Imagine your IT department is insisting you get a Windows Mobile device -- you've got to automate your business flow or some such nonsense. At this point, you'll probably begin to scream, curse, cry and beg for the sweet release of death. But, just as you begin to do so, a tiny ray of sunshine strikes your forlorn heart. You're getting the Toshiba TG01, and it's as cool as Windows Mobile can get. Admittedly, though, that's not saying much -- a massive screen, thin body and powerful processer barely ease the pain of an operating system that should have been put to sleep years ago.
The TG01 is exclusive to Orange, and it'll cost you about £49 on a £29-per-month contract, or about £450 unlocked and SIM-free.
The Snapdragon snaps
The TG01 has Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor inside, packing 1GHz of white-hot processing power. Surely such a beast can overcome Windows Mobile's legendary sluggishness? No such luck. Applications are still slow to launch, and the presence of a reset button under the TG01's back cover indicates how prone to crashing it is. We managed to crash the device twice in the first 20 minutes of use, without even trying.
To make matters worse, Toshiba has laid its 'Touch' user interface over Windows Mobile's usual bland, tiny icons. It has potential -- its home screen offers customisable Venetian-blind-like stripes that display shortcuts to your favourite files and applications. But the shortcuts still use the low-colour icons from Windows Mobile, and they look so dated it's almost funny.
Even the 1GHz processor doesn't help the UI to run smoothly. For example, when you swipe your finger over the stripes, they're supposed to rotate smoothly away to reveal other options. Instead, they tend to jitter.
The resistive touchscreen doesn't help matters, either. Unlike capacitive screens, like the iPhone's, which respond to the gentle swipe of a finger, resistive touchscreens require the exertion of more pressure, such as is achieved with a fingernail or stylus. We found using a fingernail absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, many of the menus and icons are tiny, so you'll need to carry the stylus included in the box if you're nails aren't up to the job.
It's not all bad news, though. The TG01's relatively huge 104mm (4.1-inch) screen makes navigating through Windows Mobile's tiny icons much easier than it is with smaller-screened devices, simply because there's more space between them.
The on-screen Qwerty keyboard really suffers as a result of the touchscreen's lack of sensitivity, as well as some poor choices concerning the placement of buttons. For example, in landscape mode, the spacebar isn't a bar at all -- it's a small button of the same size as the letter keys, on the left-hand side. On a screen with this much real estate, that's unforgiveable.
Instead of a space bar, the TG01 wastes space on four arrow keys, when you should be able to tap the screen to place the cursor where you want it. This kind of little detail illustrates how the TG01's relatively unresponsive touchscreen leads to problems all over.
Slim and wide
It's no mystery why Toshiba chose to put Windows Mobile 6.1 on the TG01 -- the company wanted to get this innovative hardware out quickly, and it's an easy operating system to develop for. We can totally understand their enthusiasm, because the TG01 is a beautiful phone. It's quite wide and long at 70mm by 130mm, but it fits easily in a back pocket and it's only 10mm thick.
Videos look great on the huge screen, although, confusingly, there's a choice of three different video players. Streaming clips, even those from the Windows Media Player Web site, don't look as good, and YouTube clips wouldn't play in full-screen mode. As long as we stuck to Windows-friendly WMV files, however, syncing using Windows Media Player was easy and the videos were a pleasure to watch.
The screen also shines during Web surfing, thanks to the TG01's Wi-Fi and 7.2Mbps HSDPA, for speedy downloads over 3G. Pages render quickly, although not as fast as with the current champion, the iPhone 3GS. Unlike the 3GS, however, the TG01 offers Flash support.
With all the tiny links on Web pages, zoom is important. The TG01 doesn't have multi-touch capability, though. Instead, the silver bar underneath the screen allows you to zoom in and out by sliding your finger along it, but it's so unresponsive that we couldn't be bothered to use it. Dragging your finger up from the bar towards the screen brings up the most bizarre user-interface option we've ever seen: five floating on-screen direction buttons. We were gobsmacked when Toshiba told us you're meant to use the buttons 'like a mouse' -- it seems to go against the whole point of a touchscreen, and implies that even Toshiba doesn't want to tap away at the TG01 when the going gets tough.
Windows Mobile may be painful to use, but it packs in the features. Not only does the TG01 have built-in versions of Word and Excel, there are zillions of apps that you can install if you can find them. Currently, though, there's no easy-to-use app store for Windows Mobile.
Such an app store is on its way, according to Microsoft -- it'll be called the Windows Marketplace for Mobile and it'll be a part of Windows Mobile 6.5, the next version of the OS. Orange told us that the TG01 will get Windows Mobile 6.5 as a free update when it arrives, which could help with some of the phone's user-interface issues.
In the meantime, you can enjoy the apps pre-loaded by Orange, like its sat-nav software. Using the built-in GPS, it can find car and pedestrian routes in 26 European countries, and also give you live traffic alerts.
If your company uses Microsoft Exchange Server, you can get push email with Outlook Mobile and manage your calendar like a pro.
The TG01 has a 3.2-megapixel camera that does a good job of capturing shots in good light. It also shoots video at 320x480-pixel or 640x480-pixel resolutions.
The video did a solid job of capturing our shenanigans. Although slightly jaggy and compressed, it looked good on the TG01's big screen. There's plenty of room to store your clips too, thanks to a microSD memory card slot that supports capacities of up to 32GB. The TG01 comes with an 8GB card.
Apple's iPhone became the current king of touchscreen phones not by having the most features but by being a pleasure to use. Even a very speedy processor can't save the TG01 from the fact that Windows Mobile is a nightmare on a touchscreen phone. We appreciate the TG01's wide range of Windows features, but we wish Toshiba had taken a punt on Android instead.
If your colleagues in the IT department insist you get a Windows Mobile device, and you decide not to just punch them in the guts and quit, the TG01 is sure to elicit a few oohs and aahs, thanks to its slim design and epic screen. Otherwise, like a fit but dumb date, its drawbacks far outweigh its looks.
Edited by Charles Kloet