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Windows Mobile 6.1 almost 6

It is not every time when we get to put an articles conclusion right into the headline this write-up is the epitome of this phenomenon, so in case you are wondering how many updates does this update to the operating system pack, then the headline should say it all with only one reservation today we will be taking a gander at Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, the edition for communicators; however everything below will apply to the pocket PC market too. For the purposes of this review we will be using the HTC TyTN II as the guinea pig.

Like always, keep in mind that the team of Mobile-Review.com will not send you updates up to OS version 6.1 for Windows Mobile powered devices, nor will we provide any links to the sources where one can download WM 6.1. Unofficial 6.1 builds are already available in the Internet, and not for just one model, mark our words. This bit of info alone should give everyone interested the clues on how to get hold of the new OS.

Names

Let us begin the review with a pretty amusing fact, as even such huge corporation as Microsoft have propensity for mistakes. In the case of Windows Mobile it is more of a blooper that has been brought about by the mess inside the company and lack of proper communication with Windows Mobile device manufacturers. What we are talking about here is the OS name and how they spell it. Probably, this could be a subject for a separate piece, but it is more interesting to look at it in the context of the upcoming OS update, as these are 6.1, 6.5 indexes that actually expose this problem.

With the release of Windows Mobile 6 the company forwent the dot in the OS name, the reason being that over Windows Mobile 5.0s life span, with all its updates and patches, they never got a chance to use the digit standing after the dot. The updates for the OS were released (although werent announced publicly) in the form of AKUs, and in effect had nothing to do with the systems index. As far as mobile professionals were concerned, this method worked a treat two digits, like AKU 2.3, 2.4, 3.0 allowed them to figure out what OS version was onboard and what improvements over the original WM 5.0 it bore at a glance.

For a practical standpoint, the indexing system is of little importance to the company itself; however it is not practicality that matters the most in terms of PR initiatives, it is always better to have all, even skin-deep, updates reflected in the OS name. If thats the case, then they can take their updates and patches to the center stage, for instance, announce a new OS version to the broad audience (while AKU were introduced only to partners and developers).

Nevertheless, Windows Mobile 6 that got deprived of its .0 (after WM 5.0) experienced some difficulties with spelling various documents featured WM 6.0 or 6 and there was no method to it. Eventually, the company is falling back to its old indexing system, using an extra digit to keep track of the current updates.

Today we will be examining Windows Mobile 6.1, and to start things off, we should assure our readers that the fuss about this update that was sparked several months ago is unfounded. In fact, this OS version unveils the companys loyalty to the old course it brings very few changes, but looks smoother at that.

Windows Mobile 6.1

For starters, lets go over the changes that most users will stumble upon a few hours or even minutes into use of their Windows Mobile 6.1 enabled devices.

Getting Started this application can be launched from the Programs menu or via the bar on the Today screen.

This app is meant to make dealing with the core functionality of a Windows Mobile powered device easier. When you open the applications menu you get to the window with a variety of actions you can do, like make a call, set date and time, setup email etc. By and large, this will be your guide through the systems basic functions. However, there is one but to it.

Essentially, it is a selection of HTML-pages with hyperlinks leading to specific menu items that is, you call up the Bluetooth headset setup and see a link to the operating systems standard menu for handling Bluetooth connections. To get back to this helper, you will need to launch it from the Programs again, but jumping to and fro is somewhat irritating we werent pleased with Getting Started usability.

The very idea to create an inbuilt guide and wizard for setting up all core features is stellar, however its implementation in the context of Windows Mobile 6.1 leaves much to be desired. Microsoft has walked the shortest part and simply put a couple of pages with hyperlinks and quick tips together basically, the things that you will read about in any user guide that comes boxed with your device anyway.

In the future manufacturers and developers will be able to modify this application, for this possibility is provided by Microsoft; so, who knows, probably then the idea will finally get a proper implementation, but as it stands today, Getting Started is of no real use and rather rounds out the new versions shallow change log.

Messaging

Auto filling of Recipient fields. A very intuitive feature that makes writing new texts, multimedia messages and emails easier. You just type in the first letter into the Recipient field and then the system offers you a list of contacts that start with it; then you can punch in another letter, and it will shrink the list further. Once you have spotted the name you need, you just pick it and it gets right into the field. For mail addresses, not only does this feature search through your personal phonebook, also engages the contacts you have stored on an MS Exchange 2007 server.

By the way, HTC had this ability implemented some time ago, so new almost all of its latest and greatest offerings (Touch, Touch Dual, Touch Cruise, TyTN II, P3470 and some others) come pre-installed with it.

Fetch Mail. Previously this feature was available only for MS Exchange Server 2007 powered mail boxes, but now this limitation is no more, and the user can employ it for POP/IMAP-boxes (which is what most mail services build upon, including Gmail, Yandex, Mail, Rambler, Yahoo) also you can go for selective message downloading.

With the help of Fetch Mail you can manually choose what messages you want uploaded on your phone, or you will need just their headers etc. You can also select letter type (text or HTML) and maximum size to upload. This way, you can have your device download only headers and then request it to upload only the letters that got you interested.

While this feature is presented as a new ability of the OS, in fact Fetch Mail has been available with most new models for POP/IMAP boxes for a while support for these mail boxes was added in one of WM 6s builds.

Threaded SMS. There is absolutely no doubt that this dialogue-esque layout has been brought to Windows Mobile 6 thanks to the Apple iPhone. Basically, it is the same thing, yet with a handful of enhancements. For example, with Windows Mobile you can delete some messages from the dialogue.

The good thing about it is that from now on you wont see a bevy of separate messages upon entering the Inbox instead, there are contacts that you have correspondence with, by tapping on them you will jump straight to the message tree.

Text of any of the threads in the three can be selected and copied. While the system of threaded messages is pretty convenient, the only thing we are not quite content about is that there is no way to go back to the old-fashioned view there is no such option, that is.

Internet Explorer Mobile

Windows Mobiles bundled browser that one of those few things that mar its performance, Inter Explorer, has gotten one step closer to the user with this update. Although, it still has no tabbed web browsing, and its speed is far from optimal. But now it comes packed with some new welcome abilities.

Zoom Level. Not the most outstanding feat of the browser, however it will come in handy in certain situations. While previously you could alter only the font size, this time around, pictures gets scaled too.

In other words, in the previous version of IE, every time you changed the font size, pictures wouldnt get smaller, but now all things happen the right way. By zooming in or out you can shrink the pages size a little and thus cram a little bit more info into the display.

Page Overview. The feature that has been available with the S60 browser for over a year is now available in Windows Mobile too. Tapping the Overview button in the browser will get your current page scaled in the way to fit the screen bounds, so that you can zoom in on any desired area within the page.

Task Manager. A full-featured task manager display all running programs, as well as CPU and memory load.

Curiously, all owner of HTC-branded devices, after officially upgrading their OS versions to 6.1 wont see this application, for HTC already has one of its own in.

Managed Programs. This application allows for distant installation of programs onto device by, for example, system administrator of your company. All applications that got on your phone this way will be shown in this section.

Mobile Device Manager 2008

Effectively, Support for Mobile Device Manager 2008 is one of the foremost updates brought about by Windows Mobile 6.1. However, the thing is, the average user will not be able to benefit from Mobile Device Manager and will hardly ever notice it. It turns out that version 6.1 is no different from Windows Mobile 6 in this very sense when the latter only saw release, its change list was full of items, nevertheless, the vast majority of them had something to do only with MS Exchange Server 2007 compatibility and operation, so they were pretty much overlooked by ordinary consumers.

Mobile Device Manager 2008 is an enterprise solution that makes mobile device (i.e. communicators and smartphones running Windows Mobile 6.1) management easier. This product enables a companys system administrator or any other man who maintains staffs personal devices to install applications, adjust device settings, beam information back and forth and take care of security without having to take these devices in hands. Putting it simply, this is an effective tool to get a solid grip on the data flow going through your staffs phones.

On the one hand, support for this solution in the new OS version is, without false modesty, a true revolution, for it is a very flexible way for a company to tweak its staffs work not only within but also outside the office. On the other hand, though, the average user, who will be the judge for the new WM 6.1, this Mobile Device Manager 2008 support is nothing but air. Thats why we wont consider it in the bottom line on this update to the operating system.

You can learn more about Mobile Device Manager 2008 here.

As far as all notable changes go, thats about it. But there are other tricks that have been added to the system, which enterprise users and WM professionals might find interesting:

  • Data encryption in the devices built-in storage (whereas WM6 could only protect the data on memory cards)
  • Notifications of extra fees while in the roaming zone.
  • Faster transition between the landscape and portrait modes
  • Speedier user interface

Bottom line

Even after having a glimpse of the updated OS, Windows Mobile 6.1, we cant get rid of the deja vu feeling, as about a year ago, our verdict on its predecessor was pretty much the same the system delivered only a couple of minor changes and that was about it.

But in this case, such attitude wouldnt be appropriate after all, it is not a new OS, but rather an update to the existing version 6. Furthermore, this upgrade is pretty minor, based on what index it has been given (WM 6.1). But this cannot justify Microsofts current policy on is mobile OS the approach when they add a couple of visual enhancements and introduce several changes to the core functionality, without bothering about something more fundamental, can no longer guarantee them success. In fact, Microsoft has a lot of things to do and a ton of improvements to make in its current OS version, otherwise, the amount of work the developers will face with Windows Mobile 7 will be overwhelming, as all these tweaks are terribly overdue.

On balance, Windows Mobile 6.1 is still the same old version 6, but with another digit threw in after the dot. And thats about it. The only visible and helpful change comes in the form of threaded SMS messages, while all other additions are rather an attempt to make version 6.1 look like a real update. If you are wondering whether it is worth switching to WM 6.1 when official upgrades arrive, then rest assured, its not, unless you are thrilled by the iPhone-esque feature for your messages.

Related links:

Review of Windows Mobile 6.0 for PPC (Crossbow) operating system

Artem Lutfullin (artem.lutfullin@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Oleg Kononosov (oleg.kononosov@mobile-review.com)


Published - 21 March 2008

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com

 

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