your desktop PC. Combine that with a good display, great battery life, and the myriad expansion options of Windows Mobile, and you've got one of the best smartphones offered by a US carrier. Just be sure to install and use Opera Mobile instead of Internet Explorer for the optimum Mogul experience.