The recent success of the Apple iPhone in the consumer market has created an interest in many Windows Mobile users to find ways to leverage the touch-screen interface of Windows Mobile Classic and Professional devices to gain a "finger-friendly" approach to interaction. HTC has introduced the "Touch FLO" approach with the "Cube" and a specialized Today Screen, and other software vendors and developers have been experimenting with redesigned user interfaces. One such vendor moving to the forefront of this new user experience is VITO Technology. VITO has put together 3 specific applications in an attempt to "iPhone-ize" the Windows Mobile experience in FunContact, GoodWin and ZoomBoard.
As a longtime Pocket PC/Windows Mobile Professional user, I have always been quite comfortable in using a stylus and D-Pad for navigation and interaction. I was, however, intrigued by the idea of "letting my fingers do the walking" on my device, so I decided to give it a go and try out all three of these applications. I was interested in these for both function and form, testing usability as well as the stylistic "bells and whistles" that would impress myself, friends and colleagues. I decided to start with FunContact.
As the name suggests, FunContact attempts to add a little fun as well as function to the process of working with your Outlook Mobile contacts. In order to do this, FunContact has arranged the user interface in a way that makes finger-based navigation possible.
- Easy access to contact information;
- Large, readable text;
- "Wow-factor" screen animations.
Installing FunContact was no problem on my device. One thing all users should be aware of, however, is that the installation remaps the "Contacts" softkey from the Today Screen to launch FunContact instead of the default Contacts application. I personally would prefer this to be an installation option, as I often prefer the default application to remain this way and to use other applications as I desire or need.
Once launched, FunContact brings you to an initial "Rolodex-like" main screen that lists your contacts. By default, they are sorted in "Last name, First name" format (this can be modified easily - more on that shortly). The individual entries are display in a large enough format to allow even "digitally-challenged" (translation - big-fingered) people like myself to tap on an individual contact to display details.
Navigation can occur in a few ways. The D-Pad is still functional in FunContact, allowing you to scroll up or down. There is also an alphabetical navigation area to the right of the main view. For me, this area required a stylus for tapping; the letters were just too small for my fingers and attempts to select a single letter almost always were futile. The third method of navigation provides both functionality and some style. Using either your finger or a stylus, you can scroll up or down in the list using a flick-like movement up or down the screen. The scrolling is a very smooth animation that provides a few "ooh and aahs" when demonstrated to people. The only caveat to this navigation method is that it might require a little bit of practice to make sure not to press on a contact before scrolling (thus opening up the contact). Once I overcame that bit of self-training, I found scrolling was - well, quite fun (thus living up to the name "FunContact").
Selecting an individual contact opens up a window with nicely-presented contact details. In addition, FunContact employs another stylish animation in the form of a "flip transition" to the detail view. I was impressed by the screen layout for details, especially the presentation of the contact photo which I found to be much more legible than the standard Outlook Mobile contact photo.
As in the case with the main screen, all items that should have a touch option are presented with areas large enough to allow the touch action to occur easily. Touching phone numbers initiates dialing, pressing the SMS buttons allows for the creation of text messages and pressing e-mail addresses opens a new e-mail message window. From this screen, you have the option to either view all contact information or to edit the contact. In either of these cases, FunContact uses the standard Outlook Mobile contact screen for your actions.
The main screen of FunContact also provides button-access to some commonly-desired options. The first button allows for the changing of sort criteria. Sorting can be done by company name as well as the first/last name option. The second button brings up a "Favorites" page. To add a contact as a favorite, a large star appears on each contact detail screen. Simply selecting the star adds the contact to the Favorites list. The third button provides a very accessible Call History screen. I found this to be a nice functionality, as I rely quite heavily on call history on a daily basis.
A fourth button displays menu options, all of which were very accessible using my finger or the D-Pad.
The more I used FunContact, the more I became enamored with its usability. As someone who had come to rely less and less on stylus input for navigation, I found myself moving back to the screen, only I was leaving the stylus behind. I have come to appreciate the function that FunContact provides for user interaction as much if not more than the style it presents.
Pros and Cons
- Easy to use; a minimal amount of "training" is required;
- User Interface is often more readable vs. the default Outlook Mobile contacts screens;
- "Wow factor" is great for showing off.
- Installation automatically makes FunContact the default application from the Today Screen softkey.
You can find out more about FunContact and download a trial version at iWindowsMobile.com.
Making contact navigation fun is always a good thing. Making the overall experience is even better. FunContact has managed to achieve both these goals with an easy-to-use interface, large readable and navigable screens and nice animations. If you are looking for a different approach to navigating contact-related information, I strongly recommend giving FunContact a try!