How do you dial 1-800-FLOWERS?

Say you’re a business that sells flowers over the phone.  And say that, while picking a phone number for your business, you’ve got the choice between 1-800-356-9377 and 1-800-444-4444.  Which do you pick?  You’d pick the first one, because, while 7 seemingly random digits are hard to remember, the fact that they spell “FLOWERS” isn’t.  Unfortunately, on some of the more prominent Windows Mobile devices, it’s pretty hard to dial 1-800-FLOWERS.  This entry will attempt to explain why.

What are these letters for anyway?

As all of you are undoubtedly aware, most of the keys that you use to dial a phone have letters on them.  Ever wonder why?  If you’re a product of today’s world, where teenagers can T9 at 20 words a minute, you’ve probably just assumed those letters are there so you can text your friends.  Have you ever wondered, though, why the 7 and 9 buttons have four letters each while the others have three?  The answer is that the original intent of these letters wasn’t writing text.  On old style phones (for you youngsters, these were boxes that plugged into a wall and couldn’t be carried around with you) there’s no Q nor Z.  So 7 and 9 have three letters, like the rest of the keys.

When phones were first introduced, the phone company assumed that people wouldn’t be able to remember seven digits.  So they stuck letters on the phone and published phone numbers as a combination of letters and numbers.  You didn’t remember “282-5122.”  Instead you remembered “AV2-5122.”  I’m not making this up.  That was my dad’s business number when I was growing up.  (He’s retired now.  Don’t bother calling.)  I assume people eventually figured out how to remember seven digits, though, because this practice eventually fell out of use.

(Edit: It turns out that I'm not old enough to understand how this really started.  I came in late in the convoluted history, and it had already taken some weird turns before my time.  Check out if you really want to understand how this came about.)

Enter the flower

Even though people eventually stopped publishing phone numbers with two letters, marketers quickly caught on to the potential benefits of those letters.  Numbers like "1-800-FLOWERS" arrived immediately thereafter.  I don’t know exactly when these sorts of personalized phone numbers started showing up, but they’ve been around for at least 30 years.  This is probably why none of them have either a Q or a Z in their name.  You had to be able to type them on of those old style phones that don’t have those letters.

I wouldn’t say that these sorts of numbers have ever been common.  No business directory I’ve ever seen has had even 5% of their numbers this way.  But they’ve always been around and still are today, even though now URLs are more important than phone numbers.  I imagine they’ll be around forever.

So, if this personalized phone number concept has been around for decades and probably will be around for decades to come, how could Windows Mobile make it not work?

Exit the flower, enter the QWERTY Smartphone

First, let me say that “the 1-800-FLOWERS problem” is limited to a certain class of Windows Mobile Smartphones.  All PocketPC Phones and all 12 key Smartphones can dial 1-800-FLOWERS just fine.  It’s QWERTY Smartphones like the Moto Q, the Samsung BlackJack, and the T-Mobile Dash that have difficulty.  We’re absolutely aware of the issue.  We’ve been discussing it since the day Moto showed us their first sketches of the Q, and we’ve been working on various solutions.  But we don’t have anything for you yet. 

The trouble is, there are two features vying for use of the buttons, and 1-800-FLOWERS is the less important of them.  Now, long time readers are probably rolling their eyes and saying, “Here’s Mike complaining about development resources and feature priorities again,” but that’s not my excuse this time.  This isn’t a matter of us not having time to do both features.  This is a problem of the two features actively conflicting with each other.

The feature that’s beating out 1-800-FLOWERS is the ability to easily dial all other phone numbers.  You see, QWERTY Smartphones don’t have dedicated number keys.  All the buttons on their keyboards are letters, and you need to hold the ALT key to get numbers.  Imagine how much it would suck, though, if you needed to hold the ALT key just to dial a phone number.  These are phones after all.  It’s got to be easy to dial numbers on them. 

My solution for this (yes, this is something you can actually blame me for) was to have a table that described which letters were also numbers.  The Dash, for instance, has a 1 on the W key, a 2 on the E key, a 3 on the R key, etc.  So the Dash has a place in its registry that says that W is also 1, E is also 2, etc.  This table is in the registry because different OEMs put their numbers in different places on the keyboard.  None of this needs to concern you, however, because we made our OS be the guy who understands the table and translates it for apps. 

When an app that expects a number gets a letter instead, it asks the OS if there are any other keys associated with that letter.  The OS looks in the table and responds appropriately.  For instance, when a Dash user is trying to dial “5551212” the dialer actually sees “dddwewe.”  When it sees the “d,” it says, “That doesn’t make any sense.  OS, could this ‘d’ be anything else?”  The OS responds, “Sure, the user might think he’s dialing a 5.”  To which the dialer says, “Aha!  That I can use.”

So, what’s the problem?

(All my examples are on the Dash because I have one in front of me.  But the general concept is true on all Smartphones that don’t have dedicated number keys.)  The problem happens when I try to dial the “F” in 1-800-FLOWERS.  On the Dash, the F is the key that has a 6 on it.  So, when you’re in the dialer and you hit the F, the table will translate it to 6.  However, to do 1-800-FLOWERS correctly, the F had better send a 3.  We could conceivably send both for F.  The dialer could say, “I got an F and that doesn’t make sense.  Could this be a number instead?” and the OS could say, “Yes, it might be a 6, or it might be a 3.”  But how would the dialer figure out which you meant to type?  Are you typing 1-800-FLOWERS or are you typing 1-800-678-9012? 

In the end, the problem is that the ability to dial numbers without holding the ALT key gets in the way of dialing 1-800-FLOWERS.  It’s our belief that people dial normal numbers with their phones more often than they dial personalized numbers like 1-800-FLOWERS.  I’m sure I’ll get at least two comments that say, “You’re a bunch of idiots.  All my friends and I ever dial are personalized numbers.  Windows Mobile is doomed!”  But I suspect that most of you will agree that, if you have to choose one or the other, normal numbers are more important than personalized ones.

What can a user do?

If you find that there are only a few personalized numbers that you need to call frequently, you can add them to your contacts and let SmartDial find them for you.  This is my personal solution, because I almost never need to call these sorts of numbers.

In the end, though, the real problem is that there isn’t room to stick a “DEF” on the tiny little key that already has an R and a 3 on it.  If you had a way to see that DEF goes with 3, you’d be able to dial the personalized number.  The lowest tech, simplest solution to that is also the ugliest.   You could get a little sticker that says, “2-ABC, 3-DEF, 4-GHI” etc and stick in on the back of your phone.  A bit higher tech would be to use your phone’s camera to take a picture of a phone that has the letters on the keys and bring that picture up when you’re faced with dialing a personalized number.  (I know you’re laughing at me now.  I can hear it.) 

The coolest user solution would be to have the picture show up on the screen while you’re dialing.  Some clever users on the various Q, Dash, and Blackjack sites have discovered exactly how to do that.  They’ve realized that the picture in the dialer that shows the Mobile Operator’s name is changeable in the registry.  So they have replaced that image with one that shows which letters go with which keys (2-ABC, 3-DEF, etc).  My Mobile Operator partners wouldn’t appreciate my telling you how to remove their branding, so I’m not going to.  But that solution exists if you’re willing to go digging for it.

Is it ever going to get better?

As always, I can’t announce features.  But I will say that the Q is one of the hottest selling Windows Mobile devices ever.  And the general category of QWERTY Smartphones is doing very well.  While we don’t consider the ability to dial personalized phone numbers the most important feature on a phone, we do recognize that it’s an important feature.  So, while I can’t announce features or dates or even promise that anything will be done, I can say that we want to provide a real solution that’s better than the user ones above.

Mike Calligaro

Comments (68)

  1. James Waletzky says:

    Nice article with some good history.

    However, I’m not sure why this is such a problem. As you say, this type of number (e.g. 1-800-FLOWERS) is not super common. In the rare occurences I need to dial a number like this, the soft dial pad on my Treo 700w has all the letters on the button graphics, so I’ll use that. I can get to the soft pad in two one-handed clicks, which is perfectly acceptable in this relatively rare situations.

    Sure, this doesn’t help for "texting" someone, but I have a QWERTY keyboard for that, which is a heck of a lot more friendly!


  2. Steve Finkelstein says:

    Actually the history of the letter originated with telephone exchanges that had names, the AV you mention would likely have started as avondale or some such name then when dialing phones started became AV but you originally asked an operator to connect you to a phone using the name and then 5 numbers.

  3. eric lin says:

    i have an idea. how about getting manufacturers to spec thumb-boards with an additional row of dedicated numeric keys. the sidekick has that, and it doesn’t just make dialing 1-800-flowers easier, it makes all numeric entry easier.

  4. Sounds like a solutions for a touch screen.  Oh right, those aren’t in vogue for Windows Mobile anymore.

    Actually what would probably work the best is another modifier key (like Alt above, or even a menu option, since its not that common) which tells the dialer app that you are dialing a personalized number, and then just write the name out.  Then the dialer app would just have to translate flowers into 356-9377.

  5. bryant says:

    +1 for using the touchpad on the 700w to dial these numbers.

  6. Joe Groner says:

    This isn’t just an issue with "personalized" phone numbers…what about corporate phone directories, which are pretty common?  Berlind complained about this in his Motorola Q series in this post (  This extended review, while full of personal rants, has numerous valid points about the Q.  His whole series should be required reading for the Q team and the Microsoft Windows Mobile Smartphone Edition team.  And while we are discussing rants, you should remind the WMDC team that the Q is "one of the hottest selling Windows Mobile devices ever," as they somehow see fit to leave the Bluetooth sync capability out until months from now.

  7. galt says:

    Maybe this is slightly off topic, but am I missing something?  

    On my HTC Universal (full WM 5 PPC OS, AKU 3.2), using the alpha keys on the *hardware* keyboard to type the "FLOWERS" part of 1-800-FLOWERS yields *nothing*.  This is with the HTC Smart Dialing option enabled or disabled.  The "barely too old for Fisher Price crowd’s" Sidekick/Hiptop device allowed for this basic and useful functionality, what, over 4 years ago?

    Why aren’t hardware keyboards supported for quick phone number lookup (suggest phone numbers as names are typed) within the phone app (w/out having to go into the contacts app) or even for direct entry of the alpha portion of these "personalized" numbers?  It drives me nuts that 90% of my keyboard just goes dead in the phone app.  

  8. Ryan Dancey says:

    How difficult would it be to add a voice-recognition dialer to the platform?

    You say "Phone, Dial this number", then read off the number you want.  A really clever recognizer would translate "Flowers" into the right digits.

    Make the software work with 8 bits too so the Bluetooth Headsets will be able to use it.


  9. Dan R says:

    Hi, Mike.  I’m glad I suggested this topic for you! 🙂

    I completely fail to understand how this is an issue, however.  When I am in dialer mode, isn’t it obvious what I am trying to do?

    Here’s how I’d expect to dial 1-800-FLOWERS naturally on my Blackjack:


    What’s the big deal?

    When I turn off numlock I go from [123] mode to [abc] and, as expected, any number pressed actually produces the number on the hardware key instead.

    If I were to press "L" without the numlock turned off (still in [123] mode), I’d expect a dialer to ignore the keypress (or beep at me to let me know I’m an idiot).

    When I hit the "F", "L", "O", etc., I’d expect the dialer to be smart enough to put the letter on the screen but send the proper digit corresponding to a normal telephone keypad.  That is, A, B, and C would all produce a "2" when sent.

    Sorry… this seems brutally obvious to me.  I tried to do this twice and was completely baffled as to why it didn’t work.

    Since this is a fairly infrequent operation, pressing the numlock to switch in and out of numbers/letters mode doesn’t seem to me to be as great a sacrifice as simply not being able to do this.

    And to put pictures up with a normal telephone keypad ignores the technological advances of Smartphones in favor of the idiocy of Ma Bell’s old designs.

    In a very, very related question — how can I create my *OWN* dialer on a Samsung Blackjack to do exactly what I just said?  I’ll put it out as open source and it will be free and this whole topic can go away….



  10. Simon says:

    You and your friends are not idiots, Mike. That’s what you wanted to hear, right? 🙂

    I found out that the smart minimizing concept really works. I use my PDA for weeks now without any hiccups.

    Some questions someone might be able to answer:

    I cannot send text messages to the number *130#. Because WM first thinks it’s an email address and then finds out that the address is not a valid email address… How can I send text messages to *130# ?

    Why does the PDA not sync with the Contacts application in Vista? Why does it ONLY sync with Outlook? That’s annoying…

    I want to listen music on my PDA. When a call arrives I want it to vibrate. And no applications should play any *bings*, *clicks*, *doings* or anything like that. Is that even possible?

  11. JoeOllis says:

    Mike, as always I appreciate your articles and writing.  It reminds me of the good ole days of Bluetooth.

    I’m developing an app and have the opposite issue on the ‘Q’. The application doesn’t have any input boxes, but I want to somehow trap the user’s numeric input. I’m showing a traffic map with incident flags that are numbered. On a regular SP the numbers are easily trapped and the incident shows when a user presses ‘1’, ‘2’, etc.  However, on the ‘Q’ the keyboard is always in non-numeric mode.  Is there anyway to put the device in ‘ALT’ mode to always enter number values while in our app?  

    If that isn’t possible, is the registry table that maps keyboard letters to numbers accessible to developers?

    Thanks!  I’ll contact you with the app (you’ll enjoy it) when we’re done.


  12. Tom says:

    This bugged me too–especially when I went to dial 1-800-AAA-HELP recently. Arrrg.

    So I just threw this together for my Blackjack….

    Source code:



  13. WMExperts says:

    Mike Calligaro puts up a fairly long blog posting on what seems to be a fairly short topic – the fact that YATQKMS (Yet Another Thin, QWERTY Keyboard Windows Mobile Smartphone) devices like the Q or the Dash don’t have those "ABC", "DEF" etc. buttons

  14. Will says:

    I use a product called DialLetters on my Q.  It adds virtual phone pad to my dial screens with the ABC DEF… to use as reference.

  15. alasdair says:

    I didn’t even register this as a problem – over here in the UK, despite many attempts, the 08000 P-R-O-D-U-C-T  marketing ploy has never taken off  I dial numbers i dial frequently using phonedialler – works a treat.

  16. Matthew says:

    Mike, please explain how to either access the translation table or ask the OS to do the translation as you say the phone dialer does.

    I need to get the numbers when the user is pushing the letter keys, just like the phone dialer. Currently, we translate using a table in the application but a separate table is needed for every model supported, which is not very elegant and creates maintenance work that shouldn’t be required.


  17. galt says:

    Yay!  WM6 resolves the "usless hardware QWERTY" syndrome when looking up a contact to call from the phone app itself!  In fact, even in the today screen the alpha key presses pop up a pretty perfect phone contacts search.  I am very pleased.

    Here’s a suggestion for the next "here’s why we…" post, why does WM (even crossbow) try to force me to send vcards and vcals via MMS?  I literally can’t send these attachments via email unless I cancel the MMS and find the abandoned attachment in a temp folder and then send it from there.

  18. Ness says:


    The two conflicting features seem to be interesting, but I consider the look up table to be a hack that hides a poor hardware keyboard user interface in software.

    In the _perfect_world_ you should disable the software lookup table.  Then make the default phone software smart enough to figure out what each letter that is input into the phone is numerically in a phone number.

    Users are usually smart enough to figure out that when a bunch of letters show up on the screen instead of numbers they need to flip on the numerics switch of the keyboard.

    Hiding the poor hardware keyboard design isn’t the solution in my mind.

    But we don’t live in a perfect world.  I’ve learned that long ago.



  19. rbuckton says:

    Why not have the phone-entry textboxes act like the reverse of standard textboxes, where the default is numeric entry only, and you have to hold down ALT to enter letters.  Letters then would be translated into 2-ABC, 3-DEF, etc.

    Changing the default behavior in this case isn’t too bad since its a direct opposite and has a valid context (phone entry areas).

    This would only be the behavior on mixed keyboards like on the Q or the Dash.  Full keyboard devices like the HTC Universal or TyTn wouldn’t need the support since they have a dedicated number row.

  20. Malatesta says:

    This is how we do it on the Q for Sprint.  Though I have to admit, we shouldn’t have to do it on our own like this, nice to know as always MS is listening at least!

    Now can we CDMA Moto Q users get WM6 already 😉

  21. MikeCal says:

    James, it’s not affecting you because you have a PocketPC, not a Smartphone.  (-:

    Steve, strangely, my dad’s “AV” number was for a city called “Wyandotte.”  That’s why I never realized the city connection.  I got some offline comments though, and put a quick edit in the entry.

    Eric, if I required that all thumb keyboards have a number row, then I’d effectively require that all devices be larger than they are.  I’d rather give OEMs the option to make their devices the way they want and try to solve the resulting problems in software.  Also, a number row isn’t as good for dialing as a grid.

    Dan, we went back and forth on the usability of what you described.   There’s some cognative dissonance to have a key that, everywhere else types a letter and does a number when you hit alt, suddenly do a number and type a letter when you hit alt.  As you said, users can figure it out.  But we weren’t sure that was the case right off the bat and needed to do testing.  In the end, yes, that’s largely what we’ve done in WM6 (I can finally talk aboul WM6 now).  In WM6 you’ll be able to hit the alt key to tell the keyboard, “I know you think I want to type numbers, but I really want letters now.”

    Matthew and Joe (hey Joe!) I’ll find the API you need to call to use the lookup table and post it here.  Matthew, you definitely want to use the built in table instead of your own.  That way you can write one app for all phones.

    Ness, the table is exactly what you’re describing.  The phone software is using the table to figure out what the user wants so that he doesn’t need to type special things.  The trouble is, we believe that the user wants to type phone numbers more often than 1-800-flowers.  If you’re saying that the phone software should magically tell the difference between phone numbers and 1-800-flowers, I’m open to suggestions on how.  As far as I can see, that would require reading the user’s mind, and that’s not technology we have yet…


  22. MikeCal says:

    Two comments have already said this, but I want to make it absolutely clear.  I got an offline comment asking how to dial 1-800-flowers on touch screen device (PocketPC).  On PocketPCs, there’s an option in the right softkey menu to view the number pad.  That number pad has the 2-ABC, 3-DEF images on the screen.  It’s not ideal, but it works in a pinch.  


  23. MikeCal says:

    Matthew and Joe, I went searching for the ISV mechanism for you folks to make use of the number table, and discovered that the story is really messy in WM5.  There is no consistent way to do it across WM5 devices, and no exposed way for ISVs to even use the various things we do have.  )-:

    In WM6 we’ve exposed a mechanism for ISVs to explicitly put the keyboard into number mode (SHSetImeMode).  Given that we’re not helpful for WM5 (and sorry about that), will the new WM6 method meet your needs in new devices?  If not, can you tell us more about what you’re trying to do (you can use the "Email us" link if you don’t want to say publicly) so we can understand your needs?



  24. Matthew says:


    Thanks for looking into it. I’m not surprised the method you mentioned isn’t exposed in WM5, else we would have (hopefully) found it. I can’t speak to whether WM6 serves our need since its been out for just a couple days and I’ve not had a chance to look at any documentation on it and certainly don’t yet have any devices running it, which is the only way to really know what’s going on. I did just search MSDN for SHSetImeMode, but get no results.

    One part of our software is a security screen which accepts a PIN code in a text field. On the Pocket PC, we put up a numeric pad with thumb-able buttons. On Smartphone, we obviously can’t do that, so the keyboard is the only input mechanism. Requiring the user to push Alt to make a number for each character is unsatisfactory, especially when you consider the user never sees the input and thus won’t be able to catch accidental input of a letter. The PIN code is used for a few things, one of which is authenticating with a hardware token that has a 3 try limit before permanent lockout. There’s an extra difficulty added in that we have called GXOpenInput to prevent launching other applications with the side buttons, which also means the whole IME system is not seeing the key presses. Hence, our current approach of translating the key codes through a table. If we had access to the table in the device, then that would relieve us from maintaining our own table for each device.

  25. MikeCal says:

    Thanks Matthew.  I’ve forwarded your scenario on to our designers so they can mull it over.  I asked them if it would be okay to point you at the table in the registry.  But that wouldn’t be good because we moved it for WM6 (I guess the fact that we were planning to move it was one of the reasons we didn’t publish the location in WM5).  


  26. Eric says:

    This is a big deal for me.  No, I don’t call 1-800-FLOWERS every day, but I do send voicemails via my company voicemail system, and you have to spell the last name of the person you are sending the message to.  Nothing like recording a long detailed message, and freezing up when it asks you to spell the last name of the person you are sending it to.

    Unacceptable.  I sure do hope there is a fix very soon.

  27. Matthew says:


    If the table moved between WM5 and WM6, then its just a matter of checking the OS version to determine where in the registry to harvest the table from. That’s still a lot less complexity than checking the phone model and using that to determine which of many table in the application to use, assuming a table is even present in the application for the model on which it is currently executing.

  28. John says:

    You should have taken notes from the Blackberry which had this solved years ago, where I discovered it naturally, and it was intuitive. When I had to dial "FLOWERS", I held down the alt key and spelled, "FLOWERS". Crazy, huh? Could have imagined my frustration when I needed to do it on my brand new Blackjack, "Smart Phone" and found out it wasn’t as smart as I hoped.

  29. Sebastian says:

    Would anyone please refer to a post on how to add/change the dialer screen background? This is one of those things that p*sses me off. Unterstandibly the phone is created for world-wide use, but does Samsung not take the dialing schemes of the US into consideration? Bad part on the companies as well who do not publish their phone # with the letter number. Used to be the case, but I see it less and less

  30. Shawn says:

    And from the book of "There’s more than one way to do it", dial 411 and ask them to connect you to 1-800-FLOWERS.  If you can afford a Smartphone, you can probably afford the directory assistance fee.

  31. Louis says:

    Imagine that, Microsoft making something harder than it should be.

    If dialing personalized numbers like 1-800-FLOWERS isn’t common, then why don’t I just hold down a key while I input text.  Is the Fn key on my blackjack being used for something special when I dial?  

    Just hold Fn and enter the letters.  Why is this hard/

  32. Chad says:

    I agree with what Dan R said.  It should be obvious of what a user would do: hit the [num lock] when one wants to use the letters in the dialers screen.  I’m pretty happy with my Blackjack (except the ocassional lock-up) but common guys, I’m sure Apple figured it out so it was natural for their upcoming release.  It really is to bad that there was NO solution for this, even if awkward.

  33. MikeCal says:

    First, the iPhone doesn’t have buttons, so it’s pretty hard to claim that they’ve figured out the right thing to do on a phone with buttons.  If you’re talking about what their onscreen keyboard does, then sure, but our onscreen keyboards have been doing the same thing for over seven years now.

    Second, I disagree that it’s obvious that you should press the number key to get letters.  What’s obvious to you may not be as clear to the millions of other users of these devices.  One of the difficulties in writing software for so many people is that we can’t just assume that what makes sense to a technical/developer type works for everyone else.  I do agree that it’s the right thing to do, but "obvious" overstates the case.

    Third, as I said above, yes this is precisely what we ended up doing for Windows Mobile 6.  


  34. LuN says:

    I had a Blackberry and it didn’t have any trouble at all with the fact that you could use the Alt key to get letters in a phone number.  And I also supported them in an enterprise environment and it didn’t confuse any of our users, ever.  Anyone who’s just dialing numbers is not even going to try pressing Alt to see what happens.

    This just seems like a huge lack of foresight on Microsoft’s part, and a lack of initiative on any phone manufacturers’ part to get it fixed before shipping their QWERTY phones.  The excuses are interesting to read though, mainly because the logic behind them is so paper thin.

  35. Kenneth says:

    Are you kidding me? You have your engineering team and what nots trying to figure out how to fix this problem? My 2 year old Blackberry could do this without a hitch. In fact, it was so intuitive, I can’t believe MS with all its programmers hasn’t figured this out yet.

    Oh yeah, While I’m at this, you guys should also learn from Blackberry about assigning Speed Dials to Alphabets. not just 1-99. Who the hell can remember number 78??? A for Alfred, Z for Zach, R for Robert, etc.

    I’m really missing my Blackberry just about now.

  36. Karen V says:

    Mike, a big question for ISV’s is:

    Given any keypress, how can our apps find out if there is any other numbers/letters associated with this press?

    i.e.  Press "F" on the Dash, query to find out it could also be a "6"?

    Forcing the input to numeric mode does not solve this problem, we want to be able to take the current press and let our application decide how it wants to handle the keypress.

    Thank you.

  37. MikeCal says:

    Karen, can you give us more detail on the problem you’re trying to solve?  If I give your feedback to the team in question, that will be their first question back to me.  

    So far, all the problems I’ve brought to them have been solved by the ISV being able to choose whether the keyboard was typing numbers or letters.  We’d definitely like to hear about scenarios where that isn’t sufficient.


  38. Chester says:

    @Shawn, great suggestion.  Now I just have to get a directory assistance person to sit on the line with me the next time I’m dialing an automated company directory.  Or the next time I’m accessing my credit card payment system and they ask me to spell out my mother’s maiden name.  Etc…

  39. kaushik says:

    for blackberry its so easy-

    just hold the ALT key down and type in the letters.

  40. Disappointed says:

    Jeez. If I had any idea about this I never would have a bought windows mobile phone.  The black jack is in general a wonderful device, but the other users are right.  My old school b&w tiny screen blackberry did this without an issue.

    and as a software developer, I don’t see why this is so complicated.  You would think that you would put an option in the freaking menu that says "enter letters" that can be toggled on and off through the menu.  how freaking hard is that?

    wow.  what a total failure.  

  41. Mark says:

    I have the new MOTO Q9H with WM6 and have been trying to dial these 1-800-Flowers just to see if it worked like it did on my Blackberry and to my shock i can’t do it at all. i heard that its supposed to work on WM6 but it doesn’t seam to work (lucky for me i have only used it once about a year ago on my blackberry) not a huge issue but seams like a big OBVIOUS over site on MS developers side. yes i said obvious because it’s just that obvious i have done support for some of the dumbest people when it comes to technology and they have no problems figuring this out on there own on there berry’s. it’s sad really I have always like pocket pc’s and most Microsoft software just one small think and i’m annoyed. no one’s perfect i guess

  42. Vik says:

    This is not just a problem for dialing 1-800-FLOWERS which may be a rare requirement.  Where this limitation really stumps you is dialing company dial by name directories.  My palm Treo 650 solves this elegantly by reversing the use of the ALT key while in phone mode.  So if I wanted to input "PAT" to dial by name, I would press "P", "<alt> A" and "T".  Currently, I am testing the T-Mobile Dash and was amazed that this was such a major issue.  But it could keep me from changing to this device for my company.

  43. Nisheeth says:

    This is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo trying to obfuscate the fact that WM has screwed up here. The Blackberry which does not have dedicated keys either for letters/numbers and is a QWERTY which phone works fine when I dial 1-800-FLOWERS exactly the way its spelled here.

    If I dial F – I’m looking for 3, and if I dial 6 – well, I’m looking for 6 you know. How hard is it to figure that out for a computer?

    WM folks – don’t you even look at your competitors’ products??

  44. RobertK says:

    With modern interactive voicemail and customer service telephone systems, this is absolutely a real issue (and one which I feel like I encounter almost daily, which is why I made the effort to seek out a solution).

    It doesn’t matter to me whether one considers this a screw up, or merely an opportunity for carriers (or Microsoft) to show users some love with a friendly and useful fix.

    Mike, you stated that "Mobile Operator partners wouldn’t appreciate my telling you how to remove their branding, so I’m not going to." But why does a fix have to come at the expense of their branding?

    The fix could showcase their branding!

    They (or MS) could easily create a simple app that would download a branded key map (something like what I use on my Dash, see — credit to ‘blue rocket’ on the Q Users forum for the image I tweaked), and would update the necessary registry values accordingly.

    They’d do something useful for their users; their branding would be maintained (and their image enhanced in the hearts and minds of users); and everyone would be happy. What’s so hard about that?

  45. MikeCal says:

    As an engineer and a user, there are a lot of things that companies do that I don’t understand.  I can give them technical solutions to their problems (as we did for the 1-800-flowers thing) and I can tell them how I think things should be done.  But if they say, "No, having my name 20 pixels tall is more important than anything else," then I have to assume they know stuff that I don’t about why such things are important.  Personally, I did the same kind of thing on my Dash as you did on yours.


  46. Jake says:


    Has the issue of dialing letters DURING a phone call been addressed? There are many automated services and voicemail systems that say things like "dial the two keys that correspond to the letters of your state" or "dial the first four letters of the person’s last name"… how do we do this on Windows Mobile while on a call?



  47. Jake says:

    Also, I have a brand new BlackJack II with WM6 and I still can’t dial 1-800-FLOWERS.

    From the home screen, I press:

    1/E, 8/C, 0/?, 0/?

    and then press the "caps/shift" (or "Fn") key to enter "abc" mode and type "flowers".

    The screen then has "1 (800) w" in the main dialer area and underneath it says:

    "no matches: 1800flowers"

    "<Company Directory>"

    So what am I doing wrong? Does this still not work in WM6?

    Thanks – Jake.

  48. Moto Q Rocks says:

    Answer: You have to get an app like DialLetters

    Look at the pictures here:


    Has the issue of dialing letters DURING a phone call been addressed? There are many automated services and voicemail systems that say things like "dial the two keys that correspond to the letters of your state" or "dial the first four letters of the person’s last name"… how do we do this on Windows Mobile while on a call?

  49. Contrailz says:


    Still waiting to hear your answer regarding “DURING a phone call.”

    For crying out loud, one of the oldest and most widely used corporate voicemail systems in the World, AUDIX, uses letter prompts.  Press * D to delete, Press * F to forward, etc.  Duh!  It yields my business productivity targeted Blackjack totally useless in retrieving work related corporate voicemails!  Unless of course I’m looking at yet another phone with traditional keys (or guess right!).

    Regarding the new Blackjack II, can anyone confirm if this has been fixed (both during a phone call, and in dialing alpha-numeric phone numbers)?

    Biggest oversight ever!  For the love of…

  50. MikeCal says:

    Jake, are you pressing caps/shift or Fn?  On WM6 devices, it is supposed to be that pressing Fn will switch the mode and let you type letters instead of numbers.  Caps/shift won’t do that, though.  I don’t have a Blackjack II handy to try it on, though.

    Contrailz, during a phone call and during dial are the same thing as far as we’re concerned.  


  51. Kevin Newman says:

    I just tried pressing Fn and then the letter/number on a blackjack ii, and it did not work. This is lame.

  52. Paul S says:

    Has anyone looked at how a Blackberry handles the exact problem.  Simple – in the phone application when the device is expecting numbes, if you hold the "alt" key and press a letter it sends the tone associated with that letter on a phone.  

    This is more important than for just vanity numbers.  What about telephone systems that ask you to spell the person’s last name.

    I am very un-impressed with WM vs Blackberry.  It seems you are more interested in stupid little tricks like having a picture pop up for each caller vs enabling more sophisticated dialing like – credit card dialing (Motorola had 10 years ago) and internal corporate extension dialing – where an extension in the phonebook gets preceeded by the standard 10 digit number that you call to get to your company and then held in wait for you to press a button and then send the extension number.  This should work for scenarios like that PLUS – situations like a number stored like 555-555-1212 x1234 where the first part is called than the user is prompted to send the 1234 after the call is answered.

  53. Jin says:

    Hey Mike, I have a shadow, and am trying to figure out how to solve this dilemma, I called my jobs automated directory, and when trying to enter the persons last name, brought me to somehting completely wierd, and also, how would I dial 1-800-GETZUNE for example? Is there no fix for this on the Shadow?

  54. Miramarian says:

    It seems to me that you could easily implement a solution to this problem.  Just make it so that when you enter into the dialing screen, the alt key is enabled by default.  That way, if you want to dial a vanity number you simply hit the alt key and type out the letters.  The phone could then translate the letters back into numbers.  That solves the pressing alt to dial numbers problem.  It would be similar to the way the phone knows to use numbers when it is creating an entry into the contacts list.

  55. NickD says:

    I’ve got a BlackJack II. When I dial our company and choose to look up a person by their name, I cannot. I just tried pressing the "Fn" button before typing ‘N’ ‘I’ for Nick. I also just tried pressing the "caps shift" button before typing ‘N’ ‘I’. Neither worked.

    It would seem Samsung did not implement the lookup table feature. When I press "Fn", the mode does change, since the keys ‘E’,’R’,’T’,’D’,’F’,’G’ and so on (keys which double as numeric entry keys) no longer enter numbers. In fact, they do nothing.

    The abc / ABC / 123 text mode indicator does not appear while the phone app is active, so I have no visual feedback.

    To those asking "Who cares?" I certainly do. It makes dialing an unknown extension nearly impossible:

    1st – remember the ‘1’ has no letters.

    2nd – remember ‘7’ has FOUR letters

    3rd – remember ‘9’ has four letters

    4th – start counting the alphabet

  56. Jake says:

    Mike – Any news? This is a daily problem, and VERY frustrating. It’s so easy – just let us use the Fn key to switch between 123 and abc modes like we always do! And fine, when in dialer mode, make 123 the default instead of abc… why the problem??

  57. Craig says:

    Read through this whole thing and gotta say its frustrating when people say who cares… there are ALOT of numbers out there that are advertised as 1800 ZZZ 5555…. as well as the business directory problem.. if smart phones are the way of the business future then why are the phone producers not concerned… these phones are supposed to make our business life easier.. i am finding this one flaw very frustrating

    HTC S640 user

  58. Tom says:

    Just got a BlackJack II and ran into this problem.

    As a pilot, I dial 800-WX-BRIEF to get a weather briefing – I have no clue what that number really is, so was stumped when I tried to call for a briefing over the weekend.

    If I can customize a numeric PIN, I’ll create it as a word so it’s easier to remember.

    And as mentioned before, many automated phone systems expect text input from the phone keypad.

    This IS A PROBLEM.

  59. April says:

    I run into this problem DAILY!  It is frustrating!

    I guess I always thought that when I was in the dailer and it automatically goes into function mode and dials numbers only, that the whole keyboard should go into that mode.  Then if I dial ‘flowers’ on my keypad, the right number associated with that letter would be dialed.  when I go into phone dialing mode, the rest of those keys are currently usless anyway! You’d just have to make sure the numbers are on the right letters on the keypad!

    Anyway, this is infuriating and hope you find a patch to fix it quickly!  

    If nothing else, can’t you just create a new mode/translator where you type in the letters and it tells you the correct numbers?

  60. Moe says:

    Just search for QWERTYConvert on google – simple to use java software that works on most phones.

    You can download trial version from Handango and see if it works for you..

  61. Pentium10 says:

    I create application for Windows Mobile 6, and testing on Treo750. I cannot set numeric input when textbox got control. I tried

    InputModeEditor.SetInputMode(this, InputMode.Numeric);


    SHSetImeMode(p.MainWindowHandle, SHIME_MODE.SHIME_MODE_NUMBERS);

    but neither one works.

    Can you help me?

  62. ipsi says:

    Alternatively, you could just, you know, *remember* which letter goes with which key. It’s not hard. Starting with the number ‘2’, each key has 3 letters, except 7 and 9, which have 4. Very simple. Not as quick as tapping out the name directly, but it’ll do until it’s fixed, yes?

  63. Flower says:

    This post and the comments under here helped me a lot in figuring out a solution to that problem. Thanks a hefty.

  64. Ron says:

    Here we are in 2009 and still there is no fix for this with WM other than to purchase an iPhone.  This could be addressed with a simple letter dial application but there seems to be no will for development.

  65. Sen says:

    This is a nice post. Learned a lot from the post as well from the replies.

    As someone mentioned above, I too would like to set ‘number’ mode for a WM6 Pro device.

    Looks like ‘SHSetImeMode’ and ‘SetInputMode’ methods work only for WM Standard. Please post if someone know how to do this for WM Pro?

    I am sure there must be a way to do this as the device does this already by switching to number in the ‘Contacts’ application. I don’t know how to do this in my C# application. I tried sending EM_INPUTMODE using SendMessage. No use! Any help would be greatly appreciated!


  66. Sen says:

    I reply for my own post. It could be helpful for someone who is looking for an answer.

    After lots of frustrations, I got this working on my Samsung Epix. It is a WM6.1 Pro device with a h/w key board (like a Treo 750). I wanted to set it to ‘number’ mode when I needed a number only input.

    The same SHSetImeMode worked, all I had to was to pass the handle of the desktop window (don’t know why!) instead of the actual window/control that had focus.

    SHSetImeMode(GetDesktopWindow(), SHIME_MODE.SHIME_MODE_NUMBERS);

    There was one guy posted somewhere that he had to pass Process.MainWindowHandle for his HP device to work. I tried that too, but never worked in my Epix.

    I was highly frustrated and thought of giving one last try by passing handle from GetDesktopWindow. I was thrilled, it worked, at least on my Samsung Epix.

  67. FJ says:

    I just bought a Samsung Jack (on Fido) and immediately upgraded to WM6.1; I didn’t really use it all before upgrading.  (I think the Jack on Rogers/Fido is essentially the same as the BlackJack II on AT&T.)  From the Home Screen, pressing 1800[Fn]FLOWERS[Send] dials 18003569377, where pressing [Fn] changes the input mode from numbers and symbols (above the letters) to Upper case letters.  During a call, I can also press [Fn] to change to input mode to Upper case letters; the entry is also converted into the correct 2-9 touch tones according to the International Standard (ITU E.161).  I did not have to change any settings to get this to work.  What do you think is making this work?  Jack vs. BlackJack II?  WM6.1 vs. WM 6?  Rogers/Fido vs. AT&T?  Luck?

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