Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Windows Mobile rant

Wrote this some time ago, but I still feel this way. I've been using my old Windows Mobile 5 touchscreen PDA phone (Samsung i730) for about three months now, and it's good and bad...

I've done it for half a year now, and I'm tired of it.

I am giving up my new Windows Mobile smartphone, my Verizon Wireless smt5800. Probably selling it, in fact.

Why would I do this? There are a few reasons.

1. The availability of decent games.
Before I had any PocketPC phone, I had an LG VX7000. This was right before Verizon's VCAST service debuted, and this phone was one of the last high-end phones they made without the service.

I used to buy one or two games every month for my device using Verizon's Get It Now application. I didn't worry too much about space on my phone, though it was very limited, to be sure. If I chose to download a new application or game, and my phone didn't have enough space, automatically Get It Now would remove the local content for one or two existing applications on the phone. Those apps were not gone; they still appeared in the list, in fact. But in order to run them, I'd have to redownload the content, which was free.

So it was definitely more convenient than juggling license codes. But that's not the only reason. The GAMES AVAILABLE through that service were just about amazing.

Here's a brief rundown on some of the most appealing games still available for my OLD phone, the VX7000 I got about four years ago:

Sonic the Hedgehog, VZW Chess, Frogger, Namco's Pac-Man, Tetris Mania, Scene It?, Dig Dug, Ms. Pac Man, Castlevania: Order of Shadows, SimCity (Used to have it, was AMAZING on my phone), Worms 2007, Might and Magic 2 (the original was so great), God of War: Betrayal, Doom RPG (played most of it, it was great), Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Paperboy, Insaniquarium Deluxe (I don't care if it's casual, it's still addicting), Metal Slug M3, Sims 2 Connected Edition, Guitar Hero 3, Solarola, Metal Gear, Age Of Empires 3, Puzzle Quest: Warlords, Sega Columns Deluxe (actually Columns and Puyo Pop), and this is all not to mention the fact that I still have Ys 1 & 2 on this phone, which is no longer available.

Are any of these titles available in some capacity on Windows Mobile or Smartphone platforms? Well, some are: Pac Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, and that's all I can think of off the top of my head. So, that's what, 10% of the titles available on my old phone?

Let's say those few games available for smartphone are all I'm interested in; let's say I'm not the semi-hardcore gamer that I am. This brings me to my next point:

2. Games: Price

This is the secret behind all those PDA phones on the market.

With Get It Now games, available now on most Verizon phones, there is a bit of a strange pricing scheme. Two prices are offered for most titles, one for an "unlimited" license and another for a "subscription" license. The features for each are identical, the programs aren't different in any way. The difference in the license merely refers to the payment scheme used to use that program.

A single game might cost $5.99 for Unlimited, or maybe $2.99 for Subscription. If you know you love the game, and want to buy it for keepsies, click on the Unlimited license. You pay a one-time fee of $5.99 on your next bill, then the application's yours, you never pay for it again. As long as you don't remove it totally from your phone (cancelling your license for it), it doesn't even have to take up space on your device; if you need the space it takes up, your phone will delete the local content, keeping the license intact, as explained above.

If you're not sure about a game/app and you just want to try it out, or you don't think you'll keep it long enough to warrant buying it Unlimited, you can purchase it for the Subscription price, which is usually about half of the normal price (or less). With this model, you'll pay $2.99 on your next bill, and $2.99 a month after that for every month you keep the program on your device. That provides kind of a protection against crappy games or all-but-nonfunctional apps; if you're not sure, pay the lower subscription price, and if you hate it, delete it; you've only spent $3 rather than $6 to find that out. Sure, it's not as good as a free demo, but it's a start. For mobile games that are beatable, if you can beat them in a month, you can get away with paying the subscription price for what is essentially the full game. I did this with the first Might and Magic title, actually, and loved every minute; that's a great mobile game, and deserving of every accolade it receives.

Here's the most important part of this: Average game price for Get It Now titles is from $5-7 Unlimited, $2-4 Subscription.

Average price for games on Pocket PC/Smartphone (Windows Mobile) platform? $20.

That's right. Same basic content, FAR more limited selection, MORE THAN DOUBLE the average price. The only redeeming factor with PPC/SP software is that most programs or games DO come with free trials, which are usually extremely limited; they're either missing some crucial feature found in the full version, time limited to work for an extremely short period of time like 3-5 days, or BOTH at once. Also is the fact that, even if a program is purported to work 100% with your flavor of Windows Mobile, there's a chance it doesn't work at all on your device.

This is the thing that drove me away. I could live with the reduced software catalog, if lots of the better programs were free or very cheap. I could live with the disadvantages of carrying a Windows Mobile device over a normal phone, of which there are many from where I sit. I could even live with the need to reformat my phone once a month, which is totally rediculous for a handheld device.

But I can't live with $20-30 games for a phone.

For these reasons, I am listing my smt5800 smartphone on Ebay. I can get at least $200 out of it selling it there, I believe, even in its used condition, even with the slight scratches on it. For a phone, I will use my still-working VX7000, which I love. For a PDA, I will use my old i730 with the phone radio turned off, running Windows Mobile 5 with a fast 520MHz processor, accessing Internet with a built-in wifi antenna.

I hate to do it this way. I don't want two seperate devices. I'm all about convergence, wherever it may be found. I BELIEVE in the possibilities of a combination cell phone & data device; I'm still excited by the prospects of the upcoming Android platform, as well as the possibilities offered by the recent unlocking of iPhone development tools.

But I've been locked out by software pricing geared to the super-rich, and selection that caters to only the most casual gamer. I've been beaten down by exhorbitant $45-a-month data plan pricing by my carrier, and their physical removal of other data options (wifi) that are present on other iterations of my phone. I've had it with the hangups, the slowdowns, the ignored taps and button clicks, the crashes, the frequent reformats, and the cell-phone-side inadequacies of Windows Mobile in general.

Therefore I am relinquishing my new device, purchased all of four months ago, and moving to what I honestly believe is a better way of doing things. I came to Windows Mobile for the freedom, the possibilities, and what looked like greener pastures; it was a great heartbreak to me to learn that the possibilities are ignored, the freedom is all but free, and the pastures are actually much greener back where I started.

Adeiu, Windows Mobile. Sorry it didn't work out.

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