The T-Mobile Shadow II is a Windows Mobile smartphone with a tablet shape featuring a portrait-oriented, sliding keyboard. Naturally, it has a great deal in common with the original Shadow, but adds support for T-Mobile's VoIP service, HotSpot@Home.
It's been designed for consumers who are looking to make texting easier, but its support for making phone calls over a Wi-Fi connection that sets it apart from its competitors.
Build and Design
Overall, I like the design of the Shadow II. It's light and pocketable, but packs in plenty of features.
The slider is there to let you hide the keyboard when you're not using it, but it also offers one of my favorite feature of this device: the sliding screen also can do double duty as the On/Off switch. Naturally, you're going to want your phone's screen to be off and the keys locked when it's in your pocket. When you pull the Shadow out and slide up the screen, it immediately wakes up and is ready to go. When you're done with it, sliding the screen back down turns the screen off and locks the keys. You can do the same thing with button presses, but it's not as easy.
The Shadow II rides well in your pocket, but a carrying case is included so you can clip it to your belt if you want to.
Display: This device runs Windows Mobile Standard, which means its display doesn't function as a touchscreen. That's not a flaw, but it's something you should be aware of.
I'd describe the 2.6-inch QVGA screen as typical for a smartphone. There's nothing outstanding about it -- either good or bad -- but it gets the job done. Still, its much better than the displays you find on most non-smartphones.
Keyboard: The Shadow's 20-key keypad is a compromise between a full QWERTY keyboard and a numberpad. Each key does double or triple duty, so the whole device can be smaller. Typing on a keyboard like this takes some getting used to, but after a while it gets to be a breeze. I vastly prefer it to entering text on a numberpad with T9.
Buttons and D-pad: This device has the usual directional pad below the screen, but then it adds a twist. Or maybe I should say a spin, because the D-pad is surrounded by a jog wheel that makes it easier for you to scroll through long lists.
The Shadow II comes in two color combinations: white mint and black burgundy.
Like its predecessor, the new version of the Shadow comes with an alternate user interface, which is more consumer friendly -- and in many ways better -- than the standard one created by Microsoft.
This organizes the most common tasks you do with your smartphone into tabs: email, web browsing, playing music, and more. This makes this device much more intuitive to use than a standard Windows phone. But there is a drawback; you lose the Today Screen, which immediately shows you a status update of your Inbox and calendar. The Shadow's alternative, the notifications tab, is a bit slower to use as you have to scroll through several pages to get all your status notifications.
The performance of this alternate UI is quick, and I think it's a worthy replacement for the standard one.
HotSpot@Home: T-Mobile's cellular network is generally available is large cities and most suburbs, but there are plenty of rural areas where you simply can't get service. The Shadow II has a solution for this: HotSpot@Home, which allows you to make telephone calls over a Wi-Fi connection.
There doesn't have to be anything special about this connection. I turned the cellular-wireless service off on this device, connected it to my home Wi-Fi network, and made a call. It's as hassle free as you could ask for. You can receive calls, too.
Better yet, you can make unlimited calls via this service, as they don't count against your minutes.
Other Wireless: This smartphone has quad-band GSM/EDGE, but is not able to access T-Mobile's 3G network. When you need fast access to the Internet, you can turn on Wi-Fi.
In addition, it offers Bluetooth 2.0, so you can use wireless headsets.
Entertainment: The Shadow II comes with a mobile version of Windows Media Player, software for listening to MP3s and watching video. It can even play streaming music and video off the Internet.
There is a tiny hassle with this, though. This device has a mini-USB port that handles charging, data, and audio, so there's not a standard headset port. You can either use the special headphones that come with this phone, or you can plug in a somewhat bulky adapter to use regular headphones.
The Shadow II comes with a few simple games, and there are more available for purchase online.
Productivity: Like all good smartphones, this T-Mobile device has a really robust calendar and address book.
Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard -- the latest version of Microsoft's operating system for phones -- brings a wide array of business features to this model. Exchange ActiveSync allows you to synchronize it with a corporate email server, for example.
It also comes with Microsoft Office Mobile, allowing you to work with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files.
Battery Life: The Shadow II offers decent battery life. With normal use, it has no problems getting through a day on a single charge. If you leave the device on, but don't use it very much at all, it will go several days on a single charge.
Wi-Fi tends to put a bit of a strain on it, though. If you're going to be in a place where you're using the HotSpot@Home service all the time, you're going to need to charge it fairly frequently. Honestly, if you're going to be getting your phone service through Wi-Fi, you'd probably be best laving the Shadow plugged in all the time. That way, you can sure your phone has a sufficiant charge whenever you leave the house.
What I like most about the T-Mobile Shadow II is it doesn't try to do too much. It provides the core features most consumers are looking for in a smartphone without much hassle.
This device sells for $150 with a two-year service agreement and data plan. That's a decent price, but not outstanding for what you get.
The Shadow II can now be found at select T-Mobile retail stores and online at t-mobile.com.
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