Windows Mobile turns Windows Phone
Between the iPhone 3G, the G1, the Storm, and the repeated delays to WinMo version 7 and Mobile Internet Explorer 6, Windows Mobile has lost ground in the last year. It might still have more business-oriented features than the competition, and 2008 did see the launch of flagship Windows Mobile devices like the Sony Ericsson XPERIA and the Samsung Omnia, but while Microsoft can boast 11 different million-selling handsets, none of them have had the iconic mass-market success of the Apple iPhone. Microsoft continues to promise big changes, fewer “me-too” handsets and better connections between phone and PC. So, this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the phone-interested world will keep watch on whether companies produced enough innovations this week to rescue the original smartphone operating system? For starters, Microsoft is changing the name: Although the new version of the software is Windows Mobile 6.5, every new phone bearing it will simply be called a Windows Phone – and, going forward, each will have the Windows logo on it. Let's see what some of these new Windows Phones—which won't arrive on U.S. shores until at least the summer of 2009-- might look like.
WinMo 6.5: Is Honeycomb a Sweet Interface?
Microsoft calls the new look for Windows Mobile cleaner and fresher. The front screen has a vertical menu of applications and information like the sliding tabs on Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard Edition (but with the look of Zune or Media Center). And the hexagonal icons of the Start menu “honeycomb” are similar to the Standard Start page – but you’ll get the same look on touchscreen devices that would once have been marked as Windows Mobile Professional. That should mean an end to the consumer confusion of two interfaces (though features will still be different depending on the hardware). The hexagons fit more icons into the same screen space as previous versions, and you can finally change the order of the icons easily from the phone screen instead of being stuck with a preset or alphabetical order.
Your Life: All Locked Up
When your new Windows Phone is locked, you don't see the full front screen (because you can’t use it until you unlock the screen). Instead you get this clean new screen with key information like your next appointment and how many messages or missed calls you have. Touch the lock button with what Microsoft calls a “natural gesture” to get icons for voicemail, missed calls and new messages; you can scroll through them from this screen to see the details without needing to unlock the phone, instead of having to unlock the screen and then wait for a notification or drill down through the interface.
Internet Explorer Mobile 6
My Phone and Windows Marketplace
You won't need Windows Mobile 6.5 to use the new My Phone service; it works with 6.1 as well. Similar to Dashwire and Flexilis but free (all you need is a Live ID), it backs up whatever you choose from your phone, including the storage card: texts, contacts, appointments, photos, videos, music and documents. You choose the schedule (and whether to sync when you're roaming) and files transfer automatically. You can view them on the Web with features like the ability to search text messages – and choose a new phone to synchronize them back to. To get My Phone for your Windows Mobile phone, you can sign up here, or wait for a new Windows Mobile phone.Microsoft is also launching its own application store, Windows Marketplace for Mobile. You have to sign up on the Web to put in your credit card details, but then you can browse apps on your phone (by new releases, top rated apps and categories or by searching for a specific app). The service will have free and paid apps and you can see the price, check reviews, ratings and the number of downloads, then download directly on your phone.
Samsung App Store
Does it make sense for Samsung to have its own mobile applications store for Windows Mobile (and Symbian), too? We're not sure, but the reason why the company is announcing new support for Windows Mobile developers at Mobile World Congress is to attract them to the store – and to get them to use specific features on Samsung devices like the Omnia’s optical joystick and DLNA support. DLNA lets you stream photos, videos and music to a PC, PlayStation 3 or a DLNA-compatible TV and Samsung expects it phones to be a key part of home entertainment as well as sporting the location-based services that are taking off on all platforms.
Toshiba G01: First 1GHz Snapdragon phone
Toshiba’s new Windows Mobile handset has the largest screen you can get on a smartphone, 4.1 inches, with 800x480 resolution plus the first Qualcomm 1GHz Snapdragon processor to make it into a finalized phone. Even though it has Windows Mobile 6.1 at launch it comes with Internet Explorer Mobile 6 for full Flash-enabled browsing (plus there’s a media player that supports DivX and YouTube). Toshiba has its own customizable UI on top of Windows Mobile. The TG01 has the same kind of controls you’d get on a Regza TV: gamma correction and a backlight control so you can adjust the brightness and color of the screen - just what you want if you're going to watch a lot of video on this superb display.
TG01: Shake It Up
The TG01 also has what Toshiba calls a G-sensor, but that’s G for gesture rather than G for the G -orce an accelerometer detects (Toshiba hasn’t disclosed the details yet, but it may use the camera to detect movement). This lets you shake to answer and end phone calls, but you can set the shake gesture to have other functions like taking you back to the main menu. If you're watching a video, you can tilt the phone to the right to fast forward or to the left to rewind instead of tapping on-screen controls. When you get to the right place, just hold the handset straight and the video will start playing again.
TG01: Too Slim for Headphone Jack
The TG01 is thinner than the iPhone . Unlike the Blackberry Storm, the TG01 doesn’t sacrifice Wi-Fi. It’s an HSDPA/HSUPA device with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and A-GPS. Because the TG01 is currently a European device Toshiba isn’t talking about what radio it might have in the U.S., but the Qualcomm branding on the side does say 3G CDMA. About the only thing missing (apart from a physical keyboard) is a 3.5mm headphone socket; but since the TG01 is so thin, Toshiba had to use a micro-USB connection but Toshiba includes an adapter so you can use your favorite headset.
Snapdragon Speeds Apps, Extends Life
The 1GHz Snapdragon chip has an application coprocessor to speed up demanding applications like video (and Internet Explorer Mobile 6), but that doesn’t mean it runs down the battery more; according to Toshiba’s Med Jeewoth it actually saves power. “The Snapdragon chipset allows [the phone] to optimize power so on the device you can set how much power you want to use for certain apps, full power or half power.” He says the five hours talk time and 12 days standby translate in a full day’s usage. “We are saying you will be able to watch a movie, do mail on the move, make some phone calls and have enough power to get home at the end of the day and do some social networking and then you’ll recharge it.”
i-Mate Phones Take a Beating: 810-F
A phone doesn't count as rugged until you can run over it with a Hummer. You can do that to the 810-F from i-mate and it will keep on working. As long as you get it serviced every year, you’ve got a lifetime warranty and i-mate will repair or replace it if it breaks (or if you lose it out mountain climbing). This phone is the same size, weight and price of a normal phone. We can’t show you i-mate’s other new phones yet, but the code-names keep the military theme going. Centurion is a Windows Mobile phone the size of an American Express card (and just 9mm thick), but with the choice of a keypad or full QWERTY keyboard. On its own, Legionaire is a 9mm thick phone with a 3” touchscreen. But it will also come with the Warrior: a 10.5” external screen and keyboard device that looks like a netbook. Slide the phone into the Warrior case and it manages the screen and keyboard (so you get a netbook running Windows Mobile that operates for over 50 hours if you use all four of the batteries). The screen of the phone works as a touchpad in the Warrior and when you’re done you can pull your phone out of the netbook ‘jacket’ and it will still be fully charged. The whole system should cost less than $200 with operator subsidies.
Garmin Adds Real Navigation To the Nüvifone
Almost every Windows Mobile phone has GPS hardware, but few come with the software to make the most of it. As part of its collaboration with Asus, Garmin is putting the same software on the Nüvifone M20 and G60 models as on the stand-alone Nüvi sat nav, including preloaded maps and points of interest for North America, and turn-by-turn voice spoken directions. Other tools give you traffic, location-based events and movie times; the Ciao! application shows the location of friends in your social network. The M20 has a 2.8” touch screen; the G60 has a 3.5” screen and a ‘Where am I?’ option that gives you the nearest address, gas station and emergency services – and if you use it with the windshield mount, it will save the position it was in when you removed it, to help you find where you parked your car.
Hyundai's 3 Day Battery
Hyundai picked Windows Mobile for its new flagship smartphone because it’s the most widely used business smartphone platform, but it didn’t want just another Windows Mobile 6.1 2.8-inch QVGA touchscreen phone. So, Hyundai made the MB-8500 different by adding a 1600mAh battery instead of the usual 900mAh. With other phones, says Hyundai Mobile CEO Christian Kirchner, ”If you are using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth together, at end of the day your battery is 90% empty. In our tests if you're using this phone heavily with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth after three days the battery starts to get low. That’s surfing the Internet, doing 60, 70, 80 emails a day, using Wi-Fi, using the GPS, everything. That’s even more impressive in a 13mm thick phone that weighs only 110 grams. Hyundai did experiment with adding a slide-out keyboard but it made the MB-8500 too thick. It launches in May (initially in Europe and South America) with Windows Mobile 6.1 but Hyundai promises an upgrade to 6.5.
ZTE VF 1231 – Budget Handsets Persist
ZTE is a Chinese manufacturer that claims to be the fastest growing telecom equipment company in the world, and you're as likely to hear about it building WiMAX and 3G networks for operators as supplying handsets (currently only to MetroPCS in the US). The VF 1231 is a budget Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard model for Vodafone which has FCC approval: it’s only an EDGE phone with a 1.3 megapixel camera, although it does have GPS. The other nine phones ZTE is launching this week include CDMA Windows Mobile models for China Telecom, the D810 and D820. Where Microsoft would once have welcomed low-priced Windows Mobile handsets, it now talks about targeting fewer manufacturers to deliver great experiences on top brands. Microsoft may want premium Windows Phones but there’s no shortage of more basic devices coming out. That’s good for your pocketbook but these budget phones won't get the fresh new Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system.