Saturday, December 6, 2008

AT&T Fuze Review

I recently purchased the AT&T Fuze at my local AT&T store, and thought I would share my thoughts on the phone.

Pros:
  • Great screen – love how things look with VGA resolution, way better in sunlight!
  • Screen has much wider viewing angle – watching videos in landscape is way better than previous PPCs
  • Like the feel of the keyboard that slides out
  • Like where the USB charger port is, with little beveled edge to guide cable in when plugging it in while in the dark
  • Like the G-sensor – seems accurate
  • Like the touch screen with dialing – the buttons are more responsive when dialing than the Tilt
  • LED light for camera is very bright – with torch application makes a great flashlight (I missed the LED light when I upgraded from Tytn (8525) to Tytn II/Tilt)
  • Microsoft Voice Command works with Bluetooth headset right out of the box, and actually really well
  • Smaller and a bit lighter than the Tilt
  • Built in FM radio if you install the app
  • Bluetooth Range is great
  • Camera is pretty good – better than Tilt (colors look much better if you change the light source from auto to bulb)
  • AT&T includes a screen protector – nice!
  • Works with my favorite navigation program – iNAV 4.02 from iGuidance (as long as you use the appropriate workarounds with an intermediate GPS driver like Franson GPSGate)
  • The smaller form factor is nice – it’s the smaller PDA I’ve owned yet.
  • The keyboard keys are a good size, and feel good to type on


Cons:
  • MediaNET tethering disabled by default in stock ROM (but works on cooked ROMs or with Registry fix)
  • AT&T doesn’t include headphones for the proprietary headphone port – not nice.
  • Slippery and prone to getting fingerprints all over it.
  • The design of the back cover means the phone doesn’t lay flat – it moves when you are using the stylus on it.
  • The design of the back cover muffles the speaker of the speaker phone if laid down, and the ringer volume when the phone rings, due to the angles on the back cover making the phone tilt just right to cover up the speaker when sitting on a table. Also, the diamond points on the cover design are already starting to show wear after 3 weeks.
  • Battery life with stock ROM is not as good as the Tilt – on a brand new battery I will go from 100% to 72% in 3 hours, with zero phone calls and one 30 second sync with the exchange server. Note: I have seen much improvement with battery life by flashing updated ROMS and alternate radios from this forum: http://forum.xda-developers.com/forumdisplay.php?f=440
  • Radio Reception seems slightly worse than my Tilt in the problem areas, but I can live with it.
  • Can’t change desktop themes if disabling Manilla 3D interface in stock ROM (can in updated ROMs from the XDA forum however.
  • Slightly popping noise while in calls, keeps coming and going on stock ROM – fixed with updated Radio and ROMs.
  • Sharp edge to phone by speaker is uncomfortable on my ear with long conversations unless you flatten the phone to your face – and then you’ve got the face oil to wipe off!
  • When in Mass Storage Mode, transfer rate is 8mbps (i.e. 1MByte/s) – basically USB 1.1 – don’t see USB 2.0 in action on transfer rates
  • FM radio requires headset plugged into work, and phone doesn’t come with a headset, only an adapter. Reception isn’t so good on the radio, but it is cool to have.
  • Light sensor is too directional – if am in a room with overhead lights, you can see the display change brightness every time you tip the phone back and forth away from the overhead source. The light sensor needs to be re-engineered to pick up ambient light better.
  • Back cover creaks when you pick up the phone – feels a little cheap
  • The button choice and arrangement at the bottom front of the phone doesn’t work – up and down works, but left and right don’t work well at all – half the time you are trying to go left, you end up hitting the home instead, which is very annoying in the midst of a game or while navigating in an app
  • Why have a home button AND a hangup button on the front, AND a back button – they all essentially do the same thing.
  • Phone switches from H to G during phone calls, even when there is plenty of 3G coverage (voice quality is better on the 3G network than the old 2G, so I prefer to stay on the 3G one if possible). This is probably a battery saving technique, but I’d like to have a choice about it – like a threshold slider or something.
  • Ebook reading would be much better if you could use the touch scrolling area to advance a page, but so far that doesn’t seem possible
  • Not enough hardware buttons – and no scroll wheel – I miss the Tilt’s scroll wheel!
  • GPS lags by a block or two in nav programs (including iNAV and TomTom) – the current theory is that this is a driver issue that will be addressed soon.
  • Stock AT&T ROM has a really loud rocketship sound when you first boot up.
  • Fuze Keyboard layout – why did they change the TouchPro?! I don’t want a dedicated key on the keyboard to launch Cingular Video – I want a control key, and a tab key!
  • No standard headphone jack – still using propriety HTC headphone jack
  • PTT button is useless unless you hack the phone to remap short and long key presses. Why didn't they just put that button the standard Windows Mobile button list and let users choose what they want the button to do?
  • Have to use more pressure with the stylus around the edges of the screen (like the ok button) than in the middle


Future Design Suggestions (if HTC people ever read my blog):
  • Offer different back covers for $19 on their website – one with a leather feel, one with the rubbery TilT feel, and make some of them flat so the phone can lay flat on a table
  • Bring back that tilt feature – the screen tilting up was great for reading ebooks – although if it added significant weight due to the mechanical design, then I could live without it
  • Add a standard headphone jack
  • Get a Control and Tab key back on the keyboard!
  • Change the Home Key to a Windows Key, and make all of the hardware buttons flexible so users can choose what functions they want to map to them
  • Even out the screen in terms of what pressure is required to activate the pressure sensitive portions - the corners require a lot more force than the middle


With all of those pros and cons, I just can’t get over how good the screen is. I can actually see things on it in sunlight – it’s truly trans-reflective! And the VGA resolution is amazing. Even though I’m really not happy with the user interface of the actually hardware buttons, the screen, extra RAM, and smaller size is winning me over – I think this is a keeper, at least for now.

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