I’ve been trying to wait patiently for The New AT&T to release Windows Mobile 6 for the BlackJack. They’ve done so for the AT&T 8525, but have yet to do so for both the BlackJack and Treo 750. I think they’re close — the impending release of the BlackJack II is probably the holdup — but I couldn’t wait any longer.
Then, I found this thread on HowardForums — and jackpot. In about 20 minutes (5 of which were required to find my syncing cable), the ROM flash was complete. Before you knew it, the AT&T 3G startup screen appeared — and bam. Windows Mobile 6 on my BlackJack. And folks, it is sweet.
At first, it doesn’t seem like much has been done to Windows Mobile 6 over its predecessor, except some Vista-like gloss over the interface. (Note: the Windows Mobile 5 screen is not mine.)
Windows Mobile 5
Windows Mobile 6
(Another note: The screens in this review use the Windows Default homescreen, with the Windows Mobile Green theme, new in WM6. The default BlackJack theme is an AT&T-branded blue theme that features icons for OZ Instant Messaging on the front as well as a link to Get Xpress Mail.)
It’s important to know that Windows Mobile 6 is not meant to be an overhaul. That’s slated for the next version, codenamed Photon, which will unify the Windows Mobile Standard and Professional codebases into a single platform. The hallmark of this release is really all the adjustments to the operating system that make it much more of a pleasure to use. Let’s take a look…
The calendar, for example, now displays a graphical breakout of my schedule when I view a single day. Sweet. Let’s take a look at my Monday:
The top breakout scrolls as I move along the day, too, if I move later into the day. Nifty. It’s a real boon for quickly seeing where items in my schedule collide, too.
Messaging is also improved, with support for HTML e-mail. Exchange is more efficient this go around, and would be even sweeter if I were hooked up to an Exchange 2007 box, as users on Exchange 2007 servers can set their out of office messages from their phone. Another thing I like is that if a meeting request is a potential conflict, I can actually go straight from the request to the conflicting time on my calendar. Before I had to jump through hoops and get to the calendar and hope I even found the conflicted day. It’s a great little tweak that will help productivity.
I’ve had to get used to a couple changes in Messaging; the left soft-key now is “Delete” by default, rather than “New” — that will be hella confusing. I’m not sure what drove MS to have the “Delete” key as the default action rather than “New.” I can understand if people needed to delete a lot of messages. Because Delete moved, New went into the menu on the right soft key…and from there you have to choose Multimedia or Text Message. Of course, Multimedia is the first item on the list. It makes sense from an alphabetical point of view to have multimedia messaging be the first option, but from a practical point of view, I don’t know many people who send out gobs of multimedia messages.
Office Mobile is a new component to Windows Mobile 6 Standard (Smartphone), but it’s been in Windows Mobile since the early Windows CE days. It’s quite cool to have these apps on the phone, now.
The Office Mobile apps open Office 2003 and 2007 documents with reasonable fidelity. Editing can be a bit cumbersome because selecting text is near impossible, but it’s sufficient for a light amount of work. My favorite application, by far, is PowerPoint Mobile. It won’t do all the nutty animations in the world, but it will show a basic slideshow. (Now, how the hell do I get that to a projector? :) )
PowerPoint Mobile after opening. I selected the wxstar file, which is an Office 2007 pptx document.
Here’s an example slide in PowerPoint Mobile. (For the record, the slides were from some Weather Channel emulations I cooked up and wanted to test on my TV.)
It Updates, Too
For the first time, Windows Mobile comes with Windows Update. Seriously:
I’m not sure what Microsoft has planned for this. I guess they want to deliver security updates over the air to devices, which is nifty, though it’s definitely something I’d want to leave on a manual check and definitely something I’d want 3G data for.
There are some caveats to doing this upgrade. It erases everything in phone memory, so make sure you back up what you can to your storage card (text messages can’t be readily backed up, unfortunately, so I lost all of them dating to March). If you want to load third-party applications, it’s also important to Application Unlock the phone, as Windows Mobile 6 security is much tighter. There are several apps out there that get it done; a popular one is from Surreal Networks. After doing that, though, I was able to get my favorite third-party apps installed, such as Google Maps Mobile and Automatic Keylock, a fantastic program that fixes the lack of an automatic keypad lock in Windows Mobile as well as gives WM a great screensaver.
Windows Mobile 6 also changed up a few keys for me. In addition to the Messaging key changes listed above, the Shift/Caps key now works differently: In Windows Mobile 5, to activate Caps Lock, I would press Fn and then the Shift key, which would kick me into Caps Lock mode. Windows Mobile 6 rebinds the key so that Fn+Shift no longer activates Caps Lock; instead, I press Shift twice to activate it. It was quite confusing for the first day or so, and still catches me by surprise at times. One other thing that has the potential to being turbo-annoying is the fact that the right soft key on the home screen is stuck on Contacts. The option to change the key has been removed (which I never changed in WM5), but more importantly, the functionality that changes the function of the key when I receive a new message or new voicemail has also vanished. So, when I get a voicemail, instead of the convenient tapping of “Voicemail” on the right soft key to jump straight to it, I now have to click down a few notches to “Voicemail” on my home screen and go from there, or press and hold 1 to activate its speed dial. I know this seems to be something of a petty complaint, but this is a real timesaver that has existed in Smartphone since at least Windows Mobile 2002. I’m hoping that this is remedied with the official release, or that there is something that can be changed to revert to the former behavior.
We’ll see how things go with WM6 when I roll into my daily life with it tomorrow. I’m curious to see how the battery life will be during normal use, and whether I can adjust to some of the changes in the new version.