Ocdgeek

Windows Phone 7 Thirty days in.

Posted in Tech Reviews by Greg Mackay on April 5, 2011

With Windows Phone 7 Microsoft has completely scraped its old mobile operating system and started over from scratch. The new operating system is a major improvement over Microsoft’s old system. It is based on their Metro OS on the Zune. Its all about simplicity and ease of use. I’ve been using The Samsung Focus running Windows Phone 7 for thirty days. I am more then pleased with it so far. The phone is super lite and the Super Amoled screen is beyond brilliant.  I think Microsoft has really gotten off to a great start with their new smart phone OS. The operating system is brand new so of course it is missing some features and still needs a little fine tuning but all in all its pretty rock solid.  If Microsoft stays committed to the new platform I believe they have a solid chance of getting back on top in mobile.

 

WP-hor-web

 

Hardware Review:

The Samsung Focus has a super lite build. The form factor is solid and very slick. It fits nicely in your hand and in your pocket. The 4” Super Amoled screen is crisp and bright. It may even be better then Apples new retina display. In my opinion it is but that depends on your perspective. Text is crisp and clear on the screen. Games and videos look great also. Some people have reported issues with the back panel fitting on properly but I didn’t have any issues. The camera is great. It takes great photos indoors and out. The video camera works great as well. With Windows Phone’s hardware camera button taking pictures quickly is also easier then on any other smart phone. All in all the Samsung Focus is a solid phone with a great feel.

 

Software Review:

Core Operating System: The core operating system is fluid and very responsive. Its intuitive and just makes since. It only took me a few minutes to fall in love with Windows Phone 7. It is without question the best mobile OS I’ve ever used. Having been a former Blackberry and iOS user I think that is saying a lot. Microsoft has really hit a sweet spot with their new OS.

The user experience is centered around what Microsoft calls hubs. Instead of needing separate applications for each function things are combined into central hubs. For example the peoples hub contains all of your contacts and their recent social network statuses via Facebook.

Hubs:

Hubs are the heart of the OS. You’ve got one for just about everything you regularly use on a smartphone. Hubs included are the Peoples hub, Pictures hub, Music and video, Office, Games and Market Place.

Live Tiles:

The home screen is where the live tiles live. You can pin almost anything to the home screen as a tile and applications that are written to take advantage of it will live update. For example the messaging tile updates as you get messages. You can even pin a contact to your home screen and when they update their Facebook profile picture the tile will automatically update as well, pretty cool if you ask me.

Email:

Email functionality on the phone is excellent. The UI is very clean and functional. Email is separated into  All, Unread and Urgent columns. You’ve also got access to a folder tree that includes inbox, sent items and deleted items. Threaded email and a unified inbox aren’t supported yet but hopefully it will come soon.

Calendar:

The calendar function is very good. It has all the basic functionality you’d expect from a modern smart phone. The only function missing is the ability to sync with multiple calendars. It syncs with your Windows Live calendar via the cloud but only recognizes the main calendar.

Internet Explorer Mobile:

Microsoft has greatly improved their mobile version of IE. It performs well and looks good. It is lacking HTML5 support currently but Microsoft says its coming in IE9 mobile later this year. Pinch and zoom works great and responsiveness is great. Text is crisp, clear and easy to read on Samsung’s Super Amoled screen.

Maps:

The maps application is outstanding. It has all the functionality you’d expect and its very responsive. Maps render quickly on 3G and GPS on the Samsung Focus is very accurate. Searching and direction work very well also.

Pictures Hub and Camera:

Windows Phone 7 has without question the best picture taking functionality of any current smart phone. The pictures hub is very intuitive and easy to use. The Samsung Focus takes great quality images. It is very easy to quickly snap, view and share images on this phone. Microsoft added a dedicated camera button to all its Windows Phone 7 devices. All you have to do is press and hold the camera button and the phone quickly switches to camera mode and snaps a picture. Even if the phone is currently locked. Another key feature is the ability to automatically back up your pictures online for free. If you use your phone as your primary camera you wont be disappointed with Windows Phone 7 on the Samsung Focus.

Peoples Hub:

The peoples hub is pretty slick. It makes it simple to check in on your friends and family. It can be directly linked with Facebook and Windows Live. You no longer need to open a Facebook application to see what people are up to. In the peoples hub you can just navigate to a contact and see their current wall posts on Facebook. The only thing lacking from it currently is a good way to separate contacts into groups such as family, friends and business contacts.

Xbox Live:

Xbox live is where your games live. Gaming on the phone/OS is great. The hardware is very responsive. I’ve only tried a few games so far and have stuck to the ones provided by Microsoft. You don’t need to own a Xbox to take full advantage of gaming on the phone. One really cool thing about gaming on Windows Phone 7 is that most of the games offer a try before you buy option.

Marketplace:

This is where you buy applications, music, games and more. At the time of this writing there are over 10k apps available in the marketplace. The OS is still new so of course all the major players aren’t onboard yet. I think things will get much better after the second generation of this OS is released.  Searching for applications in the marketplace is currently a less then favorable experience. Search brings up pretty much everything currently. So if you search for say Amazon you not only get a listing for the application you also get listings for songs movies and games. Microsoft says this is going to get fixed in the first update.

Zune:

If you’re not familiar with Zune it is Microsoft’s version of Apples iTunes eco system. This is where you get your music, videos, movies, TV shows, podcasts and more. It is also the system/software you use to sync your  device with your PC. In many ways the Zune experience is actually much better then iTunes. First and foremost the software runs much faster then iTunes does on Windows. The Zune marketplace also offers a music subscription service that gives you access to unlimited music for $14.95 a month. This is a great service for discovering new music. You aren’t limited to the short samples of songs via iTunes. Just load anything you want on to your device and listen all you want. Getting music, videos and podcasts onto the phone is  pretty strait forward. The only thing I find strange about purchasing media via Zune is that Microsoft uses a points system like they do on the Xbox. So you don’t pay a direct amount for say a movie rental. Instead you buy points then use them to purchase media.

Office Hub:

If you are a regular Office user you’ll love the Office hub. Its got Excel, Word, Power Point, and OneNote. Even if you never use Office you’ll love OneNote mobile. Its is the best note taking application available. Its especially use full if you also use the desktop client. All of your notes are synced for free via Windows Sky Drive. So you’ve got access to them via the phone, your desktop or a web browser.

Pros:

I believe Microsoft has really gotten off to a great start with Windows Phone 7. The user experience is great in just about every way. The phone is very responsive and super fast. After thirty days of using my phone I’ve yet to have a system crash. This is crucial on a smart phone in my opinion. Navigating through the UI is a pleasure so much so that I’m not sure I agree with Microsoft’s add campaign that Windows Phone 7 is a glance and go device. The UI is so smooth and slick that I find myself just swiping through it out of pure joy!

Cons:

First generation platform means there are of course some features lacking and a few bugs. I have yet to find any deal breakers though. The only possible negative I’ve encountered is the software update eco system. It appears that the carriers have final say in when and how updates will be delivered. Its still to early to know for sure how updates will be delivered. As of this post the first update “NoDo” is slowly being pushed to devices.

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