Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition

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INTRODUCTION

    It was back in May of 2005 that we first saw Windows Mobile 5.0; it added a lot of useful features, such as Push email (available via an AKU update), better multimedia management, picture caller ID (which many consider to be worthless), Office Mobile (for Pocket PC), QWERTY keyboard support, Persistant Storage, and better GPS integration. Windows Mobile 5.0 also brought the Smartphone and Pocket PC platforms closer together by having a common, dual soft-key interface.

    Jumping forward to early 2006, we received news of Windows Mobile 6, though of what we saw, it seemed like just a visual refresh: prettier icons, a Vista-like start button, and some "glass" thrown in to boot. But under the skin, what else is new? We’ll take a thorough look at Windows Mobile 6 Standard, or Smartphone Edition as it was previously referred, and see if Microsoft has a winner.

START!

   

The differences between the Home Screen of WM 5.0 and WM 6 are clear…the icons are nicer, the default color is different,and the top and bottom bar have a glass-effect. Don’t forget the Vista-like Start icon.

   

Going into the Start Menu, all icons have been revamped. The PIE icon is the same to that of IE7.


Moving down the Start Menu, we have more revamped icons. I really like the graphic used for Pictures & Video, though the application is the same as in WM 5.0.

I’m not sure if Voice Command is to come standard on WM 6 as it has on my test device – but if so, that’s great news. Did you notice the Windows Update icon? Yes! Finally, just as with our Windows PCs, we can receive software updates from Microsoft.

…and this is what the application looks like. It uses your data connection to look for updates, and you can select which ones you want to download and install.

   

The Settings menu is about the same between 5.0 and 6.

The new internet sharing utility allows you to easily tether your device to your computer or laptop to retrieve an internet connection. From what I’ve heard, it’s quick and easy to use.


Office Mobile is a new addition to WM 6 Standard. We now can view and edit Word and Excel files, and view PowerPoint. How did it work?

Here’s a spreadsheet shown in Excel Mobile. It rendered properly, and when you hover over a cell, it will zoom in to more clearly display the cell contents.

And here’s a shot from a PowerPoint presentation, which also rendered properly. The slideshow was full screen, and very clear.

   

PIE in WM 6 is virtually the same that it was in WM 5.0. New is the blue circle animation taken right from Windows Vista, shown on the right.

Here’s a shot of favorites.

Microsoft changed "Default" view to "Fit to Screen." Makes more sense.

   

Although I’m not one to use the built in calendar application, it has been improved a bit. A visual refresh, plus a appointment preview has been added to the bottom, called the Ribbon.


Also new is an interesting Agenda view that animates when you slide back and forth. Pretty slick.

The account chooser has been changed a bit with nicer icons.

The folder selection screen is also dressed up a little. Still – there is no Home Screen notification for email that goes into sub folders!

   

The inbox screen is mostly unchanged except for the mail icons.

One of the most welcomed features to WM 6 is the ability to resize email text…something so simple, yet so helpful. It leads to much less scrolling on a Smartphone screen. Also new to WM 6 is HTML support in emails. Finally!

Another welcomes addition is the ability to search through your emails using T9. As seen above, I began typing "Lind" to find emails from Lindsay, and the relevant matches appeared.

    Also new to WM 6 is the ability to add an email account much easier…if it’s a mainstream domain, such as Yahoo!, MSN, etc, you simply enter the username and password, and everything else is configured for you. Another new email feature gives you the ability to let you download email attachments right away, rather than waiting for the next sync session.

   

The call history screen also features nicer icons.

Here’s a nice new feature…call history is integrated with contacts.

Windows Live Messenger also got a revamp. I don’t use this service, so I didn’t test it.

It seems that the theme in this review is visual refresh — and even with solitaire, the cards take on a new glossy-appreance.

   

Speaking of visual refresh…here’s the calculator.

And finally, Windows Media Player takes on the Vista Media Player skin. I’m not suprised.

CONCLUSION
    I’ve been using Windows Mobile 6 for a few weeks now, and I can report that my experience with my Smarphone is slightly more pleasant, simply because everything looks more polished. The additional features such as HTML support in email, text size adjustment in email, Office Mobile, call history integration with Contacts, and other features such as remote "Out of Office" state change over Exchange, are overdue features that should have been added to Windows Mobile 5.0 through an AKU update. They are nothing breakthrough. Windows Mobile 6 is a refresh, it’s as simple as that. But that’s ok, too, because Windows Mobile needed a refresh — it’s ugly in comparison with many other device interfaces (the iPhone comes to mind), and it’s time to play catch up.

    According the Microsoft, there are more than 10,000 changes to WM 6 – most of them are small things that, like I said, make the Windows Mobile experience better rounded. I look forward to seeing Windows Mobile 6 on the next wave of sexy devices. Looking ahead, I have my eyes on the next version of Windows Mobile, Photon, which should change the way we think about this platform.




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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.