So I switched carriers and dropped my Droid on the day of Windows Phone 7’s US launch (November 8, 2010). I would have to say I have been pleased with the experience. The trials and disappointments are well documented on the internet but as a user I have found the experience to be satisfactory.
OS: Windows Phone 7 provides a very clean environment for a mobile device. I have used other smartphone platforms (Blackberry, Palm, Windows Mobile and Android) and for me this is has been a refreshing take on the concept. I still find the same personal grievances. One of them being the process of finding apps. I am spoiled with features that the desktop provides, such as highlighting newly installed applications from the start menu. I have found that I see a review on an app, I install it but can’t try it out right away. Often times days will pass and I will have forgotten all about it.
- The People hub is a very convenient tool, and if Twitter integration is included in the next version it will be even more useful. Something not specific to the People Hub but a huge feature is the navigation method. Yes there is a search to help you find a contact but the display of contacts is organized by name, and leading each is a single tab designating the letter, by pressing that letter you are provided with a display of all the letters and a numeric sign. How does this help? I access the People Hub and I am looking for a contact with a first name starting with “R”, I hit the a tile and the next screen is the letters of the alphabet where I touch the R tile and I am returned to my contacts but right to the contacts that have first names that start with an R. When navigating Albums and Artits in the Music Hub this becomes even more helpful.
- Pinning apps and contacts to the start is another great feature, and as we see more apps with Live Tiles it will only get better.
- XBox Live; games like Angry Birds and Plants vs Zombies with achievements is a great little edge the OS offers. I also like that I can respond to XBox Live messages without being on my XBox console. Seeing who is online is another nice feature and I can quickly see if its a good time to fire up Modern Warfare and join some friends.
- Lock-screen. One thing I don’t like – since I have a password on my lock screen if I get a toaster notification I don’t go right to that item. In general it is a very nice feature and if we do in fact have multi-calendar support in Mango it should be even better. While locked the screen shows a custom image/wallpaper (right now I am using a nice ACU Digital camouflage pattern), the date and time, and upcoming events. It also shows unread email items as well as calls and voicemails. While not perfect it is extremely functional, informative and not over-powering.
- Office; while I like the feature there are some huge holes. Skydrive integration is coming and that will make it a much more functional feature but in general it has been a disappointment. To start with look at OneNote. The version the compiled for iOS has a huge feature list compared to the one they have installed on their own Mobile OS. Just having a check list format would make it a ton more useful. You can’t attach Office items (Word docs, Excel spreadsheets) inside the mail apps, instead you have to go into the Office hub, open the file and perform a send from there. A Word document done in Office 2010 which I emailed to myself so I could have a copy on my phone (see another shortcoming in that statement?), has elements that I can’t see or edit on my phone, so the concept of being able to work even on the phone falls apart.
- Email – I love that it is a consistent interface whether I am using a Microsoft provided email (Live Mail, Hotmail, Outlook) or others such as GMail. Depending on the provider there are varying options (i.e. GMail provides a Set Flag option when you perform a long hold on a message; odd that you don’t get that option with the Hotmail app… more on that later).
- Media – I am a huge fan of the Zune platform. Admittedly I still go back to my Zune HD when I do things like mowing the lawn but that is simply because the Zune device volume goes consideraly higher. The video is great on the Samsung Focus and any of the video podcasts that I watch have a great visual and audio playback. Admittedly I opt for the audio only versions of podcasts for two reasons. One, I am normally at work when playing such media so video is just a wasted distraction. Secondly, if I get an email or other task I want to look at, the playback pauses because the screen is now occupied. The audio playback stuttering seems to have been fixed with NoDo which was a big relief.
- Synch/Tether – Zune has provided a wireless synch option for a few years now, but honestly I don’t use it. I found it to be intrusive, when it does a wireless sync, any operation that is currently going on stops. Since I am normally near a computer tethering is not an issue. Zune provides the ability to pick and choose, yes in many ways too limited but for a mobile device I can filter the synched collection precisely. Using Zune’s auto-playlist I can create a huge playlist and just synch the content associated with it, not all of my music collection (while on my ZuneHD everything gets synched). Since it’s an auto-playlist it gets updated any time I add or remove a song based on the playlist criteria. The Bluetooth playback with my Ford Sync device is well done, with a few caveats (volume is way too low and auto play).
Carrier: I went from Verizon Wireless to AT&T. In this area I have to say I experience the same dead zones with AT&T that I did with Verizon Wireless and in general I don’t experience any issues that make one carrier seem better than the other. AT&T and it’s intervention in the update process is infuriating. Data again I have seen the same strenghts and weakness so I still see nothing in this area that makes me think one is better than the other. For example where I work now I have to strategically place the phone in an area of my desk to get 3G but Verizon Wireless devices have signal strength throughout the area. A place I was working a few months ago was completely the opposite and I had to do the same strategic placement with my Motorola Droid, but AT&T devices had strong signal because an AT&T repeater was placed in the building.
Device: I think I will go into more detail on this in another post but I have to admit some of the new devices being shown only make me more confident in choosing Windows Phone 7. Leaks and rumors of the Nokia device really had me interested but then I saw the Mango version of the Samsung and now I am thinking I might stick with the Samsung …