Why wait for Windows Mobile 6.5?

Microsoft's latest mobile operating system may be months away from release, but some companies offer similar services that you can use now.

Internet Explorer Mobile

The enhanced usability features of Windows Mobile 6.5 (coverage) may not be available for a few months yet, but that doesn't mean you have to wait for Microsoft's newly announced mobile operating system to start sampling some of its new features. There are a couple of similar applications that are available now.

Instead of twiddling your thumbs over the new MyPhone service--which will back up your phone's contacts, photos, and texts--you can sign up for Dashwire (download). Dashwire's free service for Windows Mobile 5 and 6 uploads your calls, texts, contacts, photos, videos, and ringtones to an online dashboard. You'll be able to access and also interact with your phone's contents; for instance, reply to a text, e-mail a photo or video, and read visual voicemail.

Similarly, Microsoft's revamped Internet Explorer Mobile looks promising, with added support for Javascript and Flash, and some more sophisticated page navigation than in previous versions. Chances are, if you're using IE Mobile on a Windows Mobile 5 or Windows Mobile 6 phone, downloading Opera Mobile or Skyfire (beta) will give you some of those promised features today. The most recent version of Skyfire, for instance, comes with Flash 10, Silverlight 2.0, and the latest Quicktime, and can play media directly from the browser. Opera Mobile, on the other hand, has similar icon-based navigation to what Microsoft previewed in Barcelona this week, and some advanced features to highlight and search text. Opera Mobile's larger buttons already make version 9.5 beta 2 a finger-friendly option. In fact, some Windows Mobile phones, like the Samsung Omnia, come shipped with Opera as a browser option.

It will definitely be interesting to see how Microsoft's new features play out in the phone's ecosystem compared with the services that already exist. In the meantime, Dashwire and the alternative mobile browsers can give you a taste of what's to come.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.