Hands-on with Windows Mobile 6.5.3 on the Pharos Traveler 137

Hands-on with Windows Mobile 6.5.3 on the Pharos Traveler 137

Summary: Back in early October we saw the release of Windows Mobile 6.5 and as you can see in my post I was rather disappointed with the release for several reasons. I had limited expectations since we all knew it was a minor point release, but I found it to have even less than what I had hoped for. As pointed out in my blog post I found that lack of customization on the Start page and Today screen and the requirement for a stylus in many utilities and menus, including simply creating a new appointment, to be the worst areas that should have been addressed in the update. Microsoft recently released Windows Mobile 6.5.3 to manufacturers and the fine folks at Pharos sent along a Pharos Traveler 137 (see my thoughts on 6.5 on the Traveler 137) loaded up with Windows Mobile 6.5.3. I captured the updated operating system in the video below.

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Back in early October we saw the release of Windows Mobile 6.5 and as you can see in my post I was rather disappointed with the release for several reasons. I had limited expectations since we all knew it was a minor point release, but I found it to have even less than what I had hoped for. As pointed out in my blog post I found that lack of customization on the Start page and Today screen and the requirement for a stylus in many utilities and menus, including simply creating a new appointment, to be the worst areas that should have been addressed in the update. Microsoft recently released Windows Mobile 6.5.3 to manufacturers and the fine folks at Pharos sent along a Pharos Traveler 137 (see my thoughts on 6.5 on the Traveler 137) loaded up with Windows Mobile 6.5.3. I captured the updated operating system in the video below.

Pharos worked with Spb Software House to create a customized version of Spb Mobile Shell on the Pharos Traveler 137 devices in the past, but with this 6.5.3 version of Windows Mobile you may find you do not even need this software and the review unit I have did not come with it loaded. Windows Mobile 6.5.3 will be provided soon to Traveler 137 owners as a free update so stay tuned for that.

As I showed in the video above, the following are my summary thoughts on Windows Mobile 6.5.3:

  • Start page: You can now tap and hold and then move the application icons anywhere on the display. You cannot move them into folders or remove them from the Start page, but at least you can move them more places than just to the top.
  • Lock screen: From what I can see, the Lock screen has not changed and I personally find the Lock screen to be quite helpful and functional so I didn't see a need for any changes here.
  • Today screen: The Today screen has not changed from the earlier release, but it is still quite useful. I would like the ability to move the different panels up and down or even hide ones I never use and am not sure we will ever see this in a 6.5 release.
  • Touch-optimized drop down lists and menus: Windows Mobile 6.5.3 fixes every single drop down list where I needed a stylus in 6.5 and adds some very functional menus and touch tabs across the top of different screens. I am very pleased that I can select times and switch my clock to 24 hour format with a finger.
  • Notification bar: Similar to the way Google Android notifications work, you simply drag your finger down from the top to access a bar of notifications and common utilities (profiles, wireless manager, battery status, and more). I find this quite useful and functional.
  • Zoom button: I do not remember seeing a zoom button on WM 6.5, but now when you pull down the notification bar you will find a magnifying glass in the top left corner. Tapping on this auto zooms the entire screen to a high level and then you can move the display around to access all parts of the screen. This can be quite helpful to those who are visually impaired and is very fluid.
  • Bottom menu buttons: I have read that some find these bottom buttons to be poorly designed with the rather strange offset placement and basic design, but I personally do find them very helpful. You will also find easy to access buttons on the bottom that are context sensitive and change with the application that you have open at the time.

As I clearly showed in my video I also found the Pharos Traveler 137's resistive touch screen to be as responsive as a capacitive display and I was able to use the device fully with my finger tip and no finger nail at all. I did not expect the display to be that sensitive and was very pleased with this functionality.

Windows Mobile 6.5.3 is a very good update for Windows Mobile and I think if this is what we had seen in October there would have been a lot more positive press for the release. With good hardware, this release may satisfy Windows Mobile users, but I still think Microsoft needs to do a much better job with advertising and promoting the Windows Phone platform.

Topics: Mobile OS, Hardware, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Wi-Fi, Windows

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50 comments
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  • The Worst Operating System

    It needs more than "advertising and promotion" This is a shocking operating system.

    It's the slowest of all the phone OSes because its kernel hasn't been updated since Windows Mobile 5, in 2004.

    How can we say that this is "a very good update", when only such minor and petty things were updated, such as being able to move icons on the Start screen (what every other OS can do).

    Why am I angry that there was no kernel update? Take a look at Android. In the time that it took Microsoft to make this petty update, Android has had 3 updates, between 1.6, 2.0 and the latest 2.1.

    Yes, Android's kernel was updated, so it takes advantage of the new ARM processor's FPU (which Windows Mobile simply does not recognize).

    What is the reason why Android's kernel can be updated in that time frame (between October and January), yet Windows Mobile's is left derelict for 6 whole years?

    Windows Mobile is like a carcass flapping in the breeze. Someone needs to get rid of it!
    Vbitrate
    • Lots of misinformation on your side...

      1. It is not slower than any other smartphone OS. In fact, it has been designed to run on low end hardware, thus being very fast on newer devices. The story about the kernel is wrong, actually it has been updated many times.

      2. Those 'minor updates' adress one of only two shortcomings Windows Mobile has: The user interface. With those 'minor updates', it now gets completely finger friendly. The menu/softkey system has always been a good concept, but it was lacking fingerfriendlyness.

      3. I already said it. The kernel has been updated with every new release. It's still based on CE5.2, but the changes Google has made to the Android kernel are no bigger changes than those Microsoft has made to the Windows Mobile kernel.

      And lastly, Windows Mobile is still BY FAR the most powerful mobile operating system. Not only measured by the possibilities of customization, connectivity etc., but also with small, but important things like for example speed dialing or instant search through lists (inbox, media library etc.), that are still far better on Windows Mobile than on any other mobile OS.
      What's shocking to me, is that Android and iPhone OS still lack such basic features as speed dialing and nobody ever talks about that. Instead, people focus on bashing Windows Mobile for no good reason. Because most of the time, they just have no reasons and most of them probably have never used Windows Mobile for more than a few hours, to see just how many small advantages it has over its competitors, that make it more powerful and convenient to use.
      drphysx
      • WiMo just blows.

        Here is why:

        While some steps are being made to make the OS more finger friendly, the fact remains, that it is still miles behind anything else out there, simply because MSFT insists on keeping the old API's around. A bit of free advice to MSFT, kill the legacy software.

        Right now if I were to buy a WiMo powered device, and attached it to my work's company exchange server, I would have to accept the fact that the Exchange Admin, could enact a policy, rendering my phone incapable of accessing the internet, or even installing applications. Is that convenient?

        Not a problem on Droid or iPhone OS. I can attach either of these devices to Exchange, and not have to be concerned about rouge policies being used to manage company owned devices. Sure the admin could remote wipe my device, but that is easily recovered.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
        • Testement to the lack of security on Android/iPhone

          If the Exchange Admin has policies enabled that are required to be supported by mobile devices, then the iPhone's and Droids that don't have the capabilities to support those policies will not be allowed to connect to Exchange.
          AdamzP
        • Exchange

          An admin that would intsall stuff on your phone or block your internet connection would certainly NEVER allow iPhones or Droids connect to his server.
          drphysx
      • WinMo left in a derelict state

        I stand by my previous comment that the kernel inside Windows Mobile has been left in a derelict state for 6 years.

        WinMo's latest kernel wasn't based on CE5.2. It is CE5.2. That's the same one that Windows Mobile 5 had in 2004.

        This is the main part of the Windows Mobile operating system, but it doesn't recognise modern ARM processors. Windows Mobile still thinks it's in 2004.

        Here's some examples. Snapdragon processors have an FPU unit called NEON (to boost processor speeds), which Windows Mobile doesn't recognize it, and switches it off.

        Snapdragon processors have built-in video hardware that allows them to decode 720p High-Definition video in real-time. Windows Mobile doesn't see it, so it is disabled.

        You'll notice that all Windows Mobile phones that have a Snapdragon processor (like the HTC HD2) have their 720p video hardware switched off. Windows Mobile disables this modern hardware for you.

        As a result, video on the HD2 comes out at a much lower resolution. Waiting for a WinMo fanboi to find an excuse for this debacle. The Android Snapdragon phones (like the Nexus One) can all do 720p video.

        The amazing thing is that some people sing the praises of Microsoft for leaving this OS derelict for so long, as if that's somehow OK.

        Then again, some people love Microsoft's Internet Explorer web browser, which was also left derelict for a similar period, just like WinMo.
        Vbitrate
        • Uh ahh, even more misinformation...

          Windows Mobile is well capable of using newer ARM instruction sets. That's because they have made changes to the kernel, whether you believe it or not.

          Next, the reason why you can't watch 720p video on Windows Mobile devices is not Windows Mobile, it's just Qualcomm and the device manufacturers not providing the necessary drivers. If they wanted to do it, they could without any problems.

          But 720p video decoding on a phone is completely useless anyway. It doesn't eliminate the need of converting the files.
          The only use would be playback via HDMI, but as the HD2 has no HDMI port, 720p playback just makes no sense. It does, however, make sense that HTC did not invest into enabling this capability, thus being able to bring it to market faster and cheaper.

          I don't see anyone sing praises of Microsoft for not updating the OS. Everyone is complining about that fact.
          But Windows Mobile still has some features that make it a lot more powerful than other OSs, and those deserve praises.
          drphysx
          • It Get's No Respect

            The truth of the matter is that the mindshare of the tech media is largely drowning in Google and Apple, and to be honest, there are plenty of people happy with a bit of WinMo, let alone that Microsoft is taking initiative to catch up with everyone else with features that people appear to want.

            I have family which use WinMo and find it perfectly usable, I mean, part of it is networks, part of it is needs, and part of it is using what you know. And, if you are correct about drivers, that sounds alike to MSFT and the fight with Vista to get proper support, something which did not exist from 3rd parties with that launched in January of three years ago now.

            Either way, it'll be interesting to see how MSFT plans to refine WinMo 6.5.3 into 7, which I would assume would cross between improving IE, adding more of a gfx back end, and pushing quality products by there partners.
            clindhartsen
  • RE: Hands-on with Windows Mobile 6.5.3 on the Pharos Traveler 137

    Hey Matt!

    Just watched the first 3 minutes and you already had two serious errors there.

    1. The start menu works very well in landscape mode, the manufacturer can decide whether to enable autorotation fot it (and the users can enable it as well).
    2. You CAN put links into folders, and it's actually pretty easy to do: Just edit the \Windows\Start Menu folder, the same way you do it on desktop Windows.
    drphysx
    • RE: Hands-on with Windows Mobile 6.5.3 on the Pharos Traveler 137

      Just watched the rest and it's fine (though you can actually rearrange the things on the home screen, just not easily, but there's a program in the Mrketplace for that).

      Thanks for the video, I'm always glad to see someone take a serious look at Windows Mobile. Keep up the good work!
      drphysx
    • Understand, was trying to show what typical user would do

      Thanks for the comments. I was trying to show what
      a typical user who bought the phone would see and
      understand there are some rather simple things
      that can be done with a little bit of work. I
      typically do dive into the Windows menu, but don't
      think the mass market buyers will do this kind of
      thing. I was looking for a simple way for someone
      to add folders and organize the Start screen like
      you can in Android and S60.
      palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
      • RE: Understand, was trying to show what typical user would do

        Yes, I understand that, but nevertheless you should'nt say that it can't be done when in fact it is possible to do that (and not too hard actually).

        Anyway, thanks for the video.
        drphysx
    • Landscape Start Menu

      My HTC Tilt 2 (AT&T) running WM 6.5 can go into landscape mode on the start screen when I slide my keyboard out. I also found that many apps were reported to not support landscape operation but in my version of 6.5 the support existed. Perhaps it was 6.1 that did not support landscape operation or the versions of apps that shipped with 6.5 were updated. Either way I have been pleased with the lanscape support on my Tilt 2.
      Larry Huisingh
  • no windows mobile 7

    i am ready to make a bold prediction here and now: there will be
    no windows mobile 7. microsoft just lost its last major hardware
    partner as of today: LG came out a few hours ago and
    announced that half of their phones will go android in 2010. LG
    was the last one with a major wm commitment. so microsoft has
    no partners, no business model, an ancient ridiculous os and
    some vaporware for 2011. i think microsoft's board will soon
    decide to pull the plug on this fruitless endeavor. spending 100
    of millions in R&D when there will be no hardware maker to pay for a
    license of a mobile OS is just stupid. i think slowly but surely even the
    last desperate windows mobile backer (like poor matthew here) will
    have to face the truth: windows mobile is dead.
    bannedfromzdnetagain
    • RE: no windows mobile 7

      Half of the LG phones will be Android... the other half will be Windows Mobile. Same for HTC, Samsung etc.

      So does Microsoft have no partners? No, the have lots of partners for Windows Mobile phones.

      Do they have no business model? No, they have a very good business model for that fast growing market.

      Will there be no Windows Mobile 7? No, Robbie Bach officially said that the next version would look and feel completely different, so he can't have meant WM6.5.3, because that's not 'completely' different.
      drphysx
      • business model

        do you really think their partners will pay redmond $15 a license when
        they get symbian60 or android for free? and how much money can be
        made if (and that is a big IF) they are willing to pay them? 50 million a
        quarter? 100 million? will that recoup their developing costs?
        bannedfromzdnetagain
        • RE: business model

          Yes, they will pay, just like they do now. Despite Android, the number of released/announced WM devices is still increasing, cause the entire market is growing.
          And by the way, Microsoft has the same services as Google, search, maps, mail etc. that will generate ad revenue as soon as they are integrated into Windows Mobile (which will happen with version 7).
          drphysx
          • Android slow to be adopted by the enterprise

            I think Microsoft still has a very compelling
            and competitive product to RIM's BlackBerry
            platform and see them doing just fine in the
            enterprise market. I haven't seen evidence that
            anyone in the business market is adopting
            Android, largely due to limited corporate
            support and security concerns (that may or may
            not be actual concerns).

            As was said, LG has already stated they are
            rolling out a ton of Windows Mobile devices and
            I have seen nothing from them to change this.
            Half may be Android devices, but the other half
            of their smartphone plan is Windows Mobile.
            palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
          • LG

            microsoft and LG announced their "strategic partnership" at the end of
            2008. now, roughly one year later, they change course and announce
            that half of their phones will go android over the next months? you
            say, not a big deal?

            first htc, than samsung, motorola, sony ericcsson, now LG. nothing to
            worry about? if the trend is your friend it doesn't look good for
            redmond, especially if they are not capable of bringing out a
            competitive version of their os pronto. (and not 3 years delayed).

            the enterprise may be slow to adopt android devices because of the
            lack of some security features (something which will surely be
            addressed very soon by an android update - and we have seen how
            fast and how often these updates are coming). but at last count most
            businesses are still on XP as well, so this is surely not the realm to
            refer to to get an idea where the train is heading.

            what has happened really over the last two years? microsoft doesn't
            come out with a modern mobile os and its former partners are turning
            their back on them.
            bannedfromzdnetagain
          • RE: LG

            You got it completely wrong.

            Just because half of those manufacturers' pones will run Android, that doesn't mean that they will produce less Windows Mobile devices.

            In fact, most of them will produce even more Windows Mobile devices than before, because the total numer of devices they're going to release will more than double.

            Hope you're not as bad in math as you are in understanding companies' announcements...
            drphysx