Microsoft phones – my experiences, and why I’m glad they’re back.

My interest in phones, particularly smartphones, like many, started with the Microsoft Windows Mobile platform.

The Orange SPV range holds a special place in my heart as the phones that started it all, at least for me.  A few years later, I’m still using a Microsoft phone, the M3100 and loving it.

Compared to my friend’s feature phones, this phone can do such much more. Yeah it’s a bit fiddly, and I keep losing the stlyus, but that’s not the point. I can download files! I can open Excel documents! I can change programs with custom CAB files! Everything Microsoft were doing seemed so far ahead of the curve.

Then over the next few years, and nothing from Microsoft. Windows Mobile needed third party skins to be usable (mostly Sense by HTC) and finally ‘died’ with the last popular device, the HD2.  A beast of a handset, by the standards of the time, but let down by a stagnating OS, and a keyboard that went crazy any time a finger went anywhere near it.

The iPhone was in full swing by now, app store and everything. Windows Mobile was showing it’s age. Even with the great hardware coming from HTC, the OS was doomed.

So what did Microsoft do? Against popular expectation, they ripped it all up, and started again. Breaking backwards compatability, and released a whole new operating system. I couldn’t have been more pleased! The old dog had been taken out back and put out of it’s misery.

Tiring of my iPhone or Android phone at the time (there have been so many, I can’t even remember which one it was) I acquired a Samsung Omnia 7 at launch. (That sounds a little like I stole it, I promise you I didn’t). Despite there being a lot to love, I found Windows Phone 7 (as it was then known) to be somewhat lacking in basic functionality. Copy and paste, multi-tasking, decent video recording ability, all nowhere to be seen. Not to mention the almost completely barren app store).

So I went back to flip-flopping between various Androids and iPhones quite happily…

Until last week.

After my Sister bought a Nokia Lumia, and my wife switched to a Windows Mobile device, I decided to give Windows Phone another shot, to see what the fuss was about.

So, after lots of annoying my wife by nicking her phone to try this and that, I took the plunge and ordered a HTC Titan. Boy what a difference a few months makes…

I am impressed.

Windows Phone (it has now dropped the ‘7’) has come a long way. Multi-tasking is smooth and efficient, the live tiles are wonderful (you need to spend the time to learn how to use them properly, they are not just a gimmick.) and the whole thing is wonderfully easy to use. It actually reminds me very much of using the iPhone for the first time, back in 2007 (I actually imported one from the US, and “hacked” it to accept my UK sim card, which was MUCH harder then than it is now).

I found Zune player wonderfully intuitive, the Metro interface gorgeously smooth and fluid. This was something different. Crucially the experience is not hugely different on a “low end” device. Even the first generation of Windows Phones can still throw Mango around quite happily.

The screen on the device is wonderful. Forgot the fact that it’s “Only WVGA” on a 4.7″ device, it looks terrific. Web pages are easier to read in portrait orientation than on my Galaxy S2 which has the same resolution, but on a smaller 4.3″ screen. Probably something to do with the way fonts are rendered, or some other technical jargon I don’t understand.

So sure, there are negatives. Single core processors means only 720p video recording, limited storage, with no SD card expansion, app store is still catching up with the App Store / the Android Market.. but Microsoft and HTC in the Titan have achieved something not experienced by this user in five years.

They’ve made using your mobile an enjoyable experience again. I WANT to use it, not just to get whatever particular task completed, but just because I LIKE using it.

That’s got to count for something, right?


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  1. Simon
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