Reviewed February 11, 2009 by Lisa Gade, Editor
What's in a name? Apparently little, since the new Shadow goes under the name Shadow, just like the original T-Mobile Shadow it replaces. We'll refer to it as the Shadow 2 to avoid confusion between the original and new model. In terms of features, there's in fact little new here-- UMA calling over WiFi is the only significant addition. The Shadow 2 is still a slider phone with a SureType style keyboard, Windows Mobile Standard Edition OS (non-touch screen), WiFi and a QVGA display. The casing is all new, and the Shadow 2 looks distinctly modern but plasticky while the original Shadow looked a little more classy and solid. Like the first model, the Shadow 2 is made by HTC and it's exclusive to T-Mobile. It's available in two color schemes: white mint (white with a graduated mint green frosting on the back) and black burgundy (black with the back having a burgundy transition that's strongest at the bottom end). The black model looks slightly less cheap, though the white is attractive in terms of color.
A few things were tweaked for the Shadow 2: the CPU is upgraded from the older TI OMAP 201MHZ processor to the new TI OMAPV1030 clocked at 260MHz. The Shadow II runs Windows Mobile Standard Edition 6.1 vs. 6.0 with virtually the same "neo" home screen theme that targets novice users (you can change themes to the standard Windows Mobile 6.1, theme or the sliding panel theme among others if you wish). There's still no GPS and no 3G.
The new Shadow doesn't feel appreciably faster than its predecessor or the 200MHz Dash despite the updated 260MHz CPU with on-board DSP. Windows Mobile 6.1 may place somewhat greater demands on the hardware than 6.0 but those should be modest; likely 60MHz just isn't enough of a difference to notice. That's not to say the smartphone is slow, but it does bog down when several applications are running in the background.
The Shadow II HTC's echoes minimalist design philosophy: the phone's lines are clean and simple with few raised buttons. Unlike the GSM Touch Diamond and HTC S740 smartphone, the Shadow 2 is rounded rather than angular. The phone feels good in hand and since it's not glossy, it's not too slippery nor does it show fingerprints. The one exception is the front face, comprised mostly of the display and the small control set, which does show fingerprints. The front controls are simple: call send and end buttons that are flush but large enough to press easily, smaller Home and back buttons (also flush) and two raised Windows Mobile softkeys.
The camera button is on the right, the very ergonomic volume buttons are on the upper left side and the microSD card slot lives under a door on the left side for easy access. The combined HTC ExtUSB port that handles charging, syncing and stereo headset output is at the bottom (a Y dongle is included so you can charge the phone while listening to music) and the power button is up top.
We won't belabor the point that the phone is very plasticky and thus doesn't look like a chic high end smartphone. The good part is that relatively soft plastics absorb impacts well, and this HTC smartphone might take a good licking and not gasp its dying breath.
The Shadow's 2.6" QVGA 240 x 320 portrait display is sharp and clear, but not as bright and vivid as the wondrous BlackBerry Curve 8900 or the T-Mobile G1 (touch screen and also by HTC). Though the portrait orientation isn't ideal for browsing web pages, it helps keep the phone narrow. Unfortunately, the slider makes for a relatively thick phone compared to QWERTY bar phones like the Dash and BlackBerry 8900. At 0.6" thick, you'll notice it in your pocket. The dimensions are within tenths of an inch of the first generation Shadow, though the Shadow II looks bigger.
Like the original Shadow, the new model has a SureType-style slide-down 20 key keyboard. Two letters share a key (with the exception of "l" and "m" which get their own keys) and the phone uses XT9 predictive text to determine what words you intended to type. It offers a popup list of words if there are several possibilities and you can add words to the dictionary too. If you've been using a Dash, BlackBerry or other full QWERTY phone for some time, the abbreviated keyboard likely won't impress you. But if you're moving up from a feature phone and aren't a wunderkind at T9 on number pads, the Shadow 2 will be a serious step up.
The Shadow 2's customized T-Mobile homes screen is largely unchanged from the first version's. Large panes are dedicated to My Faves (you can hide this one if you don't use My Faves), notifications, messaging, appointments, web browsing and MS Live Search, media playback (a front-end for Windows Media Player Mobile), photo viewing and wireless settings. The trackwheel that surrounds the large d-pad works well for navigating through these one-handed, and it's certainly a pretty face on top of the standard WinMo interface. Functionally, it's hardly different from the more low key "Siding Panel Media" option, but it's prettier and more novice-friendly.
Multimedia features include a music player (the standard Windows Media Player Mobile) and basic video playback of locally stored content. There's no Flash player so there's no desktop youtube. In fact, even the mobile version of youtube videos don't play. We tried a selection of youtube mobile videos (over WiFi since EDGE is a bit slow for streaming video) and first got this scary message "Running a system command on this item might be unsafe. Do you want to continue?". We threw caution to the wind and told it to play the video anyhow and Windows Media Player Mobile opened up and tried to play the video. Unfortunately it failed with the informative "An unknown error 0x8007274D has occurred". Translation: the phone lacks the proper codecs to play mobile youtube files. For those into youtube, there are third party programs you can buy to handle this such as Core Player Mobile.
For locally stored video such as WMV files on a microSD card, the Shadow 2 does a decent job compared to other Windows Mobile Standard Edition phones, and is a bit better than the original Shadow. Compared to Windows Mobile Pro touch screen phones, recent BlackBerry models and even some feature phones, it's not that impressive. Video recorded at 450kbps, QVGA resolution, drops plenty of frames-- and that's a relatively unchallenging file. Video is watchable but you'll notice those frame drops and lags and sputters in playback. Windows Media Player Mobile supports full screen playback on the Shadow, and plays in landscape mode when in full screen mode.
Our favorite feature is UMA calling over WiFi. What is UMA? It's a technology that allows you to make voice calls over WiFi and switch seamlessly between GSM and WiFi calls. T-Mobile offers their @Home service for $10/month and it includes unlimited free domestic calling over WiFi. This works with home, work and public Hotspot access points (assuming you have the login info for those access points). Calls that originate on UMA (WiFi) are billed as @Home calls, even if you walk away from the access point or hotspot and the phone switches to GSM. Likewise if you make or receive a call while on GSM, you'll be billed for the entire duration of that call using your regular plan minutes, even if you get in range of a hotspot and the phone switches to UMA. If you have weak cell phone service at home, make a lot of calls when in range of a home/work WiFi access points, the service makes a great deal of sense. The Shadow, like all T-Mobile UMA phones, has a home screen indicator that tells you when the phone is on UMA.
Call quality over UMA is very good, and as with most T-Mobile UMA phones, is better than GSM. GSM voice quality is good on the Shadow 2, and reception is strong. Like the original Shadow, the speakerphone quality isn't very good-- it's got decent volume but there's lots of distortion and clipped highs and lows. The phone played well with a variety of Bluetooth headsets and it comes with MS Voice Command for speaker independent voice commands and dialing.
As with all Windows Mobile smartphones, the Shadow 2 comes with Internet Explorer Mobile web browser (sorry, no Opera despite rumors to the contrary and no RSS reader). Page load times are good for EDGE, and are very good over WiFi. The WinMo email client supports Exchange superbly, and does a decent job handling POP3 and IMAP accounts. The phone supports MS Direct Push and HTML email with the latest versions of MS Exchange Server.
The Shadow 2 brings UMA calling to the original model's feature set and that's a great feature indeed. However, we'd have liked to see more with the T-Mobile G1, BlackBerry Curve 8900 and BlackBerry Pearl 8120 competing in the same general price range, not to mention the cult classic and dirt cheap HTC Dash (if you can live without UMA calling on a WinMo smartphone). The Shadow 2 has clean lines and seems sturdy, but frankly looks a bit too plasticky to incite even a smidgen of gadget lust.
Pro: UMA calling, excellent MS Exchange support, very good reception.
Con: Looks very plasticky. No 3G, no GPS. No youtube playback support of any kind. Can be sluggish at times. Not enticing compared to other smartphones in T-Mobile's lineup.
Price: $149.99 with a 2 year contract after $50 rebate, $399 without contract extension
Display:64K color transflective
TFT color LCD. Screen size diagonally: 2.6". Resolution:
240 x 320.
Battery:1100 mAh Lithium
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
Claimed talk time: up to 7 hours. Claimed standby: up to 7 days.
Performance:Texas Instruments 260MHz OMAPV1030 processor (Vox processor family with companion DSP). 256 megs flash ROM with ~ 96 megs free for storage and 128 megs RAM with 54.6 megs free at boot.
Size: 2.1 x 4.1 x 0.6 inches. Weight: 5.3 ounces.
Phone:GSM quad band 850/900/1800/1900MHz bands with GPRS and EDGE for data. Locked to T-Mobile.
Camera:2.0 megapixel with fixed-focus lens (no flash). Max photo resolution 1600 x 1200. Camcorder resolutions: 176 x 144 and 128 x 96.
in speaker, mic, speakerphone and HTC ExtUSB stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included for your MP3 and video playback pleasure.
WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0.
Mobile 6.1 Standard Edition (Smartphone) operating system.
Microsoft Mobile Office suite with viewers for Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote documents, Internet
Explorer, and Outlook.
Instant Messenger client (AIM, Yahoo and ICQ), Windows Live, Windows Media Player
10, Adobe Reader LE, Java VM, Solitaire, Bubble Breaker, Voice Recorder
as well as MS Voice Command 1.6 and speed dial. Additional applications:
Camera, Comm Manager, Clear Storage (wipes
out all data and resets unit to factory defaults).
ActiveSync 4.5 and Outlook 2007 Trial for Windows.
microSD card slot, supports SDHC for cards.
In the Box:Phone, battery, charger, USB cable, carrying case, stereo headset, splitter to plug headset and charger in simultaneously and software CD.