WinMo is currently a shizophrenic technology - Microsoft needs to decide what it is! RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • I am a first time WinMo phone user (an HTC Pure running 6.5).  While I am dedicated to making the most of my new device, my recent month's worth of learning curve has left me scratching my head about what MS's goal is for WinMo.  My only conclusion is that WinMo (even in ver. 6.5) is a schizophrenic mess.  I am not here to pick a fight because I love MS Outlook and want a smartphone that provides a tight Outlook integration and look.  So bare with me while I make my point and hopefully I'll provide the feedback worthy of this "Suggestion Box".

    Let me first say that, when my Treo 650 died (a phone I loved and would buy again if Palm had not left it for dead), I quickly determined that a WinMo phone was my only choice (other than possibly the bizarre and not-quite-ready-for-primetime Palm Pre/Pixi). The reason is that I store a lot of data in calendar/contact/task notes - something neither the iPhone nor a Blackberry will accommodate (they limit note lengths to about 1 to 4kB's, which is not much text).  However, the price of this requirement has led me to a phone with "dueling UI's" (i.e., HTC's TouchFLO, and WinMo's "Start" and various "Today" screens), and a poorly evolved/confused OS.  Here's my specific complaints and suggestions:

    Is WinMo a "behind-the-scenes" OS, or an OS with a complete UI and core set of apps?  Most current cellphone companies seem to think that WinMo's UI capabilities and some core apps (even on 6.5) should be seen/used as little as possible.  I would agree - between WinMo's various main screen choices (i.e., Start, the Zune-esque "Windows Classic" 6.5 Today screen, and the older customizable Today screen) there isn't one choice that easily allows you to (or can be customized to) navigate through the phones's features.  Without TouchFLO my HTC would be far less ergonomic and with less features that make easy use of the phones capabilities (i.e., TouchFLO's tabs for weather, an internet screen with "push pages", etc.).  Unfortunately, many of what HTC has added makes the phone even more confusing (since it doesn't completely hide WinMo's UI screens) and/or laggy (i.e., their calendar takes 2 to 3 seconds to populate a day's set of appointments).  Microsoft either needs to get out of the UI business and design a OS that more fully/efficiently allows the cellphone companies to take care of this or they need to do it right (i.e., with one robust/consistent/flexible UI choice).

    Why doesn't WinMo make accessing the core apps easier?  This is a more specific example of the above item....  Unless you use the old style "Today" screen, there is no direct access to two of the core Oulook apps - "Tasks" and "Notes", which I use all the time.  I'd stick with the old style "Today" screen, but then I'd lose all of the great TouchFLO stuff that HTC added.  What is more astonishing is that the new 6.5 "Zune-esque" Today screen is the worst of all choices - it doesn't allow for any customization nor does it give you good access to many features.  Again, WinMo needs to get out of the UI business or do it right.   (Even my Treo 650 had buttons that would allow direct access to these apps or a fully customizable Main Menu screen--unlike WinMo's fairly rigid Start screen--that would get you to these or other apps).

    Is WinMo on a touch screen phone meant for fingers or a stylus?  My HTC Pure has really improved the finger-touch usability within the WinMo world.  Unfortunately (even on the WinMo phones with bigger screens like the Imagio), at some point the stylus is still needed.  I find myself moving between using my fingers and the stylus in a haphazard manner since neither gets the job done completely.  Clearly WinMo needs to rid itself of its stylus past if it wants to remain viable in todays' smartphone world.

    Fix the finger-unfriendliness of the Notes app - This is a more specific example of the above item....  I have mostly stopped using the "Notes" app (I now put all this kind of stuff in my task list) because you cannot use your finger to scroll through these (it doesn't support finger swiping, the scroll bar is too small for a finger, and it doesn't dynamically scroll).  Why was this app forgotten in MS's attempt to make WinMo more finger-friendly?

    Selecting, cutting/copying and pasting text in notes/emails/etc. is a complicated, hit-or-miss multi-step procedure.  For those that don't do this kind of thing, I won't even try to describe the convoluted process.  I will say that it is an utter embarrassment when compared with the iPhone/Storm2's elegant solution of using moveable brackets to select the text. Moreover, finding any information in the HTC manual (or from MS) about how to use this feature is like looking for the holy grail. Plainly put...it is terrible and I don't see why something that operates this badly hasn't been fixed as of WinMo 6.5.

    Font size cannot be controlled within each application. WinMo gives you one font size selection that applies to the text in all apps. This would be fine if the result was consistent, but a given font size selection ends up with text that is fine in some apps but either way too big or small in others.  Even worse, the font size is inconsistent within a given app.  For example, the font size that I am using results in my Task list font being a bit small, while the notes associated each task being way too big.  Again this sort of thing seems like an embarrassment that should have been fixed a long time ago.

    Slow Search Function - The "Search Phone" app is a necessity (which is why even Apple found it necessary to add it to it's OS).  However, WinMo's version is extremely slow - it takes a good portion of a minute before it comes back with results.  OTOH - the iPhone's search function starts returning results as you are typing in the text so you need not type in all characters if needed.

    Add the ability to dial a number from any note text - Currently only calendar notes recognize phone numbers which can be tapped for direct dialing.  Why isn't this capability part of any notes (i.e., I don't like to fill my contact list with too many entries, so I use a contact's "Notes" screen to hold names and phone numbers for other people within the same company, but I can't tap to dial these numbers, nor can I cut and paste these into the phone app)?

    Provide landscape mode capability in all apps - You can use the phone in landscape mode for easier email composing and internet browsing (i.e., a bigger Qwerty keypad and more characters per line).  Unfortunately I use my phone more for editing Calendar/Contacts/Task notes, and these apps don't give you the easier-to-use option of a landscape mode.  (I am assuming that this is a WinMo issue vs. HTC since it seems to be a shortcoming of all touchscreen WinMo phones). 

    I think that's plenty for now....

    • Edited by smartphone-ra Tuesday, December 29, 2009 12:06 AM some added "diplomacy"
    • Changed type smartphone-ra Tuesday, December 29, 2009 4:58 PM Not a question for a series of suggestions
    Monday, December 28, 2009 10:20 PM

All replies

  • It sure would be nice to hear about these suggestions (or the more general comment of "schizophrenia") from  a knowledgeable WinMo or smartphone technology person.  I'm not the "disgruntled buyer" type, but do like to be an informed technology user and, if it's seems like it could be useful, to make what are meant to be helpful critical suggestions.  If my suggestions are not "helpful" it would be good to know that too....
    Thursday, December 31, 2009 9:58 PM
  • WM6.5 is a transitional upgrade and was never intended to be the final version of the revamped, touch friendly windows mobile operating system.  The previous operating system (WM6.1) and all older versions of the Windows Mobile operating system was entirely stylus dependent (except for 3rd party applications that provided a more touch-friendly user experience).  The WM7.0 operating system that is currently under development is a major upgrade and will be more finger friendly.  Perhaps that is why WM6.5 seems a bit shizophrenic to you.

    Some of your complaints can be attributed to the device's hardware you've selected and some of your complaints can be attributed to the software (or lack of software) that is on your device.  Most of us who have used Windows Mobile devices for a while have found the applications and settings that work best for our particular needs.

    For instance, your inability to access your preferred core apps is a limitation of the device's hardware but could also be a limitation of the software that is installed on the device. 

    The HTC Pure does not have many programmable buttons or soft keys, so you don't have many options in regards to making your frequently used applications more accessible.  But you do have one programmable button on the device that you can set (the Send button on the left hand side of the screen) so that when you press & hold the button, an application of your choice will be opened up (tap Start > Settings > Personal > Buttons to access this option - if you are using the HTC Sense plugin, you'll go to the Settings screen, tap All Settings > Personal > Buttons). There are other devices that you could have chosen that provide more programmable and navigational buttons.

    Your inability to access preferred core applications could also be a limitation of the device's software.  You might find spb's Mobile Shell a better today screen plugin than the installed HTC software or the Microsoft software.

    There is a myriad of fine 3rd party applications that are available for windows mobile devices that provide a better user experience.  I find the included Contacts, Tasks, Appointments and Notes applications to be very simplistic and I hardly ever use them.  There are numerous 3rd party PIM applications that integrate Contacts, Tasks, Appointments and Notes, such as AgendaOne , to choose from.  Most of them provide a lot of user options such as font size selection,  and better integration with other software.  And you can find applications that are more touch friendly (if that's what you are looking for). 

    Copying and pasting is no more complicated on a windows mobile professional device than it is on a computer.  The easiest, albeit undocumented, way to copy and paste text on a windows mobile professional device is to drag your stylus across the screen to select the text you want to copy (similar to how you drag your mouse across a page on a windows computer to select text), then press & hold the stylus on the screen until a popup menu appears (similar to a right click on a mouse button) and selecting copy from the menu.  Then go wherever you want to go to paste the text, press & hold the stylus on the screen until a popup menu appears and choose paste.  Perhaps your difficulty with this procedure is that you are using the menu selections or that you are more accustomed to doing this with a finger?

    You can dial telephone numbers in notes by prefacing the numbers with "Tel:" (the apostrophe's are not needed), like this:  Tel:5551231234.  After you enter the number in your note be sure to hit the return key and this will turn the phone number into a hyperlinked phone number that can be called by tapping it.

    Windows Mobile devices and software have supported landscape and portrait modes since the days of Windows Mobile 2003se.  You just don't have software on the HTC Pure that allows you to easily toggle between landscape and portrait.  I've got SKTools installed on my HTC Diamond 2 (which is the non-AT&T branded version of your device) and SKTools provides a way for me to program that one programmable button to toggle between Landscape and Portrait - the HTC applications don't show up very well when I toggle to landscape mode, but all the other applications on my device work just fine.
    Prof Julie, Microsoft MVP Mobile Devices | http://pocketprimer.com
    Friday, January 1, 2010 6:05 AM
  • Prof Julie:

    Thanks for your detailed response and the boat-load of useful information which I will surely be looking at to help improve my HTC Pure.  I have one question about all of your suggestions; namely, where do I find out about all of this after-market stuff along with all of the WinMo features not documented by HTC?  ...though I do fear that my already fairly sluggish/buggy HTC Pure will be brought to a standstill if I add more programs....

    Secondly, I'm not sure what's up with the copy/paste function in my HTC Pure, but it sure don't work as you've described it.  In particular when I drag a finger or stylus horizontally across the screen nothing happens, and if I drag it diagonally or vertically the phone thinks I am performing a finger swipe (i.e., it scrolls the text).  Instead I have to hold the stylus at the point of selection until some dots spin (and this is not a hallucination), when a menu appears I tap on "Make Selection", then I am able to drag a stylus to select the text, and finally I tap and hold the selected text and then tap on "Copy" from yet another menu that appears.  Whew - this is certainly more difficult than that on my PC and it doesn't always work (sometimes the menu that initially appears doesn't include "Make Selection" - only "Paste" and "Insert Date" even if I've already inserted the previously selected text...though I can fake it out by starting to drag the stylus just as the dots appear...wierd...).  Clearly this transitional 6.5 function is either very buggy on my HTC Pure or is made for someone a lot smarter than me.

    Finally, humor me for a moment while I provide some further explanation to my claim of "schizophrenia".  I completely agree with and understand why 6.5 is not fully touch-friendly and did not mean to imply that that was my only reason for making this claim.  Actually, this semi touch-friendliness is merely the most obvious symptom of my collection of suggestions that lead to this claim.  I would argue that my list of suggestions all point to the question about why MSFT can't seem to choose between making WinMo an OS that is not meant to be seen by the smartphone user vs. one that provides a complete UI experience that doesn't really need any "shells" (like the Blackberry, Palm and iPhone).  All of the programs that you've recommended for helping to improve the device seem to point to the veracity of this "schizophrenia" claim (i.e., why does MSFT burden WinMo with UI features and/or and user-visible apps when both the cellphone manufacturers and user community see them as best covered up by UI/app shells)?  You've also provided some good examples of WinMo features not documented by HTC (i.e., copy/paste, hyperlinking a telephone number by the prefix "Tel:" and the barely documented programmable send button) - these point to another obvious negative side-effect of this "schizophrenia": MSFT can't seem to decide between providing a fully documented OS vs. developing a business model that better-encourages the manufacturers to fully document their phones.

    I am aware that some of my suggestions are due to the fact that MSFT has a different smartphone business model than RIM, Apple and Palm (i.e., they don't make the hardware).  Therefore I probably should have known that many of the shortcomings of my HTC Pure are not due to WinMo but instead the hardware shortcomings of the phone (along with insufficient software added by HTC), though I'm probably not the only WinMo user guilty of this mistake.  This all leads back to my original statement that MSFT could end the confusion if they chose a less schizophrenic design and business model for WinMo.  Does this suggestion have merit or not? 
    • Edited by smartphone-ra Saturday, January 2, 2010 6:22 AM more typos
    Saturday, January 2, 2010 5:27 AM