Switching from Windows Mobile to the iPhone

I was a Windows Mobile user for about 7 years and once you stay with a mobile device for that long your way of thinking goes one of a few ways. One may be that you become so use to it that you dismiss all other viable options even if they are better. Another is that you become so frustrated with the flaws that have remained unresolved that you are ready to jump ship at the first viable option that presents itself. The latter is kind of what happened to me and many others out there. So for all the Windows Mobile users who are going to or thinking of going to the iPhone here’s a few things I think you should know to get started.

The iPhone Interface
The iPhone interface is designed to be easy to be use and navigate while hiding the more sophisticated BSD Unix based OS underneath. You won’t find a desktop style operating system shrunk to fit onto a small screen like with Windows Mobile here. What you will find is a well thought out mobile OS designed from the ground up and the user interface reflects that. Large application icons, well placed on-screen buttons, a pop-up style menu system coupled with a gesture-based navigation system Apple calls “Multi-Touch”. This makes using the iPhone a pleasurable experience right out the box. Even nice graphic animations that makes sense without sacrificing the user experience or getting in the way.

The menu system and general navigation of the iPhone may take some getting use to for some Windows Mobile users. So your best bet at this point is to put aside the Windows Mobile way of doing things. You are about to embark on a different way of accomplishing tasks with less confusion. If you want to email a note for example all you need to do is tap the Notes App, open the intended note and tap the email icon. This brings you directly in the email app where you fill in who it’s going to then tap send and your done. What makes this a simpler or more intuitive process is that the mail icon is always at the bottom of the screen when you open any note. No going to mail and then having to add your note as an attachment which requires you to search for the intended note and then add it to the email. With the iPhone the note becomes the email from the start.

The iPhone interface is also more than just the software. It’s the integration of both the software and hardware that makes the iPhone such an elegant device. The focal point of the iPhone is the display and from there you have access to all the necessary controls. The Settings App contains just that; all the settings for the device’s software and hardware. The only physical controls are the power button on top, the on/off ringer switch and volume control on the left side and the one and only Home button that resides by itself on the face of the iPhone. No D-pad, no “Back” button and no “Send” and “End” buttons; just a minimalist design that works well. The only other piece of hardware you need to get around the iPhone are the fingers on your hand.

The iTunes Store, a media manager and much more. Just like a Windows Mobile device requires ActiveSync now called Windows Mobile Device Center to connect to a PC to sync data; the iPhone requires iTunes. So, if you use iTunes or are at least familiar with it then you have one less thing to learn. If you’re totally unfamiliar with iTunes then get to learn your way around it. As this is what you will be using from here on in. Initially this is how you will copy everything from the PC to the iPhone and vice versa. After that anytime you connect the iPhone to your PC, iTunes will automatically check for OS updates released by Apple. All OS updates are issued without carrier intervention so you don’t have to sit and wait to see if your device will get the next update. Backups are also handled by iTunes automatically and accomplished before the actual syncing begins. If you are one of those who forget to do this or were worried about having to purchase a separate backup solution look no further as iTunes has you covered. iTunes can also be used to check for third party software updates. This comes in handy as the software downloads are limited to 10MB over a cellular network but unlimited over Wi-Fi. So, if by chance you are not within range of a connectible Wi-Fi network you can still get your updates via your PC.

iTunes isn’t just a desktop communications client for the iPhone it’s also nicely integrated into the iPhone itself. It Allows users to purchase and download music via a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. Podcasts on the other hand can be downloaded via a cellular connection but is limited to 10MB but unlimited over a Wi-Fi connection. However, podcasts of any size can be streamed over a cellular connection so even though you can’t store it on the iPhone itself you can at least listen to a podcast at any time.

Love it or hate it iTunes really is the best when it comes to syncing data and media to and from a device. The seamless integration of iTunes with the iPhone is part of what makes the iPhone such a pleasure to use.

Prepping for an easier transition
Moving from one device to another is never a simple task, but if you’re properly prepared you can at least have a relatively painless transition. So to begin with as few problems as possible the first thing you should do is move your PIM data from your WM device to your PC. Being a Windows Mobile Standard or Professional (Smartphone or Pocket PC) user you should be no stranger to ActiveSync to connect and sync WM devices to PCs. Along with this you should also have Microsoft’s Outlook installed on your PC to keep all your PIM data stored in it’s proper format. If you’ve never done so before, now is the time to open ActiveSync and set it to transfer all your PIM data from your device to Outlook and sync your WM device one last time. Note: If you use a hosted exchange solution then you should just make sure your PCs PIM data in Outlook is up to date as a tethered connection at this point is not necessary. If you wish to continue to use your current hosted exchange solution find out if the iPhone is supported. Don’t assume it is just because the iPhone supports Exchange.

Once this is done you should also copy all your remaining data (media files, PDFs, etc) not normally transferred by ActiveSync or Exchange to your PC.
Note: Voicemail messages do not transfer over, so listen to and delete all your messages before you go any further. Don’t risk them getting stuck in the system.

The next step here is to install iTunes. Once iTunes is setup you can then connect the iPhone to the PC. iTunes will then walk you through the iPhone’s activation process (if this wasn’t previously done). To complete the activation process you will need your social security number, a credit card and about 30 minutes in case of unforeseen difficulties. Once you’re finished with activation your iPhone is now ready for use. At any time you can rename your iPhone by double clicking on the iPhone’s name in the Devices selection in iTunes. That name is how your iPhone will be labeled and recognized in iTunes every time it’s connected to a PC.

PIM Data
Since your PIM data is safe and sound on your PC, and with your newly activated iPhone ready for use, we can now get that data to it’s new home on the iPhone where it belongs. This is not a hard task by any means and requires no real effort at all. Leaving the iPhone connected to the PC first go to the iPhone’s Info Pane in iTunes. From there you’ll select sync to Outlook for both Contacts and Calendars in the drop-down menu, click on the Apply button to sync and you’re done.

This is a pretty straight forward setup on the iPhone. Tap Settings then “Mail, Contacts, Calendar” and your given a list of the 5 major email providers plus an option for all others. Simply select the type of account and provide your account information for each one. If you use Outlook to get your email on your PC you can use iTunes to transfer those settings to the iPhone. From the Mail Accounts section in the iPhone Info Pane check off “Sync selected mail accounts from:” option, select Outlook, choose from the listed email accounts, and click the Apply button.

Note: Remember that passwords do not transfer over, so you’ll need to enter them manually on the iPhone in Mail, Contacts, Calendar section in Settings.

Visual Voicemail
While all phones have voicemail the iPhone is the first to have what’s called Visual Voicemail built in to the device. Visual Voicemail is by no means new as it’s been available to businesses. Visual Voicemail is like caller ID on steroids. When you check your messages you are now looking at the phone number or the names of contacts stored on your iPhone. What makes it really unique is the ability listen to any message at random without having to hear or skip over any of the other messages. This makes it very easy to get to those important message first especially when pressed for time. Another advantage of visual voicemail on the iPhone is that you no longer have to dial into your voicemail service. Messages appears on the iPhone as soon as you touch the Messages icon within the Phone App giving you instant access.

The App Store
The biggest pain with third party software is keeping all that software up to date. Having to remember version numbers, bookmarking software developer’s websites, or waiting to see if you receive an email from the developer with news of an available update for download are now all gone. The App Store is your personal software catalog for all your third party software. Gone are the days of needing to store .cab files on removable media such as SD and MicroSD cards or remember user names, serial numbers, or activation codes. Welcome to a world where notification of software updates are pushed out to you according to what you have purchased and installed. On the iPhone a small red badge will appear with the number of available updates ready for download. This rather efficient and time saving way of keeping your software updated does not take long to get use to and enjoy. From the App Store you can search for and purchase new software titles at any time. Read reviews for any title and post and update your own reviews while on the go.

Photo Management
Almost everyone has photos of some sort and the iPhone is the perfect replacement for those photos you’d normally carry around in your wallet. Getting photos from your PC to your iPhone is relatively easy but if you want some order to things it will require a little setting up.
My best suggestion is from your PC open the Pictures folder or whatever folder you normally save your photos to and create a new folder named “Family”. In this folder you will only put photos of family members. If you need more organization like I do, you can rename your photos by date or the by the person’s name followed by a number to keep things extra tidy. When your done and while your iPhone is connected to your PC go to the iPhone’s Photos Pane. Check off the “Sync photos from:” box and select “Selected folders (### folders):” option. Then from the list check off the Family folder you created earlier and click the Apply button to sync your photos. Touch the Photos icon on the iPhone and you’ll see the Family folder listed right there. The only real drawback here is that any photo rearrangement must be done from the PC, since there are currently no editing tools built into the iPhone’s Photos App.

Pages are rendered just like those on your PC. Unless specified by a the web site you will not be presented with a trimmed down mobile version of that site. You get the full desktop experience at your finger tips. The only thing missing here is Adobe Flash and if you didn’t have it before on your WM device then you won’t miss it here.

Like to keep your favorite bookmarks with you. Just like your WM device you can also sync bookmarks with your iPhone. The difference here is that Internet Explorer has a Mobile Favorites folder that would sync with Pocket Internet Explorer. That folder contained only the sites you wanted on your WM device. The iPhone’s approach on the other hand syncs all of your desktop bookmarks and folders. So if want to keep Safari on the iPhone uncluttered then you might need to carefully pick sites to bookmark on the desktop as they will end up on the iPhone. But if you need everything on your PC on your iPhone without being required to have two copies on the PC then the answer is simple.

Syncing bookmarks to the iPhone is quite simple. By going the iPhone’s Info Pane and check off the “Sync bookmarks with” section and then choosing your preferred browser to sync from. Tap Apply and your done.

Apple’s MobileMe and Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync
MobileMe “Exchange for the rest of us” as billed by Steve Jobs is an online version of the iPhone’s PIM apps consisting of: Calendar, Contacts, Email and Photos with the addition of being able to store files of any type for viewing or downloading to another PC called iDisk. MobileMe like Microsoft Exchange works very well for over-the-air syncing but it does lack task synchronization. If you can live with that and it’s simple functionality then MobileMe should be perfectly fine.
Should you need more than what MobileMe currently offers or don’t like the interface then there are lots of other choices out there. Remember that cheaper isn’t always better, especially in this case. There are a lot of low cost hosted exchange solutions available. Some with lots of extras and some severely lacking in services and storage space, so shop around before you settle on any service. Remember you usually get what you pay for.

…And One More Thing
As of this writing the iPhone is probably the most mobile device available to date. With a few exceptions like the initial syncing of PIM data, updating your playlist collection and the occasional OS update you should never really have to connect your iPhone with your PC on a daily basis. Just about everything else can be done over-the-air. So if your looking for a truly mobile device then this is probably it.


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