Comparing Windows Mobile 6.5 and iPhone 3.0

We had a little fun with our friends at The iPhone Blog last week after the iPhone 3.0 software was announced. Certainly it's a red-letter day in TiPB nation.

But now that we've had our fun, let's a take a serious look at how the iPhone 3.0 software compares to Windows Mobile present — and future, in Windows Mobile 6.5. Join us as we break down Rene's excellent 3.0 walkthrough.

The home screen

Windows Mobile 6.5: Us WinMo folks have a couple of new things to play with. Probably the most talked about has been the "honeycomb" start menu, which recently lost the hexagonal cells but will still keep the overall feel, and with larger icons.

There's also the new Today Screen, with more finger-friendly indicators with more information.

iPhone 3.0: If it ain't broke ... Apple's sticking with the tried and true grid launcher. One thing a number of people have been clamoring for is a way to better group the icons, and we can't blame them at all. Moving the icons around is still very simple. Touch and hold, then just slide it where you want it. That's something we're pretty worried about with the WinMo 6.5 hexa-start screen.

But the iPhone still doesn't have a proper place to see all of your information at once (without jailbreaking), like on the Windows Mobile Today Screen. Want to see your appointments for the day? Go to the calendar app. Miss a call, have a voicemail or e-mail? It'll let you know how many you have to check with a "badge" on top of the icon, but that's it. With WinMo a simple flick gives you a preview.

There is a new home screen to the left, which we'll touch on ... oh, now.

Phone-wide search

WinMo 6.5: This is (sort of) something we've enjoyed for a long, long time. Need to look up a contact? Just start typing. From there you can choose to e-mail, text, call, look up address ... About the only thing missing is the ability to perform a Facebook poke directly from the contacts list.

You can search for files relatively easy, though you've got to find the "Find file" app first. Searching through e-mail is pretty painless and is a breeze if you're hooked into an Exchange server. But you have to be in Outlook first.

If all this were tied together and combined with basic Web search out of the box, it'd be as good as the iPhone and what's coming on the Palm Pre. Yeah, there are Today Screen plug-ins for Web search, but we'd like to see it all native and in one place.

iPhone 3.0: Here's where that new home screen comes in. And like on the Mac desktop, it's called Spotlight. From the primary screen, you slide to the left, or click the Home Button. Start typing in the search bar, and you get Contact names, App names, iPod media file names, E-mail headers (from, to, and subject), and Calendar event names.

So, while the iPhone's a little late to this game, Spotlight's ability to drill through more than just contacts is a pretty big leg up.


Finally, FINALLY! The iPhone gets proper MMS, which we WinMo users have had for, well, ever. (OK, unless you're on Sprint.) We'll have to see how nicely it plays between carriers, but that's something the rest of us have to deal with, too.

Copy and paste

Don't need to beat this horse any longer. The iPhone's finally getting it. It will be interesting to see just how useable it is in real-world settings. From what we've seen so far, it's promising. Capacitive touch screens really help here. But, again, c&p is something we've had on WinMo for a long, long time.


WinMo 6.5: We recently got confirmation that widgets will be on Windows Mobile 6.5. Dieter does a good job in the latest WMExperts Podcast of explaining just what they are, what they do, and how it's relatively easy for developers to code one up.

iPhone 3.0: The iPhone's had widgets from the start. An easy example: The stocks app. And that gets tweaked a little in 3.0 for landscape goodness, exact price, etc.

We must say, the iPhone stocks app definitely is a little more pleasing on the eye.

Landscape keyboard

Why it took Apple so long to implement this across the board? Who knows. We've had it on WinMo with sliders. (Yeah, that's not exactly an apples to apples comparison, but whatever.) The keyboardless HTC Touch HD had landscape keyboards from the start.

Safari vs. Internet Explorer

OK, it's really no contest here. Apple's set the bar for mobile browsing. IE6 appears to be an improvement over IE5, and we're already getting a taste of it on the Sprint Treo Pro. But IE6 supports Flash, and mobile Safari still doesn't. Personally, I'll give up flash for the smooth browsing on Safari any day of the week, but your needs may differ.

Turn-by-turn directions

We've still got 'em. The iPhone 3.0 software's gettting 'em.

Stereo Bluetooth

Another thing that's kept me coming back to Windows Mobile. I stream podcasts and phone calls wirelessly to a Motorola T505 speakerphone, and from there use the FM tuner to pipe it all into my car. And that's something that Windows Mobile has done pretty darn well (some phones have better Bluetooth stacks than others) for a while now. But now that the iPhone and iPod Touch 2G are getting A2DP support, it's going be a whole 'nother ball game for Apple — and for accessories.


Windows Mobile's still got it and can run apps in the background. iPhone still doesn't. 'Nuff said.


The iPhone 3.0 software brings push notifications, but they're done either as "modal" boxes — which you have to acknowledge before doing anything else, or as badges on icons. Still not ideal, but it's a slight improvement. Audio alerts will be customizable for each application.

There still are several options in Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5, from the Today Screen to popups to audio and LED alerts. All of which beat modal alerts.

App store vs. Marketplace

Apple did it (mostly) right from the get-go. Easy to use, easy to buy. There's no two ways about it. We'll have to see what Microsoft and Marketplace have learned from a year of watching Apple.

Implementing a better way of sifting through apps to separate the wheat from the chaff would be a major plus for Microsoft. We'll also have to see how painless the transaction system is, though we're not anticipating a big headache there. Also still up in the air is how strong-armed Microsoft will be as a gatekeeper. Will it ban apps the same way as Apple? More transparency has been promised, however, and that could be the difference-maker.

Windows Mobile 6.5 vs. iPhone 3.0

So is there a clear victor here? Of course not. The platforms are vastly different. But while at first we bemoaned the fact that 6.5 is more of a re-skinning of Windows Mobile 6.0 than anything else, additions such as Widgets are making that a little easier to swallow. But, clearly, there's still much work to be done as we await Windows 7.

And, clearly, iPhone users have fewer and fewer major items left on their wish lists. Multitasking and background processes would be one on them. Better notifications are yet another.

But the iPhone definitely is the platform with the momentum right now. We'll see if Windows Mobile gains any later this year with the release of Windows Mobile 6.5 and as we get closer to Windows Mobile 7.

Phil Nickinson

Phil is the father of two beautiful girls and is the Dad behind Modern Dad. Before that he spent seven years at the helm of Android Central. Before that he spent a decade in a newsroom of a two-time Pulitzer Prize-finalist newspaper. Before that — well, we don't talk much about those days. Subscribe to the Modern Dad newsletter!

  • Just please keep this thing civil! FOR THE LOVE OF JESUS BUDDHA JUST ACT LIKE ADULTS!
  • I understand what distinguishes "widgets" from other applications on Windows Mobile - Widget's are composed of HTML. But on the iPhone other than being told that the stocks app is a "widget" does it have any other properties that make it classified as a widget? I always got the feeling that labeling it as such was a marketing decision since the term was also being thrown out as a Mac OS X feature.
  • Good conclusion.
  • how does a capacitave screen differ from a resistive?
  • You mean capacitive screen. Well, in the capacitive screen you'll be able to perform multitouch and resistive screen not.
  • you can do multitouch on resistive. Here is a demo:
  • Capacitive is much more useful for using fingers but not at all useful for a stylus. Resistive allows for the use of both, but it is much better adapted to a stylus.
  • Later this ear? Hmmm
  • lulz. Thanks.
  • While background apps are nice in some scenarios Apple is correct in stating that it simply doesn't scale on a phone. How many background apps can you run simultaneously before your phone falls over? 10? 20? I doubt it. But the iPhone notification approach lets you have an unlimited number of apps that can potentially notify you without having to be running at all times.
  • yes your jack will show 6.5 lol
  • fundamental difference still remains ... every iPhone can be upgraded to 3.0 but will my Jack run 6.5? Nuff said :(
  • Background applications have more use than just notification. Suppose I want to click on a link in my RSS reader. On the iPhone it first closes the reader, then opens the browser. On WM, it opens the browser without closing the reader. I can easily switch back and forth without reloading apps. Its more than just a minor feature. That being said, im not getting 6.5 unless it appears on XDA for the Sprint Diamond. Holding out for 7 here.. or the Palm Pre. Tegra or bust.
  • Marketplace vs Appstore - No contest. Apple runs a dictatorship! Winmo lets me get anything and do anything. Microsoft doesn't need to approve my software, and Winmo doesn't need to be hacked (jailbroken). Also, how can you say that the iphone platform has the momentum. It has 0 momemntum. 99% of people that buy the iphone don't even know what a platofrm or OS is! They don't make comparisons between iphone and winmo or symbian. They don't even know what winmo or symbian are. They just buy it because it looks cool and is trendy. Apple advertises the iphone like they invented the wheel.
    Wow, you can check scores of MLB games in real time. Big deal, I can actually listen to or watch the game live on Winmo. Something you can't do with an iphone.
    Wow you can check the wheather.
    Wow you can listen to music.
    Wow you can buy something on ebay. You can do all that and MUCH more with Winmo.
    iphone just looks good. But if you want more, winmo is the way to go.
  • Do you know by any chance if Windows Mobile 6.5 natively offers "Push Email" for email accounts (e.g. Gmail, or other email that supports IDLE) other than Exchange or Hotmail?
  • Sadly I have been a WinMo user for years with HTCs as the standard for working. Nothing wrong there until Windows Mobile Centre started playing up. After three years of pain and misery with Windows Updates screwing my hardware, data and thus my business I gave up and bought a Mac and iPhone. I have bought Vista in various flavours, T-Mobile's MDAs and had high-end PCs and 'phones completely wrecked by MS's poor attempt at software deployment, and I am fed up with being an unpaid beta tester for expensive software that simply does not work. The Mac and the iPhone worked out of the box first time and the average app for the iPhone has cost me a couple of quid. In five months, I have not had one data or system crash, hang-up or data reset. At last, a solution that can allow me to work rather than worry about the next so-called update that will screw the data on my mobile or PC platform. WinMo and Vista cannot even start to get close to OSX and iPhone. SHARK!
  • hmmm winMo or iPhone well apple is always updating the OS and it works with both iPhone and iPhone 3g winMo well you know they kind of take there sweet time sending out updates they must be to busy working out the BSOD's and the fact that the iPhone OS essentially is a UNIX based and jail breaking is great I love the fact that who knows when but it's passable to emulate your winmo and linux and even android on modded firmware can winmo do that? oh and I like my phone with a smoother touchscreen interface not laggy like winslow
  • yes winmo can be moded hacked tunred upside down cooked and then cooked again to your liking. my touch pro is curently running 6.5 and would (fillin the blank) allover ur iphone. and it runs android as second opperating system i can have android or 6.5 whatever i feel like can you i phone run multiple operating systems??? didnt think so buddy.
  • Eatevan, how does it run Android as a second OS? Did you have to hack it to get that behavior?yes. Is that a possibility for 90% of mobile users? No. The fact is, it doesn't matter what the technical capabilities of your phone are if it's not usable. My winmo phones required two hands all the time (stylus) or fruitless jabbing at 10-pixel controls to operate. My winmo phones hard froze once a day. My winmo phones required a hard reset/data wipe every month. My winmo phones' apps cost an average of $19.95 each. My winmo phones came with one version of winmo, with absolutely no official upgrade path. But I can update my iPhone 3G to v3.0 for free when it comes out this June, and so can my brother, with his launch model. My iPhone never freezes, and I've never had to format it (what a rediculius thing, having to format your phone). If multitasking means daily hard locks, manual memory management, and monthly formatting, I think I'd rather be able to use my phone, and I'd rather just launch every app fresh.
  • wow, look at the childish comments.. I had an iphone 3gs that thing was the biggest POS on earth.. However, the iphone 3g seems to be a solid phone. it may be a bit slower with less ram id take that over a 3gs anyday. I have also had and still have my winmo phone. I would take my winmo phone over an iphone any day of the week. Ive never had it freeze never had to do monthly wipes.. not once have i ever had to reset it. I back it up once a week for disaster purposes, the same as i did with my iphone. im not taking sides. its more of a personal preference..