Windows Mobile 6.5 walkthrough with Engadget (now with video!)

We saw a Touch Diamond2 running old-skool Windows Mobile 6.1 this morning -- and don't get us wrong, the hardware's pretty hot, but who really wants that noise when we've got the same thing running Windows Mobile 6.5 a few blocks away? Shortly after the fanfare of Microsoft's press conference today, we were ushered downstairs for a walkthrough on a freshly-flashed Touch Diamond2 of virtually everything that makes 6.5 different from the versions before it, and while we're not blown away by the sheer freshness or paradigm-shiftyness of what we're seeing here, it's a totally acceptable bump of 0.4 in the version number. Let's put it this way: we still have a burning desire in our hearts and our loins for 7.0, whenever that happens. Follow the break for video and some key highlights!

  • The new locking screen is very cool. Not the jazziest looking we've ever seen, but the added functionality of being able to go straight to specific screens of the phone -- screens you're particularly interested in when coming out of standby -- is great. Someone should've thought of this long ago.

  • The home screen is a love-it-or-hate-it affair -- the gesture used to navigate it might be a bit difficult to get used to. There's a focused bar for each piece of information on the screen; it needs to be dragged from item to item to highlight, which is where we could see ourselves getting a little hung up. The left / right gestures to move through pieces of information in a single category (tasks or calendar items throughout the day, for example) makes a boatload of information accessible from the home screen, but it might be too much -- if you're busy, seeing your whole calendar this way could take a few minutes and leave you with a sore thumb. Also, the left / right thing makes less sense for some of the items -- bookmarks, for example. Who's going to thumb through their bookmarks one at a time?

  • Windows Media Player is a total unchanged carry-over from 6.1 -- a major disappointment for anyone hoping that the Zune influence on the 6.5's home screen would be pervasive throughout the platform. Actually, a major disappointment, period.

  • 6.5 is resistive only. It doesn't support capacitive touchscreens.

  • The on-screen keyboard looks cool, but you'll see some struggles typing in the video -- possibly related to the resistive nature of the screen. Bottom line, 6.5 isn't 100 percent finger-friendly. (Besides, it turns out that the keyboard is HTC's, not Microsoft's; as far as we know, the stock board is unchanged from 6.1).

  • Scrolling is generally choppy, especially in the honeycomb menus. We're hoping this resolves itself prior to launch -- the software's still in alpha, after all -- but we're not holding our breath. The "springboard" action when scrolling is new to WinMo and works well, but what's the point when you're struggling with speed?

  • IE Mobile seems to render beautifully in the sites we've seen, but the zoom slider seems difficult to actuate with a finger -- possibly just because it's slow to respond. We think part of the perception that the zooming functionality is low-performance stems from the fact that it's stepped, not smooth. Hard to say if 6.5 has the raw horsepower to do smooth scrolling, though (and to be fair, Android and the iPhone "cheat" by filling in areas with a checkerboard pattern to speed things up, so no one's really nailed this).

  • The finger-friendly menus seem unintuitive even to our demonstrator, mainly because they don't support swipe-based scrolling. Instead, the user taps arrows at the top and bottom of the context menu to navigate.