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Hands-on Windows Phone (Windows Mobile 6.5)

Gordon Kelly

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Hands-on Windows Phone (Windows Mobile 6.5)

We've largely covered Windows Phone (Microsoft's new suite name to encompass Windows Mobile 6.5, Windows Marketplace and MyPhone) and our first impressions of the beta weren't good. Still, the official launch was today so what are our thoughts on the final build?

Having now had some time to play with it today I figure the best approach is to break this down into the good, the bad and the apathetic. First the good and - despite all cynicism - Windows Mobile 6.5 does provide some worthwhile updates to 6.1/6.0. Most impressive/necessary is the Windows Phone suite itself.

Windows MarketPlace we all know: it's the long awaited app store and while it launches with just circa 40 apps (200 worldwide, we are assured) that should increase exponentially. Furthermore handy features such as 24 hour refunds (how many iPhone owners would like that option?) and five handset licences per app purchase are welcome.

MyPhone is a helpful addition too and brings online backup/wipe/locate much in the style of MobileMe. What's more, text messages can be searched via the MyPhone interface and my personal favourite: the phone can be switched between silent and ring modes which is rather handy should you ever misplace your phone when on vibrate.

On the handset the new Windows Mobile 6.5 Zune-esque homescreen genuinely looks like it was designed in 2009 too and provides handy at-a-glance access to the time, weather, new emails, multimedia playback and so forth. It is also responsive with a genuine feel of inertia - even on resistive screens. Lastly, Mobile Internet Explorer 6 (confusing branding, I know) finally adds tabs, pop-up blocking, full page rendering, CCS and JavaScript support and interestingly Flash Lite support.

The bad? The most fundamental issue that can't be escaped in the Windows Phone offering is that of Windows Mobile 6.5 itself. It simply isn't good enough. What we have is a mobile OS with the same fundamental core as 6.1, 6.0 and 5.0 - wakey, wakey Microsoft! Consequently, while the new homescreen is nice you only need go a few taps before it is jettisoned and you're back in unpleasantly familiar Windows Mobile 6.1 territory.

The honeycomb menu screen also remains a stupid idea being a needless waste of space and something many handset makers had actually removed in favour of a more logical grid array. In fact HTC has already built a far superior experience to Windows Mobile 6.5 with its TouchFLO UI for v6.1. Next if you thought the Zune influences would lead to a better Windows Media Player experience think again. There may be a few more codecs, but it is just as unfriendly to use as 6.1 and hardly ties in with Microsoft's message of making Windows Phone appeal to mainstream users as well as businesses.

Even the Windows Marketplace and MyPhone have problems. The former only allows apps to be installed on internal memory meaning a microSD slot isn't going to save you (bare this in mind on budget smartphones) while the latter requires a premium subscription to do anything other than backing up your handset.

Will things get better? Potentially. Early Windows Phone handsets don't support multi-touch, but capacitive touchscreen support is now there so multi-touch could well surface in the future as seen with the HTC Leo/HD2. There is also fairly extensive manufacturer support with the HTC Touch II, LG GM750, Samsung Omnia II (pictured), Omnia Pro and Sony Ericsson Xperia X2 all launching with 6.5 with free upgrades from 6.1 being made available by T-Mobile, Vodafone and Orange on the Touch Diamond II, Touch Pro II and TG01 respectively.

The apathy? There is nothing here to get excited about. Microsoft would never admit it, but while Windows Phone indicates a more positive long term strategy Windows Mobile 6.5 it is little more than a weak (and late) attempt to paper over the cracks in 6.1 until Windows Mobile 7 rides in some time next year to save the day. This wouldn't be too bad, but the papering is poorly done and there are already better third party skins available. So existing Windows Mobile owners will welcome the new version, but I can't see any cynics being converted to Microsoft's latest OS and Apple, RIM, Palm, Google and even Symbian can sleep easy tonight. Were this a full on review I'd be looking to award a 5, but I'll reserve complete condemnation until we've had the chance to more thoroughly test Windows Phone over a few days. Safe to say, it doesn't look good.

In related news it hasn't been a happy week for Microsoft's Hotmail email service with news that more than 10,000 users' account details have accidentally been leaked on code sharing service pastebin. European account holders were the biggest group affected and Microsoft has advised all users to change their passwords and alter their security questions. Oops.

Update Gmail, Yahoo and AOL mail users have also been found to be part of the leak which is now thought to be the result of a giant phishing scam. Believe it or not, this is actually good news as it would suggest a logic behind those who have been exposed rather than a random security breach.

Link:

Windows Phone

Brian ONeill

October 6, 2009, 8:11 pm

Does it still have that great WM feature were it erases all your phone contacts when you do a sync? That was my personal favourite before i moved to the iphone. I am an MS developer, but WM is like a model T compared to the iphone.

Frankf9d

October 6, 2009, 8:14 pm

Re apps store only going to internal memory "bare this in mind" the word you need is "bear" not naked.





Thanks for the heads - up on this, doesn't look good, I'm genuinely staggered how MS. must spend millions on testing and consulting but can't achieve some really simple things like 'forward a text to many' fifteen year old Nokias could.

DrDark

October 6, 2009, 8:20 pm

Like I said, honeycomb is silly! I was surprised to find out about the internal memory installation restriction though: that's flat out stupid.





Re: Symbian - improvements are already on the way as N97's next update adds kinetic scrolling (which should have been there to begin with, but anyway, it was a major gripe which is now ironed out) among I expect other things.





F**K, Hotmail! Thanks for reminding me! I read that on the train this morning and totally forgot (hardly use my hotmail account anyway, but rainy days etc.)

Oliver Levett

October 6, 2009, 9:53 pm

MyPhone needs a $4.99 one off fee for the advanced functions. Hardly the $99 that you pay per year for the iPhone equivalent!





Also, the honeycomb is actually great. It gives much bigger icons that you'd get in a straight grid and lets you rearrange your icons. Having to swipe about is no worse than on the iPhone, and you can put stuff in sub folders (Office, Games etc) without having to jailbreak! From all the ROMs I've got, no OEM has removed the honeycomb, because it makes perfect sense. Even the latest HTC ROMs use the WM Start Menu, because it's very good. Maybe try it before you knock it as simply another MS blunder?








It's much better than the iPhone in a few ways, namely MyPhone and Marketplace (as you point out yourself).





The "Zune-esque homescreen" has been in WM6.1 Standard since the day it was released, it's nothing new, so clearly you've been blinkered by your mindless Apple fanboism into not noticing anything happening.





You also don't appear to know the underlying OS changes. WM6.5 has a rebuilt memory mapping system allowing a much larger ammount of files to be memory mapped increasing speed of loading. The iPhone core OS hasn't changed in 3 years, it's not even had a facelift. It's had one application added each refresh and yet you seem to believe that this isn't acceptable when MS do it and a lot of other changes.





As far as I know, PIE6 doesn't have tabs (and I've been using it for about a year now)... It also supports Flash and is therefore better than the iPhone, not that you'd actually admit it.





You also haven't grasped any of the recent information about WM. It doesn't support multi-touch, that's an HTC customisation. It's also always supported capacitive screens if the OEM would write drivers for, which no-ones bothered with because resistive has been better up till now for anything requiring any degree of precision.





Clearly then, you've been hiding in your Apple cave caressing your iPhone ignoring anything that threatens your Apple influenced beliefs.

rav

October 6, 2009, 11:00 pm

@Frank


Like the iPhone didn't have MMS and god knows what else for ages. Or how my Hero can't send files without an App. Don't get me wrong, there's loads wrong with WinMo but other competitors get off a lot more easily. WinMo has a lot of features which it's competitors only recently got.

Joe 4

October 7, 2009, 1:26 am

Oliver Levett - well put. This site is so biased towards the iphone but they will never admit it. We all know WM is not as easy to use, but it offers so much more out of the box. The iphone may be ahead in terms of ease of use but WM is lightyears ahead in terms of what it can do.

Ryan131

October 7, 2009, 2:03 am

You keep lamenting the UI and advocating third-pary UIs (eg. TouchFLO, Sense).





BUT - and I beleive it's a big but - the major benefit of WM is it's long history. I can pretty much run any app I please on my X1 from the last 6 years or so because of the long period of stability.





However, I couldn't even update Google Maps on my mum's Touch Diamond2 because it apparently needs a specific version written just for it. Some apps have been out of development for years and just won't get this type of attention.





To sum up, WM might not have the slickest or most finger-friendly UI, but it is the feature that sets it apart from the rest of the crowd, and we're in danger of losing it through trying to clone the iPhone - despite being a completely different beast with an entirely differnet purpose. WM is a tool - not a mass-market toy.





(And the haters don't do MS any favours - bashing on Vista for *having* a slick interface, and bashing on Mobile for *not*!)

DrDark

October 7, 2009, 3:30 am

@Oliver: oooooh, fighting talk :D.


Don't worry, I don't want a fight, was just going to mention why I don't like the honeycomb (it's a partially theoretical and rather silly reason).


I just feel it was unecessary to change the icon layout and actually requires more brain-processing power which will shave milliseconds (I know that's not much but it adds up) off my menu navigation time. The human brain can just more easily process the rows and columns in a grid view. It's not like we won't recognise the icon/name of the app we're looking for now that it's in honeycomb formation, but we may be just a fraction slower at it...

Scott Williamson

October 7, 2009, 3:52 am

@Patel, Oliver. When are you guys going to get it, its not about feature count and technical details, its about user experience. The iphone certainly has its faults, but it offers the best, easiest user experience and WM cannot compare. RIM and Symbian suffer from the same issue and their future is not looking good.

Gordon394

October 7, 2009, 5:20 am

@Oliver Levett - so we meet again with your wonderful swipes and broad generalisations. It makes me laugh since I was recently labelled anti-Apple for these articles:





http://www.trustedreviews.com/...


http://www.trustedreviews.com/...





But one negative word about a Microsoft product and I'm an Apple fanboy. I say this in the nicest possible way, but GROW UP! Furthermore, your knowledge of Windows Mobile is remarkable given you haven't actually tried it.





Honeycomb does not work well. It is a poor idea abandoned by 4 out of 5 manufacturers at the show. If you disagree then you have to argue with HTC, Samsung, Toshiba and LG because clearly you know better. If you read more closely you'd also realise I said Windows Mobile will be able to support multi-touch IN FUTURE. The HTC HD2 delivers it now through a hack, but Microsoft confirmed directly to me that multi-touch in an option in future handsets. Or would you like to argue with that too?





Mobile Internet Explorer 6 also DOES support tabs, I've used them today but I'm glad 'as far as you know' they aren't there. Rendering is slower than mobile Safari however and no where near as good - so no, it isn't a better browser. Oh and Html5 support? Not so much. Thanks for trying to convince me otherwise though.





It's a shame we have to do this every time. Unfortunately you seem unable to grasp we are loyal to individual products on a generation by generation basis and the manufacturer of them is irrelevant. Apple makes good and bad products, Microsoft makes good and bad products. We rate the good and criticise the bad - that's all there is too it. The day Microsoft makes a superior product to iPhone OS I will be the first to congratulate them - in fact I'd welcome such an OS spread over a variety of handset form factors and prices. Sadly beating iPhone OS looks very, VERY far away based on the evidence I've seen today.

rav

October 7, 2009, 11:18 am

@Scott


What are you on about? I was simply pointing how MS gets criticised for a missing feature where rivals have the omission brushed over. I didn't comment at all on which is better or why.





I personally would rather have WM's non user friendly BLuetooth implementation than my Hero's total lack of it. Nice UI is great but I would rather have some functionality than none. I love my Hero and Android but it still has it's (few) faults, as does any device/OS.

WyWyWyWy

October 7, 2009, 2:13 pm

It is not just "one negative word" though is it, it is every single WinMo-related (even some non-WinMo-related ones?) article for god knows how long!





And I don't we are saying you are an Apple fanboy, but you are too biased towards the iPhone.





By the way the Mobile IE 6 on my previous phone definitely didn't have tabbed browsing. So maybe there is more than one version of Mobile IE 6.

Oliver Levett

October 7, 2009, 4:07 pm

@Gordon: You know XDA-Developers? Have you seen any of the recent WM6.5 stuff? You know I'm l3v5y? You know I've been running WM6.5 since before any builds got posted publicly?





WM may well be able to support multitouch "IN FUTURE", but I'm fairly sure from the numerous road maps I've got that that will be in something either WM6.5.1, or WM6.6 where the UI should be much more similar to that of WM7, which, yes I do have. Also, WM7 is under the same branding as WM6.5 and as a future release of WM I am fairly sure it will support multi-touch. That says nothing about anything current.





HTC haven't replaced the WM6.5 start menu with their own. They did in WM6.1, though maybe you've not noticed they've upgraded Manila since then?





Screenshots of tabbed IE please? When I see them, and when I have a set of files to prove it, I might believe you. In every single build since 21055 (the last WM6.1 build) I haven't seen tabbed browsing.

Oliver Levett

October 7, 2009, 4:09 pm

Also, I didn't argue that PIE6 was faster or better at rendering than the iPhone OS, merely that it supported Flash (which you've criticised the iPhone for) and yet you don't praise WM for having it?

Oliver Levett

October 7, 2009, 4:10 pm

Oh, and finally, "We rate the good and criticise the bad": yes, in your own blinkered and biased opinion of technology, which seems to be influenced by your bank balance.

Chris Beach

October 7, 2009, 4:35 pm

You compare it to winmo6, tbh they don't seem to have changed much since I had the first WinMo the Orange SPV (HTC typhoon?). When I got the SPV it was miles ahead of any other phone, easy syncing, better web browsing, customisation, apps etc but even then the win3.1ish icons and grey on white scheme grated.





Given the amount of differing handsets using it, I doubt the underlying OS can really be that bad. I think it really just needs the GUI layer redoing from scratch. My worry is if with WinMo7 MS start again, we are just going to end up with another 'new' os with its own issues?





Currently I'm a nokia n95-8gb owner, and I think they've got a much bigger problem sorting Symbian out than MS do, esp if touch devices continue to be the way forward. N97/5800 talk about a half finished hack job!

Frankf9d

October 7, 2009, 5:42 pm

@ Scott.


You nailed it !





I repeat my original bewilderment for Mr Patel, I don't understand how MS are able to lose sight sight of the purpose of these devices, they always want to dominate and skew the experience to only their way of doing things, somewhere between crackers and geeky too often, with a lot of over egging thrown in.





There is no point in refering to what the iPhone cant do, MY point is that Symbian on fifteen year old phones can forward a text, forward to many, I don't care how complex MS can make things.


With mobile phones inc "smart" the ability to do the simple things, simply, must be the starting point, I believe MS is so up itself that that they fail to consider what the end user experience actually is, take the storing of texts, "threaded" may sometimes be useful but no way should it be prime, chronologigal is I assert what the majority of mobile phone purchasers want and prefer, you're right, I have no market research to back this but know it to be so, just ask the bloke next to you at the bus stop if he wants to study a manual before he can make a phone call.





And for the benefit of Oliver et al who when seeing criticism of MS Winmo on this site then conclude that it's motivated by some sort of homo love for Apple/iPhone remember that I and others who buy MS powered phones (currently MDA Vario 1V) want the many crap aspects of the UI put right to improve our experience, or more accurately, RECTIFY the shortcomings.





Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a diferent result each time.


I hope that Microsoft read the reviews here, they are getting tons of free advice and may get well soon.

Simon

October 7, 2009, 7:25 pm

@Frank I recently updated my Touch Dual from WM6 to 6.1 and am totally loving threaded messaging :p

Frankf9d

October 8, 2009, 2:52 am

@Simon.


Really happy for you and pleased to hear it is of some benefit to someone, genuinely.





I don't say it shouldn't exist, I think it's a great option, if wanted or even needed on occasions, I believe, no, I'll be fairer minded, suspect, that MS adding 'extra features' like aping email characteristics to texts without providing an easy ability to forward or 'forward to many' does not help the sale of these products to the wider phone buying public or being equally singular, please me : - )

Moogle Stiltzkin

October 8, 2009, 9:46 am

Hi guys,





I agree the windows mobile 6.5 phones are crummy compared to Andruid and etc.





However don't ignore the HTC Leo that butchered the winm 6.5 to add in their own stuff. The functionality and features of the HTC Leo is so good that you can completely forget about the sour taste winmobile 6.5 barebones left in your mouth.

Simon

October 8, 2009, 2:17 pm

@Frank You can still forward them. Open the threaded message and move the focus onto the message you wish to forward and there you go, the forward button is no longer grayed out.

H Miah

October 8, 2009, 5:19 pm

Windows Mobile is crap, it freezes and crashes. Seems like they stuffed a desktop OS on a phone, but that doesn't work, the user interface is stupid. They should have designed it around the device being a phone, a small device. Not a laptop/desktop.





I've gone back to an "unsmart" phone, calendaring and dealing with txts and calls is much easier and faster, and I can use it with one hand! iphone is expensive, but I am tempted by the ipod touch.

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