Windows Mobile 6.5 first reviews: tired, old, dull zzzz

Reviews are coming in for Microsoft’s updated mobile operating system and the overall impression for reviewers seems akin to a large yawn, followed by a long snooze. It’s dull. And boring.

Anyone hoping for the kind of snappy, modern interfaces seen on new phones coming from Android, Palm, HTC and, of course, the iPhone will be in for a jumbo-sized disappointment – Windows 6.5 is basically the same OS of yore with a few bits of eye-candy half heartedly applied.

Although there’s been some fairly substantial improvements in usability, some apps  have barely changed since Windows Mobile 6 , making Microsoft’s offering look very, very tired indeed.

Windows Mobile 6.5 first reviews: tired, old, dull zzzz

Gizmodo liked the new start screen but hated just about everything else, concluding:

I’d like to think that 6.5’s stunning failure to innovate is a symptom of a neglected project—maybe Microsoft just needed something, anything to hold people over until the mythical Windows Mobile 7 comes out, whatever it is. But as Steve Ballmer himself has plainly admitted, it’s worse: Microsoft has simply lumbered in the wrong direction for two years, letting everyone, save maybe Nokia, fly right past them.

Windows Mobile 6.5 first reviews: tired, old, dull zzzz

Engadget warmed to the improved web browser and lock screen but their overall verdict was equally damning:

Microsoft’s not promising the world with Windows Mobile 6.5, nor are they delivering it — it’s very much a stopgap, complete with duct tape, bubble gum, and Bondo…

Put simply, 6.5 won’t win a single user to the platform, even though the snazzy hardware that’s running it just might. What it does do is make the full touchscreen use case just bearable enough to keep users already in the WinMo ecosystem hanging around — and a stop-loss plan is exactly what Microsoft needs while it gets version 7 locked and loaded over the next few months. Let’s make it happen, guys.

Slashgear was a little more upbeat, but was disappointed in the lack of overall progress:

Microsoft have obviously put a lot of work into streamlining the smartphone ownership experience, and given how far ahead in the consumer space rival platforms are, that’s a good thing. Over-The-Air (OTA) firmware updates are now supported – network and handset manufacturer depending – and there are many behind the scenes bugfixes and tweaks intended to make the OS less clunky. In its native form, it’s a more attractive, cleaner and more usable platform than Windows Mobile 6.1 could manage.

However, it’s not the all-out OS relaunch that many are, not only hoping for, but relying on to pull them back to Microsoft’s platform. The menus may have been reskinned, the settings pages streamlined, but Windows Mobile 6.5 still feels a lot like its predecessor; those coming from devices with manufacturer-led UIs, such as HTC’s handsets, will be even harder pressed to identify the changes. It’s saying something when an OS refresh many months in the making feels, to some extent, like another UI shell.

Our dilemma with Windows Mobile is that while some of the most gorgeous hardware gets released for the platform, the phones are still cumbersome beasts to use.

Although innovative interfaces like the HTC Touch Flo does a fantastic job of papering over the cracks, before long you’ll soon find yourself dumped at one of Microsoft’s Ye Olde Screens – which invariably involves scratching abut with a stylus or having to aim your finger very carefully indeed.

Windows Mobile 6.5 now looks very old indeed and unless version 7 has something very special up its sleeve, some may say there’s a strong argument for the company to abandon the platform altogether now and buy up a fresh, exciting, alternative like Palm’s webOS.

[pics: Gizmodo]

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