Hands-on With the T-Mobile Wing

T-Mobile customers have waited a long time for an upgrade to the trusty MDA, its only Windows Mobile Pocket PC phone—and only Windows Mobile phone with a keyboard other than the Dash—but all that patience is about to pay off.

With the T-Mobile Wing, HTC's combined the features in the MDA that everyone's liked—Wi-Fi, QWERTY slide-out keyboard, and touchscreen—with the benefits of Windows Mobile 6, which the T-Mobile Dash just got recently.

How does it compare to its older brother the MDA and its cousin the Cingular 8525? Is it worth upgrading if you've already got an MDA? Yes. Make the jump to find out why.

Let's get the specs out of the way first. It's got a 201Mhz TI OMAP 850 processor, 128MB ROM, 64MB RAM, 2.8-inch QVGA display, quad-band GSM, EDGE, slide-out QWERTY touchscreen, 2-megapixel camera, USB 1.1, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 2.0. Compared with the MDA, it's got a better camera, the same processor, more face keys, and a different slider. Compared with the Cingular 525, which has a Samsung 400MHz processor and 3G, the Wing comes up a little short.

Hands-on With the T-Mobile Wing

The major difference between the Wing and the MDA or the 8525 is the addition of Windows Mobile 6. You should be familiar with all our coverage of WM6 by now, so we'll not dive into it too deeply. However, even though the Wing and the MDA have nearly the same hardware specs, the Wing performs noticeably faster thanks to the new OS. Add to that the capabilities of actually closing programs instead of minimizing them (to free up RAM, which speeds things up even more) and the bundled Windows Live Suite (we covered search on it before, but this includes Windows Live Messenger as well), you've got a much better software experience. But how about the hardware?

Well, overall, the body takes the textured rubber feel that's found on the back of the T-Mobile Dash and applies that everywhere on the finish. The result makes the phone easier to hold and harder to slip out of your hand. Plus, it's a bit thinner than the MDA, which helps if you enjoy the tight pantaloons.

Hands-on With the T-Mobile Wing

The keyboard, which is the reason why you'd get a phone like this, is much better than the MDA's chiclet-style keys but only a little better than the 8525's keys. I could get a marginally faster typing speed on the Wing thanks to its more rubberized keys compared with both the 8525 and the MDA. However, the special menu keys (Calendar and Contact on the main screen) are positioned horribly when the keyboard is extended. Instead of being large and easily pressable, the left one is positioned a little bit west of center, which means you're going to have to reach with your thumb in order to hit menu options. Add to that its tiny size—a third of the size of a regular key—and you're going to be having a hard time hitting it.

The good news is that even though they've switched the sliding to the right instead of to the left, it still pops open crisply. Plus, it's now spring loaded, which gives it a Helio Ocean-esque feel. Quite addicting for you, but annoying to the people around you.

Hands-on With the T-Mobile Wing

HTC's gone and taken the Windows and OK keys found on the 8525 and added them here, which makes navigating the phone much easier when you don't want to take out the stylus. Speaking of the stylus, thanks to the fact that the slider slides out to the right, you're going to have to grab it with your left hand when in keyboard mode. A small complaint, but noticeable when you've been using it for a while.

The camera hasn't been improved all that much from the 8525 or the MDA, and HTC's not known to have fantastic quality pictures from their phones. Let's just say it's decent for when you really need to take a picture, but use a real camera when you've got an option.

The reception and calling are pretty standard for HTC phones like the 8525 and the MDA, which means you should be pretty happy with it if you've had luck with the previous phones. The speakerphone is still strong, as usual, and gives you fairly clear audio processing even when you're driving. The battery is much the same as old HTC phones as well—which seems to be a common theme with this phone.

So all in all the hardware's been improved with minor—but noticeable—changes, and the software's been improved with major and definitely noticeable changes. Is it worth it for you to upgrade if you already have an MDA? Yes, if you really want the benefits of Windows Mobile 6. However, we have heard that there's a WM6 upgrade coming for the MDA sometime soon, but that's unconfirmed. Add to that the small hardware improvements like a little LED display to tell you whether the shift or alt keys are pressed or the addition of MyFaves support, and it's even more compelling. That's why we recommend the Wing if you're looking for the latest and greatest on T-Mobile.

But if you're an 8525 owner or an AT&T customer, you're safe knowing that T-Mobile doesn't have anything you don't have or won't get in the next few months.