Software

AT&T Tilt

Smartphones are everywhere, but not all mobile phones are equally effective e-mail and messaging devices. Is there a smarphone that stands out as an e-mail workhorse, Bill Detwiler thinks there is. Check out his Product Spotlight on the AT&T Tilt.

Smartphones are everywhere, but not all mobile phones are equally effective e-mail and messaging devices. If there is a smarphone that stands out as an e-mail workhorse, it is the AT&T Tilt.

Specifications

  • Tri-band UMTS/HSDPA & Quad-band GSM
  • Windows Mobile 6 Professional
  • Wi-Fi (802.11b/g)
  • Stereo Bluetooth 2.0
  • Push to Talk
  • 3-megapixel camera
  • Dual Core 400MHz Processor
  • 256 MB Flash ROM/128 MB SDRAM
  • 2.8" 240x320 color QVGA screen
  • Integrated GPS
  • Lithium Ion battery
  • Talk time: up to 4 hours
  • Standby time: up to 8 days
  • Dimensions: 4.4" (l) x 2.3 (w) x 0.7" (d)
  • Weight: 6.7 oz
  • Cost with no commitment $449.99
  • Cost with 2-year contract $299.99
  • Additional information

Who is it for?

The AT&T tilt is designed for mobile business users who send lots of e-mail and text messages while on the go. The Tilt lacks the iPhone 3G's elegant, finger-driven interface and BlackJack II's pocket-size design. However, the tilt's solid QWERTY keyboard and ease of integration with Microsoft Exchange make it an excellent choice for enterprise road warriors.

What problem does it solve?

The problem with many smartphones, particularly when considering them for business use, is that they excel in one function but fall short in another. The iPhone 3G is stylish and the touch interface is truly innovative, yet it lacks of a physical keyboard, a must for heavy e-mail users, and it can be difficult to synchronize with Exchange. The BlackJack II has a physical keypad and is more easily synchronized with Microsoft Exchange Server, thanks to its Windows Mobile OS, but it lacks a touchscreen interface, the keys are a bit small for large fingers, and the screen's fix orientation makes reading long e-mails and documents difficult. The AT&T Tilt is designed to solve this problem by combining many smartphone features needed by business road warriors into a single package.

Standout features

  • QWERTY Keyboard - As with the AT&T 8525, the Tilt's solid QWERTY keyboard makes entering text (even multiple sentence e-mails) a quick, comfortable process.
  • Tilt screen - The Tilt's screen tilts up 40 degrees—giving the devices its name. Initially I didn't think the feature was very useful as thumb-tying with the screen flat was more comfortable than with it tilted. But, the tilting the screen does make viewing the device easier when it's placed on a flat surface.
  • Integrated GPS - Combined with Microsoft's Live Search for Windows Mobile the Tilt's integrated GPS radio is a handy feature if you find yourself trying to find your next business appointment or the closest sushi restaurant in a strange town.
  • Integrated Wi-Fi - If you subscribe to AT&T's unlimited data plan, you may not use the Tilt's integrated Wi-Fi very often—I didn't. If you don't have the data plan, the tilt's Wi-Fi support makes syncing with your e-mail server/service.
  • microSD expansion slot - The microSD slot allows you to significantly expand the Tilt's storage capacity. The Tilt will accept up to 4GB microSD cards.
  • Direct Push synchronization - The Tilt supports Microsoft's Direct Push technology, which provides real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with Exchange. If your organization uses a VPN that has a Windows Mobile client, there's no need for a third party messaging solution, such as Good Mobile Messaging. Just fire up the VPN and the Tilt acts like almost any other VPN connected device. You can even access Intranet Web pages.

What's wrong?

  • Windows Mobile 6 Professional Interface - Let's face it, current Windows Mobile UIs lag behind the iPhone's touch-based GUI. You shouldn't need a stylus to quickly navigate through your e-mail folders, and on a Windows Mobile device you do. Don't even get me started on browsing the Web with Windows Mobile Internet Explorer. To Microsoft's credit, they are trying to improve their UI—HTC's TouchFLO is a good example. But for now, going with touchscreen Windows Mobile device still requires you to that stylus handy.
  • Poor talk-time battery life - The Tilt's battery life depends on how heavily you use the device. When continuously connected to your company's network through a VPN connection, I was lucky to get more than 1 1/2 days of battery life. Add a persistent IM connection and I got less than a day.
  • Problematic GPS acquisition - Although the Tilt's integrate GPS feature is a real plus, the radio regularly had trouble acquiring a GPS signal—often requiring several tries.
  • IM client requires AT&T data network - The Tilt comes preloaded with AOL, Windows Live, and Yahoo instant-messaging clients. You can even be logged on to multiple services at the same. Unfortunately, you can't use any of the IM service over the Tilt's Wi-Fi connection. If you want to use the IM client, you must buy AT&T's data service.

Competitive products

Bottom line for businesses

The AT&T Tilt is a mobile e-mail workhorse. If your company is running Microsoft Exchange and a VPN solution with a Windows Mobile client, you'll be hard pressed to find a more robust mobile e-mail device. The Tilt isn't the most chic smartphone and it doesn't have the best UI. Yet, traveling business users who want a powerful, all-in-one mobile device should seriously consider the Tilt.

User rating

Have you used and AT&T Tilt? If so, what do you think? Rate the unit below and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of the AT&T Tilt in Comments or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review above.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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