Windows Mobile 6.1 broke my life!

O2 Xda Zest

About 3-4 weeks ago my beloved O2 Xda Orbit phone started to act erratically, randomly switching itself off according to its own unfathomable set of rules. It was okay when plugged in, but it was getting increasingly impractical pulling an extension cable along Market Street when I went out for lunch.

I figured that resetting the Xda Orbit to factory settings was what it needed and spent an evening reinstalling everything. To no avail. It would still randomly switch itself o…


I put up with it over a weekend and telephoned O2 the following Monday morning and ordered a very similar device, the O2 Xda Zest; a rebranded Asus Crystal.

There was so much that I liked about the Xda Orbit: the built-in GPS, WiFi, GPRS Web browsing, FM radio and I could synchronize it with my PCs at both home and work. The Xda Zest seemed to offer much the same, only with a much improved screen (proper VGA 480 x 640 pixels) and a much, much faster CPU.

Except the FM radio.

And, as I discovered to my cost, synchronizing with two PCs!

Windows Mobile 6.1 flaw

You see, I naively followed the assumption that the next version of something would be a little better than the previous version of that something. That’s how advertising has reeled me in so often during these last 30+ years.

“Ooh! look! A new one. It must be better. I want it!”

Isn’t that how it usually works?

Seemingly no-one told the Windows Mobile team that. Because it seems that there was a fundamental flaw in Windows Mobile 6.1: it wouldn’t synchronize with two PCs! Even though that’s one of its key features.

Which seems a bit like buying a new car, getting it home and discovering that it drives on A-roads but not your local streets. You can use it at work, but not at home.

Getting Nothing Done (GND)

Which for many people wouldn’t be a problem, but for the last 3 years that’s been the backbone of my organization system. No matter where I’ve been, at work, at home, out-and-about, I’ve always had a full picture of my appointments, commitments, contacts, tasks and priorities.

When I worked from home, in the parish, things were in many ways easier: I had one PC with which I synchronized my Psion 5mx. It was an almost flawless system. But the introduction of a second base, my office, added a new level of complexity. Windows Mobile 6.0 (just about) handled it admirably using ActiveSync (though quite often more correctly spelled ‘ActiveSink’!). Windows Mobile 6.1, however, has let me down quite spectacularly. And not just me, as a quick Web search will prove.

For the last 3 weeks or so, however, I’ve been at sixes and sevens. Thankfully, because I’ve been backing up my Outlook PST files more often than usual, I’ve not actually lost any data but on more than one occasion I’ve ended up with a lot (a LOT) of duplicated data which is just as time-consuming to deal with.

And all the while not entirely sure of the whole picture of my life, which is rather unsettling for someone who is usually so on top of things.

What to do?

So where do I go now? How do I recover my sense of being-on-top-of-things?

Sync my Psion with both

I tried that, but again the Psion wasn’t really designed to be synchronized with more than one PC. I get errors, so have to re-sync from scratch and end up either duplicating data or reintroducing data that I’ve already deleted on one of the platforms.

Google Calendar

I’ve tried to synchronize my Outlook calendar with Google Calendar using Google’s own Google Calendar Sync. But it didn’t synchronize all my events, and what about my tasks?

I’m going to try out XTNDConnect PC to synchronize Outlook with Google Calendar and see how that works; I’ve already tried it synchronizing Outlook with Windows Mobile 6.1 but it duplicated everything!

Outlook 2007 will allow me to subscribe to an iCalendar feed, such as that offered by Google Calendar, which is great for when I’m at my desktop — but what about when I’m out-and-about with my my phone (or Psion)?

Remember the Milk

I then tried Remember the Milk to synchronize my Windows Mobile Pocket Outlook tasks with this online task application. But I have over 100 tasks and it didn’t copy over the categories. One “inbox” task list of 120 tasks really wasn’t useful.


At the moment I’m currently synchronizing both work and home calendars with different Agenda files on my Psion. It’s not ideal but at least I still have all my data in one place.

Hosted Microsoft Exchange

I have also been considering buying a hosted Microsoft Exchange account. That way—I guess I could access all my data from work, home or on the move on my phone or via the Web. But I don’t have any experience of Exchange so would welcome people’s comments/thoughts.

It’s been a frustrating time, but I am willing to move on and use something else … I’ve just not found the right solution yet.


In the end, I opted for a hosted Microsoft Exchange account from Simply Mail Solutions. Everything then synchronised with the single source of truth: the Exchange server, no more trying to work out which entry was the most important.

Published by

Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 52 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Enneagram type FOUR and introvert (INFP), I am a non-stipendiary priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir, play guitar, play mahjong, write, draw and laugh… Scrum master at Safeguard Global; latterly at Sky and Vision/Cegedim. Former web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and previously warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall.

6 thoughts on “Windows Mobile 6.1 broke my life!”

  1. You really should try the iPhone or Android. Both will sync flawlessly your mail, contacts and calendars and the latter with all the Google services you probably already use. Android has completely got rid of any syncing woes I’ve had, I don’t even have to think about syncing, it’s just all done magically in the background and works perfectly.

  2. Mike has a point. Android has been great for me (okay, I lived without sync for two years when using my Nokia 5500, but my G1 just does it.

    Although there’s some issues with edited, repeating entries, that can cause force closures on Android – but that’s not your problem so I’ll stop talking about it.

    So, all in all, this sucks on many levels.

    Don’t panic though. It’s only data! ;-P

  3. I have a Samsung Blackjack II with Windows Mobile 6.1 on it and I am able to snyc it with my home and office computers just fine. In fact I synced it with both today…Are you sure you set it up correctly? You have to name the computers differently when you first establish the sync-relationship between pc and handset. If you just simply named it PC or my computer or some other generic name, you will over-write the relationship with the other device thus you will only have one pc related or synced to your handset.

  4. Pocketmod ( bit of paper for the obsesive compulsive)

    and the g2, iphone, htc touch, nokia N76 or dare I say it an old O2 xda.
    (XDAII if your feeling a bit trendy )

    I have one – the battery needed replaing ( 24 quid on a net search) and it works. Still and makes calls and is not noticeably any slower on 90% of what i use my PDA for. My only reason for up grading? well it seemed flawless at the time but I think in hind site it was a mix of hype curiosity and good old fashioned greed.

    My next phone ?

    if I can still sync it with my XP or Ubuntu – is my (win mob 5 +) 02 XDA.

  5. @Jason H – yeah, it’s set up properly but thanks for your concern. My home PC pairing was called “Home”, my work one called “Work” — same as when I was using Windows Mobile 6.0.

    It appears that the bug is in certain earlier versions of Windows Mobile 6.1. Microsoft fixed the bug and then released it to manufacturing, it was then the responsibility of the OEMs to pass on the fix to customers. O2 haven’t passed it on as an upgrade for the O2 Xda Zest.

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