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Fans of touchscreen Windows Mobile phones must be feeling a little peeved right now. For though the recent announcement of the exciting-looking (and much-needed) update of Microsoft's outdated mobile platform looks great, it seems the most interesting interface improvements - such as the panel-based Today screen enhancements - are so far limited to Windows Mobile Standard.
It's a peculiar state of affairs - I can't imagine why Microsoft has deprived half of its potential market of these features, especially in light of the fact that the new version of its mobile web browser isn't out until later in the year - but there does seem to be one major side benefit to the upgrade to 6.1 - speed. The nice folks at MWg kindly loaned us a pre-production version of their brand-spanking new smartphone Zinc II to experience it first hand.
Though the Zinc II's 500MHz Samsung processor is speedy in itself, the responsiveness of the phone in general use seems to be improved over other Windows Mobile 6 phones with a similar configuration. Even with seven or eight applications running at once - previously a sure-fire way of slowing Windows Mobile down to a crawl - the Zinc II carried on regardless. The camera on this phone is also very responsive - the best I've used on a Windows Mobile smartphone. Click the shutter release and it takes a picture instantly, even at its top 2-megapixel resolution. There's no waiting around as there is on my HTC TyTN II or even the HP 614c.
The performance boost is certainly a big bonus, though: no longer do you have to keep switching to the Task Manager to keep things running smoothly - you can simply use the phone as it was intended; there's no twiddling your thumbs while you stare at the Windows Mobile hourglass here. And the lack of Microsoft user interface improvements is mitigated a little by the inclusion of a proprietary Quick Launch application. Activated using a button on the side of the Zinc II, this provides thumb/finger access to common applications and functions. The first screen simply offers four simple shortcuts - to Windows Media Player, the Pictures and Videos application, the camera and games. Swipe your finger across the screen and a slick rotating animation reveals more shortcuts, with further configurable application and contact screens beyond.