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Mobile Computing Page: HTC Kaiser / AT&T Tilt

I have decided to devote this little section of my website to mobile technology because of the importance I place on "extensions" of the human persona. Just as the home, moving beyond its role as shelter, is an extension of the body and soul, and the automobile is an extension of our mobility, the computer (or the sketchbook, or the blank canvas, etc.) is an extension of the mind. The telephone is an extension of our ability to communicate. The hand-held computer and the mobile phone, because of their small form and portability, are extraordinarily appropriate human-scaled manifestations of these two "extensions". (Here are some more thoughts on mobile devices as human extensions.)

Before getting into how I use my mobile device, it's important to step back and look at the big picture for a moment: I've found that PDAs, mobile phones and other organizational tools don't substantively help you accomplish long-term goals. These tools are better for short-term organization and tasks. No system/device/etc. can make you stop putting things off and get to the substance of any matter. No device will help you do the "important, but not urgent" things, if you don't have the desire within you to do those things already. In fact, these "organizational tools" can actually impede a person's effectiveness, by encouraging a focus on putting out fires or conveying a sense of urgency, rather than concentrating on the quieter, step by step approach to accomplishing great things.

Mobile Device Hot Fighting History:

PDA --- Mobile Phone
Philips Nino 320 (12/98-3/01) --- No Mobile Phone
Sony Clie T615C (3/01-1/03) --- Kyocera 2235, Verizon (2001)
HP iPAQ 3970 (1/03-1/05) --- Sony Ericsson T610, AT&T (2003)

Converged: HTC Blue Angel (Siemens SX66), Cingular (1/05-5/06)
HTC Wizard (Cingular 8125) (5/06-1/08)
HTC Kaiser (AT&T Tilt) (1/08-current)

Pictured above is my current mobile device, an HTC Kaiser / AT&T Tilt. As is currently typical in the smartphone product category, HTC of Taiwan manufactures a few flavors of the device and then it is rebranded for various cellular carriers around the world. AT&T's version of the Kaiser is notably missing the front face camera used for video calling.

I've been using a PDA to keep track of my life since 1998--even before I started using a mobile phone. It is interesting to think about just how badly I wanted a 'converged' device back when I was using my Sony Clie in 2001-2002. I couldn't wait to have an excellent PDA with phone functionality. After a few weak starts (the early PPC phones and Treos were not that impressive), the industry has finally started getting it right. The HTC Wizard was the first smartphone I've owned that *just did what it's supposed to*, without a lot of hacking and tweaking. The HTC Blue Angel was almost there, but it had too many bugs to be a truly excellent device (bad bluetooth, no keylock, slow internet, etc.). The Kaiser improves on the Wizard significantly: 3G data speeds, *phenomenal* signal reception (I can make calls from elevator shafts and underground levels of buildings), world-phone (works in U.S., Europe, Japan, etc.), a tilt-screen for viewing the device when resting on a table, the highest-quality build from HTC yet and, holy $#@%!...GPS built-in! Oh, and my beloved scoll-wheel is back--something I haven't had since my Sony 615. Frankly, I can't think of anything to add to this phone; in my book it's an iPhone killer.

HTC Kaiser...the good: Excellent phone signal reception & voice quality, good ergonomics (large slide-out keyboard, tilt screen, jog-dial, plenty of programmable hard-buttons), solid hardware build, feature-rich, multitude of connectivity options (plus it's a world phone), fast internet, GPS works well in both pedestrian & auto contexts, fast processor, ample memory

HTC Kaiser...the bad: Screen is not trans-reflective (visibility in sunlight is not as good as it should be); battery life could be better (I get no more than 12-14 hours between charges); why doesn't it have a dedicated headphone jack?


I use this device to organize my life, keep track of nearly everything, browse the internet, check email, read ebooks and other documents, write, edit spreadsheets, read the news, keep reference materials handy, view photographs and video clips, play games, play music, audiobooks, podcasts and more. Usage breakdown:

Phone: 15%
Email: 25%
Web: 20%
PIM: 15%
Multimedia (video, audio, photo): 12%
Reading Ebooks: 8%
Word processing, spreadsheeting: 5%

On this page I describe some of the applications, system extensions, configurations and hardware that I find useful, with the hope that this information can be of some help to others. I love to optimize (i.e., tweak) the tools I use heavily in my life. So I figure that as long as I've put that effort into it, I might as well share my experiences.



HTC Kaiser (TTyN II) / AT&T Tilt - See description above. I remapped the Push-to-Talk button to run AE Button Plus, a wonderful, light-touch task switching hack that works very well with the side scroll-wheel and OK button. (Also see this thread if you like the older version of the voice recorder, like I do.) Other than that, no button remapping--this is a very well designed device. My only complaints are that I wish the battery life was better, and the screen is not reflective enough in bright sunlight.

Motorola H700 Bluetooth Headset (link) - See picture above. A later evolution of the original HS 810 I used with my Sony Ericsson T610. Still does the job better than any headset out there, in my opinion.

1 GB Micro SD Card - They just keep getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller, and cheaper...

Brando Screen Protector (link) - This is the best screen protector ever made. It's a thick, sturdy, non-disposable screen protector that reduces glare and has a nice, semi-rough writing surface. I've been using the same screen protector (literally the same physical piece of plastic) for over three four years now. I just pull it from my old phone and apply it to my new phone. That's how durable the Brandos are.



These are the programs that make my device work well for me:

KaiserTweak (link) - A must-install for this phone. Allows you to enable HSDPA (3.5G) data speeds on the Tilt (significantly faster than 3G), as well as turn off 'sleep' mode when you're on a phone call. Many other settings as well.

AE Button Plus (link) - See comments above. A wonderful, light-touch pop-up task switching hack that works very well with the side scroll-wheel and OK button on the Tilt. Also includes battery life, 'uptime', and memory usage stats. Free version is slightly crippled, but not in any way that affects how I use it.

S2U2 (link) - A brilliant little program that mimics the iPhone's 'slide to unlock' feature. This is especially useful on the Kaiser because of the fact the the screen is not transreflective, and using the built-in WM6 unlock feature can be difficult in bright sunlight. Highly customizable.

HTC Home Plugin (link) - HTC-designed plug-in for the Today screen. Has tabs for time/alarms, favorite people, weather, launcher, ringer settings, and media player. A nice, free addition to the Tilt's today screen.

VistaHide Battery Guage (link) - A simple color-coded battery guage that remains visible at all times at the top of your screen.

Google Maps Mobile (link) - Google Maps for Windows Mobile; finds your position both by GPS and triangulation; better interface than Windows Live.

Windows Live Search Mobile (link) - A robust mapping and business/people search app. Works well with the built-in GPS. Clunkier that Google Maps Mobile, but still good.

Opera Mini (link) - Ultra-fast mobile browser with good page rendering. Free. To make launching Opera Mini easier, follow the instructions in this thread to install the "StartOperaMini" script. See this thread to make Opera Mini stop asking for permission to access the internet.

Skyfire (link) - Although I prefer Opera Mini for its speed, the Skyfire browser is unmatched in features, including flash video and sound support.

Google Reader Mobile - This is a web driven newsreader that formats RSS feeds for mobile browsing.

FlexWallet (link) - Secure digital wallet. Keep all your personal information *securely* in one place. Syncs with a desktop computer interface. I used "SplashID" on the PalmOS.

Wei's SoftReset (link) - A very small-footprint soft reset utility, so you can avoid pulling out the stylus when you need to soft-reset the device.

Pocket 12C (link) - Everyone's favorite Reverse Polish Notation financial calculator. I use this one a lot--love the horizontal format!

Total Commander (link) - An oldie but a goodie, and a must on any Windows Mobile device. Much, much better than the built-in file explorer. Also has a registry editor.

µBook (link) - Pronounced "MICRO-book". I use this program for my free Project Gutenberg downloads. Works with HTML, TXT, RTF, PDB and PRC ebook files. Image support. Very intelligent and light-touch program. Auto-creates a table of contents and re-paginates based on font size/style. In my opinion, this is the best e-book reader out there. I use the 'Vanilla' skin for a clean, clear reading interface. Unfortunately, it is no longer free, although if you're willing to put up with an intermittent nag screen you don't need to purchase a license.

GSPlayer (link) - A small-footprint media player than can, among other things, be used to stream free ShoutCast internet radio stations over your phone (make sure you have an unlimited data plan)!

Veveo Vtap (link) - Search and view YouTube and other streaming videos on your mobile device.


Useful Websites

XDA-Developers.com - Dedicated entirely to HTC phones. Answers to most HTC questions can be found here.

Tilt Site - All about the AT&T tilt. Get started with Ten Tips for your AT&T Tilt.

Howard Forums - The grand-daddy of all mobile phone forum sites.

Pocket PC Thoughts - A good PPC news site.

Keen PDA - David Keener has put together a concise and excellent site that discusses effective time-management using PDAs. His comments were very useful to me--I encourage you to read the whole thing.

The Brando Workshop, Hong Kong - Their screen protectors are the best, and they offer a number of other great accessories for several PDA models.


Links to old mobile computing pages at JCarroll.net: HTC Wizard, HTC Blue Angel, HP iPaq 3970, Sony Clie T615C, Philips Nino 320.

Feel free to email me with corrections, or to let me know that I'm full of hot air...