Microsoft announced Windows Mobile 6.5 today at Mobile World Congress in Spain and as a fan of the Windows Mobile OS, I have to say I am pretty disappointed with the update and even more that we may have to wait 9+ months to actually see it on any device. I have seen a few demos of 6.5 in action and in my opinion it just adds the UI enhancements we saw on Standard (non-touch screen) devices with Windows Mobile 6.1 and makes it more finger friendly. There is also an improved web browser (Opera Mobile already gives us a superior browsing experience) and some services that will be supported on 6.5 devices. I am sure we will see some cool devices come out in late 2009, but honestly there is nothing I see here that compels me to start saving up to run out and buy a Windows Mobile device. Over a 9-month period many people may forget about these minor updates and with the Palm Pre, Nokia N97, possible iPhone model or two, and several Google Android products coming out in 2009 Microsoft really needed to step up to the plate and hit at least a triple to keep me excited. You can see a few screenshots of the new OS in our image gallery, but keep in mind that we still have several months until the OS is released so things could still change.
When Windows Mobile 6.1 came out last year, there wasn't much there for touch screen phones. However, 6.1 made the non-touch smartphone 1000 times more user friendly with the sliding panels and fluid Home screen. 6.5 brings touchability and ease of use (at least on the initial layer or two) to touch screen devices. The thing is Samsung, HTC, and Sony Ericsson already did that with their customizations built on 6.1 Professional so there really isn't much new here. There are some finger friendly improvements to menus that should have been there in 6.1. Opera Mobile looks to still have the better web browser when compared to the new Internet Explorer Mobile 6 (where is dynamic zoom and tap to zoom features in IE Mobile 6?).
Here are some things I see missing in Windows Mobile 6.5 that are the most disappointing to me:
- HTC, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson's UI customizations still seem better (don't forget you can even use Spb Mobile Shell to get this kind of custom UI and they are showing off version 3.0 at MWC too)
- Still using resistive touch screens while the Pre, Google Android, and iPhone have capacitive touch friendly displays. Capacitive is much more user friendly and intuitive.
- No or limited upgradeability for existing high end, expensive devices
- No visual voicemail feature
- No real-time syncing solution for the consumer (Apple has Mobile Me, Nokia has Ovi Sync, Android has Google, etc.). Exchange support is still the best on the market, but requires YOU to have corporate or hosted Exchange account.
I'll keep my Palm Treo Pro and HTC Fuze for now since they are both solid devices, but I'll be looking at the Nokia N97, new Android device, and possible new iPhone first before I consider upgrading either of these two devices. It really is too bad Microsoft moves so slow with Windows Mobile because I know lots of very intelligent and talented people there who could blow us away with a mobile operating system. 6.5 should have been what 6.1 was last year and to now still have several more months before it actually ships on a device is just unacceptable. While it may be fine to release updates over years in the PC market, the mobile market just moves too fast today for Microsoft to take this long to update devices.
I still find my Windows Mobile devices to be quite functional and will keep using them because they do offer the BEST Exchange experience on mobile platforms. However, with their licensing of Exchange ActiveSync to many of the other players that could change in the future.