Windows Mobile 6.5 is half a step in the right direction

Windows Mobile 6.5 call screen

(Left) Windows Mobile 6.5        (Right) Also Windows Mobile 6.5

Add this to the ever-growing list of Microsoft design decisions that doesn’t make sense.

Thanks to a thriving community of custom ROM developers at, I’m been fortunate enough to be able to upgrade my year-old Samsung i780 Windows phone to the Windows Mobile 6.5 OS.

From the past couple of days my overall experiences with Windows Mobile 6.5 has been positive, but, I do find myself puzzled why Microsoft declared what appears to be a half-finished product “done”. It’s as if a builder was half way through renovating a kitchen and walked off. To illustrate this, take a look at the disconcerting side-by-side picture above.

Both pictures are from Windows Mobile 6.5 and both are native in-call status screens. The difference is that if you make a call or receive a call whilst your screen is unlocked, you get the interface on the left. However, if your screen is locked, you get the far more modern, intuitive and touch-friendly experience interface on the right.

Whilst I understand why there is a difference from a technical low-level code perspective, it baffles me why the better experience is “hidden” in such a way that most people would probably not be aware of it or be able to use it very often since WM6.5 doesn’t automatically lock the screen by default anyway. It’s not just inconsistent, it doesn’t even make sense.

Having said that however it’s obvious Microsoft is heading into the right direction but the question is whether they can get there before the iPhone or Android lapses them.

Windows Mobile 6.5 lock screen

I would like to point out though the new WM6.5 multi-function lock screen is very innovative is much more functional than the iPhone or Android’s single-purpose lock screens.

28 insightful thoughts

  1. I truly don’t understand why Microsoft comes with WM6.5. I have tested it shortly on an Emulator but it is even worse than WM6.1.
    It would be better to put the energy in WM7 and make sure that that will become a fully-functional OS that is at least able to compete with Android etc…

  2. The roms on XDA are quite old versions are they not?
    I mean they are by no means perfected – You install it on a phone with a touch screen and try scroll the screen like you would an iPhone or touch flow and it laggs and locks up. It has slowly got better through versions.

    I have high hopes for the RTM of WM 6.5

  3. @Patrick S: As far as I know, WM6.5 has RTMed a while ago and all the current builds of WM6.5 are post-RTM. I’m currently using 23017 which is the last build before the new funky big-size interface controls.

  4. I’ve been using custom cooked WM6.5 Roms from xda-developers for months now (On a HTC Touch Pro aka HTC Raphael). From experience I know the WM6.5 roms vary A LOT from rom to rom, you can’t judge WM6.5 itself by custom user roms no matter how “stock-like” they say are/pretend to be.

    The lockscreen behavior especially is something which is not consistent because of several bugs in leaked builds, it doesn’t surprise me that the behavior you experience is different.

    However I’m using [08-10-09][ShEp’s Rom][WinMo 6.5][Build 23016] for my HTC Touch Pro and the lockscreen behavior is both good and consistent unlike your the cooked rom you flashed.

    Long I don’t think this is a fair post on WM6.5

  5. @Steve: I understand they vary from ROM to ROM, but I don’t think the actual lock screen vary at all. The ROM I’m using is very close to stock WM6.5 since I’ve been playing with the WM6.5 resources myself. What I’m comparing above is the stock Microsoft dialer and the stock lockscreen.

    So what sort of in-call interface do you see when you make a call normally or receive a call when your screen is locked?

  6. @Long – Build 23016 is not the “RTM” build of WM6.5

    23016 is a very early alpha build heading down the WM7 build road… so you’re bound to have the “Tachi” dialer which is pretty screwed up at the best of times.

    So whatever you see is NOT what Microsoft released for 6.5 but its just whatever the cook put into that build… hence the inconsistencies.

  7. @Glen: I know I’m using a post-RTM build, only because this is the only build that has 128dpi-native resources. I’m pretty confident this lockscreen behavior has not changed since earlier builds WM6.5, so WM6.5 RTM should have this functionality too.

    I’ve disabled the custom Samsung dialer and am using the default Microsoft dialer for the unlocked screen.

  8. We have to face it, WM6.5 is only a thin sugar coating on top of 6.1 in an attempt to buy time for WM7.
    Except for the home screen an program list, the whole UX is one of the worst piece of art I’ve seen. UX wise, the product is totally outdated and won’t ever compete with either the Palm Pre or, even less, the iPhone.
    Microsoft realized to late how important is the tech-savy consumer wave and is rushing to get something out.
    The only worthy piece of code in WM6.5 is IE which is pretty decent.

    Let’s hope WM7 will be as advanced, UX wise, as the Zune HD is.

    API and kernel wise, it is another story. WM is still very potent and has one of the best development environment.

  9. MS need to learn that if you update one part of the UI you have to go and make the rest of the UI consistent, else it looks like an even bigger mess (and is confusing to boot).

    See also: The control panel disaster that started in Vista and is still in Windows 7. Or the way every Windows/MS desktop app/suite seems to have a completely different look & feel now. πŸ™

    Some of the apps even mix look & feel within themselves, like how the email editor settings UI within Outlook 2007 is completely different to every other settings window in the same program.

    I love Windows but parts of it feel like a mess that nobody can be bothered to clean up, which isn’t really acceptable given how many people use it and the resources of the company that makes it.

    Seeing stuff like this adds to my perception that Windows Mobile is a messy kludge and further puts me off ever giving it a chance. (I don’t like the iPhone either, but for reasons other then its UI. I don’t really like any phones at the moment, TBH.)

  10. I’m sorry but I just couldn’t resist… where’s the “add call” button in the interface on the right?

    WM6.5 looks like a couple of programmers got together and implemented their custom ideas on top of the OS. There’s no clear path for providing value for the release, just a couple of weird “artifacts” put together. I mean, even HTC was able to do it better and 1) they don’t have access to the OS code ; 2) they haven’t got the organizational assets Microsoft has for developing software (better people; better platform; access to customer for feedback ; ui testing ; overall platform knowledge ; etc).

    I should say that I’ve been using WM phones for years (had a ipaq 1940 which wasn’t even a phone at all ; a qtek s100 ; eten m600 ; palm treo 750 ; htc diamond).

    Seriously, like someone said already, take the red pill and buy an iphone.

  11. @tortulho: Well obviously the locked screen has limited functionality but that’s understandable. It wouldn’t be much of a problem to switch between them if they looked more alike.

  12. Before the iPhone or Android lapses them? I dare say it’s too late if they didn’t want to be lapsed.

  13. @Matt Sharpe: Yep, I tried 23037 too and didn’t work out well. All the crazy big UI stuff started happening after 23022. I believe 23017 is the last post-RTM build with the WM6.5 standard UI.

    They declared Windows Mobile 6.5 RTM back in May and it’s believed to be 21234.

  14. @Fred: Whereas all of them allow you to see the time, next calendar appointment details and slide to unlock, the Windows Mobile 6.5 lock screen also allow you to slide to jump into an application that requires your attention.

    For example, if I have missed calls I can jump directly into the dialer application. If I have new text messages I can jump directly to the message. Very handy πŸ™‚

  15. But why on earth are they using Verdana as the new system font? Segoe Condensed was the best font on phones. πŸ™

  16. “(Right) Also Windows Mobile 6.5” …buttons look hideous
    “(Left) Windows Mobile 6.5” … better buttons

  17. It’s not RTM until they say it is (i.e. it came published on an actual device).

    That ROM you’re using is obviously not RTM, because it’s still got the battery icon bug.

  18. What are the chances of WinMo6.5 being available for older handsets? I’ve got an I-Mate Ultimate 9502 which would be improved so much by the more touch friendly 6.5.

    Is it a case of extensive work on customising a ROM for the hardware or is it relatively trivial but handset makers don’t want to support older models?

  19. Well I hope we can all agree on that no matter which of these screenshots you look at it looks terrible from a design perspective. Ugly buttons, crappy fonts with bad antialiasing and awful drop shadows. As much as I like cleartype for its readability, for large fonts they really do need to take a look towards accurate font representation rather than readability.

    This looks like shit. Microsoft got nothing on the iPhone. Nothing. They should fire their entire windows mobile design team and take the guys that did the Zune stuff. Many things there are really nice. Or actually anyone who has ever used Photoshop would be better…


  20. A collegue of mine has a Samsung phone, and he has the latest Win 6.5 build installed but with lots of UI mods. Funny thing is, most of the UI mods are a copy of the general iPhone interface (aka lockscreen,etc, etc) – and the reason for them is the inconsistency in the WinMo UI. Isn’t it ironic that ppl are making their WinMo phones look and behave more like an iPhone – why not just get one? So, I agree with an earlier post – take a red pill and just get an iPhone!

  21. This is my view on why I did not get an iphone. You can disagree with me.

    An iphone has only 1 form factor. I cannot get an iphone with a keyboard. An iphone don’t allow me to switch battery. An iphone is boring as it don’t not allow me to customize many things however I still like the iphone interface.

    So to resolve my issue, I get a WM6.x phone with a keyboard and change the interface to a iphone similar one. Now I can have a keyboard and even buy a extra battery and bring it along on my long trips. To me, a Windows Phone seems more interesting and more customizable.

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