Windows Mobile 6.5 ships today
The OS' key new features
Today’s the day that Microsoft finally unveils the latest incarnation of its mobile phone OS - Windows Mobile 6.5. So what should you expect? Here’s Register Hardware’s quick guide to the latest version’s key features.
Smartphones running Windows Mobile 6.5 are called, simply, Windows Mobiles
While previous versions of the OS made you access programs and miniscule icons using a stylus, version 6.5 is designed to be more finger friendly.
WM 6.5 has two main menus: a quick access list (above) and another (below) to reach to all of your phone’s programs, applications and settings.
The quick access menu helps you to locate your most frequently used phone features, such as voicemail and texts, using a list-style menu. The implementation is a little odd - the menu options look like information text rather than things you select - but easy enough to get used to.
Move apps as you please on the main menu
For example, access voice messages by scrolling up to “Voicemail”. Or read your latest SMSes by scrolling down to “Texts”. Then swipe across the screen to see all the options associated with each menu option.
Click on the Start menu and you’re taken to honeycomb-like array of moveable hexagons, each containing an application's icon.
Speaking of applications, Microsoft has now launched Marketplace, an Apple App Store-esque virtual store from where you can download WM programs directly to your phone. Some of the apps currently available include Facebook and Street Fighter II.
In an attempt to challenge Apple’s MobileMe service, Windows has also added its own cloud-based data backup service to WM 6.5.
The service, called My Phone, offers wireless synchronisation of SMS messages, contacts, photos and emails.
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Living the smartphone dream...
I guess you could say I was chasing the smartphone dream. I sure thought it would be nice to reduce the number of devices I was carrying around with me. I can have a GPS, Internet, Phone (with a decent keyboard) and a portable media player in one device? Please take my money.
Now I have a smartphone and I guess I'm less than thrilled. The phone, right out of the box, is sluggish and feels slow. I would say I have to soft reset almost once a day due to some lock-up or general unresponsiveness. The internet experience is ok, but not even close to a desktop experience. The overall performance of the email/text messaging is so bad that most of the time I actually long for my last phone - I could actually read and respond to a message using T9 on my old phone faster than the text messaging software even loads up and shows me the message on my smartphone. As far as finding applications to add to it, I guess I can say that there sure is a lot of them, but a lot don't seem to work very well and all of them suffer by sharing in the phone's overall difficult to use UI.
In case you haven't guessed yet - Its a windows mobile phone. I couldn't be more disappointed - my phone does everything I wanted it to, but it doesn't do a single one of them thing well. The UI pretty much requires a stylus to navigate (flashback to when iPaqs were actually cool). You can try and operate it with your finger, but the accuracy isn't good enough and the design of the UI clearly only focuses on working with the stylus – especially all the tiny buttons along the edges and corners. Even a lot of lower priced phones (barely smartphones at all) have better touch response and better overall performance than my smartphone.
Let be clear about what I'm not - I'm not some sort of anti-Microsoft shill, in fact I choose a windows mobile phone based on what I thought was a focus on better UI and customer experience from MS in general (especially the core OS and Office teams.) What I've found is that windows mobile is so far behind what people expect, and not even close to what they want. I have a hard time finding anyone now who tells me they love their windows mobile phone - especially anyone who has used one of the other "smart" phones.
At this point I actively recommend against any windows mobile device whenever anyone mentions they're shopping for a new phone. I hope I've saved my friends a few headaches by steering them to different non-windows phones.
I could continue on, addressing the sub-par media player, the unbelievably slow and buggy synchronization, the poor bluetooth performance and more awful UI but I think this is enough to get the point across.
I am somewhat confident that this post will be removed, and I am understanding of why you might do so, but I hope that what this represents - a disappointment and dissatisfaction of a technophile user who is trying to ring the warning bell "Windows mobile will be irrelevant - in the not too distant future unless it re-invents itself as a serious player" and I've seen no indication that this is true.
Windows Marketplace for Mobile
Just reading the Ts&Cs for the Marketplace and turned up this little pearl:
"9. ..... Microsoft may .... b) remove any application from Windows Marketplace and/or disable copies of such application on your device..."
So like Apple, Amazon et al, they are giving themselves the right to kill / delete anything they sell you without any ability for you to veto the operation.
Why would anyone sign up for such draconian conditions when the same products are available from other app stores that don't think they have the right to cripple what they sold you.
Agree with Clive Galway
6.5 is pretty good - had an XDA devs rom on my HTC TD2 for a few months now. It's by no means perfect, but it is now much more finger-friendly than 6.0/6.1 and it still gives you the flexibility of WinMo (i.e. the ability to change or install, well, pretty much anything, cf. the Apple "our customers shouldn't be allowed to mess with their own phones" approach).
Will be interesting to see how it shapes up on the HTC Touch HD 2, with a capacitive screen... one area that the previous HTC phones have lagged behind the iPhone badly is responsiveness of their resistive screens. Hopefully that will now be a thing of the past.
When Microsoft launches a new operating system, it does not automatically force people who get it to have to buy new PCs. However, for Windows Mobile, the story is different. It is an excuse for handset manufacturers to force people to buy new handsets when some of the existing newer ones could just as easily handle an upgrade to the new software! Shameful behaviour! I am surprised consumer organisations have not figured this one out!
Been using 6.5 on my touch pro for a couple of months and it is much nicer.
AFAIK there are multiple 6.5 development threads - a stable and a feature rich version. Stuff is tried out in the feature rich one and some stuff is merged with the main branch, so you may see radically different versions.
The main improvements for me are the finger scrolling built in is very nice, it seems to work in pretty much anything, including pop-up menus, which are also now big and finger friendly. You can also use left and right swipes to switch tabs. This being at the OS level, old apps suddenly become much more finger friendly.
Anyone interested in giving it a go should head over to xda-developers.com - if there is a version of 6.5 for your phone you will most likely find it there.
I agree in part with what some people are saying about 3rd party UIs such as SPB and PointUI, but you cannot really expect them to re-write all the apps you use (ie outlook etc) so they are finger-friendly. With WM going the way it is, they have less and less to code, leaving them to concentrate on the main homescreen (The WM 6.5 one still sucks).
I use PointUI, and have certainly noticed that when you do have to go outside the PointUI interface and use the default WM apps, the difference is not as big as it used to be. The new version of pocket outlook is just as usable as PointUIs kinetic scrolling version and has all the options in it you don't see in PointUI's visually flashy remake.
Yes, WM has taken way too long to get to where it is, and unfortunately needed to be shown a couple of lessons in usability by apple, but ultimately I think it is still better than the iPhone, and getting better every day, but at least with a WM phone you can do what the hell you want with it, rather than the limited choices apple bestow upon you. Now I couldn't lay the same comparison to android, but it's not android phones taking all the damned market share because of iSheep now, is it?