T-Mobile knows how to work with OEMs. Witness their popular Dash and Sidekick. They create branded experiences, completely change UIs and operating systems, and generally do a good job of making casual messaging easy.
So here we have the T-Mobile Shadow, a rebadged HTC Juno with Blackberry Pearl-like predictive keyboard and a unique UI that smooths out Windows Mobile’s rough edges enough to make this thing worth a second look.
The phone itself is about as big as the Pearl when closed and as long as the Sidekick 3 when open. It’s quite compact and has a central scroll wheel and six buttons on the face — call handling, home, back, and two function buttons. Sliding open the phone reveals MyFaves and clicking the scroll wheel lets you switch between applications. Clicking on a selection starts up that app and they’ve done an excellent job of hiding the media player behind a bright and easy to use interface.
The keyboard takes some getting used to. It’s a type and trust interface, which encourages you to tap and just pray that the phone gets what you’re trying to say, which it does 99% of the time.
So what’s good about this phone? The size, the shape, and the scroll wheel are quite innovative. What is bad? The abortion and insult to nature that is Windows Mobile 6. As my sainted Pap Pap used to say, No matter how hard you try, you can’t dress a pig in pearls and call it Audrey Hepburn.” You can, however, make do with what you have and try to work around this disgusting affront to cellphone usability.
Whew. Sorry. Anyway, the Shadow is out, it’s $149, and will be officially available on October 31st. Who should get the Shadow? Folks who know and love the Dash or the Pearl will like this one. The media functions are strong and the built-in instant messaging is a huge bonus in a market of IM-less smartphones. Is it an *-killer? No, it’s not. It’s an inexpensive slider phone with messaging capabilities.