LABS GALLERY: eWEEK Labs Tests Windows Mobile 6.5 on ATandT Pure

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LABS GALLERY: eWEEK Labs Tests Windows Mobile 6.5 on ATandT Pure

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Today Screen

When the AT&T HTC Pure starts, you're greeted with a Today screen that is radically different from Windows Mobile 5.0's and 6.0's, but not much different from Windows Mobile 6.1's, which was released last spring on some HTC models. That's because it uses the HTC's TouchFlo, which is not officially part of Windows Mobile.

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Touch Flo 3D

Although not officially part of Windows Mobile, Touch Flo 3D is an integral part of the HTC phones using Windows Mobile. Sliding your finger across the bottom lets you navigate through several features.

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Start Screens

But what of Windows Mobile 6.5 itself? Pressing the Windows button brings you to a Start screen listing various applications. The look of this screen is a bit different from the main HTC start screen and is certainly far sexier than that of Windows Mobile 6.0 and earlier. Those screens looked like miniature versions of Windows 95 (and were about as usable as Windows 95).

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In Windows Mobile 6.0 and earlier you had to get to Settings through a menu that dropped down from the upper-right corner, but now you can get there from an icon on the Windows Start page. Here you can see the main Settings screen.

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Although the main screens look different, exploring more deeply reveals much of the same old Windows Mobile. Many of the icons from previous versions are still there, and when you open a feature—such as Memory settings—you see the same old tiny print. The tabs have a more 3D look, but inside it's the same Windows Mobile with a new front end.

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Menus are tiny and require a stylus (or a sharp fingernail) to click. Here's the same Notes application that's been present since the early days of Windows CE. Also present is the drop-down menu that's hard to navigate. Unfortunately, this particular phone, the HTC Pure, doesn't have a scrolling button, so there seems to be no way to easily scroll up and down the menu. You just have to somehow click on the item you want.

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Back to the TouchFlo slider, there's a Programs screen that lists some of the available programs, as well as slots for choosing other programs that can be accessed from here. But this screen is separate from the list of programs you get when you click the Windows button. It's almost like the whole HTC front end tries to hide the actual Windows Start screens.

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Indeed, several screens available through the TouchFlo seem to mimic built-in screens, but with HTC's own "touch.". Here's another Settings screen that's separate from the built-in Windows settings screens.

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Making Windows Mobile a contender in the smartphone arena is the new Windows Mobile Marketplace. This screen looks a lot like a similar screen found in the iPhone App Store. From here, you can download new apps for your phone (some free, some not). As with the App Store, there are categories to choose from.

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AT&T Screens

In addition to the Windows Mobile and HTC screens are several screens created by AT&T. To access these screens, you slide the TouchFlo over until you get to the AT&T screens. Included is an icon called Apps, which brings up more apps, as well as an icon called Tools that brings up even more programs.

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Facebook App

The Apps screen you get to from the AT&T screen brings up a different set of apps, including a Facebook application (which the copyright notice says was created by Microsoft, not Facebook or AT&T).

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Facebook Functionality

The Facebook app is marginally usable. For example, you can update your status, read the status of other users and look at photos.

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Remote Desktop Utility

Deep inside the AT&T Tools menu is a remote desktop utility for connecting to a Windows server. I couldn't help but be intrigued by this (even though it existed in earlier versions). During tests, I was connected via Wi-Fi; running in the other room was a Windows Server. Sure enough, I was able to connect. I'm not sure whether I'd be able to handle much typing of C# code into Visual Studio on a remote desktop, but the feature is there nevertheless.

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Phone Utility

But let's not forget the real reason you'll purchase this Windows Mobile-based machine: to talk on the phone and to text. The phone utility isn't all that different from the one that shipped with earlier versions of the device, although it looks a little spiffier. (The names and numbers in this screen have been changed to protect the innocent—the author of this slideshow!)

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Text Messaging

Here's a look at the text message feature. Again, it's not all that different from earlier Windows Mobile versions, except that it makes use of the new built-in keyboard. The keyboard is definitely better than the old one that required a stylus, and it works about as well as the iPhone's keyboard.

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The AT&T Pure comes with two browsers—Internet Explorer and Opera. IE on Windows Mobile has improved dramatically in this version. During tests, it opened the Websites I attempted to reach and included some nice zooming features, as well as a "tip feature." (Note that the text is fuzzy in this picture because I've got it zoomed to an odd level.)

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Tip Feature

The tip feature works like this: The phone has a sensor in it, and when you tip the phone sideways, IE automatically detects the motion and rotates the screen 90 degrees for you.

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Today Imagined

Without all the fancy HTC add-ins, what would the Today screen look like? To find out, I used a Windows Mobile 6.5 emulator that comes with the software development kit. This screen shows what the default Today screen looks like running on an emulator. If you get Windows Mobile 6.5 on a non-HTC device, this is what you might see.