Buy a PPC-6800 Mogul from Wirefly ($249.99 with Contract)
Update: I apologize that some of my comments have been mistaken for comparing Mogul to just iPhone. I would like to take a moment to address some concerns about how we arrived at our score for the PPC-6800.
We compared Mogul to the device market as a phone, as a Sprint phone, and as a Windows Mobile device. While we praised Mogul for being Sprint’s most powerful device, it lacks the newest features that most high-end Sprint phones offer. As a phone, iPhone clearly has usability advantages that Mogul did not answer (even using HTC’s own technologies such as TouchFLO). Finally, as a Windows Mobile device, Mogul appears about to be obsoleted by the TyTN II on the GSM lineup, and by a GPS-enabled Vogue on Sprint’s own lineup. In addition, it did not meet the high standard HTC set for build quality with prior models such as the PPC-6600.
All of these points were raised in our review. We do not review devices simply compared to one other device, and we stand by our mediocre score for Mogul.
Just in case some haven’t seen our scoring criteria, a 3/5 score does not mean a device is inherently flawed, it simply means that there may be better devices to consider, and that you should definitely try it before buying it.
The PPC-6800 Mogul is HTC’s first go at directly marketing a device in the United States. Previously, devices were sold under the UTStarcom name, and UTStarcom is still serving as a go-between for HTC to deal with carriers. However, Mogul represents a significant shift in operations for HTC… they no longer consider CDMA users to be second-class citizens. As such, one of Mogul’s first goals is to fix many of the woes presented in the PPC-6700. While the PPC-6700 was the first Windows Mobile 5 device to release in the United States, it has been almost universally panned for failing to meet customer demands. Namely, the device failed to receive updates to Windows Mobile 6, did not receive the third service pack for Windows Mobile 5, and had build quality clearly below that of its predecessor, the PPC-6600.
To a point, HTC succeeded. While the PPC-6600’s all-metal, sleek design still isn’t answered, at least the device now is ergonomically better than the step back HTC took with the PPC-6700.
However, in attempting to appease PPC-6700 problems, HTC has overshot in some places. The LEDs on the device are a primary example… on the PPC-6700, many complained that they were not very visible (a tiny square on each side of the earpiece). HTC fixed this by giving the Mogul very large LEDs. Unfortunately, they’re now way too bright… I had to turn the Mogul upside-down when going to bed because of the constant blinking green that illuminated several feet around it. In a well-lit room however, they do provide the right amount of illumination.
The spring-loaded keyboard also builds on the PPC-6700. Now, all it takes is a brief flick of the the device, and the keyboard is resistant to accidental closing. Also added was a Wi-Fi switch, pointing out the terrible Wi-Fi software in Windows Mobile. Without a switch, you’re constantly pestered about Wi-Fi spots, even when the device is on standby, in your pocket. However, this also reminds us of a key switch the Mogul is missing… a mute switch. Both iPhone and Treo have mute switches. Why Mogul doesn’t, after considerable complaints about the PPC-6600 and PPC-6700 lacking one… is beyond us. Still, the Mogul has made up for the PPC-6700’s terrible button placement, expanding button surface area out to the entire device. The Mogul also returns a directional pad (the PPC-6700 had a stub joystick), but, it’s nowhere near as well designed as the PPC-6600.
Battery life: Some early adopters have noted the battery life on the Mogul is very sub-par. And, we noted this too. Specifically, we noticed that there was a significant decrease in standby time, despite consistent talk times that were in-line with what Sprint expected. This took considerable research, and actually delayed the review quite a bit.
We found a few things caused this. First, was the switch to Li-Polymer batteries, a common complaint that the PPC-6700 lacked. Some of these units are defective clearly, but of those that aren’t, standby time is still terrible. We tracked the issue down to HTC’s use of Qualcomm’s unified processor, which combines the phone/radio processor with the processor of the device (for Windows Mobile functionality). Ever noticed how a CDMA phone in Airplane Mode has the same battery life as one with the radio on? Okay, maybe you haven’t, but it is a fact. And, it turns out, the same logic works on the Mogul. The Mogul has poor standby times because it runs on a processor designed to have the radio on at all times.
In our testing, we got about 48 hours of standby time (with radio off, flight mode on, and both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned off). This is a bit of a shock to those who are used to PDAs with colossal battery standby time, but it’s not that much of a shock to those with CDMA phones. This also is probably why Sprint doesn’t even advertise a standby time for the Mogul. Is this really a bad thing? In our view no, the typical Mogul user looking for a converged device will likely keep the radio on. In addition, readers have reported in that using the battery (charging and recharging fully) several times has produced an increase in overall battery life. And, we also noted improvements in data time as well, using the Mogul as a modem didn’t drain the entire battery after an hour or two… we were able to over four hours of tethering, which certainly is an improvement over the PPC-6700.
Probably the best thing we can suggest to Mogul owners is to pick up a Motorola P790 portable charger. It is hands-down the best portable power solution we’ve ever used, and it works well with the Mogul.
Windows Media Player thankfully has gotten a bit better. It now supports full screen mode in both vertical and horizontal configurations. However, watching Live TV over something like Orb still isn’t desierable… the slightest of buffering knocks you out of full screen. While we aren’t going to bash HTC (or the Mogul) for Windows Mobile’s problems, we can complain that the device still does not support Sprint TV. It makes no sense that Sprint’s most expensive device still can’t watch Live TV without Slingbox or Orb. This is going to hurt sales of the Mogul much more than the folks reading this… at least you’ll know how to watch TV on the device.
GPS is another major oversight. Sprint Navigation is nowhere in sight. There is a glimmer of hope in the future over it though.
And, unfortunately, Bluetooth bugs are present on the PPC-6800. Noticeable static presented itself regardless of what headset we have used. While users have confirmed this on several Mogul units, we haven’t gotten similar confirmation from HTC or Sprint.
The Mogul does make one huge addition, and that is support for Java. Java support on Sprint has been a touchy subject, especially for Windows Mobile. Microsoft has refused to support it for political reasons, and while HTC has offered Java on their GSM devices, Sprint’s requirements are much higher. Java on a Sprint device has to be able to handle GPS, encryption, security, and still be stable while doing all of the above… at the same time. The Mogul has Java, and the first firmware update adds support for the Sprint Music Store, which runs inside the Java environment (it doesn’t use Windows Media Player).
There is underlying support for GPS in the Mogul, but it was not available at-launch due to issues in testing. Sprint appears to be aiming to roll these updates into their EV-DO Rev A update, which would then bundle Sprint Navigation. But seeing as how the PPC-6600 was supposed to get EV-DO, and seeing as how the PPC-6700 was supposed to get Microsoft’s third service pack (AKU3)… we really aren’t going to take this into the equation. If you’re buying the Mogul, don’t buy it with the hope of GPS in the future. Sprint is promising EV-DO Rev A, they aren’t promising GPS in the future.
In terms of connectivity, we noticed that the PPC-6800 is not as aggressive in attempting to lock on to an EV-DO signal as we’ve liked. Many times we found our Mogul was connected to the web over 1xRTT… when every other Sprint phone we had could pull in a clear EV-DO signal (and use it).
Internet Sharing also had its share of issues. We found oursevles frequently getting disconnected, even with a ping in the background. Worse, at times the device would refuse to initiate a PAN connection over Bluetooth, until we tapped Disconnect and then tapped Connect again, finally going back to the computer and restarting the PAN connection. If this sounds like a real pain, it is. Since we haven’t had similar issues with PAN on other Windows Mobile 5 (AKU 3) devices, we’re probably going to have to lay blame on the Mogul for this issue.
The Mogul builds on the PPC-6700’s camera by upgrading the resolution from 1.3 megapixels to 2.0 megapixels. And, they also gave it a slightly larger lens, as well as getting rid of the (almost placebo) light setting switch from the back of the unit. However, the Mogul also leaves us asking for more… there’s no clear reason why the Mogul couldn’t have a CCD camera, and be both a good PDA and a good Camera, inside of a good phone.
And, unfortunately, the Mogul’s camera is not so good. The camera software has been considerably improved, mimicing Sony Ericsson’s approach to camera software (which itself mimics Sony’s CyberShot firmware). This allows for easy setting control using both the directional pad and the scroll-wheel. But, the problem is in what photos the camera actually takes…
Without being long-winded, the camera takes blurry photos where it doesn’t make sense. Light acquisition is also bad using automatic settings. The camera takes indoor lighting with a very yellow brush. In all, the Mogul’s camera is stuck in novelty land… while nice, certainly not going to replace your digital camera… and may wind up sitting aside your camera phone in your pocket. While Apple’s iPhone commits the same transgression of expensive-phone-but-cheap-camera… bad behavior is no excuse for HTC’s bad behavior.
Conclusions, Final Thoughts
In the end, the Mogul does a lot of things better. It does a lot of things the same as devices five years ago. And, it does something things better, but still ticking people off the same way devices did five years ago. Mogul is a minor revision to the PPC-6700, with Windows Mobile 6, EV-DO Rev A (somewhere off in the land of firmware updates), and Bluetooth 2.0. That would have been a great device for the start of 2007. But, with Apple’s iPhone now in the competition, we have to ask why we’re paying more for a device with a worse web browser, worse email, and only marginal gains. In my entire month with both the PPC-6800 and iPhone in my pocket… the only time I reached for the Mogul was to listen to music via Stereo Bluetooth. Mogul may be able to download faster… but iPhone has easier, faster access to data.
What really frustrates us when reviewing this device, is that both the PPC-6700, and the Mogul have critical flaws that the PPC-6600 (HTC’s first device on Sprint) did not have. Namely, a large display (iPhone has ended the debate… people actually do want 3.5-inch displays), as well as a solid set of controls, and a high build quality (using this odd substance called metal on the external case). What leaves us most disappointed with the Mogul, is that we wish we could just have a PPC-6600 with EV-DO and updated software (in case you were wondering, there’s no technical reason why the PPC-6600 couldn’t have Windows Mobile 5… or 6). HTC continues to try to reinvent the wheel with device designs, we wish they would look at what worked, and build on that.
While it’s true that Mogul is the most powerful device CDMA has to offer (in the United States), that’s not good enough anymore. Mogul should have raised the bar in so many areas, and Microsoft should have raised the bar in so many others. In the end, Mogul is only a fit for those dependent on Sprint, or dependent on Windows Mobile… and really, it’s only a fit for those dependent on both.
And of course, there will be no excuse if Sprint doesn’t deliver an EV-DO Rev A upgrade in a timely manner. We probably would give the Mogul a better score if that update includes Sprint Navigation. But judging HTC and Sprint’s track record on Windows Mobile upgrades… we aren’t betting on it… and you shouldn’t either.
Pros: EV-DO Rev A (in the future), Bluetooth 2.0, spring loaded keyboard
Cons: Poor standby time, classic Windows Mobile failings, no built-in GPS navigation, no Sprint TV
Final Score: 3/5