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Windows 7 Phone: First Impressions

Saturday, January 8, 2011 in Technical Articles (Views: 1859)
For all of you who remember, I was really not a fan of Windows Mobile 6, and any earlier version (except the first, PocketPC Phone, which was light years ahead of its competition). Microsoft has now released Windows Phone 7, which from me receives bittersweet ratings. I am really not sure if I like or dislike this product, but one thing is for sure, it has some very promising potential.

Let's continue in typical bullet point fashion....

The Good:
- The browser on this phone is by far the best I have ever seen. I used to love Safari on the iPhone, but the new IE just blows right past it.
- The phone itself is much more responsive. Some have reported lockups and other freezing, but I have yet to see this. So, one of my major hurdles has been cleared. I also am not waiting minutes between clicks, which was notorious with WM6 and earlier.
- It's a rewrite, something Windows has needed for years. Some people are going to see this as bad that they can't run older WM apps, but this is good - either innovate, keep up, standardize your app, or step aside. This really helps the experience.
- XBox Live integration. This may be the way many sales are made to gamers. The titles are limited, but it's still early. The games are much more improved and with the achievement junkies out there who want to earn more achievements away from the console, this could be a win.
- Software Updates won't make the phone stale. Microsoft is due to release their first update soon, and this is a good thing. Although, I am hoping Microsoft has learned from the mistakes of their past. In previous releases, the only way to upgrade the OS to a major release was to buy a new phone. If this happens, Microsoft may as well fold up and disappear from the mobile market for good.
- No more cheap memory. How is this good? Well, people could simply put a cheap MicroSD card in their phone causing the phone to slow down. It also was secondary memory, which was good in that you could copy files directly to the card from the PC and reuse it. I like that the memory expansion is dynamic and becomes part of the phone. Plus, the parts have to be a higher quality to even work, there are only a few cards certified for WP7.
- Voice recognition that works. When using Bing, I have inputted some searches by voice and to this point, have yet to repeat myself. I am actually pleasantly surprised by this.

The Bad:
- Although there are a lot of neat tricks in WP7, it's very busy and not always clear how something works or better ways to do what you want. A suggestion here is to use the tutorial app.
- The marketplace on the phone is incredibly hard to find something you're looking for. If you are looking for say, Adobe Acrobat as an app, you type in "Acrobat" and you have to wade through songs, artists, you name it, to find the app you want. It's also hard to navigate. Fortunately, the Zune software is much more clear to navigate, and you can download items there to install on your phone later.
- A lot of features are missing. I could list a bunch here, but just a few that are meaningful to me..
* Searching the server from the inbox is missing. I am sure enterprise customers will be wanting this back posthaste.
* When dialing, you could spell someone's name on the keypad (as dialing a number) in WM6. This feature is missing.
* Copy and Paste. Isn't this a cornerstone of Windows, or is Microsoft trying to be like Apple in omitting this to give people a reason to update?
* Turn by turn directions. Sure, you can spend $10 a month on Navigator if you are fortunate (cough) to have AT&T. But, this was removed from WM6.5.
- Some standard buttons can't be controlled programatically. For example, the Search button is great to bring up Bing, or it can search the marketplace in its own internal app. But, what about in a third party developer using this button in its own UI to bring up its own search logic?
- For a phone to be designed around and to showcase Facebook, why is there a seperate app for it?

Overall, I rated this phone as bittersweet, because it has so much potential but there is so much I would have done differently. It seemed that it was such a rush to bring to market that they cut half the features just to meet a deadline. This could be the classic case of the "get it done vs. get it right". Sure, these features can be added later, but at what price to the business? When the consumers begin taking their phones back, and going with the Droid or iPhone? Windows Phone 7 would leave a bitter taste in their mouth, and as I see it, Microsoft really only has one real last chance to get this right.

What I would have done differently (and still released the phone on the same date) would be to chill out on the marketing blitz until the first or second major update when the features that were missing are added. Then, I would advertise this phone to the masses as a finished product.

I give this phone a 7.5 out of 10 - if the features that were missing were added, I would probably give this a 9.5 out of 10. This is the OS only - not the hardware. If battery life is short, or the screen is fragile, you can't blame that on software. Overall, I do recommend this phone if you are willing to be tolerant as it matures. I think overall it will be worth the journey, over time.

 

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