Last month I went to a UIQ Developer Fast Track event in San Francisco. I haven’t done any UIQ development but was curious about the platform. The Fast Track turned out to be more of a high level introduction which was OK with me. Actually the main draw was that attendees were promised a UIQ 3 phone. Half got a Sony Ericsson M600i immediately, the other half would have the Z8 shipped to them “when it was released”. I was in the Z8 group and my phone arrived yesterday via overnight air from the UK. Strangely, the package only contained the phone and battery, no CD, manual, Transflash or charger. The M600i’s were the full retail package so I’m hoping the accessories for mine are being shipped separately. But in the meantime I got the phone charging via USB.
The phone still isn’t available even in the UK were it will be released later this month. The one I got is marked “Engineering Sample – Not For Resale” on a label under the battery and was made in Germany. Mobile-Review.com did an in depth review and their phone has slightly different software applications in ROM than mine. I have a different game – Asphalt 2 (motorcycle racing) instead of Vibe (3D – Tetris). I’m also missing PDF+ and QuickOffice but instead have a couple of extra movie players called MobiClip and Sky Anytime. It looks like MobiClip is Flash player and Sky Anytime is a subscription service tied to the UK’s Sky satellite TV. I haven’t had time to play with these yet.
I’m really just starting to explore the phone but here are some first impressions. Menus seem snappy for a smartphone . The default theme is very cool looking with black background, white text and lime green trim matching the colors used on the phone body. The 2.2 inch QVGA screen is gorgeous, very bright with amazing color saturation but it has no reflective background layer so it is totally dark when the back light goes out. But it’s so bright that it is readable outdoors except in direct sunlight. Although Motorola’s specifications page claims the phone is quadband, mine seems to be triband-only. The Network Settings application lets me choose 1900 only, 900/1800, WCDMA 2100 and auto with no mention of 850. I’m using it in a T-Mobile 1900 area so that’s not an issue, still I was hoping for 850 as T-Mobile nows roams for free on a number of 850 networks.
I sent the data settings for the M600i to the phone with the T-Mobile configurator and they worked. The built in browser is Opera 8.65 which is fast and stable, although because I’m using a T-Mobile to Go prepaid SIM the only sites I can get to are CNN, ABC News, 4INFO and ESPN. Read T-Mobile Blocking Java Apps for some background on that.
Anyone know what PC software I need to synchronize contacts and calendar with Outlook? I’m guessing some version of Symbian PC Suite rather than Motorola Phone Tools but were to get it? I suspect it won’t be available until the phone goes on sale. Other than PIM synchronization, I’m able to do everything I want using USB or Bluetooth. I copied over a bunch of MP3’s which sounded good. I didn’t notice any poping or cracking that MobileReview experienced. I installed a couple freeware UIQ applications, MobiPocket Reader and S-Tris, a very slick commercial quality (but free) Tetris clone. On the Java Me side I added a couple of WattPad books and a Solitaire game. Security seems to be tighter on this phone than on the Sony Ericsson UIQ phones. A bunch of the native UIG V3 freeware apps refused to install with the message “Component failed security check”. These were just simple games and a couple screen capture utilities.
The most hyped feature of the Z8 is video, Motorola CEO Ed Zander called it a “Media Monster”. I don’t know about that but it does make a very nice pocketable movie player. I loaded a 25 fps, QVQA .mp4 Shralp! snowboarding video into the phone’s Media Player and was blown away by how good it looked. The Z8 uses the whole screen to play QVGA in landscape orientation. The images were razor sharp, with great colors and completely smooth playback.
Motorola’s legacy UI is frequently criticized as being unintuitive and illogical. The new Motorola Linux and UIQ phones are supposed to have much improved usability. I’m not so sure about that. The menu is certainly simpler and more logical with just a single 3 by X grid and only a single level of sub-menu folders. You can move things around from one folder to another and create and rename folders. Java ME applications are no longer relegated to a Java Apps folder, you can put them in any folder. But I miss the ability to assign applications to the keys. There is only one assignable key on the whole phone, the right softkey. My Motorola i855 with the old UI lets me assign applications to both softkeys plus the four D-Pad direction buttons and the center OK button. And then you can define 10 shortcuts which are activated by pressing the menu button followed by a number key. It takes more key presses to perform common functions on the Z8 because of the lack of shortcuts. I’m sure I’ll get used to it but it seems like a step backwards at least for power users who take the time to setup key assignments and shortcuts.