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Review the operating system Windows Mobile 5.0 (Magneto)

It turned out that we have an opportunity to get familiar with the new version of Windows Mobile operating system before the official announcement and long before the appearance of first devices based on the new OS. In the Internet there appeared the version of this OS for HTC Himalayas (the Qtek 2020, the I-mate Pocket-PC and others, we tested it on the Qtek 2020). Today we publish the updated review. Right away we'd stipulate that we won't tell you in the forum or by e-mail where to download the update of the new operating system and how to install it. However we consider it our duty to introduce opportunities of the new operating system to our readers. The current version isn't a final one, just preliminary. But taking it into account we can have an idea of the version, which will come out in the 3Q 2005. At the moment we have an opportunity to draw attention of developers to errors and weak points, perhaps they will listen to it, and improvements will be taken into account in the final version. Naturally, as soon as the final version of this operating system appears, we'll publish the updated review.

We promised that as soon as the final commercial version of this operating system appears, we'll publish the updated review. Now it's time for it - more than 4 months have passed since the official announcement, and devices based on WM 5.0 do come out only now.

Initially the announcement of the new OS was scheduled for February 2005. But later it was suspended till May. The first device on new OS appeared in September (almost 4 month passed since the announcement). The project name of the new Windows Mobile is Magneto. Let's recall project names of other Windows Mobile versions, and also the announcement dates.

  • Windows Mobile 2005 - Magneto - May 10, 2005
  • Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition - Ozone Update - March 24, 2004
  • Windows Mobile 2003 - Ozone - June 23, 2003
  • Pocket PC 2002 - Merlin - October 4, 2001
  • Pocket PC 2000 (Palm-size PC v2) - Rapier - April 19, 2000
  • Palm PC v1.0/1.2 - Gryphon/Wyvern - January 8, 1998 (3 months later Palm PC renamed into Palm-size PC)

The operating system got the final name Windows Mobile 5.0. As you remember the final name matter was actual till the announcement - the OS was supposed to be called Windows Mobile 2005. Why they finally chose that name? This is the fifth version (see the list above), chronologically the release fell on 2005, with the fractional part Microsoft can release updates without adding long suffixes "Second Edition", "Third Edition" (5.1, 5.2 and so on is simple and clear). So the final name has the logic.

The system requirements are as follows: 32 MB of Flash ROM, 32 MB of RAM. Popular memory size will be 64 MB ROM and 64 MB RAM. As for the processor, the old requirements are valid, i.e. Magneto will have acceptable performance at 200 MHz (due to the new kernel the device works slightly faster with the interface).

The operating system is based on the kernel Windows Compact Edition (WinCE) version 5.1. It differs from its predecessor in Direct3D Mobile (initially optimized for Wireless MMX), Windows Error Reporting, the possibility to work as a USB storage without drivers, improved support of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and so on. That's for the kernel, the shell has been changed much more.

General changes

At the first launch the device asks to set a password (a simple 4-digits or stable, additionally you can enter the code prompt). It's a step in the right direction, many just used default settings, that means the absence of any kind of protection. System sounds got also changed, now they are more pleasant. Besides, to say the truth, old sounds bore. Now system hints float from below, they no longer appear as clouds above.

On the face of it the interface hasn't been changed, it looks almost the same. The cross at the top right corner has got different design. As before it just minimizes launched application instead of closing them. The OS ideology implies that it is the OS that decides which applications the user needs at the moment and which to close, as they are idle (Smart Minimizing concept). The Start up screen looks the same, there are two standard themes available. On the top left you see "Start" button, to the right comes the indicators line, nothing has been changed - connection indicator (GPRS, Wi-Fi, Active Sync), cell network indicator, sound volume, time.

The changes of the interface are meant to provide a single-handed control of the device without using the touch screen. Below the screen there are two soft buttons (two inscriptions). It's possible to assign them to any control buttons as you wish. Given this, the design of all built-in applications has been changed, all options are tied to the soft buttons. At the Start up screen the bottom icons are placed a line above including Bluetooth manager, Wi-Fi and other icons. See the screenshots below to compare interfaces of Magneto (right) and WM 2003 SE (left).

Another moment that facilitates the control of the device without using the stylus is the improved navigation of the joystick, its functionality used to be restricted. We'd provide an example with GPRS settings. Press start button to launch Start menu. Double "Up" and "Enter" to go to Settings. Four times "Up" (Settings bookmark), double "Right" (Connections bookmark), double "Up" and "Enter". Here we change settings and press "OK". With the previous OS you could do it only with the help of the stylus, now hardware buttons can handle it. This method can be applied to other actions - various scrolling functions (screen brightness, for example), ticking in check boxes, field movements.

QWERTY-keyboard work has been also changed - you can do almost all operations from the keyboard (earlier you needed the stylus for it).

The consequences of applied changes are evident. After QVGA screens became the feature of smartphones, there is no need in a separate operating system Windows Mobile for Smartphone. There is little sense in the support of two OS (Windows Mobile for Smartphone and Windows Mobile for Pocket PC), when a single OS combines opportunities of the both. This division was justified by two factors. Firstly, it's the restriction by screen resolution. Secondly, old Pocket PC and Windows Mobile versions were incapable to operate the device by means of the joystick and the digital keyboard. Nevertheless these two operating systems still exist together, the smartphone version will be alive for some time (despite of the fact that WM for PPC can be managed without the sensor screen, not all variety of functions is available without the sensor screen, ergonomics of each OS are different). No doubt, Microsoft means to merge both OS into a single one, well we'll talk about it in the end of the review.

Outlook Mobile

One of the key tasks for a handheld PC is to organize contacts, work schedule, tasks and notes. We'd add e-mail to the list. Naturally, all this stuff should be smoothly synchronized. Pocket Outlook has every means to carry it out. A part of applications from the package got improved, another part experienced no significant changes.

Contacts. The key change here is that now you can attach a photo to a contact without any standard applications. This function emerged in the desktop version MS Outlook 2003, and it logically moved to the mobile version. Contacts opportunities stay at the same level with the desktop PC analog. In the previous version of Window Mobile there were 29 fields to fill in plus a text note. In WM 5.0 you can assign photos and attach personal melodies to separate contacts. There are 37 fields available (additional fields include IM, Company Tel, IM2, IM3, Manager, Govt. ID, Account, Customer ID) and a text note (only for texts, it's no longer possible to draw or make a voice memo). It's impossible to rename the fields, like in desktop version. It can hardly be a weak point, as 37 fields are more than enough, and if something didn't find its field, you can add it as a text note. There are two fields for home and two fields for work numbers, and a single for mobile, you can't change the number of fields like in desktop version. You can't assign a melody for a group, for this purpose use, for example, Photo Contacts Pro . We faced no problems with synchronization, even with the Russian language.

Calendar. This application will assist you in making schedules, its opportunities haven't changed. There are 4 modes available - Day, Week, Month, Year. The synchronization with desktop PC ran smoothly. As before, Calendar lags behind desktop MS Outlook in its functions, the mobile version is much simplified.

Tasks. This application is used to schedule tasks. It's extremely simple and has cut-off functionality against its analog on PC. You can set only terms, priority, task indicator, reminder and category. It's impossible to set the task completion percentage. The synchronization runs smoothly.

Notes. You can write notes by hand, use a voice recorder or type the text from a virtual keyboard. The handwritten text can be recognized (only Latin symbols). There is an opportunity to synchronize notes with desktop Outlook. You can add notes during the talk, in this case they are attached to the respective entry in the call log.

Messages. Unfortunately, nothing significant happened to it, as before it doesn't display HTML in letters - only the text. Design is slightly different (colors of the heading). The developers solved the problem with incorrect view of Cyrillic title, now letters can be displayed in local encodings without any problems. You can set auto encoding identification or choose it manually. Deleted letters can't be re-downloaded, but the letters aren't deleted from the server. We can advise you an alternative e-mail client Web IS Mail 2, all problems with the Cyrillic's are currently settled (this is the best e-mail client for Pocket PC today).

Text messages can be found here. Everything is standard. In the settings you can activate delivery status by default, earlier we had to run the same procedure for each message, which was very inconvenient.

A worthy alternative to Outlook Mobile (contacts, calendar, tasks, notes, except for e-mail) can be Pocket Informant and Agenda Fusion packages.

Office Mobile

The version of MS Office for PDA is renamed from Pocket Office to Office Mobile, as well as applications from the package. Besides we see significant changes: from global changes in Word Mobile and Excel Mobile to emergence of PowerPoint Mobile. I'd note, the developers refused from the compact format for the documents, only desktop format is used. So you can forget *.PSW (Pocket Word Document) and *.PXL (Pocket Excel Workbook) file formats. Let's start.

Excel Mobile. The main innovation here is the support of diagrams (6 types of diagrams available). Other features remain almost the same. There is zoom function and full screen mode, it's possible to freeze panes. You can add/remove interface elements. For example, hide right scrolling bar, hide status bar and so on. Thus, a worksheet is displayed at a large screen surface. Now let's create a new Excel document with a complex formatting (the second sheet depicts a diagram) and try to edit the document in Window Mobile 2005 and previous OS version (Pocket Excel).

Initial file created in MS Excel 2003>>>

File edited in Pocket Excel, WM2003 SE>>>

As you see, the link to the review disappeared, the inserted picture with the logo disappeared, merged cells undid, text in italics got straight, and the most important here - the diagram disappeared from the second sheet. The rest of formatting is kept, there is no problems with fonts.

File edited in Excel Mobile, WM2005>>>

In this case the story is the same, but the diagram remained and now it looks slightly different. In all, there are many format losses, but they aren't that crucial. The main problem with the support of diagrams and charts is solved (in restricted variant you'll hardly make a 3D chart). While saving the system warns you that unsupported formatting might be lost.

Word Mobile. This built-in text application experienced great changes. Firstly, as in case with Excel Mobile the developers refused from Pocket Word Document format. The opportunities to create a new document are like in previous versions - simple formatting of texts, paragraphs, lists, it's impossible to insert pictures, not to mention complex formatting. However when it comes to editing of ready files, the differences are drastic.

Initial filed created in MS Word 2003>>>

File edited in Pocket Word, WM2003 SE>>>

As you see, almost all formatting is lost (header and footer, tables, fonts, comments and so on). The Russian text is displayed clumsy. Let's have a look at changes in Magneto.

File edited in Word Mobile, WM2005>>>

As you see almost all formatting is kept, including comments, tables and pictures. The document kept the style. What is lost - only correction comments and auto shapes, including pictures inserted as auto shapes. In result, we'd mark significant changes, however something is left to work over it. We hoped that by the final release the problem with auto shaped would be solved, however that didn't happen.

PowerPoint Mobile. It's a new application in the package designed to view presentations, it's impossible to edit them. PowerPoint Mobile runs smoothly displaying pictures and basic graphics. Large files are downloaded very quickly.

Calculator. Everything is quite standard about it, nothing innovative. It's an ordinary calc nothing more.


Internet Explorer. Evident changes involve the icon of the protected connection, it is located to the left from the address line. An additional line at the bottom of the screen displays the page downloading status. Now it's possible to continue file downloading, if the connection was interrupted.

The page processing engine hasn't changed, but now you can access the full screen mode. Another innovation is that you can save pictures. It's possible to stretch almost any page into a column ("single column" mode, 3 modes available), without landscape scrolling. There is just one, but serious shortcoming - it's impossible to open several pages simultaneously. We'd name its alternative, MultiIE. It's rather a built-up for Pocket Internet Explorer, which extends its opportunities. There is an integrated Internet-pager MSN Messenger as a part of MSN package.

Download Agent is a new application, which logically and easily automates downloading of software updates directly to the device. Unfortunately, we had no opportunity to try it.


Windows Media of version 10 was also available in Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, however for just few devices. Now it becomes the standard. Its main destination is to be an addition to the desktop WM 10 and get synchronized with it via Active Sync. The only evident difference is that the user can make the rating of tracks by himself (the rating is displayed as stars - one to five).

As for its weak points, there are no equalizer settings, it's impossible to assign the functions to the buttons in the standby mode (this opportunity was supported in previous versions). We advise you to use a freeware application Beta Player (recently this program has been renamed to TCPMP) to play video, which has no match among the competitors.

Picture & Video (earlier called just Pictures). This is a simple program to view photos and run video clips taken by the built-in or external digital camera. There are plenty of alternative photo viewers on the market, which surpass the built-in program. However if you don't require much from the viewer, this one will do.

File Explorer. It's a simple file browser, which is easy to manage. File Explorer is designed to carry out only main operations with files.


It's a part of the operating system, which is responsible for phone functions. There are no fundamental changes, only application design got different. Key moments remained the same. You dial the number from the screen digital keyboard. During the call you can make a note and record the talk. After the call is ended you see its duration. In the standby mode you can see a recent call - incoming or outgoing (the number, the name and the photo, if there is any).

Speed Dial. You need to create the speed dial list by yourself. When you hold a virtual button for several seconds, one of nine numbers is dialed.

Call History. The main shortcoming of Call Log was that the entries couldn't be grouped by callers. That means, if you tried to dial a number 20 times, there will be 20 entries with the same number in the list, so it's difficult to orientate in that history. Unfortunately, the problem is not solved in Windows Mobile 5.0. But that's not a serious flaw - the Call Log features high functionality. The number of entries is unlimited, you can export call history to the desktop MS Outlook

In the phone settings you can choose wav, wma, mp3 files for the ring tone (the files should be stored in Windows/Rings folder). The following call types are available: simple ring, increasing ring, single ring, vibrating alert, vibrating alert plus ring, vibrating alert followed by ring. I'd also recommend you the above-mentioned Photo Contacts Pro to operate personal melodies and photo contacts.

Settings, built-in drivers

Bluetooth. The implementation of this wireless standard (built-in drivers) still remains in embryo. Some attempts to improve built-in stack have been made, but they are far from what we can see in drivers offered by Broadcom (used in all mid range and high-end models). There appeared icons for various device types, built-in support of HID devices (for example, you can plug a Bluetooth-keyboard).

There is an integrated utility responsible for the camera (photos and video). It is included into Picture & Video package.

We'd also note an integrated GPS driver (the satellite receiver). Several applications can get the access to the data from satellites at a time.

The approach to memory use has been altered. Now RAM is meant only for main memory, it's no longer possible to install applications to RAM. Now you shouldn't worry about the data loss, which can occur because of the drained battery, all the data is stored in flash memory. More memory is meant for RAM. Here you can read official and detailed explanation of developers on memory organization.

The last thing in the assessment is Error Reporting utility. It gathers and sends to Microsoft all the info on errors, this system exists in desktop Windows for a long time. It's possible to disable the utility.

ActiveSync 4.0

It's the new version of the program to synchronize data with PC. According to synthetic tests the synchronization speed increased slightly by 10-15%. As I sensed it the data access speed has soared. In case of a break in synchronization the next connection will resume the process from that point. It's quite comfortable. Only two PCs can be synchronized with the device. You can change settings directly from the handheld PC.

The synchronization settings got wider. You can choose contact groups for synchronization and exclude separate contacts from the process. The same is true for Calendar and Tasks. To synchronize e-mail you can choose folders and subfolders. Besides you can notice that the interface of the program changes, when another Windows Mobile 2005 device is connected (it stays the same in case of earlier OS versions).

Let's focus on another point: at will of developers (i.e. the function will be available not for all models ) the PDA can be switched to storage drive mode, so you can work with the memory card as with removable disk without using drivers (this function was available for Palm PDAs only).

In result

Operating systems based on Windows CE have already outpaced any other operating system taking into account the share on the PDA market. Windows Mobile 5.0 will assist Microsoft in strengthening the position on the OS market for smartphones/communicators. In near future it will be a common operating system, which replaces Windows Mobile for Pocket PC and Windows Mobile for Smartphone. There is no need in the latter any longer, it will leave the market during this year. The fact speaks for itself, applications for Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphone can be launched and work on Magneto. If we take into account Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphone (the review is available here), we'll see little innovations, there is almost none.

Main innovations in Windows Mobile 2005:

  • The single-handed control of the device, not involving the touch screen.
  • Greatly improved support of QWERTY-keyboards
  • The support of applications for Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphone. The key devices that will illustrate this approach this year are Asus p515, HTC Blizzard.
  • Brand new memory organization, data safety doesn't depend on battery charge level
  • Possibility to add photos and assign personal melodies to the contacts.
  • Greatly improved Word Mobile (it keeps formats while editing, shows pictures); to a smaller extent - Excel Mobile. New application added - PowerPoint Mobile.
  • Built-in API for GPS and the camera.
  • Integrated localization

Naturally, shortcomings do have place. They are not completely improved Office applications (formatting is partially lost during editing), management without the sensor screen facilitates the work, but needs to be completed. Do not forget that Windows Mobile is an open operating system. So you can replace any built-in application or function with an alternative or built-up.

Anton Kotov (anton.kotov@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Anja Rytchkova (anja.rytchkova@mobile-review.com)

Published - 22 September 2005

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



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