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[Mobile World Congress] I’ve used Windows CE since the first iPaq, then Windows Mobile and until recently, I had observe that not much had changed. Windows Mobile was fundamentally designed to run with a stylus and in our recent reviews, this was a black eye on most Windows Mobile phones. Fortunately, there’s hope: Windows Mobile 6.5 is (almost) here and it has three highlights: a new user interface, Windows Marketplace and MyPhone..

New User Interface

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Windows Mobile needs a dramatic update of its user interface (UI) and Microsoft has finally done it: From the hexagonal icons to the zoom slider, things are not only meant to be finger friendly, but are also designed to be used with one hand, which is not always true of competitors. Emails and other UI elements have also been made to be finger-friendly. Now, we will have to test it for ourselves, but at least, it seems like Windows Mobile is going in the right direction, and there’s version 7 around the corner.

The design of some of the screens has been inspired by Windows Media Center. A good amount of information can be accessed by swiping up/down, left/right. It’s really cool.

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Pocket Internet Explorer also benefits from the update. Not only it has the page zoom slider but all the non-essential UI elements also go away when they are deemed unnecessary (battery live, signal strength…). Pocket IE also has a zoom triggered by a double-tap. The double-tap is smart enough to know if it should zoom or un-zoom, depending on the situation. We’ll have to see if it’s smart enough, but Microsoft thinks that it is.

Windows Marketplace

Windows Marketplace is an app store where users can find and download applications directly from the phone. Previously, it was possible to find apps and download them as .cab files, but the process was painful, especially when the search was done on the handset itself. There’s nothing like competition and the arrival of the iPhone App store has forced everyone to wake up – this is good. If you wonder, Microsoft will ‘check security and compatibility’ before the applications are featured in the store…

MyPhone

MyPhone is a free online service that lets Windows Mobile 6.5 users sync their data to the cloud. By “data”, Microsoft means SMS, media files, contacts and so on… it does not include exchange server or WIFI networks configurations – this is NOT a full backup of your phone. The communication between the device and the cloud goes both ways: users can add files from a web interface to their phone which is something that was long overdue: it’s nice to be able to partially manage a phone from a PC.

When is this coming out?

Microsoft says that the first phones will be available in the second half of 2009. We’ve heard that “some” current phones will be upgradable, but Microsoft will let its partners decide which and when. From what we’ve seen, it looks like there’s little to no hardware limitations (besides ROM size) that would prevent the upgrade of current Windows Mobile 6.1 Pro phones.

No UMA? Right now, there is not a single Windows Mobile phone that supports Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) – that’s a really cool feature that should be integrated sooner rather than later. Conclusion

This is the most exciting Windows Mobile release since Windows 5 and the direct-push email introduction. The next step is for us to play with the new user interface to see if it is as good as it sounds.

Filed in Cellphones >Top Stories . Tags: MWC.
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