My Windows Phone impressions

My Windows Phone impressions

So after wanting to try out Windows Phone for a while I finally took the plunge and bought an LG Optimus 7 last week. Having had a few days to play around with the OS and its features I thought I’d note down some of my early impressions. I’d like to apologise in advance for the lack of images. Among it’s many missing features WP7 doesn’t appear to have an easy way to take screenshots.


UI

WP7 definitely has a unique style and in my opinion it looks fantastic. It’s very stripped down but at the same time the use of large fonts and simple text is very stylish. It makes WP7 stand out from the crowd while at the same time being very easy to use.

It’s also incredibly smooth and flowing in operation. Things like scrolling are much more fluid and responsive than on either iOS or Android. Despite the frequent animations I also I haven’t experienced any lag so far.

I also love the use of horizontal scrolling to view more information as opposed to using tabs like iOS and Android. It just feels more natural to scroll left and right to see more information.

Start button

My Optimus 7 has physical back, start and search buttons and I never stopped trying to press the start button to wake the phone from standby. Is this feature too obvious? It feels so natural to just expect it to work and having to press the power button on the top is decidedly inconvenient in comparison.

Multitasking

The one big omission that everyone goes on and on about and having used WP7 for a few days I can really see why. The lack of multitasking really brings down the experience of using apps in comparison to navigating around the actual OS. It didn’t take long for the constant reloading of apps to make my patience wear thin.

Apps also seem to take quite a while to load. From tapping on my Twitter live tile it took ten seconds for my (old) stream to appear and then a further seven for it to update. It also has to refresh if the screen turns off and you switch it straight back on. In this instance it took around eight seconds to be back up and running.

Zune

I really like the Zune music app and prefer it to the Android and iOS default media players. There’s actually a great Android copy in devlopment by the supremely talented Federico Carnales of LauncherPro fame which I’ve also been using on my Desire.

I particularly like how the music controls pop up at the top of the screen whenever you push the volume buttons, even when music isn’t actually playing. A small detail but very useful in practice.

The Zune desktop app is also pretty good and the ability to sync over WiFi is a boon. Apple would do well to add this to iOS but we can only dream.

Search

Given the presence of a physical search button it’s fairly clear that MS is keen to push Bing on WP7. I was therefore hoping to be pleasantly surprised by its utility but came away fairly unimpressed. Bing seems to do a decent enough job of searching for things online with results listed under the categories of web, local and news.

The problems arise when you want to search for information actually stored on the phone. This is something I do fairly frequently on Android and iOS as I often find it quicker to just search for a contact or app then navigate around to find it. Unless I’ve missed a trick, WP7 seems to lack any sort of univeral search.

Hitting the search button from the start screen simply brings up a Bing web search box. Trying to type in a contact name, calendar entry or app yields no results. Worse, even when in the calendar or messaging apps hitting the seach button still takes you to Bing web search. You can at least search for contacts in people hub but you have to navigate there first.

This just seems like a big fail to me. Smartphones are veritable mines of information and accessing date quicky and easily is crucial. WP7 doesn’t help you to do that. It dramatically reduced my productivity in comparison to Android and iOS.

WiFi switch

A fairly minor point but I know but when you press  the WiFi toggle it takes around two seconds for it to switch to the on position. I know it doesn’t sound like much but in practice I’d always hit it again thinking that my touch hadn’t registered, only for it to turn back off!

Call status

I really like how whenever you’re on a call the status is always visible at the top of the screen (kind of like Android notifications but without pulling down the curtain). Whatever you’re doing a quick tap takes you straight back to your phone call.

Facebook

The integration of Facebook throughout the OS is pretty awesome. It’s great to be able to go to the People hub and check your Facebook news stream or go to a contact card and view that person’s Facebook updates. Similarly, I found it very useful to be able to go to the Photos hub and view online photos from Facebook and Windows Live. It’s also nice touch to have write on wall as one of the options when viewing a contact.

I know HTC went down this path a while ago with Sense but Microsoft’s implementation is better integrated and executed. I can’t wait for Mango to do the same thing for Twitter. Android does offer some of this but iOS lags way behind.

Twitter

Poor loading times aside the official Twitter app is also quite laggy. For some reason the scrolling which is so smooth throughout the OS is extremely jerky and unresponsive in the app. I’ve been informed by @rowiapp on Twitter that this is down to apps not using the same “stuff” as the OS but that this should change with Mango. To be honest I’m hoping that the promised Twitter integration in Mango negates the need for a separate app entirely.

Not being able to receive notifications for new mentions and direct messages also limits the app’s usefulness. This again links to the lack of multitasking.

Internet Explorer

The browser in WP7 is apparently based on IE7 and, from my experience with Android and iOS, is definitely in need of an update. Websites generally display fairly well but the text just doesn’t look right. Screenshots would really help to demonstrate this but once again I can only apologise for their absence.

I’m also not a web standards guru but the apparent lack of HTML5 support leads to a few issues. For example when browsing m.hotukdeals.com I’m unable to login or search as hitting the respective buttons just has no effect. Again, Mango should hopefully fix this issue as its browser will be based on IE9.

Lock screen

Like the WP7 UI in general, the lockscreen is simple, elegant and useful. I like how the focal point is the wallpaper image but at the same time it provides you with the time, date, notification icons and calendar appointments. Android and iOS would do well to copy Microsoft’s effort.

Live Tiles

I have mixed feelings about live tiles. On the one hand they’re not a particularly frugal use of space but on the other they do offer useful information and just look nice from an aesthetic point of view. Having the option to resize them would be nice but I’m not holding my breath.

App Support

WP7 has been around for roughly seven months and although there are a fairly decent number of apps available the ones that are important to me just aren’t available, at least not right now. Examples are Evernote, Readitlater, WhatsApp, Google Maps, Sky+, Foursquare. The list goes on and will vary for different people but these are some of the apps that I use every day and deem essential.

Conclusion

I really want to like WP7. It does have some great features and is just plain beautiful and fun to use. But from a functionality standpoint it’s lacking features which I need to be productive on a smartphone. It’s also lacking apps which I use everyday. Some because of lack of dev support and others because of lack of OS support.

Mango will apparently solve all of these issues with it’s 500 new features but in the meantime I can’t use WP7 as my everyday smartphone OS of choice. I really want to wait for Mango and see the improvements it brings but I’m also tempted to sell my Optimus 7 while it still has some resale value.

 

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  • sonicr360

    The problem I see, is that many users have a decent Smartphone, be that an iPhone or an Android related device.
    The other problem is, Microsoft clearly dropped the ball, and you only have to remember Ballmer laughing at Apple in regards to releasing an iPhone. But as he said in 2007 “I look at our strategy and I say to myself… I like it…. I like it alot”!!
    There are many iPhone users out there, not just those that are fans, but those that need a device that is fully functioning. Maybe people have invested in apps, they are not willing to make the change.

    And of course, with WWDC taking place next week, there appears to be alot of “hype” about what Apple are going to be showing off, whether its iOS5, or the latest iPhone!

    I have played with the phone, but there is nothing to warrant me moving at the moment.

    My laptop is now an iPhone4, and I can do everything I need “on the go” with this device, come into the office and sync my documents as and when I need over Wi-Fi. Got RDP clients, Exchange integration, Fitness App, Music, Films and of course a phone.

    Android users are going to be in the same boat …. Not sure many would want to change to a device that is still limited in terms of its OS. But hey… early days…. Maybe M$ will dominate the Smartphone market again….. There again, Pigs may fly!

    Sorry Ballmer, you screwed up big time on this! And as your staff do not like you, I think new leadership is required. One person can drive a company forward. Ballmer is not this person.
    Simon

    • I agree with what your saying here entirely. I really want to like Windows Phone and im hoping that Microsoft really start to pull their socks up.

      However after investing it loads of apps on my iPhone switching to any other phone just wouldnt cut it. Hopefuly apple will release a nice refresh in iOS 5, we will have to wait and see.

      Competition is healthy. Bring it on!

      • sonicr360

        Understand where you are coming from Tom. I think we all felt the Smartphone of choice was the WM platform. In fairness, Apple did reinvent the way we do things with a device. Others like Google have followed. Microsoft may have missed the boat with existing users…. That is not to say its bad, but for me professionally, I am happy with my SmartPhone, and I am sure there are some WM users out there.

  • James Pearce

    Nice piece Ravi. You have made up my mind as regards wp7.

  • Dan James

    I think only one or two of the negative comments wont be fixed by Mango, the universal search you mentioned is also coming in Mango.

    The reason the apps people want are not released yet is because it has only been 7 months… and we have over 20k apps. In comparison, the first android phone was released in October 2008….  In the same time Android only had 5k apps.

    As more and more MS devices start to get released, apps will come quicker and quicker prompting the bigger companies to build more windows apps.

    • sonicr360

      Hope that is the case Dan. Like any type of Market, it has the room to grow and develop. This is not to say there is no market for WP7 – Sure there is. Im still wondering just how many people have actually purchased one. Maybe Mango update will help. Correct me if I am wrong, but is it due out later part of this year? I wasnt sure.

      • Dan James

        Apparently it will start arriving on devices in Autum, so thats around September. Wether this means it will be shipped on new devices and all existing devices are updated in September, i have no idea. Personally as a PH7 fan i can’t wait, a lot of the features released in Mango look very good and if all future updates are this size, i don’t see it being long before they are selling large amounts of devices.

  • I had a WP7, but sold it quickly due to the same frustrations you had. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of an OS when the resale value of devices is down to people not having discovered its flaws yet!!

    Like you though, I liked the clear interface, so I have WP7’d my Desire HD. Its running Gingerbread, with Launcher 7 and Frederico’s Music app, which gives me the stability and speed of Gingerbread, with a WP7 look and feel for lots of things – and I’m loving it. 

    Just need to find a skin or app for texts, and I’ll be set – any suggestions welcome! 

    And yes, I also think MS are doomed – and not just in the mobile phone sector if they’re not careful…

    • Dan James

      “And yes, I also think MS are doomed – and not just in the mobile phone sector if they’re not careful…”

      How do you come to this conclusion?? They will never lose much market share in the business section. Their sharepoint platform is the fastest growing computer software currently making them roughly £1b just on its own per year, and its growing… (thats the money they paid nokia with just 1 peice of software).

      Their servers run 90% of business, there DPM protection server is gaining momentus ground of symantec and other backup solutions, bing is gaining ground on google every month, once they get the same services in europe as they have in america, it will only do it faster.

      People are switching to bing maps fast, again mainly in America but soon too to europe due to their birds eye view which makes google earth look like a peice of crap. It’s like looking at a game of sim city but with more detail. (http://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx?q=empire+state+building&mkt=en-GB&FORM=BYFD)

      Their office products, and windows 7 line are the fastest selling ever….

      Their cloud solutions are selling extremely fast.
      xbox has been the best selling console for roughly 2 years apart from maybe 1-2 months the wii won it, and they make a fortune from xbox live.
      IE 9 has been hailed as a great browser (i switched from chrome to ie9), and ie 10 is already close to a beta release.
      More and more people are using silverlight.
      Photosynth is growing.

      All that are currently on the market. Then how about these things that are coming soon……

      http://blogs.technet.com/b/next/archive/2011/05/26/microsoft-have-really-shown-us-a-future.aspx
      (this was coming soon but was released today)
      http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=qst7jy8v0qdk&lvl=22&dir=0.3955978937080513&sty=t~blockID~00000110133322~streetSide~r~pixelOffset~11803.030828931818&form=LMLTCC

      on a final note… lets not forget the kinect was the fastest selling electronic device EVER…..

      Glad to see you know what your on about…. Maybe you should do some reading instead of trolling.

      • sonicr360

        Hi Dan
        I could probably be blamed for this. However, I wanted to stress that from an OS / Server side which is where I come from, there is no reason to believe Microsoft will fail here. I manage over 4000+ Servers across multiple AD Domains and we are stripping out Unix in favour of Win2k8 R2.

        Im quite close to Microsoft employees, and they all come across as seeing Ballmer as a “jerk” ! I felt that in 2007 he like most other companies did laugh at Apple. I too was not overly convinced, but the technology of Smartphones moved so fast, that I think people realised there was more potential being offered from other vendors.

        We have also switched off all WM6.x phones to iPhones and iPad’s for the company, and so far it has been a great success.

        Im not going to knock Microsoft, but I will knock their lack of vision in the Mobile Market. As I mentioned above, they just seemed to have missed the boat. They probably were the main dominating OS on Smartphones, and even pocket PC’s back in 1997 when I started to use the B&W HP versions :-)

        Anyhow, back to the present…..

        Microsoft are here to stay. I heard this morning on the FT that Nokia sales and loss of money was a bit of a blow to people, and even Microsoft seemed a little surprised. Yet their shares have taken a huge hit!!! Personally, it is going to be very interesting to see how well the Nokia/Microsoft partnership moves on :-)
        Here is hoping to the future and a healthy market :)

        • Dan James

          It was nothing you said, it was just the troller saying Microsoft are going to do. I just hate it when people who have no idea go around spouting about stuff they have no idea about haha!

  • Anonymous

    Regarding apps, obviously you have Bing Maps instead of Google Maps.  There is an official Foursquare app plus the unofficial 4th and Mayor.  There is also an unofficial Sky+ app by Topperware called Sky Mobile.

  • I got an LG Optimus 7 in November ’10. Its the best phone I have ever owned both in terms of the OS and the quality of the build with its gorilla glass and aluminium back cover. I have owned an Anroid device, it was pretty good and I wouldnt rule it out again in the future. I know a few people with Iphone 4’s. It seems like a bag of junk, never any signal, I have had random calls from them and when I’ve called back its apparently been ‘just the phone’ ringing me by itself! One of them even woke up one morning and found her phone had been forwarding texts to random contacts all night and could only stop it by a factory reset!

    With regards to apps. I agree the official twitter app is junk (hopefully this will improve now they’ve bought the excellent Tweetdeck) but as I remember the Android official app was junk aswell. Try Birdsong, Mo Tweets or Seesmic.

    Cant wait until Mango. I think this will silence most of the critics, well probably not ;-)

    • sonicr360

      Kurt
      I would not read too much into any possible issues with an iPhone4. Providing your happy with your choice of phone, and it does exactly what you want it to do, then surely that is good enough for you.

      Of course, some people that have invested money in apps for their Android or Apple phones may not be wanting to jump ship just yet.
      I hope Mango delivers the features and functionality you want and need. I just done a google and it states it will be released late Summer 2011, although Microsoft not confirmed this!

      Annoying really… if there is a Software update… and its there… give it now ;-)) So we can at least make use of the features!! Hate it, then announcements are made… and then a long wait !

      • Agreed about the software updates, you can see it in actrion at press events then still have to wait months!

        The info about the iphone 4’s is from users not me, never had one personally. I wont pay what Apple want for it on contract. I can better spec for A LOT less or even free. Plus I dont have a Mac or I-pod etc.. I would never tell anyone else not to buy one, its their choice. Competition is good, keeps manufactuerers on their toes.

        • sonicr360

          Its cool Kurt, I apprecaite and understand where your coming from, after all, it had to be bad for the news to get out on Day 1 of release of the phone :-) Not an Apple fan in the slightest, but I did take the plunge with the i4 and its been ok for me. I never paid for my phone – 2 year contract was fine with me, as I dont intend to change for a while.
          Regards, S.

  • Evernote is coming but you have OneNote already installed and that is vastly superior. You fail to mention Office at all. There is a Foursquare app called ‘4th & Mayor’.

    The Mango update will pretty much fix all the major flaws of the OS and add so much more.

    • But I already use Evernote and like how it’s cross platform and syncs my notes for access across everywhere. OneNote is nice but doesn’t offer the same functionality. 

      Office is of no use to me. I’m not saying that it doesn’t have value as no doubt some will find it essential but these are just my own views based on my needs. 

      4th & Mayor looks like a 3rd party app. 

      Re Mango: that’s exactly my conclusion. It’s just that Mango still seems quite a way off.