Update 6.5.08: Get 10 more tips for the AT&T Tilt now!
The AT&T Tilt has been heralded as "the holy grail of smartphones," crowned "the most powerful Windows Mobile device" available through a U.S. carrier, and currently graces the cover of Smartphone & Pocket PC magazine (Feb/March 2008) alongside the headline "The Tilt has it all!"
While it’s true that the phone is super connected and packed with features, it’s certainly not without its shortcomings. Yes, Windows Mobile 6.0 is considered by many to be ill conceived and flawed, but it isn’t the only thing preventing an out-of-box Tilt from living up to the hype.
Rather than line up the usual suspects and bash them with a bat, I’ve compiled a list of solutions to 10 of the most commonly cited problems encountered by new Tilt owners. Applying the fixes is fast, easy (no registry editor required), mostly free, and guaranteed to improve finger-friendliness and general usability of the AT&T Tilt. Read on to check them out.
This is not an exhaustive list of everything that could improve the Tilt’s user experience, but it is related to what I’ve encountered personally (at the time of this writing, I’ve been using my Tilt for 8.5 weeks) and read about most frequently.
Click on a tip below for more information.
- Uninstall the preloaded AT&T software.
- Customize the Today screen.
- Get a new dialer skin.
- Install KaiserTweak.
- Look through Kaiser CAB files.
- Demo WisBar Advance 3.
- Find a new web browser.
- Enable HSDPA.
- Dig up Internet Sharing.
- Buy a mini-USB to 3.5mm adapter or Bluetooth headphones.
Want more? Check out 10 more tips for the AT&T Tilt.
Uninstall the preloaded AT&T software.
Just as many computers come loaded with an absurd amount of bloatware (the Sony Vaio TZ is among the most ridiculous), the AT&T Tilt ships with a good deal of trial software and worthless carrier-specific applications.
Get rid of it.
To do this, perform a hard reset (Start -> Settings -> System tab -> Clear Storage) followed by a soft reset (push stylus into reset hole located between microSD slot and mini USB port) when the 3-second countdown to the "custom app" installation begins. The Tilt will reboot and be completely free of all the AT&T nonsense.
UPDATE: If you are using Windows Mobile 6.1, perform the soft reset just as the Today screen appears. (Thanks, Ricky!)
Customize the Today screen.
The default Today screen is atrocious and downright scary.
If this is a person’s first introduction to Windows Mobile, it’s a terribly unfriendly welcome.
Fortunately, the Today screen can be customized to the hilt with plug-ins, themes, and UI refinements. Some of the more popular options can cost as much as $30, but there’s lots of great freeware to choose from too.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Get a new dialer skin.
Since the AT&T Tilt is first and foremost a phone, a good dialer screen is incredibly important.
The default dialer is okay but definitely in need of improvement. The keys are too small to ensure accurate finger presses, and basic features like mute and speakerphone are hidden in the menu.
That’s why you need a dialer skin. They’re freely available at various places online; just do a Google search for something like "dialpad skins," "Windows Mobile dialer," or "dialer skins." What I’ve been using lately is this very finger-friendly Black Dialer Skin:
One of the nice features about this skin is that you can toggle between the six buttons shown above and the keypad so that whichever you need access to is kept on screen when a call is active.
Tinkering with the Tilt’s registry is often the only way to access certain settings, system configurations, and other default behaviors. Unfortunately, unless you know what you’re doing, a fully functional Tilt can quickly become an expensive paperweight.
That’s where KaiserTweak comes in. Named after the device’s previous codename (Kaiser), it’s an easy-to-use tool that modifies various registry settings and basically just makes the Tilt better.
There’s a hefty list of applicable tweaks, but the must-have one for me is the "Sleep" option. Disallowing the Tilt to enter sleep mode while on a phone call is a godsend when you’re dealing with an automated system that requires number entry. Without KaiserTweak (or a registry editor), you would first have to awaken the Tilt to see the dialpad and then tap the number.
Look through Kaiser CAB files.
What happened to the HTC TyTN II/Kaiser when AT&T christened it the Tilt? The hardware was modified (chrome-looking buttons, silver keypad, no front camera) and the software was . . . well, compromised.
To fight back (and to just help people keep their Kaiser variants up-to-date), a fellow named Dutty has amassed an impressive collection of Kaiser CAB files that he generously makes available to everyone.
Demo WisBar Advance 3.
There are other alternatives and workarounds to achieve the same results, but my favorite task management application is WisBar Advance 3. It’s affordably priced ($10) and makes the Tilt (and other Windows Mobile devices) behave more like a Windows desktop. Whether this is a mark for or against it is a matter of personal preference, I suppose, but I think it’s an excellent piece of software.
Some of its best features include a cascading Start menu, taskbar that displays currently running programs (making multi-tasking and switching between apps quick and easy), drop-down task manager, system tray, and customizable user menu. Basically, what Wisbar Advance 3 does is make Windows Mobile look and feel a little more like Windows XP.
Find a new web browser.
Put frankly, browsing the web on the Tilt’s QVGA screen sucks.
There’s just no getting around it: QVGA is not suitable for accessing the real web. Sure, it’s fine for stripped-down mobile versions of websites, but I really need to be desperate to visit those. I know there are zoom levels and fit-to-screen, optimized, and single-column view modes in most mobile browsers as well, but I never use anything other than desktop mode. This is a personal issue, obviously, so I’ll just reiterate that web browsing on the Tilt pains me and move on.
If you can look past the QVGA horror, I recommend ditching Internet Explorer Mobile (IEM) for something better. What that "something" is will likely change once Skyfire and Mobile Firefox are released, but at the moment, the hands-down best WM browser is Opera Mobile ($24). It’s been so-named by Smartphone & Pocket PC magazine, but I also know it to be true from my Windows Mobile browser battle (which compared Opera Mobile, IEM, Minimo, Picsel, and NetFront) and Tilt 3G vs. iPhone EDGE speed tests (which showed that IEM on 3G is often as slow as Safari on EDGE).
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that although the Tilt is an HSDPA-enabled device, the actual setting to enable it is missing (on the HTC Advantage, for example, there’s a "Turn on HSDPA" option).
KaiserTweak to the rescue . . . again (see tip #4 above). I haven’t done any load-time tests yet, but if a device that supports HSDPA isn’t actually making use of it, it’s quite silly to leave the functionality disabled.
Before enabling it, the connectivity icons were always showing "3G" (you can see those icons throughout this post).
Dig up Internet Sharing.
If you chose to keep your Tilt in its factory state (i.e., if you ignored tip #1 above), then you may be wondering where the Internet Sharing application is.
AT&T buried it in favor of its own Wireless Modem utility.
Dig it up! Go to Start -> Programs -> Tools -> File Explorer -> Windows folder, copy Internet Sharing by tapping and holding its icon, then paste it to a location of your choosing.
If you’ve uninstalled the preloaded AT&T software, Internet Sharing can be found under Start -> Programs.
Buy a mini-USB to 3.5mm adapter or Bluetooth headphones.
There’s very little "fixing" that can be done to the Tilt’s hardware (for the most part, it just is what it is), but if you’re thinking about using the device as a portable media player, don’t forget that it doesn’t have a headphone jack. So if you don’t already have it, you’ll need an inexpensive mini-USB to 3.5mm adapter or a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
Ah, isn’t that better? If you know of other tips and tricks that will enhance the AT&T Tilt, please share them in the comments section below.
Update 6.5.08: 10 more tips for the AT&T Tilt now available!