E-mail is a lot smarter on Windows Mobile 6. First, all devices will ship with Microsoft's Direct Push technology so you get real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. Microsoft has also added nine new one-click shortcuts, as we noted above; plus, you get more of the true Outlook experience as your In-box view shows messages that are flagged, marked as high importance, and so forth. Once again, with Exchange Server 2007, you can do even more with Outlook Mobile, such as set up an Out of Office reply.
Searching for e-mails is no longer an unpleasant task, thanks to a new search function. Similar to the Smart Dial feature on Windows Mobile 5 devices, where you input a couple of letters to pull up associated contact, you can simply start typing in a word while in your Inbox, and it will automatically pull up messages with that term in the subject or contact field. It worked great for us, and it's truly a timesaver.
There is, of course, continued support for POP3 and IMAP accounts, but now you can also view e-mails in their original HTML format, regardless of account type. If there happens to be a hyperlink within a message, you can select to go to that page or if a phone number is listed, you can dial out directly from that message as well.
Windows Live for Mobile and Web browsing
If you have a Hotmail/Windows Live e-mail account, you can easily access those messages with Windows Live for Mobile. It's a simple matter of inputting your user ID and password, then you can choose to synchronize your e-mail and contacts, which integrates nicely into your phone's address book. As far as instant messenger, you get Live Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger), which boasts some improvements in its own right. Now, you can have multiperson chats and send images and voice clips via IM. While we appreciate these new capabilities, we're disappointed that there's not a more universal app included that supports other popular IM clients such as AIM and Yahoo.
Another aspect of Windows Live for Mobile is the Live Search, giving you a quick and easy way to search the Web. When you first access Windows Live, you are given the option of adding a Live Search bar, as well as Windows Live services, to the Today screen, and we recommend doing so. It's truly handy just to turn on your phone, enter a search term in the field, press OK, and instantly get results. The Live Search bar is also now part of the Internet Explorer Mobile home page, as well as new expandable Favorites and History menus.
Finally, there is also a new Internet Sharing utility, courtesy of Windows Mobile 6, that allows you to easily set up your phone as a wireless modem for your laptop via Bluetooth, or you can use a USB connection as well.
Work and play
The big news here is that Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition (formerly Smartphone Edition) now has the full Microsoft Office Mobile Suite. Whereas Windows Mobile 5 smart phones typically came installed with the Picsel Viewer Suite for opening and viewing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, Windows Mobile 6 brings the real deal so you can not only see said files but also edit them. We should note, however, that the editing capabilities are pretty light. In Word, you're pretty much restricted to adding and deleting text and formatting type (such as bold, italic, underline, and highlight); while in Excel, you can insert rows and columns, sort, perform basic functions, and so forth. PowerPoint remains pretty much view-only, although you can change playback options. For now, you can't create new documents on Standard Edition devices. It is possible with OneNote 2007, but this isn't part of the standard Windows Mobile 6 package, so you'll have to shell out $79.95 for the app. That said, we were able to transfer all three document types using a beta version of ActiveSync 4.5 and had no problems viewing or editing them. Admittedly, trying to edit manuscripts and spreadsheets without a touch screen and a QWERTY keyboard was a bit challenging on the HP iPaq 510.
Sadly, there were no notable improvements to Windows Media Player Mobile.
Service and support
Microsoft has maintained an informative and helpful support site for Windows Mobile 5 users; we hope and suspect that this will continue with Windows Mobile 6 as more devices become available. As it stands now, you can search through a number of help and how-to articles to get you through the basics, such as setting up your device, then delve into more advanced capabilities. As we noted in the beginning, it'll be up to carriers and device manufacturers to determine if they will offer Windows Mobile 6 upgrades.