AT&T Fuze vs. iPhone

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Note:  I’ve had this written since last week, just hadn’t posted it yet.  I kept going between posting it, or splitting this article up in to 2, 1 comparing hardware, 1 comparing software, because I feel like this article kind of meanders all over the place.  But I decided for my little blog site, this 1 massive post will do just fine.

Well, here it is.  The article thousands of people have been waiting for!  Ok, well probably no one… but here it is any way, my Fuze vs. iPhone comparison.  I wrote previously about why I went with another Windows Mobile phone over the iPhone, and now here is the comparison.

I’ve had the Fuze for over a week now and had time to get used to it and play with all of its features.

The iPhone is running 2.2 Firmware and has been Jailbroken.

The Fuze is running a custom Firmware.  Basically I’m running the AT&T leaked rom that is been modified.  The rom is the official AT&T update that is coming soon, but it was leaked out and people already have it.  I’m running a customized version that removes AT&T’s bullshit from it, an XDA-Developers member NotATreoFan (NATF) created.  It’s version 4.5 of his rom, which is Windows Mobile 6.1

My general feelings on the Fuze as of right now:  I LOVE IT.  This is one seriously kick ass phone.  It finally feels like a Windows Mobile device should be.  It is very fast, you can multi-task like crazy on it and it has a very nice, easy to use interface utilizing HTC’s TouchFlo 3D (which comes on the device, stock).

That being said, it is still a Windows Mobile device and takes a lot of little tweaks to make it even better.  This is the thing that can suck about Windows Mobile, but it is also the thing that makes Windows Mobile so powerful.  As an example, the on screen keyboard it came with is alright, but damn it I was having a ton of accuracy problems on it.  So I browsed around a bit and came across Finger Keyboard, which has been absolutely amazing.  It looks so nice and works very very well with a bunch of configurable options that make it very nice to use.  There have a been a lot of other little quirks that took some time to work out.  Like my external speaker, speakerphone, and ring volume was way too low.  I could barely hear TomTom in the car.  It took about an hour last night to find a file that worked for my phone, but I was eventually able to update the “AudioPara” file on my phone with one that made everything nice and loud.  Then there was the Java emulator not allowing me to set the needed permissions on Opera Mini.  I replaced the policy file with an open one and it fixed that.  The Fuze also has a light sensor which doesn’t work too great stock, but you can install a program from XDA-Developers called Lumos that automatically adjusts the backlight and it works very well.  I really like not having to constantly tweak backlight settings like I do on the iPhone.  I know I’m leaving out some other things I had to change, but those were the really annoying ones I fixed.

There are lots of little things that take time to tweak, and that is where a lot of people get discouraged.  If you don’t take the time to tweak your device and make it work the way YOU want it to, it’ll never make you happy.  Like I said, this is what makes Windows Mobile a real pain some times, but is also what makes it so great.  You don’t like something on the iPhone?  Well, tough shit.  You’re stuck with it.  Don’t like something in Windows Mobile?  Change it.

As for using the devices, each one has their own advantages.  For power user features, and the nice hardware keyboard, the Fuze rocks.  It’s also got a very useful and informative user interface, which the iPhone is desperately lacking.  Even with all the information TouchFlo 3D still manages to keep a very sleek look to it.

For general media purposes, the iPhone can’t be touched.  The built in MP3 support in the Fuze is pretty much worthless.  It’s a pain to set up, and a pain to use.  However, for video, I do like the Fuze’s ability to play any regular AVI file (using The Core Media Player).  That’s right, you can copy any standard full resolution avi file on to the memory card and the Fuze will play it.  No more re-encoding bullshit like on past phones and like on the iPhone.  Dang it I HATE re-encoding files, so it is VERY nice to now have to do that on the Fuze.  One thing that really ticked me off a bit on the Fuze though was no head phone jack on the phone.  What the hell?  Maybe they realized MP3 use on it sucks so why even bother with a headphone jack?  There is one on the dongle, but fuck dongles.  It’s not 1995 any more.  But, on the other side of the coin, the Fuze has full bluetooth support, so if you really insist on rocking out on it, pick up some very sweet bluetooth headphones and make all the white-corded iPhone boys jealous.  Still, they could’ve at least included one… then you could use any regular headphone-jacked device AND been able to use the built in FM radio with out the stupid dongle.

As for screens… this is a bit of a tough call.  The Fuze’s screen is A LOT clearer and sharper then the iPhone’s.  It’s very nice looking because it’s full VGA resolution, 640×480, while the iPhone is only 320×480.  This makes the Fuze’s screen much more clear, but the iPhones screen is still physically bigger.  Some people will prefer the slightly larger iPhone screen compared to the Fuze.  The iPhone’s physically larger screen does make some on screen tasks easier such as the on screen keyboard.  But with the Fuze, the on screen keyboard is only secondary, because it has a very nice slide out hardware keyboard.  I still prefer a hardware keyboard over on screen.  While the iPhone’s on screen does do a very good job, it’s still on screen.  There is no tactile feedback to be able to tell what key you’re hitting and when.  Hardware keyboards will always win over software keyboards, I don’t see that ever changing.

This kind of brings me to the next point… the size difference in the 2 devices.  Holding them in my hands they feel like they weigh the same.  The Fuze may be slightly heavier, but the difference is negligible.  The Fuze is shorter and skinner then the iPhone, but it is still thicker.  Over all I feel like the Fuze is a more comfortable phone to hold up to your face and talk on.  The iPhone is fat and awkward because it’s skinny.  It feels weird to hold up to your face.  I always felt the Motorola Razr had this problem too because it was so thin.  The Fuze feels much smaller in your hands, but not in your pockets.  It still makes a bulge and you can feel it in there, while the iPhone is VERY comfortable in the pocket and a lot of times you’ll not even know it is there.  I think HTC realy did put a lot of effort in to making the Fuze a sexy looking device, and compared to the past hidesousness of other HTC devices, I’d say they did this pretty well.

Next I’d like to talk about device speed and browsers.  The Fuze is fast, blowing away past Windows Mobile devices and even the iPhone.  The Fuze boots up in 68 seconds.  The iPhone takes nearly 85 seconds.  Cold launching the broswers (Safari on iPhone, Opera on the Fuze which comes with it), is nearly identical.  Opera does an amazing job on the Fuze.  It runs very quick and rivals Safari.  I still think Safari is slightly faster but I prefer Opera at this point for 2 major reasons.  1) Rendering.  Opera renders pages better and when you zoom in, it wraps the text.  You don’t have to scroll left right left right left right to read.  That annoys the hell out of me in Safari.  2) Uploading files.  Safari has no ability to upload a picture to a website or any other type of file.  Opera can upload anything just like a regular browser.  Another minor reason I like Opera better is it has Flash Lite support.  Safari has no flash support.  It’s nice for other embedded media sites that use flash that AREN’T Youtube.  In actual page rendering, Safari gets the nod as being faster, but it is not by much.  Opera on the Fuze is very useable and feels very nice.

I also like that when you have a message on the Fuze the light ring flashes.  The iPhone you’re left clueless with out powering on the screen.  That’s just a little thing that has also bothered me about the iPhone.  I like having some type of visual notification on the phone that there is a waiting alert, with out needing to turn it on and off.

My other main reason for buying WM was TomTom, and I must say the Fuze’s built in GPS works very well.  I’ve read about a lot of GPS issues on the Fuze with VERY slow signal-lock times and a ton of lag when navigating, but I have not experienced any of this.  I also did flash the radio from the leaked AT&T rom though first thing, and most people are saying that radio fixed these issues.  My GPS lock on takes maybe 5-10 seconds, and leg is negligible.  I have noticed there is maybe a 2 second lag in where you actually are compared to where you are on screen, but this doesn’t really effect navigation in any way.  TomTom works great, and I finally got to use new maps, which is nice because there are finally new maps that work right.  I had been using about 6 year old maps because the newer onse I tried were full of errors… but the latest ones I loaded on it work awesome and have a ton of new roads.  I’m also running a full USA and Canada map now, instead of just a 6 state regional map like I did before, so that is nice.  Turn by turn navigation is still lacking from the iPhone, and I honestly don’t see it happening in it’s current hardware release.  I played with some turn-by-turn stuff on the iPhone from a Jailbroken app, and from what I can tell the iPhone’s GPS is highly inaccurate when in motion.  Now, I don’t know if this app was missing some smoothing algorithms or what, but cruising down the road at 65mph, it indicated my speed was bouncing around any where from 45 to 75.  I believe this to be a flaw in the iPhone’s GPS…  who knows though, maybe Apple can fix it by updating the iPhone radio in some future firmware release?  Even so… I still think TomTom on WM will be unbeatable for mobile phone navigation.

So with all that being said, which device is better?  It’s up to you… for now I prefer the Fuze.  I like it better, and that’s all there is to it.

Which device is easier to use?  Hands down, no competition, the iPhone.  The iPhone’s built in app store is something desperately missing from Windows Mobile.  You’re still using cab files to install… this has advantages and disadvantages of course.  You also have to consider 90% of iPhone apps are shit.  Worthless fucking shit.  Seriously.  Windows Mobile has a ton more useful apps… but most of the time they don’t look nearly as nice and are more complicated to configure and use.  The iPhone also has much better media management compared to the non-existent media management in Windows Mobile.  iPhone has fixed memory… Windows Mobile as much as you can want.  I have 2gb in mine, but just ordered an 8gb card for $18.  That’s something the iPhone will never be able to do.  Upgrade?  Drop $300 on a new device.

The iPhone is more refined for sure… which is sad for WM since versions of it have been out for nearly a decade now.  The iPhone has a better touch screen, but the Fuze’s is actually very good.  Definitely the best resistive touch screen I have ever used, and it is sharper.

It comes down to the user… do you want to have what everyone else has?  Yes, it does work well, but it is lacking in some areas.  I’ve always been the type of person that wants things few others have, and been one to mod, tweak, and hack the things I do have.

I like the Fuze and like its potential.  It’s a good piece of hardware, inifinitely better then the 8525 ever was, and I think it’s going to be a better device then the 8125 was as well.  I look forward to many years of use and tweaking out of the Fuze.