I love trying out new operating systems and gadgets. That’s why I blog on technology. So despite any doubts I had on Microsoft’s latest effort in the mobile arena, despite their history with Windows Mobile 6.5 (could have been way better than what it was) and KIN (duh!), I decided to give Windows Phone 7 a try. I had been using Android and iOS so I had a pretty good idea of what to compare WP7 with. And after giving it lots of chances, here’s my honest and unbiased opinion on Microsoft’s efforts.
(Sure, Microsoft has been late to the mobile game and it has changed quite a lot since the iPhone arrived at the scene. Apple showed how it’s supposed to be done with iOS and Google showed how Windows Mobile 6.5 should have been. Still, I’ve decided not to include comparisons here, as much as possible.)
First of all, I love the user interface. It has been a refreshing change from iOS and Android. I love how the tiles tilt depending on the point at where they are pressed. The same goes for the updates in the People hub and so on. The interface is minimal and should supposedly be easy to get used to for new smartphone users. While this isn’t really true in a real world scenario (more on this in a while), the UI is really simple which is a good thing in most cases. From the browser to the camera UI to photo navigation, it’s all good. The little tidbits of information that tiles are supposed to provide are sometimes very helpful too. The Facebook integration is also the best I’ve seen in a mobile OS. The messaging UI is also top notch. Auto uploading to SkyDrive? Awesome! But, if I have to choose just one favorite feature of Windows Phone 7, it’s definitely the UI.
But, there are a lot of issues with Windows Phone 7. Here are the things that bother me (you’re welcome to correct me if I’m mistaken on any of these):
- You know how important battery life meter and the signal meter are on a phone? Well, they are hidden by default. You can’t just glance at the screen and know when it’s time to charge or why your call just dropped. You have to pull down these meters just to find out. It might seem like a great idea to keep the UI minimal but guess what? It isn’t.
- The apps list. I have around 70 apps installed, including the built-in ones. To get to any app, I have to do tons of scrolling. There’s no search either. Either you pin your most used apps to the home screen ( which also becomes a pain to scroll just like the app list ) or you just keep on scrolling in the apps list.
- Call history doesn’t show call duration for individual entries. I don’t need to say anything more on this except for it’s just ridiculous.
- Push notifications. Yes, Microsoft did a good job of copying this trick out of Apple’s playbook. Good job. But, they somehow forgot to make a standard UI for showing which app had shown the notification. Every third party app has a different way of showing them if they do at all. I’m not talking about the notification bar that shows on the top of the screen but the number of notifications that should show on every app if they’re one of the rare useful ones that actually support push notifications.
- The address bar in landscape browser mode disappears. Why, Microsoft, why? Did you even bother to do any testing on this?
- Camera settings don’t save. I’ve read why they ‘thought’ this is a ‘good feature’, but it’s not. Hey, Windows Phone 7 team! Ever used a camera? Great, take a clue from it.
- Brightness. Just low, medium and high. Why isn’t there a slider for this? What age are we living in? I know you’re a Nokia partner now, but you didn’t have to take design cues from Nokia’s series 40 phones.
- Slow apps. Try scrolling in the Facebook and Twitter apps. Elements will start disappearing if you scroll too fast. Also, try zooming in and out, notice the choppiness? Is it the OS or the 1Ghz processor that fails to keep up with touch gestures?
- Marketplace. Rarely does it happen that apps update fine? Mostly, I have to delete them and reinstall them from the marketplace. And I’ve checked, I’m not the only one facing this issue.
- No virtual button in the camera app. Sure, you have a physical button but an option of a virtual shutter button wouldn’t have done anyone any harm whatsoever. We’re used to on-screen keyboards and buttons so why don’t you understand, Microsoft?
- App crashes. If the Marketplace crashes ( it does that a lot ) or Music & Videos app does, it wouldn’t work again until I restart my phone. Same for third party apps. What the heck?
- App quality in the Marketplace. I want Reeder, there’s no app comparable to it, though. YouTube? There’s no app good enough. Oh, wait, Google Maps? Nope. Bing Maps show 3-year-old maps in my region. Messenger? None integrated and none good enough available. But yes, if you have $499 to waste, you can find an app for that in the Marketplace. Microsoft is apparently fine with just increasing the number of apps and not the quality. There’s no push notifications integration in the Facebook and Twitter apps.
- I can’t back up my Windows Phone 7 using the Zune desktop app.
- I can’t sync my contacts or calendar entries or bookmarks using the Zune desktop app either.
- For many tasks, I actually need a lot of taps. Take Wi-Fi for an example. Need to open up Settings > Wi-Fi and then toggle it on or off. It would have been great if the power button brought up some on-screen menu for quick toggles.
- Xbox Live. Doesn’t the ‘live’ part mean multiplayer games? I haven’t been able to find/play any yet.
- The Marketplace. iPhone never launched in my country. Still, there has been a regional app store for us. The Marketplace is only available in a few countries. I can’t buy any apps. Although, Windows Phone 7 handsets are officially available here.
- It’s definitely not easy to use for new smartphone users. The icons don’t explain themselves. I’ve had people getting confused over how to make a phone call because the icon in the phone app doesn’t say ‘keypad’ until you raise the menu. The UI is the same throughout the OS. The sometimes cryptic icons aren’t helpful for most people until they open the menu for text. There is a learning curve involved. It might not seem like a big thing but compare to competitors, it is.
- Resale value. Pathetic. The OS has had no positive impact on users so far. I’ve seen older Samsung Galaxy S handsets selling for more than Samsung Omnia 7.
- The ads are misleading. Taking photos with Windows Phone 7 is not faster than iPhone or even Android.
- The video quality is pathetic. It records at around 24fps on most Windows Phone 7 handsets. There’s no Windows Phone 7 device that does 720p video recording at 30fps.
- Office is terrible. It’s too basic and I’m unable to open a lot of simple Excel files which work on every other platform.
- I can’t setup a static IP for my Windows Phone 7 device in Wi-Fi settings in my home network. They’re always grayed out. What gives?
- I haven’t even touched on the lack of HTML5 ( coming soon ), Flash, multitasking ( coming soon ), copy/paste ( also coming soon ) currently yet.
I’m expecting people to tell me that this is a version 1 product so we should expect more features soon. But it’s not the lack of features I’m annoyed of, it’s the issues. Most of the things mentioned in the list above are what should be there in the OS as basics. You can’t forgive a company for not including basics like call duration! Sure, Microsoft has innovated on a lot of fronts in Windows Phone 7, but it has also made a lot of annoying mistakes. So until Microsoft fixes these issues, I plan on getting rid of my Windows Phone 7. Hopefully, the next time I buy a Windows Phone 7 device, it’ll be worth it.
Good luck Windows Phone 7 team.