Windows Mobile 6.5 review
The interface improvements are welcome - and long overdue - but the changes are mere window dressing. It's simply not good enough to overthrow Android or the iPhone
Windows Mobile has been in the doldrums so long it's hard to remember a time when it was deemed a modern smartphone operating system. Apple's iPhone OS and Google's Android OS are streaking off into the distance while Winmo bumbles along regardless. With the arrival of Windows Mobile 6.5 – now rebranded Windows Phone – is Microsoft finally beginning to fight back?
We've taken a detailed look at the new operating system – preinstalled on the new HTC Touch2 smartphone – and it would seem that Microsoft, at least in part, has been listening to the critics. At long last, the fiddly, stylus-driven Today screen has been ditched to be replaced by a much more finger-friendly interface.
Surprisingly, Microsoft hasn't opted to go down the custom desktop, or iPhone-alike scrolling-grid route here. Instead, you get a list of large options arranged in a vertically scrolling carousel – and in a break from the accepted norm these aren't icons but text.
Swipe your finger or thumb up and down and the list spins smoothly while the active item appears enlarged, as if it had a magnifying glass held directly over it, complete with further details. The email, for instance, shows new emails. Swiping a finger left or right on a selected item, meanwhile, reveals further options: on the Appointments item, for instance, you get the option to see your latest appointments, or to simply add a new one.
Another key improvement is the new Start menu. Previously, when you hit the familiar Windows icon in the top-left corner, the resulting list of programs that dropped down was small, horribly fiddly, and only usable with a stylus or manicured nails. Now, the entire screen is given over to a vertically scrolling hexagonal grid of icons – think Blockbusters (minus Bob Holness and the clueless students) – used not only to launch applications, but also access previously-buried settings screens.
It's nothing particularly special but it's a huge progression on what went before, and it turns the business of launching applications and accessing your phone's various settings into a far less frustrating task.
There's no jabbing of tiny menu options to unlock a phone any more, with a new mechanism and lock screen. To unlock the phone you now slide an onscreen switch to the left or right. Oddly, the switch resides at the top of the screen, but you soon realise why: it provides space for various status alerts – missed calls, new voicemail and the like – just as it does with an iPhone.
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