As someone who has been using a PDA since the HP95LX twenty years ago and Windows CE since the Pegasus days, you’d think I would be an easy sell on a Windows Mobile Phone. So did I … but it turns out that I was wrong. I had a horrible experience with the HTC Touch Pro 2 and couldn’t be rid of it soon enough, which was surprising since I loved Windows Mobile 6.1 on my Dell Axim x51v.
I had heard that Windows Mobile 6.5 makes the phone experience better, but there was no solution on Verizon (actually just came out last week!), and I wasn’t going to take the chance of getting stuck with the TP2 by mucking about with a hacked upgrade. So after I got my smartphone stuff handled I took a trip back to XDA-Developers forums to see if there was a WiMo 6.5 update available for the Axim. There was, so naturally I gave it a shot. So what do I think? Read on to see!
The first thing to note – upgrading the Operating System by ‘Flashing’ the system is one of those “do at your own risk” things. No one has a Dell Axim that is still under warranty, so THAT risk is averted, but the ability to completely trash your system still exists. Also note, that this will erase everything on your system, but leave your SD and CF cards intact. So move stuff there if you want to save it.
So here is the basic process:
1) Unpack files from archive into root of FAT32 SD-Card.
2) Insert the SD-Card into your Axim
3) Start the SD Image Loader by Pressing Wireless + Power + Reset
4) Release the Reset button but hold the other two
3) The Image Loader will search for flash images on your SD-Card.
4) Press the action key twice, this starts the update process.
5) After the process is finished you will be asked to hard reset your device. Follow this instruction and wait for the OS to load.
When I had done this process earlier in 2009 to install WiMo 6.1 I had noticed immediate benefits in terms of performance and internet usability. With the Windows Mobile 6.5 upgrade the immediate change was about the interface.
I have mixed feelings about the ‘finger friendly’ interface, mostly because I found myself agreeing with stuff I had read stating that it felt that the operating system didn’t really know if it wanted to be a ‘finger OS’ or a ‘stylus OS’. I tend to use it mostly with the stylus as that is most comfortable for me and works universally.
One thing I liked right away was how well all of the latest social media apps ran on WiMo 6.5 – I was using Twitter and Facebook and so on right away without any issues, and the updated email and wireless networking clients made connecting to my home and work wireless networks much easier than ever before. Skype works nicely and I was able to complete a couple of calls, though that is nothing I plan to use on a regular basis.
In terms of performance, there are two issues: responsiveness and memory usage. There are loads of posts about minimizing the footprint by either using a smaller memory model ROM (linked in the source to another thread) or disabling certain things. That pretty much told me that I should expect memory usage to run high, and that was true. Here is a screen showing the state with me having several programs open at once (Internet Explorer, Pictures, Windows Media, and Notes). You can see I only have a few MB remaining.
As for actual performance, my Dell Axim running WiMo 6.1 greatly outpaced the HTC Touch Pro 2, and since upgrading I haven’t noted a degradation in performance in spite of feeling more cramped in terms of memory space – I have frequently had programs (like Microsoft Reader) have to restart when I was only running Email and Reader. That said, WiMo 6.5 is much better about managing memory behind the scenes and I have yet to really feel things bog down. This includes running games such as the memory hungry Call of Duty 2.
Is Windows Mobile 6.5 for you? That really depends on what sort of experience you are looking for. The Dell Axim x51v runs great with Windows Mobile 6.1, and I definitely recommend you do THAT upgrade as a minimum to get the most out of your PDA experience. If you really want a fully functional, finger friendly VOIP-phone-PDA, then you should made the leap. Otherwise, ask yourself just how badly you need to be playing with the latest ‘bright & shiny’ operating system.