t616 vs. tanager

16Aug03

24 hours after taking possesion of my t616, i started to write this comparison, but then i had to stop as i realized i was doing it all wrong. so here’s what i’ve come up with- a breakdown of features i find important and how each phone rates for that category.

hardware: hardware design has never been a strong point for windows mobile licensees. the t616 is about 1/3 smaller than the tanager, but its screen is still pretty big. it’s small enough that it fits easily in the change pocket of my jeans. its rectangular shape means it fits nicely in my front pockets without any unsightly bulges and without falling sideways. the shape is very pleasing too, it’s one of those well designed pieces you just want to fondle. the joystick on the t616 is nicer, as are the feel of the buttons. and the t616 adds bluetooth and a camera, two very serious omissions in current smartphones. the bluetooth allows me to wirelessly sync to my mac as well as use my jabra headset, and with the camera i can finally moblog (see email client too). despite reports to the contrary, reception on the t616 is just as good as the tanager (they’re both really good). the t616’s one harware weakness is the screen. both screens are amazing indoors, but outdoors the tanager has more contrast. not a lot more contrast, but it is better. despite the weaker screen, the t616 is the clear winner here.

interface:each phone has equally obfuscated controls. i’m not particularly impressed with either as easy to use, and don’t prefer one over the other. when i hand each phone to strangers, they have been equally confused. in short they both could use some work. there is no winner here, but that’s because they are both losers.

dialing: the t616 supports voice dialing, which the smartphone now supports with third party software, but in either case it never works all that well for me, so i stick to my phone book and one key speed dialing. however the voice dialing on the t616 supportsw dialing from a bluetooth headset, which is defintely a hands-free hookup. using the phonebook / contacts list on the tanager is a dream. the quick lookup feature, which allows you to sort through your phonebook by t9ing a person’s name (first or last) at the home screen is one of my favorite smartphone features. on the t616 the closest you can come is holding down the 2-9 keys at the home screen to scroll to that section of the phonebook. adding a quick dial (shortcut) number to the smartphone is also easier, and more straightforward. the tanager is my winner in this category.

email and moblogging: smartphone 2003 allows users multiple accounts, as does the email client on the t616, but the email client is superior for receiving and reading email. on the smartphone, you can switch between accounts just by flicking the joystick left or right from the email list. the t616 can only display one email account at a time, and to switch between them you have to exit the inbox and go into a setup menu. the t616 also lacks any controls to spicy how much email to download. after being able to just download the last 3 days’ email for a year, i sorely miss this feature. and i am no longer compelled to check my email from my phone. the place where the t616 shines is sending email, especially email with picture attachments. the inbox client on smartphone doesn’t support image attachments, requiring third party software to send pictures. worse still, when you click Send on the smartphone, your email is not sent, it is put in a queue and held until you select Send/Receive for that particular account. This removes the instantaneous experience from picture sharing and is a real nuisance. While the smartphone is the clear winner for reading email, the t616 is the winner for sending email. i don’t know which is more important and so have yet to determine a winner.

browser: i’m not even sure this is a fair contest. the browser on the t616 is speedy, but it is WAP 2.0 only. i’ve learned there’s an html browser available as a java app, but have yet to download it. the browser in smartphone 2003 is pretty damn amazing, and i doubt anything on a non-smartphone handset could compete. the winner? clearly the tanager.

contacts: for me, contacts is about quick access to phone numbers, email adresses and sometimes a postal address. both contact apps are great for the first two and quickly accessible from each home screen. however the t616 suffers from the limitations of all standard handsets and has no capability to store postal addresses. a tanager running 2002 can sync to the mac using the missing sync addins for iSync, and i know markspace is working on adding support for 2003. iSync works with the t610 natively, which is pretty cool. the only problem as far as i can tell is that iSync only works from the mac to the handset, it actually doesn’t write changes made on the handset back to the mac (but i have yet to test this theory absolutely). for all its faults, at least activesync works in both directions. the winner here? assuming missing sync adds support for smartphone 2003, it’ll have to go to the tanager for supporting mailing addresses.

calendar: there is honestly no discernable difference between the calendars. they both have the same features. both are equally capable. it’s tie, but a good tie.

customization: both phones have customizable wallpapers, menu color schemes and more. the smartphone has a more customizable home screen, but it doesn’t really make any difference in usability. both phones have customizable polyphonic ringtones, but the t616 can only play midi, whereas the tanager can play .wavs. because i can make my own .wav files from any music file on my computer, i’m tipping the scales for the tanager.

compatability: the t616 has both bluetooth and IR and it can serve as a modem or trade information with pdas, macs and pcs. the tanager can theoretically serve as a modem for pcs, but it’s not exactly a simple process. it can also share so information with other mobile devices over IR transfer, but not without third party software. since the tanager does not have bluetooth, it is limited to USB or IR for any of these tasks. the t616 is a clear winner here.

entertainment: both phones come with a few crappy games, however many excellent downloads are available for each- not just games, but other helpful applications as well. this one is another good tie.

wow, if we just count numbers here, the tanager is up by 2. but the things the tanager is better are not necessarily the things i care about in a handset. although it seems silly, the fact that the t616 is not as good for reading email has actually made me more relaxed and more social again as i’m not compelled to check my email all the time. the t616’s browser is still very capable, and i find myself browsing more xhtml sites now than i did before. i can still call up the sfgate’s movie page because it is such a basic design. and honestly, i only need a physical address for a contact once every month. it is not that critical. i do miss quick lookup alot, but i’m already adapting to the old way of using a “dumb” handset there. the most important thing to me is how easy it is to send mail, including pictures from the phone and how nicely this handset fits into my life. it’s not perfect, but i still love it.

for links to other excellent opinions on the t616 and how it fares against msft smartphone, check the trackbacks!

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8 Responses to “t616 vs. tanager”

  1. 1 James Wynn

    I have a Sony Ericsson t68 and I use iSync. The sync is definitly two way.

  2. 2 Jim Sfekas

    You should give a look at the Nokia 3650. I think it’s a contender in most of the categories you mentioned. (Although I haven’t used a MS Smartphone, so I can’t say which is better.)

  3. 3 Michael : )

    Sorry, I Disagree about the Nokia 3650, terrible bluetooth compatibility and the interface is confusing and the phone is large, way too large! Sorry, I do think the T616 would be cool to have, cause I eventually want to replace my T68i. Though I think the phones that SE is making for the Japanese market will be the only ones worth while though. Only available on http://www.expansys.us and other import sites.

  4. 4 Sea_los

    Great comparison… As a user of both the t61x series and the MS smartphone, I agree with what you have to say. My only comment would be that I’m currently using a t68i combined with a new iPAQ 2210 and I love the mix. I’m able to have a small phone for when I’m out on the town, but I’m also able to use it as a Bluetooth enabled modem for the iPAQ. I find that all-in-one devices are great in theory, but when it comes to what I want to do with PDAs and phones… I find that it is better to have two kick-ass devices that excel in both areas. For example, my iPAQ can play MP3s pretty well, but I would never use it for music… that is what my ipod is for 🙂

  5. 5 no one special

    Jim, i would have considered a 3650, except that it’s even larger than the tanager (same height and thickness, but the 3650 is wider) and size was a major consideration for me. i also believe the numbers on the keypad are wrong as i wish they were set clockwise from the bottom, not anti clockwise from the tip. michael is also right about the poor bluetooth implementation, especially the whole headset vs hands free profile debacle. i have high hopes for the nokia 6600, which might be the best of all worlds.

    Michael, the 505i IS wild, but i’m actually in love with the s/e designs for their new folders destined for america and europe. the z600 / z1010 design is simply inspiring. i LOVE it, and it has all the feature of the t610 and then some.

  6. 6 DarkDan

    OK, I loved the review but how about throwing up a couple of photos here so we can see each app?
    (Or perhaps your blogs don’t support that?)


  1. 1 ext|circ
  2. 2 N.B. When in doubt, TIDY UP.

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