Windows Phone 7 Alert: HTC Connection Settings app is bad for your phone

HTC Quietly Evil

Bad News Bears“HTC Connection Settings” is a free app from HTC which comes pre-loaded on some of HTC’s Windows Phone 7 mobile phones and can be downloaded from the company’s “HTC Hub” app or from the Marketplace. Unfortunately, this app suddenly decided that my phone didn’t need data access anymore – talk about bad news.

After enduring more than 6 hours without any data access, I decided to give Verizon a call and see what was going on. With a stroke of luck, Verizon’s Customer Support was very helpful and friendly (unlike some of my past dealings). The gentleman from customer support walked me through several troubleshooting steps, including reprogramming my phone on Verizon’s network, and was able to effectively rule out the idea that it was a problem on their end. He then told me to make sure I had all of my important data  backed up, because we needed to reset my phone to the factory defaults. After securing a backup, I went ahead and reset my phone.

I was skeptical that this would produce anything more than another headache for me, but to my surprise my 3G connection was then fully functioning. This led me to believe that it was either a glitch in Microsoft’s Windows Phone  7 OS (which is unlikely, since such an issue would be widely reported), or a problem with an app I had installed. After doing some internet sleuthing, I came across several forum posts about the same issue being related to the “HTC Connection Settings” app after installing the Mango update.

If your Windows Phone has “HTC Connection Settings” installed on it, I recommend that you remove it immediately. If you come across this app in the Marketplace, do not download it. It’s a pointless app that serves no real purpose anyway, so I doubt anyone would miss it. I know I don’t.

Has anyone else experienced the same issue? Let me know in the comments section below.

Windows Phone 7: Where’s my Browser?

Padlock
Microsoft has locked itself out of the competition.

With the release of the Mango update back in September, Microsoft undoubtedly improved Internet Explorer on their Windows Phone platform. WP7 now features a full-fledged version of IE9 designed specifically mobile devices, which is leaps and bounds ahead of the browser that was available before the update.

However, many WP7 users like me would love to have Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, or even Safari on their handsets. Why are these popular third-party browsers nowhere to be found on the platform?

Blame Microsoft

For some reason, the folks in Redmond have decided that all web browsing on their mobile OS should be based on Internet Explorer, meaning that any third-party browsers must use the IE rendering engine that is native to the phone.

Developers are limited to customizing the UI of the browser, while using the rendering engine of the phone’s native IE9 Mobile. A few developers have done just that, with varying success. A couple of the most notable browsers available in the Marketplace, Browser+ and Browse On, have done well to improve the lacking interface of IE, but still have their problems.

If Mozilla or Google were to bring their beloved browsers to the platform, they’d without a doubt be great. Unfortunately, they have no plans to do so, thanks to the restrictive nature of Microsoft’s platform.

Microsoft has told developers they’re welcome to try to make a good web browser with Silverlight, the technology that most apps are built with on WP7. As a developer, that doesn’t sound like fun at all. It’s not surprising that Mozilla is ignoring the platform entirely.

Google has several apps available for Android and iOS, including Google+. On WP7, Google currently has nothing more than a Google Search application that, upon clicking on a search result, opens the target page in Internet Explorer. Good grief.

It appears that Microsoft’s close-minded approach to third-party support is keeping some of the industry’s largest hitters away from the platform, which is effectively limiting the platform’s ability to grow into a respectable player in the smartphone market. Frustrating third-party developers is a sure-fire way to frustrate your user base, which is a questionable approach for a company that is trying to strengthen their position in a highly competitive market. Hopefully Microsoft changes their stance on this issue, not only for their own benefit, but for the benefit of their users, and for the benefit of the smartphone market as a whole.

The Little-Advertised New Features of Windows Phone 7 “Mango”

MangosConsidering the expansive list of enhancements and new features, I can’t imagine there was a single Windows Phone user that was not excited about the recently released Mango update. We were given native Windows Live, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn integration, as well as enhanced multitasking and Live Tile support, among countless other improvements.

But these features were no surprise, as they were the highly anticipated features that would make WP7 a relevant platform in today’s smartphone market. The purpose of this article is to expose a couple of my favorite new features that were not so well-known prior to release. Not only are these features nice-to-have enhancements, they have simplified and improved day-to-day use of my mobile phone.

Outlook Mobile

Connecting to my company’s Exchange server for email was great before Mango, but the user interface has been pushed over the top after the update. I prefer to configure my Outlook 2010 desktop client to display emails in Conversations, which makes keeping track of email threads much easier. When applied to the smaller screen of my HTC Trophy, this feature really shines. Instead of having to scroll through every email I receive, they are now grouped into threads, as they should be.

While this enhancement is nothing groundbreaking, it does bring Email on WP7 up to par with other mobile phones, further buttressing Microsoft’s relevancy in the rapidly changing mobile market.

SharePoint Mobile

Prior to the Mango update, the native SharePoint functionality was hardly useful, even for SharePoint professionals like me. The original version only worked with SharePoint sites which implemented Forms Based Authentication (FBA), effectively making the feature useless. My company’s Intranet site uses Windows Authentication (NTLM), which meant that I could not access any of my own documents stored in SharePoint, let alone any documents stored on my clients’ SharePoint sites.

WP7 Office Hub
The Office Hub in WP7

While the enhancement was not widely advertised, the Mango update added support for NTLM authentication, and I can now access project documents with a couple taps of my finger. I no longer need access to my laptop and WiFi to get at the documents I need to do my job.

Coupled with the Office Hub integrated into WP7, viewing Office documents on a mobile device has never been so seamless. This is a feature, if marketed properly, that Microsoft could use to gain an edge in the corporate sector, which would undoubtedly help them overtake the iPhone and Android as the mobile platform of choice for day-to-day business.

Conclusion

Microsoft’s not likely to usurp Apple or Android as the #1 mobile platform any time soon, but they are making solid strides to cement themselves in the #3 spot. As the smartphone market continues to grow, the value of a viable third competitor will as well. I love my Windows Phone, and I definitely love how it continues to make my professional life easier. If Microsoft continues to make the right improvements and learns to market these improvements correctly, Windows Phone may establish itself as a successful mobile OS for years to come.