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How to make the Sprint HTC Mogul not crash

When I first received my new phone and reviewed the HTC Mogul, I found that the frequency that the device crashed was “pretty annoying”. Well I had loaded it up with lots of apps that ran in the background, some apps I didn’t need that uncleanly uninstalled (and has registry item missing messages), some items that turned on whenever a data connection was available, etc. The thing was a hog. I’m sure it consumed the full amount of RAM available on boot.

Eventually the device came to crash once a day or more. Then the phonepocalypse happened, while I was on a road trip with some buddies, the phone decided to not turn on at all. Soft reset after soft reset, it would get to the BIOS screen, then never proceed to the WM6.1 loading screen. I really thought that the device was fried. Fortunately, I hard reset the device (meaning erase all data and restore to factory defaults, and it was able to boot again. All was not lost. (All data especially wasn’t lost thanks to dashwire, man that app is rad for Windows Mobile devices.)

So I decided to give DCD’s trimmed mogul ROM a try. Following the instructions the entire install took less than an hour. All of the files that were required for the install are available from his repository of files, of course. From a software fully updated (from HTC.com) factory reset device, I installed NueSPL 3.47 by putting it on my MicroSD card and running it. I then ran “dcd_titan_3.3.4.exe” from my computer with Mogul attached via USB. It took care of the rest. Once the install process finished, I installed “dcd Sprint Carrier 20081020.cab” from my MicroSD card by putting it on there, installing it, then going to Settings => Connections => Update PRI on the phone, which allowed it to provision the device to be on the Sprint network.

All is now well, it has been about a week without needing to do a software reset, and without crashing. I have been avoiding some obvious culprits as I previously noted:
* too much ram utilized (The trimmed rom really helps here.)
* not using the slide out keyboard (I found that this was causing the crash many times. No idea why.)
* letting the battery get too low (A fresh install really helps here.)

I noticed that the wifi still doesn’t work, so that is definitely a defect with this particular phone, not the model as a whole.

So in summary, for the low amount of RAM on the HTC Mogul, a slimmed down custom ROM is absolutely the way to go to make it stable.

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Purchased a 2GB MicroSD for the Mogul

Bought a 2GB MicroSD card for my Sprint HTC Mogul, with hopes to install DCD’s stripped down WM 6.1 ROM, and eventually the Google Android work in progress. Hopefully to all wrap up by next week.

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Sprint HTC Mogul Review

Introduction and Initial Impressions

So I received my new phone about 3 weeks ago now, the Sprint HTC Mogul, AKA the HTC Titan, AKA the HTC PPC-6800. I was excited by the fact that it had Windows Mobile 6.1 and built-in GPS, which is why I sprung for it as soon as I found a deal.

As soon as I received the phone, I updated it to the latest firmware from Sprint, which added GPS support and updated it to Windows Mobile 6.1.

Since I’ve had the phone, I’ve found there is a LOT of information on it, a lot of people ‘hacking’ this phone; even reports of the Titan running Android, (Google’s Linux OS) which is pretty neat. Considering I rely on the phone to make calls and be reachable (especially for work), I don’t know if I’d be willing to suffer the potential downtime of being unreachable while the phone is offline. Even so, there are a large number of apps and support around the standard ROMs that make this phone pretty cool.

Through “normal” use for me — daily amounts of which include about 30 minutes of talking, 10 text messages, checking emails every 30 minutes, alerts every 4 hours or so, and about 1 hour of casual use — this phone appears to last about 36 hours from full to empty battery. I’m very pleased with the battery life of this phone.

Phone Technical Specs

Display: 65K color transflective TFT color LCD. Screen size diagonally: 2.8″. Resolution: 240 x 320, supports both portrait and landscape modes.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 1500 mA. 2100 mA extended battery available for purchase. 4 hours claimed talk time on standard battery.

Performance: Qualcomm MSM7500 400 MHz processor (dual core 400MHz ARM11 application processor and 133MHz ARM9). 64 MB built-in RAM (55 megs available). 256 MB Flash ROM with 155 megs available. 64 megs RAM with 26 free at boot.

Size: 4.33″ x 2.32″ x 0.73″. Weight: 5.8 ounces.

Phone: CDMA dual band digital 800/1900MHz. Data: EVDO rev 0, upgradable later this year to rev A.

Camera: 2.0MP

Audio: Built in speaker, mic and HTC ExtUSB stereo headphone jack. Stereo headset included. Voice Recorder and Windows Pocket Media Player 10 included for your MP3 pleasure.

Networking: Integrated WiFi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0.

Software: Windows Mobile 6.0 Profession Edition operating system. Microsoft Mobile Office suite including Mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint (view only), Internet Explorer, and Outlook. Also included: Esmertec Java VM, Cyberon Voice Dialing, Pictures and Videos, MSN Instant Messenger, Windows Live, Windows Media Player 10, Solitaire, Bubble Breaker (game), Voice Recorder as well as handwriting recognition. Additional applications: Camera, Wireless Manager, MS Bluetooth software, On Demand (Handmark Express), Adobe Reader LE, Audible Player, link to get Good’s messaging client, Zip (unzipping application), Sprint Software Store, Sprint Music (coming in July), Clear Storage (wipes out all data and resets unit to factory defaults). ActiveSync 4.5 and Outlook 2007 trial edition for PCs included.

Expansion: 1 MicroSD slot. 512 meg card included. Up to 2 gig cards supported.

Since I bought mine OEM, I was missing all of the “X included” from above. In fact, all I got was the phone itself and a charger. Good, I don’t need all of those extra accessories anyway 🙂

Pictures of the phone (click to enlarge)

I bought the phone used on eBay, so it came as-is, which means that there were some scuffs on the lower right of the device, and a slight bruise on the LCD (unnoticeable unless you’re looking for it). Also, I can’t get wifi to work at all with the device, so I presume that the internal component that manages wifi is busted. I doubt I would use if it I could though, since I have an unlimited data plan and it’s plenty fast.

Photos taken by the phone

I’m pretty underwhelmed by the camera on this phone. Sure, it’s 2 megapixels, and the flash is pretty rad, but the quality is less than staggering. I took some photos in pitch dark of my white dog, here’s how they turned out (click for original size):

Also tried without flash at work:

Better, but still not great.

I suppose I shouldn’t expect so much from such a tiny camera.

Flickr has a really neat and easy way to upload pictures to it from the camera, just send an email to a special email with the subject the title of the image and the body the description of the image, and it will set those properties accordingly. Pretty neat if you ask me. It even supports geotagging.

The main problem with geotagging on this phone is that the camera application will not automatically geotag; there is no setting to force it to do this. There are some applications that will allow you to geotag on demand (e.g. I just took a photo, let’s apply my current GPS settings to it), or geotag periodically (e.g. every half hour let’s check for new non-geotagged photos and geotag to my current location). Neither of these really work right, so I’m still stalking that “killer app” for geotagging on my WM 6.1 device.

Applications and Games

While I’m still looking for some apps that fit my needs for certain tasks, I did find quite a few helpful apps and fun games that make this device easier to manage. Here are a list of them:

  • Skyfire – a rad web browser, best in show currently in my opinion. It doesn’t behave like a normal mobile web browser, instead of dealing with WML or even dumbed down HTML, it takes full pages as they would render in modern computer web browsers and displays them accordingly. In fact, the version of Skyfire I’m using sends user agent “Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 5.1; en-US; rv:1.8.1.17) Gecko/20080829 Firefox/2.0.0.17”. The zooming and panning behaves very similar to Opera mobile, which is probably as best as you can do. The best part of this browser is that it fully supports javascript AND flash! Proven by watching a Youtube video from the phone (which streams seamlessly), and checking my Google Feed reader. Very amazing piece of software.
  • Dashwire – synchronization of contacts, photos, videos, ringtones, text messages, phone bookmarks, and much more. I used this when changing phones from my Treo 700wx; it backed up all photos, contacts and texts and ported them over to the new device in less than 20 minutes. Their web util is pretty rad too, it allowed me to quickly and easily post pictures to my Flickr that were on my phone.
  • HHC – HTC Home Customizer – Allows full customization of the Today screen. Very essential, looks a lot cleaner than the vanilla Today screen.
  • Multiplayer Championship Poker: Internet Edition – I find this a fun thing to do before I go to bed or am bored.
  • Google Maps for Mobile / Microsoft Live Search Mobile – I haven’t decided which of these are better for GPS managed directions and location mapping.
  • Windows Mobile Mail (link goes to biased review) – Works really well with Gmail for IMAP usage.

And now the stuff I’m still looking for:

  • As mentioned above, I’m looking for a better way to deal with geotagging. It should be a function of the camera application, ESPECIALLY on a freaking GPS enabled smart phone camera.
  • A nice, free way to nicely deal with synchronization of calendars. There are a handful of non-free apps out there that will sync with Google Calendar (which is good enough), but none are worth the price in my opinion. At this point, I’d rather not have this feature than pay for it.
  • How to turn off this incessant flashing? There’s no easy way to turn off the phone’s “service light”, an LED that flashes every 2 seconds or so to notify you that it has service. This can be quite distracting in a dark room when I’m trying to sleep…
  • How to master the vibrations… I never have sound on my phone enabled, so ideally every “notification” would vibrate. For some reason the device isn’t obeying my settings for new texts to vibrate. Still gotta work on this one…

Criticisms

A lot of people will complain that the storage on the device is lacking, and the RAM (64MB) is rather lackluster. Honestly, I still have most of the storage available on my device, and I’m not even using any external storage. I doubt I would ever put music or videos on this device, so for the few apps I have and the 7 days worth of emails, ~256MB is more than enough storage.

Perhaps related to this, the phone itself seems to lock up a few times a week. ‘Lock up’ should be defined as unable to wake. The phone, which should have plenty of battery and is still on (as identified by the signal lights flashing), will not come out of a blank screen “sleep” state. If a call comes through, the screen will turn on, but no inputs will be accepted. So if you press the Answer button while a call is coming in, it will not answer and the call will go to voicemail.

Through asking around, some people seem to think that this is due to certain application usage, and I have personally confirmed that the “Weather Plugin” for the “HTC Home Customizer” (as previously mentioned) seems to have a memory leak in that it will always cause this issue. When not using the Weather Plugin, it appears to only happen when the phone is below 25% remaining battery. I have talked to others with this phone who confirm they have similar issues.

Another thing that appears to aid in not freezing up is using the HHC “X Button” plugin — an app that will actually close a program when the X button is pressed, rather than leave it running in the background. It makes sense that this would be a crashing issue related to the low RAM on the phone, so I’m not really sure why the Windows Mobile developers decided to make it like this. If you tell an application to close, it should close; you should not have to jump through hoops (e.g. go to Settings => Memory => Running Applications => Click Terminate) to close a running app.

So although this issue is pretty annoying, I think I’ve recognized a way for its impact to be minimized.

Conclusion

This is by far the best phone I’ve had to date. This would be only my 2nd smart phone (behind only the Palm Treo 700wx) and my 4th or so Windows Mobile PPC. It really does fail in comparison to the iPhone in function and elegance, and the Android enabled devices for speed and power, but the fact that I can use a stylus is a welcomed fallback for me, and Windows Mobile — while beginning to show its age — I still really enjoy using. The fact remains that all the hype these days is going toward iPhone (not on the Sprint network) and the Android devices (not on the Sprint network either). That being said, I like how small and thin this phone is (comparatively at least), and this is the fastest I have ever seen a Windows Mobile device. This might just be one of the best options for a Sprint plan.

Yet despite my positive experience with this phone, there are still quite a few setbacks, many of which make me want to throw this phone at the wall at times. And until it can do everything I need it to, I can’t really be happy with it.

Score: 7.5/10

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New Phone: HTC Mogul

Because the wife needs a new phone, and because it was too good a deal to pass up, I just bought a Sprint HTC Mogul PPC 6800 on EBay.

$149.99 original price with Buy it Now.
-$15.00, -10% coupon in my ebay messages
+$6.99 shipping
= $141.98 paid.

(in 60 days)
-$45, -30% Microsoft cashback.

Overall amount: $96.98.

This Windows Mobile 6.1 device should be a good upgrade from my WM2003 Palm Treo 700wx, but I think the feature I’m most looking forward to is the GPS — and there’s gotta be some auto-geotagging settings.

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