Shadow Homescreen

What is "Neo"?

Hi everyone, I’d like to move away from Messaging posts for a bit, and talk a little bit about a project that my team worked on for the last few months. It was codenamed “Neo” and you can see it in stores now.

Just a Shadow of the old homescreen left…

Some of you might have heard of the T-Mobile Shadow. The Shadow is a cool-looking device, with a 20 key slide-out keypad, circular scroll wheel, and large screen!  But when you boot up for the first time, you may wonder, “Is this really Windows Mobile?”

The answer is YES! 🙂

With this phone you get a friendly homescreen experience and integration with your T-Mobile myFaves service.  For those who don’t know, the myFaves service from T-Mobile allows you to make unlimited calls to five designated people. From the homescreen, you can make changes to your five myFaves and get information about them.

For example, if you missed a call or text message, or if there’s an upcoming anniversary or birthday, little micro-icons will appear next to your myFave (in the accompanying image, notice the little birthday gift next to the upper left myFave).


Yup, that’s one adjective used by one reviewer, thanks to our daily group hug scrums :-). (I'm kidding)

Also, it’s not possible to see from the still image, but the homescreen is full of animations when one moves around on it.  I've included a video capture here.

There are linear and circular functions of not just position and size, but also alpha blending (fading in/out). These animations do a lot to give an organic feel to the UI. 

Hardware and Software Hand-in-Hand

Normally when Windows Mobile creates a release, we release it out to OEMs who then do their own customizations.  With this release, however, Microsoft worked with the OEM to create an experience that catered to what T-Mobile wanted. The OEM, HTC, had their talented industrial design team working on the hardware form-factor and wheel. Microsoft wrote the homescreen and worked out an interface for the myFaves information to bubble up for the user to see.

We worked with T-Mobile to finalize the user interaction as per their requirements. For example, in the animation you can see the myFaves flying in and out - that was a T-Mobile feature request in order to enable user privacy (so you avoid the awkward "Why is my boyfriend on your Fave 5?!" moment).

Finally, we presented various asset and color combinations to T-Mobile to finalize the look and feel. Li, our PM, spent many nights up with HTC and T-Mobile to match software colors with hardware, and now the Shadow comes in two hardware colors that match the UI. You can see the colors to the right (I know, I'm not much of a photographer).

The Default Homescreen and Neo

What’s different about Neo compared to Microsoft-shipped homescreens is the liberal use of the QVGA screen for images. Remember the Windows default homescreen that ships with every Windows Mobile Standard device?  It shows as much information on the screen as possible to minimize scrolling. It was designed for a user who wants to view things on the go without touching the device.

The default homescreen puts as many plugins on the screen at once, but Neo does the opposite – each plugin occupies one full page. When you navigate up and down, the whole screen animates to the newly-activated plugin. In addition, there is a navigation bar on the left so you can tell which plugin you’re at.


As for the plugins themselves, we ship with eight of them (check out the animation, which goes through most of them):

  • myFaves/Clock - Displays your five myFaves when you have a supported SIM, otherwise it displays a clock

  • Notifications - Displays new e-mails, voicemail, missed calls, text messages, and MMS

  • Message Center – Lets you launch into your messaging accounts. Compose a text, e-mail, MMS, or Voice Note from the homescreen itself.

  • Appointments – Lists your appointments for today and tomorrow.

  • Internet – Browse various web sites

  • Music – Play and control Windows Media Player.  My personal favorite. Imagine seeing your album art in a big full screen image instead of in a tiny thumbnail!

  • My Photos – Browse through the photos on your device through your homescreen.

  • Settings – Access commonly used settings/apps – such as Profiles, Task Manager, and Wireless Manager


What's Next?

As you can see, Microsoft is spending more of a focus on creating a good user experience, and working with the operator to deliver for their customers.  Be on the lookout for more personalized experiences!


Comments (65)
  1. Angus says:


    Nice review, where did you hire the models for your fave 5?

  2. coxy says:

    This looks cool; I was hoping for a download link at the end so I could ‘upgrade’ my smartphone – but evidently not.

    I’d love to see this running on my HTC S710.

  3. Liam says:

    It looks pretty much like the Orange homescreen – but shiny =S

  4. badbob001 says:

    I hope third parties can add their own plug-ins to this interface. Is this plug-in resolution/ratio fixed? If I have a traditional home screen plug-in that I want to see (weather), can I reduce the neo plug-in’s height and add my plug-in above it?

  5. m@ says:

    Why didnt someone blog about the TPP interface on the Palm 500v (Otto)?

  6. Avi says:

    Looks great! What did you use to capture the video?

  7. shagerott says:

    Any plans to release this plug-in, or other home screen enhancements, for use on other phones?

  8. Brian says:

    Very Cool…!! What did you use to do the trasparency and effects and animations? Are you using a direct screen buffer or is that all device context programming in a standard Home Screen plugin..??

  9. GoodThings2Life says:

    I’m among the others here wondering if this will be released publicly for other WM6 users or if it’s strictly a T-Mobile exclusive.

    In any case, it’s a very cool design, and I hope to see more design options in the next release of WM.

  10. This is definitely an interesting feature and hopefully something more OEMs would integrate into future devices.

  11. jayongg says:

    Thanks for the encouragement everyone. Let me address a few comments:

    This is T-Mobile exclusive, especially the MyFaves portion.  The plugin won’t be available on other phones. It was designed for the Shadow so the resolution/ratio is fixed.

    badbob001 – You can’t just plugin an existing homescreen – because Neo rotates up/down, you won’t be able to leave it once you enter it.

    m@ – someone _can_ blog about the TPP interface. However I didn’t work on it so I can’t comment.  Given that, I do know the people who did so I can ask them.

    Avi – I tried using Pocket Controller first, but the fps was too low to capture the animation.  Therefore I ran this on an emulator and used a desktop capture program. In hindsight I might have been able to get away with using Pocket Controller to mirror the device and use a desktop capture program on that window (maybe next time).

    Brian – We’re writing directly to the window. We’re using GDI APIs to do the effects/animations, and we’re using an internal graphics engine to aid in calculations.

  12. Mike says:

    I have a Motorola Q9m on Verizon.  How do I get this Neo?

  13. Sagitario says:

    Jayongg, I’m a bit confused. Your last comment states this will only be available for t-mobile phones so you could say NEO’s life ended there.

    When the blog states: "Be on the lookout for more personalized experiences" you then mean more manufacturers are looking to bring their personal options that would not be NEO?


  14. jayongg says:

    Hi Sagitario, I can’t get into specifics – but Microsoft will continue to focus on user experiences in Windows Mobile devices.


  15. Sagitario says:

    I understand, one thing I forgot to ask is if these new UI experiences will also be available for Windows Mobile Professional touchscreened versions?


  16. indiekiduk says:

    I can’t get the video to play.

  17. jayongg says:

    Hi Sagitario, I can’t talk about what’s coming up in future releases (or what will come out for Professional vs Standard).  Thanks!

  18. sportsunit says:

    This is easily the most interesting looking interface on the market right now, iphone included.  With the advanced features of window mobile lurking in the background of this gorgeous UI, it was a no-brainer to order mine day one.  It’s currently in transit via UPS.  My Q, which is currently behaving badly will get a proper funeral.  

    Microsoft needs to also upgrade the generic home screen that is still shipping on so many devices today.  Every carrier will not go with these personalized, and presumably more expensive, UI’s for every windows smartphone.  Therefore, the generic homescreen needs an upgrade overall to improve it from the archaic form that it is currently in.

  19. virtualtrevor says:

    I have the Shadow (love it) and a myfaves account (and sim) but I don’t have the myfaves plugin or its not working. If I replace the homescreen with anything else, I see myfaves and it works.

    The plugin worked wjhen I got the phone but doesn’t now for some reason…any thoughts or help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  20. Windows Mobile Team Blog : Shadow Homescreen

  21. Molto interessante come progetto. Peccato che, come si legge nei commenti, si tratta di una cosa (IMHO

  22. T-Will says:

    I know NEO is customized for the Shadow, but is there a way to change the color in the registry or some other behind the scenes way?

  23. Prabhu says:


    I recently saw Motorola 9M device which has the media player application running on the Home screen. As far as I know it is not possible to handle UP/Down key events in SmartPhone plugin. But how is it handled in this application running in 9M devices.

    Is there anything done specially in these devices or even individual developers like me will be able to do it!?

  24. Since Google launched Android, there’s been lots of speak native applications built for a platform versus applications built for the web that can be leveraged anywhere, regardless of device. As a developer its much easier to have one code base and not

  25. Prabhu says:

    Hi Jayongg,

    Thanks for the quick reply. Actually I am able to handle Up/Down key events in PPC but not in SP. I am not able to find the key


    If possible can you please send me the code snippet or link that has an example of plugin for SP handling Up/Down events.

  26. jayongg says:

    Prabhu, Actually I spoke too quickly. We don’t support a way for plugins to intercept and handle up/down events.

  27. Prabhu says:

    Thanks for your reply Jayongg. So in case we cannot handle Up/Down events in SP plugin how is 9M and Neo plugin able to do it!? Is there anything specially done for these kind of plugins?

  28. Wayne says:

    Just as a note.  Windows Mobile still sucks as an operating system for SmartPhones.  I have the Shadow and it is very laggy.  Sometimes it takes a long time to open the sms application.  I also get random text message alerts, but when I look there is nothing new.

  29. Mike says:

    I also own a new T-MO Shadow and compared to the MDA this is so much useful and stable. Kudos to T-Mo, HTC and Microsoft for making this work. I look forward to more customization like adding Tasks and other WinMO functions for NEO. If you think about it, this is almost the same Crossbar interface for PSP and the PS3. Nicely done!

  30. alYsa says:

    Very nice.

    I have old imate K-Jam (upgraded with WM6) and iPhone, and iPhone can not match my old WM device, just because of customization options that are available.

    With WM6, I am using HTC Home screen and SPB Diary – very  nice config and very usefull.

    Neo looks super-good. I am eager to updgrade to new WM device, just waiting for some good touchscreen (like HTC touch), fast processor and some nice hardware. Hopefully I will not have to wait for too long…

  31. Plinydogg says:

    This is nice, but I wish that you all would focus a little bit more on filling gaping holes in this otherwise excellent operating system. See this for a more detailed complaint in this regard:


  32. My comment is specifically about the layout of this new homescreen.

    Yes the UI is nice eye candy. Nice work there.

    But didn’t you guys run this through user acceptance testing, or some sort of "click testing" ?

    Unless I’m missing some way to customize the order of applications on the homescreen (believe me, I’m looking!), it takes no less than SEVEN button clicks using this homescreen to get to into a new  outlook email:

    Down, down, left, left, left, click, click.

    Start->Messaging->outlook is 3 clicks, but that bypasses using this spiffy new homescreen.

    So while this home screen looks great, it needs some serious work in terms of usability. For the order of applications under "Message Center", you have:

    1) Text Messages

    2) Picture Messages (does anyone use this?)

    3) Voice Notes (cute, does anyone use this on a regular basis?)

    4)Outlook E-mail (the one thing a power user probably uses the most on the entire phone)

    So I have to scroll past 1-3 every time ?

  33. jayongg says:

    Hi Jeffrey,

    The user interaction was designed with T-Mobile and whom they expect their demographic to be. Right now it is not customizable.

  34. Kevin says:

    Why is the Shadow’s homescreen animations so choppy? To me, it looks like the artists knew what they were doing. But, it looks like the programmers had to animate something that doesn’t like to animate. Probably using Windows GDI? Can MS please provide a better presentation API that doesn’t attempt to mimic an API created in 1982?

  35. jayongg says:

    Hi Kevin, I don’t think the animations are too choppy (though I understand this is subjective). Given that, there were design decisions made based on battery life, processor speed, and graphics drivers.

  36. badbob001 says:

    I just got the Shadow myself and also one for my wife. Before I begin, I have to say I really like it since it’s very sleek looking and very functional, but don’t stray too far from the charging cable. Sure beats the mpx220 it is replacing.

    From using the Shadow, it feels like the wheel really serves no purpose but to give the user the illusion of analog controls (a la zune’s circular control or nintendo’s nes max controller). Is the wheel limited to being an alias to the dpad’s up/down/left/right or is it really a true analog input (a la ipod) but the operating system is limiting the input to digital only?

    Since NO part of the operating system or the NEO interface treats the wheel as another axis of control but limits it to being another way of inputting up/down or left/right, I suspect that Microsoft had either no early access to the hardware, the pre-production hardware did not have the wheel, or the wheel provides no new functionality to code for.

    It would be nice if you can use the wheel to page up/down in IE, zoom in / out in Live Search maps, or even scroll faster. The wheel only registers something if you move the wheel at least a quarter of the way around… it gets tiring using it and it’s much faster to just click the dpad. It’s like biking in the wrong gear.

    Also, I mean, for being the ‘official phone of fun’, I would expect more than the usual solitaire and jawbreaker! Didn’t someone at MS look at the wheel and instantly think of breakout or pong?

  37. jayongg says:

    Hi badbob, I’m glad you like the Shadow’s look and functinoality.  You are right in that the wheel is translated into the up/down directional pad movements.  Windows Mobile does do different things through various parts of the OS if the wheel is used as opposed to whether or not the dpad is pressed (e.g. the wheel will move differently in the Start menu, instead of going up and down).  

    You have great ideas on using the wheel to zoom in/out in live search and page up/down in IE. I’ll see if those teams would like to take advantage of the wheel that way. For something specific to this hardware though, we generally work off of OEM/operator requests.

    As for the catchphrase "official phone of fun", that was from T-Mobile, not Microsoft (I didn’t know about that tagline until it was released).  But for the apps/games on the device, we rely on the OEM to bundle those types of extras.

    Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy the Shadow :).

  38. Ran says:

    Interfaces are looking great. But you didn’t mentioned what’s the difference in core development. All fetures are supported by all mobile handsets. Please talk about some core features..

  39. badbob001 says:

    jayongg, are you confirming that the wheel is only capable of four input states? Very disappointing.

    It’s pretty annoying that the wheel and the dpad share the same functions since I find myself accidentally moving the wheel and throwing off an item selection. It’s like touchpads on laptops where I accidentally move the cursor when I type. I have added to pocket outlook the extra commands ‘mark all read’ and ‘delete all’. Wouldn’t it be fun to select ‘mark all read’, brush the wheel, have the selection changed to ‘delete all’ right when I press the action button?

  40. cgigate says:

    the Shadow Home screen is only designed for T-mobile shadow.

    is there portability to another MW devices ?

  41. badbob001 says:

    In your Gadgetnutz interview, there were some rather nice concept renderings of the neo interface with nice and large contact photos. The final product seems to only show contact photos in missed call notifications and though they are double the size of the normal contact photos, they are blurry and ugly.

    In the interview, when asked about larger contact photos, you say, "Well, the dialing/callerID screens are not part of the homescreen (thus not part of Neo).  Microsoft does provide hooks for OEMs to hook into, and they have the ability to make the caller ID screens bigger/better/nicer."

    I think the reason OEMs haven’t taken up the task to make the contact photo nicer is because they can’t! I mean, it appears to me that the contact database will automatically downgrade any photo to 72×72 in size so making the photo bigger will only make it look more ugly. Even your NEO interface couldn’t overcome the limitation of the source data. Care to discuss this and other NEO compromises that you had to make?

    People have also found hints of an RSS feed feature that I guess never made it into the final build. And I found an icon for composing a gmail email that wasn’t used. Things left out due to deadlines, the desires of t-mobile, or something more political?

  42. jayongg says:

    Hi badbob001, I’m not sure where GadgetNutz got the images on their website – I didn’t provide them. About the contacts images – I see what you mean, yes Neo had to do the best that it could do with the source images – we upscale to fill the space (it was either that or show a small thumbnail on the big screen).

    As for the features that made it (or didn’t make it) into the software, the requirements were driven by T-Mobile.

  43. jeff says:

    see this is just more of the whole Microsoft effect.  you guys just choose to ignore that you could be pumping out such better and easier to use products than this.  windows mobile 5 is horrible.  it should bring shame to each and every one of you.

    this new shadow is nice looking, but I’m more than sure these are all things you ALL knew you could make, distribute, and improve upon at least 4 or 5 years ago.

    when are you going to just start making good products regardless of if you can wait it out and squeeze more money from it?

  44. Mikehill33 says:

    This looks pretty sweet.

    Any chance this can be released as either a skin or an update to WM6?

    I have a T-Mo Wing and would love to roll this UI.

    Nice job!

  45. Phillipe Enault says:


    When you say "using an internal graphics engine" , does that means device internally has some graphics hw which GDI/graphics driver make use of that. If YES ,then aren’t there issue to use hw with GDI as GDI calls are synchronous ones and mostly graphics HW works in asynchronous manner and also without no memory management(they can work only images stored in video memory(physical contiguous) not in system memory (may not be physically contiguous).

  46. jayongg says:

    Hi, the graphics engine is just a library that we use internally in software.

  47. LGSilva says:

    Hello jayongg.

    The NEO interface is really nice and works fine when your priority is talk > sms > internet

    That would be nice to be able to customize it with different colors and icons. It would be nice to change the responsiveness of the scroll wheel as well.

    I have a question but I don’t think you can answer that but here it is anyway: As a developer, do you have the NEO interface on our phone?

  48. jayongg says:

    Hi LGSilva, the NEO interface is only available for T-Mobile users.  Right now there is no supported way to customize it.

  49. Ahmed Essam says:

    Peace be upon you

    I would like to work in such thing , please if there is any SDk for such thing , please guide me to it

    thanks for your time 🙂

  50. Freesc Huang says:

    NEO is pretty cool!

    Expecting for ur sharing the technical details in NEO’s development!


  51. st8ic says:

    It’s still not so clear if it’s avaliable to 3-rd party developers to change homescreen so deeply?

  52. jayongg says:

    Hi st8ic, it is not possible for you to add new functionality to the Neo homescreen. However it is possible for third parties to create their own homescreen.

  53. ttoennies says:

    This is a bit off topic but you are discussing homescreens & making changes.  Is it possible to remove the Messages (0) display from my homescreen to indicate that I have 0 text messages?  If I have 0 I would like the entire display to be removed (just as it does to report when I don’t have any emails).  Thanks very much.

  54. jayongg says:

    Hi Tim, you would have to modify the homescreen XML in order to do that (I believe).  Look in the Smartphone SDK for homescreens.  You may also find some samples on the web.

  55. Marco says:

    It looks pretty much like the Orange homescreen 🙂

  56. tommy says:

    can u download different home screen lay outs? lemme know….. ive been looking but cant find any thing…. thanks any one….

  57. Nishanth says:

    Actually, on xda-devs, someone has been able to port the plugin over to the HTC Tornado(T-Mobile SDA), I’m trying and failing miserably at porting it to the HTC Wizard(T-Mobile MDA). You can also add stuff and customize the Neo interface with regedits and also using the cab files that Freddy Reyes made (

  58. Stephano says:

    This looks pretty sweet.

    Any chance this can be released as either a skin or an update to WM6?

    I have a T-Mo Wing and would love to roll this UI.

    Nice job!

  59. jayongg says:

    Thanks Stephano!

    I can’t talk about future releases for T-Mobile devices, unfortunately!

  60. Watching Microsoft twist in the wind as the iPhone steals its thunder in the smart phone market is interesting

  61. djcurly says:

    Hi,  i was wondering if there is an update or a code that i can enlarge the caller ID picture because it is very small when someone calls me and their picture comes up.  Let me know

  62. paulerling says:

    A couple of oversights I see on the Shadow:  

    1. The Brown background makes it very difficult to see which icon is selected, particularly in sunlight.  It would be an obvious fix to allow a user to chose a different color scheme.  

    2. I would echo the frustration about browsing through submenus to get to a particular icon.  Also because shortcuts are limited to a folder, and it is hard to access Quickdial, it really doesn’t work well.

    3. There are odd restrictions on users managing permissions for applications.

    Otherwise it is a reasonable phone.

  63. Keerthi says:

    Our staff are adicted to play Jawbreaker game in the Hand Held mobile scanner (PDA). I know that the game is in ROM adn will not be able to remove. But Anyway I want to delete the registry of Jawbreaker. Please help me out.

  64. drekualo says:

    Hi hayongg.  Windows Shadow does not allow to use the phone as a modem (does not have modem drivers). For example:  In order to use Outlook SMS Add-in, it is required to have a modem (mobile) driver installed and configured to send SMS through MS Outlook.  Can THC or NEO will work on it?

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