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Windows Mobile 6.5 shows clever burst of originality. Haha no.

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Daniel Eran Dilger

To everyone who took Microsoft at its word that it would catch up to the original iPhone’s multitouch user interface within just three years, the demonstration of Windows Mobile 6.5 is breath of fresh air, or at least another desperate gasp for oxygen before being submerged in development for another six to nine months.

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To begin with, Microsoft has redesigned its lock screen to double as an inscrutable mystery game along the lines of the Myst franchise (below). Unlock the code, and you can check your voice mail or place your call!

I wonder if Rob Enderle will fantasize about bizarre rape scenarios involving a panicked woman struggling to make a call for help with her Windows Mobile 6 phone and not being able to figure this out, as he did in trying to demonize the iPhone.

With an iPhone involved, Enderle’s fantasy woman was doomed “because she didn’t remember her iPhone password,” ignoring the conspicuous “Emergency Call” button on the iPhone’s passcode entry screen. Windows Mobile 6.5 presents a series of icons that look like a really hard Mensa idea association quiz. It seems to beg for more than just a password. Perhaps Microsoft can add a rape whistle to the hardware specification for Windows Mobile phones as a special gift to its prized consultant at the Enderle Group.

Why Dan Frommer and Scott Moritz Are Wrong on iPhone Sales

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Assuming you can eventually arrive at the main Start screen, you’ll find Microsoft improved upon the iPhone’s grid of 20 icons by presenting a honeycomb of nine. This automatically makes it easier to hit the buttons, because they are bigger: Homer Simpson dialing wand bigger.

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There’s also no chance of becoming confused with a finger swipe action that presents additional pages of icons, allowing users to be potentially inundated with 148 potential targets as they might be on the iPhone. Of course, there’s also not 148 apps for Windows Mobile that anyone would want to buy.

Remember the $450 of top Windows Mobile software that either solved problems that shouldn’t exist, or should have been included, as it is on the iPhone?

Microsoft’s SkyMarket equivalent to the iPhone App Store isn’t around yet anyway. And it won’t be before Apple sells well more than its first billion iPhone apps. And yes, that’s a B, as in the total number of Windows PCs estimated to be in use worldwide.

Microsoft plans “Skymarket” apps store for Windows Mobile 7 in 2009

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Microsoft also seems to be hoping to court Mac users, or at least make them feel at home by directly ripping off Apple’s Mac OS X icons (again). In its months of gestation within Microsoft, the Mac OS X home icon swiped wholesale for use in the Windows Mobile 6.5 beta (below top) has been edited down to where it now looks subtly different (above, no chimney!).

The Task Manager, a kluge required in Windows Mobile to kill crashed processes and manage background apps that are stealing all available RAM, also lifts Mac OS X’s Activity Monitor icon (below bottom, thanks to Patrick Tassos for the image).

Perhaps it’s just a case of Microsoft employing Mac users to develop its graphics, as the company acknowledged when it was caught creating its anti-Apple ads on Macs because Windows software wasn’t up to the task.

Microsoft’s ‘I’m a PC’ Ads Created On Macs

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Icon Theft
Copy Protected.

There’s still a number of things missing in Windows Mobile 6.5 in comparison to the iPhone that debuted two years ago. Those feature omissions are due to the patents Apple filed to keep Microsoft from firing the rest of its internal research and development staff and simply photocopying the iPhone interface wholesale, as it did to the original Macintosh in the early 90s after it weaseled its way around Apple’s weaker copyright protections.

For example, users won’t be able to touch and hold icons to move them around as they squiggle underneath; instead they have lame text popups (below). There won’t be a four conductor, iPhone/MacBook-style audio jack for headset-headphones with an integrated remote control packaged with any new Windows Mobile phones either. Apple patented that, too.

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There won’t even be an approximation of iPhone multitouch navigation, so no double tap to zoom into the web and no automatic heuristics to determine if you intended to scroll up and down or around the web page you’re navigating. This will strictly be a “touch” device in the most plain-jane, unsophisticated sense possible.

The iPhone Multitouch Patent Myth

It’s not just user interaction that will be poor. Windows CE lacks the sophisticated Quartz Core Graphics compositing layer Apple uses in both Mac OS X and on the iPhone. Vista has something like Quartz now (more than a half decade after Apple first debuted Mac OS X), but that product struggles to run on full sized PCs.

Windows Mobile will be stuck with the same basic 2D graphics of Windows XP, firmly rooted in the technology of the 90s. It also lacks anything like Apple’s Core Animation (originally developed for the iPhone and released for Mac OS X Leopard as well) for making fluid, animated interfaces easy for developers to build.

Spin pundits to the rescue!

That won’t stop Windows-enraptured pundits from attempting to imply that Windows Mobile has caught up to the iPhone, however. Never mind that the creaky Windows CE foundation underneath the clunky facade of Windows Mobile isn’t any good, or that many of Microsoft’s partners (including Sony Ericsson and LG) will be covering up the official Windows Mobile interface with their own flashy but thin layer of cheesy frosting. In LG’s case (below), it’s attempting to make its next Windows Mobile 6.5 phone look like iPhone 1.0.

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Microsoft will need all the help it can get in flogging its high-cost, low-usability Windows Mobile devices, which despite a years-long head start now only represent a tiny fraction of actual mobile web traffic (PDF). In the US, Windows Mobile trails the iPhone in web traffic share 14% to Apple’s 51%, despite the iPhone only being available on one carrier. In Western Europe, Microsoft’s platform represents 5% of all web traffic compared to Apple’s 52% share. In the UK, it’s 4% to 44%.

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Windows Mobile 6.5 hopes to, later this year, replace the nearly worthless Pocket Internet Explorer with a browser than can actually render web pages, but it’s a bit late to that game. Nokia, Google’s Android, Palm’s new Pre, and the BlackBerry Storm are all on board with WebKit-based browsers that already work. Who will pay to license Microsoft’s lagging mobile operating system with so many more advanced, free alternatives available?

That’s a good question for Steve Ballmer, who at the release of the iPhone scoffed that Apple could only hope to get a couple percentage points of the smartphone market, while his company had its sights on 80% market share domination in licensing contracts with OEMs.

Since then, Android began offering once loyal Microsoft licensees like HTC a free alternative to paying for Windows Mobile; Palm has reversed its Windows Mobile strategy (which initially doubled Microsoft’s market share in the US at the expense of its Palm OS) to set out on its own with the Pre’s new webOS; and Nokia has put together plans to release Symbian for free as open source.

That leaves Microsoft stuck with proponents like Sony Ericsson and Motorola, both of whom might likely jettison the smartphone market this year because they can’t compete. It also means that in a tough economy, Microsoft has no viable product offering in the still growing smartphone market but is instead tied to the dying, low-end desktop PC market, which is being eaten alive by Vista-phobic netbooks.

Netbooks killing off sickly Windows PC sales
Did Microsoft kill Android at Mobile World Congress 2009?
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43 comments

1 Michael { 02.17.09 at 2:27 am }

You forgot to mention LG, the third largest smartphone maker in the world, who is licensing Windows Mobile 6.5.

Unfortunately, the world isn’t as iPhone-centric as you and I would like to believe.. but that will soon change with iPhone 3.0! haha. and windows 7 is supposedly decently running on notebooks that are sub-1000 dollars… of course time will tell if the actual OS gets bloated with legacy services later on, as all windows OSes have been so far. And Apple is right, netbooks are great for some people, but not so great for others who need bigger screens and might want to organize their photos on their computers, which demands bigger hard drives and processor speeds and so on. The only problem is for Microsoft, they’re the man in the middle, squeezed by Linux and netbooks on the low-end and Apple on the high-end. Good article, but seems like more of a flame bait for Microsoft fanboys to tear down simply because we don’t know exactly how the OS will function when it arrives ;] Although, when I saw that LG phone on AppleInsider, I was like, wow, are THEY in for a lawsuit (Apple’s definitely not allowing them to just completely rip off the entire layout of the iPhone interface with cartoon-like icons…)

2 bretbenz { 02.17.09 at 3:00 am }

Once again, a great article. Not because it makes a fanboy like me giddy with a feeling of “yes, yes, someone agrees with me” but also because it just makes sense. It is things like these that make me predict Microsoft has less than 5 years left. As soon as more people switch to Apple, and Ubuntu gets better and better, Microsoft won’t be able to sustain much more than corporate software appliances. And even in that market, Apple is already developing its own technologies to compete. I could also see another future where Microsoft somehow weasels linux into a new future windows illegally and starts making everyone pay for it. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch.

3 elppa { 02.17.09 at 4:50 am }

The Phone screen in the beta is pretty interesting too:

http://forum.roughlydrafted.com/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=1335

Now where have I seen that icon before…

4 rosko { 02.17.09 at 5:10 am }

I can’t believe how bad it is. Honestly I can’t. I used WM5, 6 and 6.1 before getting my iPhone. They were atrocious Mobile OSes, and when the iPhone was announced I was so relieved to see it done right. I really thought MS would do something much better next. I knew there would be some iPhone copying, but I at least thought it would end up semi-acceptable. But this?? Ugly messy design? Horrible lock screen? Zoom drag bar for IE???? And it won’t be ready until the END of this year?? Epic fail. They must be lavishing billions upon LG to get them to agree to use it.

5 Jon T { 02.17.09 at 6:17 am }

It’s obvious that the next generation computing platforms will be handheld devices, is iPhones or a bit larger, that display on larger screens wherever needed.

If this is the case, Apple, with PA Semi and the work it it has already done, (and Microsoft 10 years behind now) is going to clean up.

Google will be there too of course.

6 jezcaudle2 { 02.17.09 at 6:23 am }

And it won’t be before Apple sells well more than its first billion iPhone apps.

A billion apps sold or a billion apps downloaded?

And if it is downloaded, how many are still in use?

I know that I have downloaded many free apps only to delete them a week or a few days later. The apps that I have paid for I do use on a daily basis. Life Balance is the most expensive but the most useful, along with a guitar tuner that is also good.

On the point of having to download apps that should be on the phone anyway, the iPhone is not blameless in this regard. There are a few apps that should be on the iPhone – To Do list that should sync with the client. I would love that as using Life Balance for a shopping list is over kill. Actually the back of an envelope is best for a shopping list – why doesn’t the iPhone come with one of those?

One thing Apple does need to do is to find a way of letting third party apps put information into the calendar. Life Balance can’t do this without syncing back to a persons Mac and then the Mac syncing with the iPhone and/or through MobileMe. Yes I know about the sand boxes and stuff, but if Apple have certified the app to be on the AppStore then surely they can do some extended checking and allow apps to write to the calendar?

I really like my iPhone and my complaints are only minor.

7 Nick Barron { 02.17.09 at 7:02 am }

Excellent article Dan keep them coming. The next few years are going to be really interesting :)

8 LuisDias { 02.17.09 at 9:20 am }

Jeesh. I wonder what will Apple present this year to counter this “threat”. The worst that could happen is for Apple Engineers take a vacation off after they see this MS mess, laughing hard at it. I really hoped to see good competition, but I guess that’s an oxymoron coming from MS…

I really hope they don’t get that vacation. Continue the good work, Apple.

9 harrywolf { 02.17.09 at 9:41 am }

There are so many reasons to have an iPhone, that, for me, some weird 80′s windows mobile crap seems so hopeless that I am almost sorry for microsoft.

If you watch the iPhone ads, its obvious immediately that this phone is superior to everything else, by a long way.
If you USE one, its kinda magical.

Knocking Microsoft is shooting fish in a barrel – they dont have a clue.
They never did, but once Apple got rolling again, there was no place for them to hide.

Whatever the future of individual computers, its highly unlikely to involve Microsoft.
Its possible that Apple OS X could become the new ‘standard’ system worldwide. That might involve licensing OS X, which is something Apple wont do for a long time yet.

The game has changed – how much more does it have to change before Apple simply cant lose by licensing OS X?

10 GSMA Mobile World Congress? More Like GSMA iPhone World Congress … | John Paczkowski | Digital Daily | AllThingsD { 02.17.09 at 12:20 pm }

[...] whose presence is felt at the event, even though it can’t be bothered to attend. Consider the rough approximation of iPhone multitouch navigation in Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 6.5 OS — now to be known simply as Windows Phone. Or [...]

11 LuisDias { 02.17.09 at 1:35 pm }

Its possible that Apple OS X could become the new ’standard’ system worldwide. That might involve licensing OS X, which is something Apple wont do for a long time yet.

Hold your horses, dude. And stop smoking pot. We are nowhere near that point, and if such point ever exists, we’re like 3 decades away from it.

12 gus2000 { 02.17.09 at 1:41 pm }

Mmmmmmmmmmm cheesy frosting….

13 wordwarrior { 02.17.09 at 1:49 pm }

How does Windows Mobile 6.5 compare to Android? Given that Android is free, Windows Mobile would need to be significantly better for Microsoft to charge for it, which I can’t see happening, even if Android is still a relatively young operating system.

14 tundraboy { 02.17.09 at 1:56 pm }

During the early years of the auto industry, there were drivetrain/chassis builders and there were coach builders. The former would sell drivetrain and chassis units to the coach builders who would then build the body on the chassis and furnish the interior. As technology progressed and became more complex, this model of car building died. You just got a better, more efficiently built car if the drivetrain, chassis and body were designed (and manufactured) in an integrated manner from the ground up. The personal computer and smartphone industry is going this way. It’s just getting more and more complex and as Apple shows, you just get a better product if you designed the software and hardware platforms together from the get go.

Microsoft, as a stand alone OS provider has no future.

15 addicted44 { 02.17.09 at 2:06 pm }

@Michael,

Yeah, but LG is a bit player in the “smartphone” market (which is the only area Apple is currently competing in, and where all the growth is).

Apple has not joined netbooks, because they don’t see what value they can add to that market. Remember, in the computer market, Apple is an outsider, and not the default. They need to add significant value over what is currently available for people to switch to them. If they can’t do that, creating a netbook is simply a waste of time.

Which is the reason they are limited to the smartphone market in cellphones (although, over the last year they have become the default, and could possibly venture into cheaper and dumber handsets).

16 travelscott { 02.17.09 at 2:11 pm }

Daniel,

A pleasure as always to read your column.

One small point that I think is worthwhile for someone like yourself who likes to parse PR from fact: Apple claims a couple hundred million iPhone app downloads. That is not the same as apps sold, I am prone to think. Even if we count the free apps as “sold”, I believe that Apple is counting app updates in their total download number. Therefore it could well be that the number of apps actually ‘sold’ would be some fraction of the 200 million that Apple claims. Still an impressive number, but I think it would be prudent for astute journalists to make the distinction.

I could be wrong on this, but I have never seen Apple’s claimed number of downloads parsed in such a way as to distinguish ‘sales’ from the frequent updates that many iPhone apps experience.

17 addicted44 { 02.17.09 at 2:11 pm }

Btw, I would like to add. Although it isn’t out yet, the Palm Pre is looking really good. Well, let me correct that. Palm’s WebOS is looking really good.

If there is any company that can compete with Apple, it’s Palm. They are selling a complete product (unlike MS, which is selling part of the product and has to depend on “partners”) and they have sense of design.

This should be really interesting. Hopefully, WebOS can force Apple to up its game, and get a little freer.

18 daGUY { 02.17.09 at 2:49 pm }

Hey Dan, you forgot to mention – in addition to the ripped off Home icon, it looks like the camera for Photos icon is lifted straight from iPhoto (same screenshot).

Great article, as always.

19 t0m { 02.17.09 at 2:55 pm }

v3 iPhone. Definitely interesting to watch what Apple’s been up to.
Will PA Semi have made something by then? Will Snapdrgon esque chips be in there? or Tegra? Will Satnav finally arrive? Will their be banding for apps solely for v3 iPhones? Will Apple overhaul the UI to change some of the analogies, in a more Pre like way? Will more multitasking come? PNS?
Wireless sync? Is OS3.0 Snow Leopard for the iPhone? Will there be a decent CMOS sensor from Micron finally that can do video? We’re seeing a lot from MWC of stuff that won’t be out till after the v3 iPhone. Lots of unanswered questions.

20 Ari_Mac_User { 02.17.09 at 3:40 pm }

It seems as if MSFT is obsessed with Start buttons. They have to put them in everything they make these days it seems. It has no more of a place on a mobile phone than an Apple menu. It seems as though the designers at Apple understand the concept of designing interfaces to match the context while those working at Redmond seem to have missed that day in design school.

Apple took the right approach of redesigning their framework and UI controls to the touch interface (Cocoa touch) instead cramming desktop controls onto a mobile device and them bolting on touch sensitive “helper” controls.

21 nelsonart { 02.17.09 at 3:59 pm }

Dan points out several technologies that cannot be stolen by MS that enrich the iPhone experience immeasurably. It’s those thousands of little details that differentiate Apple’s products from the competition.

22 GwMac { 02.17.09 at 6:04 pm }

I am no Windows Mobile defender even though I use it on my HTC Touch Pro with Sprint. In all honesty it is a lot better than I had heard before I got my phone. Switching to AT&T is simply not an option for me due to no 3G coverage and a far cheaper plan on Sprint. HTC did a pretty good job of making WinMo more usable on my phone with their interface. One thing I do appreciate about WinMo over the iphone is the flexibility and endless amount of options. I would also really miss things like MMS, video camera recording, voice dialing, ability to run numerous apps at once, a physical keyboard, and copy and paste to name but a few. The GUI of the iPhone is definitely better than WinMo, but the terrible 3G coverage of AT&T vs. Sprint or Verizon makes it far less appealing. Add to that all the features and functions that I have on my HTC Touch Pro that I would lose with an iPhone makes me a lot less envious.

23 danieleran { 02.17.09 at 6:41 pm }

Regarding Apple’s “mobile app downloads” figures: they probably do count all upgrades and free apps in that number, which is now above half a billion. However, the point of a metric is to draw relative attention. There are no app stores that are counting purchases differently, requiring a disclaimer for Apple’s accounting.

Additionally, counting the free apps distributed is significant because it shows interest from consumers. Recall that Apple once counted QuickTime downloads to draw attention to how many people were using it. Many other companies similarly count free downloads to indicate relative popularity, including Firefox. I believe FF’s numbers also include regular updates.

And as for mobile software updates: you might be tempted to disregard these because they are both free and regularly offered, but software updates are also critical to providing a good experience. The iPhone premiered with the easiest to upgrade firmware of any phone, meaning that the vast majority of users were keeping up to date with the latest software. With apps, Apple has made it similarly easy to keep up to date. That’s a useful metric to throw into the overall figure of how well/advanced/popular the App Store is.

Until competitors get their own stores operating in volume, it will be hard to make direct comparisons, but Apple’s half billion download lead says a lot, and the fact that it will very likely double before Microsoft even opens its own venture says something too.

Another thing that’s interesting about mobile software stores is that Apple runs the only option for iPhone/iPod touch users. A variety of companies that have been trying to sell software for WiMo and Symbian and others are going to be competing against the “official” stores from Nokia and Microsoft. That will splinter users and developers between store/publishers, complicate how software is updated for users who obtain software from various places, and of course result in a software mess where nobody is in charge or responsible when malicious software starts becoming more common.

24 Bill { 02.17.09 at 6:44 pm }

I hope that Palm is ready to make a reliable device as MOST of the Treo’s that I know about, including my own, failed very quickly and needed to be replaced. My iPhone has replaced every thing that my Treo did, and works smoothly. I hope WM 7 does well because competition will make my iPhone [and any phone] get better. AT least Microsoft is trying. I wish them good luck [so that Apple continues to make my iPhone even better]. Nice article Dan.

25 John E { 02.17.09 at 6:57 pm }

i too am amazed at how underwhelming and how delayed the WinMobile 6.5 update appears to be. that certainly opens the door for Android and Nokia to jump ahead of WinMobile this year. What is MS problem? i mean, really, not rhetorically. at least a year behind everyone else.

just bear in mind that non-AT&T users in the US will have to buy some brand of smartphone to get modern features. that guarantees some success for some other makers no matter what Apple does. ah but which ones?

big picture is, the 2009 crop of smartphones from nearly all makers (except WindMobile loaded) will be a big improvement. Ball now is in Apple’s court to reinforce its leadership with the 3rd gen iPhone in June. we’ll see!

26 travelscott { 02.17.09 at 7:07 pm }

Back to the metric for mobile apps…

Daniel – I am in broad agreement with all of your points, and I don’t fault Apple for buying full page ads in the NYT announcing 500 million apps downloaded.

I’m just making the point that it probably does not translate to 500 million apps “sold”. Even if the free apps are counted as purchases, it seems that journalists are being sloppy when they substitute “sold” for “downloaded” when anyone who owns an iPhone knows that updates are frequent for some titles. Of course this is a good thing, bugs are quashed, features are added, customer feedback is addressed.

Just making the point that downloaded does not equal sold, that’s all, once the updates are factored in.

27 joindup { 02.17.09 at 11:19 pm }

iPhone Apps Figures.
My suspicion is that the reason is actually simpler. You can’t say “bought” in an ad, if some of the apps are free. Therefore it’s “downloaded”.
500 million divided by 20 million iPhones/iPod Touches = 25 apps per unit, or 2 additional screens of apps, excluding updates. 500m actually sounds a little low to me.

28 Bill { 02.18.09 at 12:27 am }

I get a receipt even for free apps, as well as updates, or at least I used to get them. The free ones were sold to me for $0.00, so that could be the reason for the volume. I have downloaded several that I do not use. Sometimes it’s better to get them while they’re free, as a few started charging, but gave free updates to all those who got them free. Actually, I am only aware of two apps that did so.

29 addicted44 { 02.18.09 at 3:53 am }

@John

Despite how underwhelming WinMo 6.5 is, it does not seem Android is gaining any traction whatsoever. It has a ton of hardware ‘partners’ but only HTC seems to have announced any new phones with it, the G2. A lot more companies seem to be going with WinMo, or LG, or building their own (Nokia, Palm). Also, companies like Sony-Ericcson and Motorola may not last very long.

30 mikeg { 02.18.09 at 8:47 am }

Excellent article as usual, Daniel. I am not sure where MS is going with its new mobile OS, but it doesn’t matter. I went through the Win CE experience before and do not intend to repeat that at all. I carry both an older Blackberry (work) and an iPhone 3G (personal). I love them both and would never give either one up (well, except for the work device :-) ).

I do hope that, regardless of the level of threat that WinMo offers, innovation for iPhone, Android, and Palm continues so that we see growth in capability over the long haul.

31 Windows Mobile 6.5 shows clever burst of originality. Haha no … - How To Get Rich { 02.18.09 at 3:02 pm }

[...] original post here: Windows Mobile 6.5 shows clever burst of originality. Haha no … :android, free, history, iphone, markets, Mobile, mobile-world, PHP, point, software, tech, [...]

32 darwiniandude { 02.18.09 at 6:18 pm }

[Move to top]
[M_o_ve down]
Love that ALT key underline :)

Great article, as always.

As for the start button, they’re obsessed with it because it’s the one (debatably) easy to use feature that was well received for the most part, that Microsoft invented themselves. One giant button, with everything from launching apps, changing settings, turning off your computer.
Start, Shutdown; so intuitive!

33 KenC { 02.18.09 at 6:41 pm }

I strongly disagree with TravelingScott and Daniel that 500M+ downloads includes updates. Doing back-of-the-envelope calculations show that it wouldn’t make sense if it included updates. Just think anecdotally of your own experience. I have about 100 apps, and they have been updated many times. Probably 3 to 5 updates each, with some being updated over a dozen times. If you divide 500M by 3 to 5 you get 100M to 166M individual app downloads. Divide that by about 21M iPhones and iPod touches, that’s my estimate, and you get only 5 to 8 apps each. Seems way low to me. Then again, I’ve got about 100!

34 Bill { 02.18.09 at 7:46 pm }

That’s a good point too Ken. Any one of my friends has more than an entire page of DL’ed apps. Most of us have at least two pages of DL’ed apps, and 16 apps fit on a page. I mostly have free ones.

35 darwiniandude { 02.18.09 at 10:23 pm }

I have ~ 260 in iTunes, and constantly have to choose which to remove from the iPhone to make space for a new purchase. Here’s hoping the 148 app limit is fixed quicksmart!

36 Partners in Grime { 02.19.09 at 2:09 am }

I have around 260 apps as well. Looking forward to a better way of managing them.

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