Windows Mobile 6.5 disappoints; no Start customizations and stylus still required

Windows Mobile 6.5 disappoints; no Start customizations and stylus still required

Summary: Microsoft officially launched Windows Mobile 6.5 this morning and with all the leaks and AT&T releases the information has been out for over a day already. I've had the chance to use both an AT&T HTC Pure and Pharos Traveler 137 running Windows Mobile 6.5 and I have to say Microsoft disappoints me greatly with this release. We have seen more leaked than what was released today so maybe there will be some upcoming updates, but I am disappointed by the lipstick Microsoft gives to us with WM 6.5. The thing is, the beauty isn't even skin deep on this release and I think using Spb Mobile Shell 3.5 gives me a better experience on the Touch Pro2 than Windows Mobile 6.5 ever could.

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Microsoft officially launched Windows Mobile 6.5 this morning and with all the leaks and AT&T releases the information has been out for over a day already. I've had the chance to use both an AT&T HTC Pure and Pharos Traveler 137 running Windows Mobile 6.5 and I have to say Microsoft disappoints me greatly with this release. We have seen more leaked than what was released today so maybe there will be some upcoming updates, but I am disappointed by the lipstick Microsoft gives to us with WM 6.5. The thing is, the beauty isn't even skin deep on this release and I think using Spb Mobile Shell 3.5 gives me a better experience on the Touch Pro2 than Windows Mobile 6.5 ever could. Check out my image gallery and video below and judge the new OS update for yourself.


Image Gallery:Some key screenshots from the Windows Mobile 6.5 update on a couple Windows Mobile devices. Image Gallery: Start menu Image Gallery: Today screen

I think the intent of the Windows Mobile 6.5 release was to provide a more finger friendly user interface on touch screen devices, while non-touchscreen devices remain pretty much the same. I believe there were some backend updates and improvements, but there were not readily apparent. There are four main areas where end users will see changes and these are in the Start menu, lock screen, Today screen, and menus. Let's check out each area in more detail.

Start menu

In the past when you press the Start button or left upper Start icon you were taken to a left upper drop down, similar to a Start menu on a PC. Now when you press the Start button/icon you will be taken to a grid of icons (similar to an iPhone) in different configurations. The default Windows Mobile 6.5 has a 3 wide grid while other customizations may be provided. For example, AT&T has a 4 wide grid on the HTC Pure. At first you may be pleased to see a full screen of icons rather than the desktop Start menu, but that is all that is good about the new Start menu. The icons are randomly placed on the display and the only thing you can do with them is tap and hold to select to move them to the top. That is it! You CANNOT place icons where you want to, you CANNOT add or remove icons, and you CANNOT create folders and manage the icons to create an efficient device. IMHO, this is so ridiculous that I see little value in this new Start menu scheme and find it to be worse than what we have on previous Windows Mobile operating systems.

I recommend you load up something like Spb Mobile Shell 3.5 if you want to truly customize the user interface on your Windows Mobile device, at least until Microsoft pulls it together and provides some actual functionality with the Start menu.

Lock screen

The new lock screen is useful in that it provides you with a quick, glanceable way to view any notifications without actually starting up and diving into the device. You can tap the lock designator on the Start screen or press and hold the End button to lock the device. Notifications will appear, along with the number of each, in a center row and then tapping that icon will take you to the notification. Calendar appointments also appear in the bottom portion of the display.

Today screen

The Today screen is the sliding panels we saw on the non-touchscreen Windows Mobile Standard 6.1 devices that finally appears on touch screen devices. IMHO, Microsoft should have rolled this out at the same time as the non-touchscreen version over a year ago. I think this is a pretty functional display, but if you are using a device like the HTC Pure you won't even see it at first because HTC has their TouchFLO 3D selected by default instead. TouchFLO 3D is actually quite fast and functional so you may not want to deselect it on your Pure.

If you have the Windows Default Today screen selected then there is again no customization available for you to optimize the list of apps and utilities on your Today screen. You cannot move, hide, add, or remove the different pieces and are stuck with what is provided. Many of these sliding panels are useful and I can see people using them regularly, but one thing I have always loved about Windows Mobile was the available customization and that is no longer there in these Today and Start screens.

Menus, apps, and more

You will find several menus that are now much larger and more finger friendly, but these also require that you now tap arrows to continue scrolling through long lists. The worst though is that diving down to this level and lower takes you back to drop downs that require you to have a fingernail or stylus to make selections. This is particularly evident when you try to create a new appointment, manage your regional settings, enter a new contact, or perform many other tasks throughout the device.

You would think by now that a company with a good search product like Bing would figure out how to implement a good search utility on their mobile platform. Wrong, the same lame, limited Search utility is on the device even though it has a new icon that had me getting my hopes up.

The Windows Media Player and Pictures & Videos applications are still the same pathetic ones we have had since the good old Pocket PC many years ago (do you really need me to manually update my library all the time and browse to the most likely photo storage location every single time I run the application?). Hey Microsoft, you have a great media player in the Zune product so why don't you send the Windows Mobile team over there to learn how to do it right?

The new Internet Explorer Mobile browser actually is a nice improvement over the previous anemic version and now you can actually view the full Internet in the program. The automatic hidden buttons are even newer than the version of IE Mobile seen on my T-Mobile Touch Pro2 and for now the browser is just fine for most of my browser needs.

A couple other apps were included, MSN Money (stock ticker), Microsoft My Phone (backup solution), Windows Marketplace for Mobile (follow up detailed post coming soon), and MSN Weather (weather utility).

Closing thoughts

I wasn't expecting a whole lot from this point release, but I was expecting more than what Microsoft delivered. I expected to be able to place icons where I wanted them on the Start displays, I expected to have finger friendly menus throughout the OS, and I expected some attention to the media player, device search, and more.

I am a fan of Windows Mobile, but find very little added value in this Windows Mobile 6.5 release and would never recommend anyone actually purchase a new device just to get this update on their smartphone. We are going to have to wait and see if Microsoft can pull anything out of the hat in Windows Mobile 7, but with the current schedule of late 2010, most likely slipping into 2011 like this release, I think the T-Mobile Touch Pro2 may be my last Windows Mobile device for quite some time.

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

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68 comments
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  • It's a stop gap...

    ...to make WinMo a bit more usable but it just emphasises how much work Microsoft have to do to produce a slick consumer mobile OS.
    Sleeper Service
    • I agree..

      and I hope that WM7 will be offered as a free upgrade on all these devices when it is released. I have watched the videos on engadget and there were some nice touches but was really dissapointed to see some of the old style forms still being used e.g. Dialing Rules - how much effort is it to make them look a bit more modern! To be fair to Windows Mobile it is still a capable mobile OS which, apart from multi touch support and a very dated interface, is probably still on par with the iPhone OS feature wise. I think I will hold onto my iPhone a little longer before considering my next phone as if the Zune team have had much input into WM7 it could be a very compelling device.
      planruse
      • I am waiting to purchase

        The Omnia 2, with WM6.5 I agree, I would hope to be able to upgrade the device to WM7 whne it is released.
        GuidingLight
        • I was thinking of getting...

          the Omnia 2 or the HTC HD2. I think I will wait to see some reviews on a beta of WM7 before taking the plunge back to a WM device. I like my iPhone but I am getting a bit bored at the sight of it, maybe it is time for Apple to release a few different designs because if they don't I imagine other people will get bored too.
          planruse
          • Can't say I'm tired of the design on mine...

            ---I'm too busy using it to look at anything but the screen.
            gfeier
          • Do you not get bored of things though?

            I use the iPhone all the time as well but just like other things in life such as clothes, cars, hair styles, decor, etc you sometimes fancy a change even though there is nothing wrong with them. It is a good device but I feel it has been over rated and there isn't anything that compelling to make me want to stay with it. I have an old 8GB version and if someone was to offer me a 3GS I wouldn't turn it down but at the same time I wouldn't miss not having an iPhone.
            planruse
          • I agree...

            ...the phone market is driven by fashion. No matter how good something is it can become boring.
            Sleeper Service
  • Apple is safe.

    Point release or not, Microsoft is under the gun to come up with something better than this retread if they want to stay in the mobile device business. Make no mistake, the handset makers are not just disappointed, they are steaming about Microsoft's inability to keep up, because it's putting the hurt on both their sales and their selling prices.
    terry flores
  • Finger Friendly needs to be down the list...

    Finger Friendly is a nice to have... Win Mobile needs the following...

    1) STABILITY!! I don't want to EVER, EVER, EVER,EVER reboot my phone... I REALLY< REALLLLLLLLLYY NEVER want to have to re-boot my phone while I am trying to answer a call.

    2) More Capacity! Give me a 200GB HD
    condelirios
  • Were a couple of my complaints fixed?

    I have had a few complaints of things that were basically stupid things that should have been in the phone from the beginning.

    1. I keep my phone on vibrate. I hate ringers and people in offices and the multitude of ringers. vibrate is fine. I had phones before windows mobile that when you plugged them in to charge they automatically switched to ringer since obviously it is charging and you can't feel it vibrate. You have no idea how many calls I have missed because I come home and plug it in and then someone calls but I can't hear the vibrate. Regular phone have done this for years.

    2. When the battery gets low, it vibrates, lights up, tells you hey warning your battery is low. Which ok, so I dismiss and it should go away. But no I dismiss, put it in my holder, it lights up vibrates to let me know the batter is going dead. I dismiss put it in my holder, it lights up vibrates lets me know... this keep repeating until I shut the thing off or it died from all the lighting up and vibrating. I mean I could really squeeze another couple hours just sitting there if it didn't keep lighting up and vibrating and telling you the battery is low. I always found this stupid, the batter is low so use more power constantly letting me know.
    BOUND4DOOM
  • RE: Windows Mobile 6.5 disappoints; no Start customizations and stylus stil

    I seems that they all they have tried to do is COPY iPHONE.
    ankit17.ag@...
    • Copy iPhone? Not Really

      They would have to drastically remove functionality to get down to iPhone level. Honestly, Windows Mobile has a far larger feature set. They just need to repair the stability and get someone to build one with LOTS of capacity.

      BTW.. While finger friendly is nice, NEVER remove the stylus. The stylus allows you to write on the display. You need something that simulates writing with a touch screen phone, otherwise...Who needs a touch screen?

      The trackball on a blackberry works for navigating and as a mouse better than touching the actual screen, since you can actually see what you are clicking on.

      Drawing and Writing on the screen are the major pluses to touchscreens and Windows Mobile does this well. Getting rid of the stylus, just makes that impossible....and makes the touch screen fancy and useless.
      condelirios
      • iPhone has less functionality?

        On what planet do you spend most of your time?

        "There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance," said Ballmer. "It's a $500 subsidized item. They may make a lot of money. But if you actually take a look at the 1.3 billion phones that get sold, I'd prefer to have our software in 60% or 70% or 80% of them, than I would to have 2% or 3%, which is what Apple might get."
        - Ballmer, 4/30/07
        HollywoodDog
        • Leave it to monkey boy to eat his words.

          nt.
          Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
        • So what is the iPhone's market share...

          ...of the phone market an does the iPhone make a lot of money?

          Where's Ballmer wrong here?
          Sleeper Service
          • If you limit the discussion to smartphones then:

            http://blogs.zdnet.com/gadgetreviews/?p=8126

            That is; as far as smartphones go iPhone appears to have the potential to become more popular than Ballmer estimated and if anything the Android is more likely to be adopted en masse due to its open nature and the potential therein. Still; the linked article itself is based on a mere forecast, so it will be interesting to see what unfolds once WM7 is released. For now I'm satisfied with my htc-03a Android...
            rikasa
  • RE: Windows Mobile 6.5 disappoints; no Start customizations and stylus still required

    I'm an IT guy, and chose an HTC Windows 6.1 device 'cause I wanted the functionality to do things like remote server administration.

    If it wasn't for the SPB shell, I would've returned the unit after 2 weeks.

    One of the most irritating things is that the interfaces between modules don't seem to match. Worse yet, you can't turn off what must be the worst predictive spelling features on the planet.

    And why can't IE actually be functional on this thing, negating the need for Opera?

    Maybe this is an HTC thing, but why does the backlight go out when I'm dialing voice mail BEFORE I am prompted to enter my security code?

    I'm sorry... It took me a month to get my W61 phone where I could use it, and even then I'd never give one to my parents. I'm deeply disappointed to hear that W65 isn't any better.

    geek49203_z
    • Before you dismiss 6.5 based on this hopeless article ...

      ... go try it out in person first.

      I actually find 6.5 to contain a refreshing set of updates to 6.1 ... but then I know that 6.5 is a stop-gap release improving WinMo's touch features until WinMo7 comes along.

      The author was, aparrently, expecting 6.5 to deliver the second coming. Alas, his expectations are entirely out of kilter with MS' clearly stated goals of the refreshed OS.

      WinMo 6.5 [b]**IS**[/b] just a refresh of the OS, improving its finger-aware UI and remedying several annoyances.
      de-void-21165590650301806002836337787023
      • Cough, cough, 3rd rate iPhone ripoff, hack, cough

        3rd generation iPhone ripoff too. RIMM's been
        there, done that.
        HollywoodDog
      • Second Coming

        I don't think Matt was expecting the second coming but after several years of development I think it was reasonable to expect that the start page could be customized. Althought it take Apple over a year to get cut and paste.

        I think if Microsoft releases updates on a regular basis they can win over many people. I want to see progress.
        ToddSherman