Ever since the iPhone debuted in mid 2007, industry analysts have wondered how Microsoft was going to respond to the threat it posed. The launch of the iPhone App Store in mid 2008 upped the ante significantly, creating an application ecosystem that now has more than 25,000 offerings for cashed-up subscribers. So how was Microsoft to counter that threat?
Given the great historical precedent, it was perhaps only a matter of time before Microsoft’s latest release – Windows Mobile 6.5 for iPhone – emerged. And, after putting it through its paces, we can say that it is indeed a promising product that looks set to bring Microsoft-like capabilities to the iPhone of every person who has ever wanted to replicate the look and feel of Windows Mobile on their device.
After installing and launching the $12.99 application, iPhone users are greeted with the typical Windows Mobile split-screen view, with functions along the bottom of the screen and an array of appointments, new emails, contacts and other functions spread out across the screen. The application has the same look and feel as a Windows Mobile phone, and navigating through its menus confirmed that the features work in a similar way to the functionality on rival phones.
In a word, that is, not at all. In our tests, Windows Mobile successfully failed to synchronise data with our desktop computer; proved incredibly adept at dropping out of a running application and rebooting itself in the middle of a phone call; and consistently exhibited the slow touch-screen responsiveness and poor user interface design that have been hallmarks of Windows Mobile since its early days.
Application support was relatively robust, with support for downloading applications from Microsoft’s emerging App Store rival built in. Our evaluation unit was configured to access a pre-release version of the store, and we’ll be darned if we could find a single application that interested us enough to actually download.
Another core capability built into Windows Mobile 6.5 for iPhone is its support for media: the application plays all WMV format videos and WMA songs, such as those available from the Telstra BigPond shop. Lack of AAC support means the application could not access or play music stored on the iPhone, while lack of robust photo capabilities meant we were unable to do more than view highly condensed versions of our iPhone photo library.
Macworld buying advice. Windows Mobile 6.5 for iPhone goes to great lengths to replicate the entire user experience of a standalone Windows Mobile phone. While it’s great for novelty value, we suggest that those looking for an authentic Windows Mobile experience may do better throwing their iPhones under an oncoming truck and using smoke signals to communicate instead. You won’t get the same selection of applications, but you will sleep at night knowing you’re using the next best thing to the iPhone that the market has to offer.