I recently acquired a new Windows Mobile-based mobile phone, the Samsung Ace World Edition, from Bell. (Don’t laugh! I needed a new device and Bell’s clearing this thing out for just $100 without a contract.)
I’m definitely not a fan of the Windows Mobile operating system, but I have discovered one feature about it that I am definitely enamoured with: its initial home screen. This initial view appears when I turn the device on and it nicely summarizes a number of pieces of information.
For my roaming smartphone needs of late, I’ve been carrying my iPhone around. But I’ve been repeatedly frustrated by the volume of taps I must perform to access basic information like where and when my next meeting is.
A home screen, like the one I’ve got on Windows Mobile, helps me avoid all this tapping about. I can literally just turn the device on and it’s already displaying what’s next, this screen shot displays (check the black bar just below the calendar):
What’s more, by using the rocker switch on the front of the device I can quickly scroll through a list of useful information. Here I’ve scrolled to the messaging view of the bar:
I like that with the Windows Mobile home screen I can very efficiently access key information.
Now compare that to my initial view on the iPhone:
Besides a date and time, this lock screen is largely meaningless. And while I appreciate that I can place my son’s artwork on this screen, I would argue that there’s a whole lot of wasted space there that’s prime for a more functional purpose.
Granted, this screen will display upcoming events, but only within the range of the alarm I’ve set for each event. If I want to see something that’s happening later today, I have to go digging.
What’s worse, after unlocking the phone I’m left with even less information:
To learn more about my day, I have to go one tap further and enter either iCal or the third party Daylite app.
And therein lies another problem I have with the iPhone: it requires a lot of tapping back and forth between apps to discover some very basic information. This OS needs a more integrated view of affairs that eases the burden on the users.
Windows Mobile definitely has a significant edge over the iPhone OS in its ability to summarize information and present it in an efficient view on the home screen.
Of course, I’ve moderately customized my device’s home screen, but even in its stomach-churning default state it was very functional.
(Adjusting the home screen’s look and feel to a more palatable status exposed me to Windows Mobile’s primary weakness: poor usability. Despite the lack of a home screen, the iPhone is a joy to use whereas Windows Mobile is an exercise in frustration.)
I consider the lack of a home screen on the iPhone a huge oversight for Apple and a real handicap for the device.
It’s worth noting that all of the other major smartphones have blindly followed Apple’s lead down the apps-first home screen path:
They they are, the Blackberry, WebOS, and Android, home screens in all their default, contextless-glory.
I was particularly surprised to find that Palm’s WebOS offered such a dearth of data, considering how they tout the platform’s Synergy component. It occurs to me that a cornerstone of the WebOS should be a strong, contextual home screen.
My step back in time to a world where Windows Mobile was actually relevant has reintroduced me to the home screen of yore that actually carried some utility. And, truth be told, I like it.
But it makes me wonder: what sort of home screen will the new Windows Mobile 6.5 provide us? Will Microsoft be trendy with a minimalist approach, or stick to its tried-and-true rich home screen strategy?