I love my Windows Phone 7

Saturday, November 27, 2010 2:51 AM

There’s really no other way to say it, I love my Windows Phone 7 (WP7) after a week of solid use. Is everything about it perfect? Absolutely not… there are still places that need to be, and I trust will be, improved upon. But as it stands now, it’s a dang impressive 1.0 for a brand new approach to the phone. First a little context… my comments are based on my experience using the Samsung Focus on AT&T after two weeks. I was formerly an iPhone 3G (who “downgraded” to iOS 4.x) user on AT&T and over the years have had the iPhone, Windows Mobile 6, Treo and Palm. One phone I have zero experience with is any of the Android-based phones.

After a few days of use what really stood out is how fresh the user experience is. There are things I can see that Microsoft copied from some of the other leaders out there such as how to arrange the homepage by pressing and holding the screen. But what’s cool is how some things are very different and new… and they nailed it. For instance, I love how the notifications (either from apps or text messages) are displayed at the top in a very non-intrusive way unlike how the iPhone hijacks whatever you are working on. The live tiles looked like a gimic to me, but I find them to be very nice and true to the whole “glance & go” theme the WP7 ads. I also love how Facebook is integrated right into the What’s New pivot on the People hub as well as on a specific contact.

I also absolutely love the search button and back button. It is taking some getting used to, but the back button is awesome. It eliminates the need for a lot of cancel buttons, like when you’re starting to draft an email or moving through different apps. As for search, I love how fast it is and how it’s context aware. For instance, if I’m in the people hub, it searches only people. If I am in my calendar, it searches my calendar. If I’m on the home page of the phone, it searches the whole phone.

The concept of hubs is also very welcomed. You don’t realize how much you went in and out of apps on the iPhone until you move into the People hub or Pictures hub. All my contacts from Exchange, Windows Live and Facebook are all integrated into one place: the People hub. I do wish it allowed me to link to the person’s Twitter identity though. It is nice though to click on a contact (either via search or via a live tile or via the Recent contact list… another nice innovation) and be able to text/email/call/map to an address on that card. I love going into the Pictures hub and immediately seeing all my albums from Facebook & Windows Live without having to load a ton of family pictures into my phone.

When I first saw the screenshots and demos for the email and calendar I have to say I was honestly very disappointed. It looked way too simplistic to me. But now, I love the simplicity. First, moving around in my email & calendar is VERY fast. I love how I can flag certain folders to be synchronized on the phone without having to drill down into folders each time I need to find something. For instance, I have a folder for each class I teach like Inbox \ CriticalPathTraining \ Classes \ 2010 \ 2010.12.13 - Boston GSA2010. Scrolling on the iPhone to that folder was a PITA… esp. because it expanded all folders by default. Now that I sync that folder, it shows up when I tap the folder icon in my email and it’s in my list of sync’d folders. Very nice! I also love how fast the email auto-complete is… VERY slick! It works like Outlook… as you type it changes. On my iPhone, you’d type and wait… sometimes up to 10s for it to find a contact.

Another neat innovation is the autocorrect/autocomplete/type-ahead experience. On the iPhone this worked fine for me, but now I hate it after seeing the WP7 implementation. As I type it doesn’t mess with what I’m typing, it instead displays a horizontal list of word suggestions that I can pick from or just ignore.

The Office hub, specifically OneNote, is *long* overdue. I’m a big OneNote fan and use it on my laptops, keeping notes in sync using Windows Live Mesh (part of Windows Live Essentials). Now, I can have a note that lives in my SkyDrive and have it sync’d between my phone & my desktop. FINALLY! The only thing I’d want more: a way to share specific pages in that notebook with other people, like my wife.

Samsung Focus:

What a great phone! I was sold on the HTC Surround, not because of the speakers but because it looked like a more solid phone. After reading a ton of reviews I turned into a lemming and went with the same thing everyone else was going with: the Samsung Focus. WOW… what an amazing screen! I love how light and slim this phone is. The button arrangement is also great… turn it on its side to take a picture or video and guess where the camera button is: right where your finger would be on a digital camera.

The battery is better than my iPhone 3G (which was only 6mo old after having to get a replacement due to a 15mo baby dropping it in the grocery store one day). The speaker on the phone is amazing too… amazed how loud and clear it is. The phone is also lightning fast. I am looking forward to the certified microSD cards so I can bump this phone from 8GB to 40GB and load it up with more music.

Apps & Zune Marketplace:

The only downside to being an early adopted is people are still catching up to the competition. This is definitely true for the number of apps available in the marketplace. I’ve found quite a few I like (DirecTV, Facebook, Fandago, Netflix, OpenTable, Seesmic, Twitter, WeatherBug, Unit Converter, etc)… some need to be improved. For instance, the Facebook app is SLOW… it is in bad need of some perf & responsiveness improvements. It also doesn’t have the ability to check-in using Facebook places.

The Twitter app is buggy (I can draft a tweet, but the send button doesn’t respond at times) and lacks things like “reply all” or “mention all”. The Seesmic app feels slow… but I have faith in these guys as they are quick to update their desktop apps.

There are a few apps I really am missing though. I want eWallet (a password minder app), some sports apps that show live scores, stats, odds, box scores and play-by-play (what I really want is Sportacular). I’m also missing my travel apps like TripIt and FlightTrackPro. What’s really disappointing is I contacted TripIt’s customer service who said they did not have plans for a WP7 app, but would re-evaluate based on customer feedback. So send feedback!!! Otherwise, if you have an app you use to track your trips like TripIt, could you recommend one? I tried Wipolo, but it wasn’t full-featured enough and is heavily slanted towards Europe.

However I expect this to get resolved over time. There are over 15,000 registered developer accounts for the WP7 and after only two weeks in the market there are over 3,000 apps in the marketplace.

As for games, there is a huge collection that is pretty impressive. Ilomilo, The Harvest, Flight Control, Max and the Magic Marker, Popper 2… all great games.

What Needs Improvement:

As with anything new, there are bound to be some things that aren’t perfect and need to be improved so here’s my list of things that have been disappointing & I hope to see improved in no particular order:

  • Zune Marketplace (both on the desktop & on the phone) - for a company so focused on search, I’m floored the marketplace search experience on the phone sucks as bad as it does. Everywhere else in the phone it is context aware. But even if I’m in the apps section of the marketplace, if I search it searches the whole marketplace including artists, albums, songs, podcasts and videos. I just want to search for apps! The experience in the Zune desktop app isn’t much better. However I do like that there are categories and subcategories.
  • Browser based search for apps - Apple really sucks at this for the App Store… I had hoped Microsoft would have nailed this out of the box. Seems they are playing catch up with things like Bing Visual Search, which is quite nice.
  • Tasks - I don’t get this… Exchange provides email, contacts, calendar and tasks. The first three are on the phone, but not tasks. I use tasks religiously… and so desperately need it on the phone. I’m not sure if this is because Exchange Active Sync (EAS) doesn’t include tasks or what… but it really is needed.
  • SharePoint Workspace - Huge disappointment. This was only designed to work inside the firewall, not for internet accessible SharePoint sites. This makes it useless to consumers… absolutely useless. Only the enterprise customers can use this who are rolling out phones inside their organizations. Come on… please address this MSFT. For now, I’m stuck to the browser.
  • Bluetooth stack - It’s becoming apparent there’s an issue with the Bluetooth stack in the OS. I’ve seen numerous reports across the different phones & carriers of people having issues. I paired my phone with my car, but my wife (who also got a Samsung Focus) can’t pair hers with her car. I also can’t get it to pair with my 1yr old Jabra headset. When it is in use, I can hear just fine, but others have said when I talk it cuts in and out.

Overall I *love* the phone… best phone experience, best phone (Samsung Focus), and best phone OS I’ve ever used. Great work Microsoft… I’m looking forward to seeing the future improvements and updates!

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