The current trend in cell phones is to make small smartphones that don’t feel like smartphones, at all. The HTC Touch has been getting a lot of attention for its iPhone-like interface, and now the T-Mobile Shadow (also created by HTC) is showing how small and slick a smartphone can be.
We’re not used to being wowed by T-Mobile phones, since the trendiest and flashiest models usually go to other carriers, but the Shadow is a beautifully designed creation.
The Shadow is a smooth operator from top to bottom, with attractive styling that helps make it great and ease-of-use. We’re also pleased to see Wi-Fi offered in a phone this small, letting people receive and send mail from open wireless networks without subscribing to a data plan.
Conveniently small, it measures only 4.1 x 2.1 x 0.6 inches and weighs 5.3 ounces.
The phone’s streamlined front offers a 2.6-inch, 240 x 320-pixel screen, sitting above a circular dial, two soft keys, Home and Back keys, and call start and end keys. There’s nothing there to mar the Shadow’s monolith-like appearance when closed.
A slider that reveals a BlackBerry SureType-like numeric keypad/keyboard when open, the Shadow comes in two colors: sage and copper. Give the screen an upwards push with one thumb to reveal the Shadow’s 20-key XT9 numeric keyboard.
If you’re not familiar with the XT9, it takes some getting used to. While it has a standard QWERTY configuration, two letters share most of the buttons. You give each button a single tap when writing a text message or a note, and the phone figures out what word you’re trying to spell.
We found it quick and efficient in use, with the phone nearly always guessing the word correctly. When it didn’t, it was easy enough to spell or choose the one we wanted. If you don’t like XT9 input, you can change the settings so that one tap gets the first letter and two taps gets the second.
There’s not much else to the Shadow’s exterior, as the design is kept nicely simple. You’ll find volume controls, a propriety power and headphone port, and a microSD card slot on the left side, and a customizable shortcut button and a camera button on the right.
The back hold the lens for the 2-megapixel camera, but there’s no self-portrait mirror.
The Shadow’s elegant interface is what makes is such a pleasure to use. You’ll find a column of icons running down the left side of the screen. Select the one you want by tapping up or down on the directional pad, then use the scroll wheel to see applications within that area.
For example, you can select the Message Center option, then scroll to view either text messages, picture messages, voice notes, e-mail, or mail setup.
From the main screen, you can tap a soft key to open the Windows Start menu, to find other applications that didn’t make the main menus. If not for the Start menu, you’d never know that this was a Windows smartphone.
In our testing, call quality was consistently good in the New York City area, and the camera produced shots better than most cell phones.
In the box, you’ll also get a wired headset, belt clip case, and an adapter for connecting both audio and power cables at once.
The Shadow sells for $149 with a two-year commitment, data plan, and discounts, and $199 with two-year commitment, but no data plan.
If you need to do serious work on the road, you’ll want a move powerful smartphone, but if checking e-mails and staying connected is your primary purpose, the Shadow is an excellent choice.
This review originally appeared at SmartPhoneToday and is re-printed with permission.