Final Words

There's a lot of good to say about Windows Phone 7. Far more than I expected going into this review, to be honest.

The Facebook integration is the best I’ve seen on a smartphone. The Zune integration is similarly perfect. If you’re used to spending a good amount of money on iTunes every month you’ll have a better overall experience with Zune Pass on a Windows Phone. Exchange support, Office and the Email app are great too, it all just works. And unlike previous Microsoft OS launches, there’s no caveat necessary. Windows Phone 7 is both functional and attractive.

The UI is a thing of beauty. Microsoft got the style, customization and performance one hundred percent right on this thing. It makes iOS feel old and utilitarian. It’s funny to think that Microsoft was the one to out-simplify Apple in the UI department.

Microsoft made great use of GPU acceleration throughout the OS. Scrolling, panning, zooming, everything is ridiculously smooth. The OS is so polished in this regard that almost none of the third party apps I tried seemed to clear the bar Microsoft has set. It’s going to take a while for developers to do the right thing on this platform.

It’s not only third party developers at fault. Microsoft itself clearly has a lot to work on. The Xbox Live Extras app is inexcusably slow. And then there’s IE mobile.

With JavaScript performance much lower than iOS and Android, IE mobile is measurable slower at loading web pages. The browser doesn’t actually feel much slower because of how smooth actually navigating around web pages is, but the web page loading performance must be improved. On top of that, web page legibility when zoomed out suffers due to a lack of font smoothing on very small fonts.

The application history and associated back button work well enough to make getting around WP7 pretty easy. Proper linking of addresses, phone numbers and web pages is nice and plays well with the back button. Ultimately adding copy & paste (coming in early 2011) will help but I’m not sure Microsoft can get around not having an actual way to switch between apps rather than just going back all the time.

From a hardware standpoint I have to say that I believe Microsoft got the formula right. Windows Phone 7 is launching a lot like a gaming console that Microsoft allows other companies to manufacture. Microsoft dictates the hardware, and it’s up to the handset manufacturers to implement it as stylishly as possible. If the manufacturers want to provide additional features, they can do so through their own apps that can come preloaded on the device.

Some handset makers are undoubtedly upset that they won’t be able to use UI as a differentiation vector, but I believe this is a better option for general consumers. You get a consistent experience across all Windows Phones and you force the handset guys to deliver better hardware, rather than attempt to compete out of their realm of expertise with software.

Buying a Windows Phone is going to be a lot like buying a PC. Except this time around the pre-installed software will be a lot easier to get rid of and hopefully a lot less intrusive.

Of course, this approach only works if the OS is good enough from the get go, and in this case, it is.

I’ve always liked Microsoft as an underdog. It isn’t afraid to spend money to deliver a good user experience and the company has the talent to do some amazing things. It’s only when Microsoft becomes a monopoly that things go wrong. But in the fight to reach that point, we get great products and healthy competition.

With Windows Phone Microsoft is in underdog mode. The OS isn’t perfect but aside from the lack of apps, it’s competitive today. While I’m traveling I need the apps you can only get with a mature platform like Android or iOS (e.g. Yelp, BART app, etc...), but while home I don’t use those apps as much. Instead my smartphone behaves more like an SMS, phone, email, camera and web browsing device, and it’s in those areas that Windows Phone is easily just as good as the competition.

The app story and lack of conventional task switching are the two biggest issues facing Windows Phone 7 today. Both of which look to be very fixable problems. If you don’t own a modern smartphone, you probably won’t view either as an issue today and you can bide your time until Microsoft introduces them. If you’re migrating from an Android device or iPhone, depending on your app usage, Windows Phone may be too young for you.

If you’re looking for a feature replacement to an Android phone or Windows Mobile device, WP7 will disappoint. Windows Phone is more like the iPhone than it is anything else. If you don’t like the iPhone (for reasons other than an inherent dislike for Apple), you probably won’t like Windows Phone. If your sole reason is disdain for Apple, then pick up a Windows Phone.

What I’m most excited about isn’t the fact that we’ll have another good competitor in the smartphone space, but rather the hope this gives me for Microsoft’s future products. Windows 7 was a nice OS, but it was nothing earth shattering and clearly did nothing to fend off Apple’s erosion of PC market share. Windows Phone 7 is a beacon of hope for Microsoft. If Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 are designed with similar focus and clarity of thought as WP7 was, we may be looking at the beginning of Microsoft’s return.

 

The First Phones: HTC Surround
POST A COMMENT

125 Comments

View All Comments

  • serkol - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    "Flipping through pages upon pages of square app icons just isn’t the most efficient way to do it. Folders help reduce the clutter, but they don’t fundamentally address the problem."

    Try placing folders onto the iPhone dock. I've placed 4 folders there. Tap on the folder (in the dock), and it opens up the folder, then tap on the app. This look like 4 mini "start buttons" - very convenient, and looks very good.
    Reply
  • bobjones32 - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    FYI Anand - there's a dedicated Facebook app in the marketplace that was posted today. Actually created by Microsoft, not Facebook. Any chance you can update this article or write another quick one once you have a chance to take a look? The screenshots in the Zune software look interesting, at least. Reply
  • Regenweald - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    The xbox live integration on this alone makes it a much more attractive platform that anything else out there.( i thought I was going to have to buy an xbox for the new plants vs zombies exclusive content, lol) I'm looking forward to WP8. Many persons have sold WP7 short without anything to actually go on, but now, it already seems like the most complete platform out there. Full windows integration, ZUNE, XBOX and Facebook. Reply
  • Dobs - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    All sounded great for me until IE mobile - What a let down.
    Basically a deal breaker. Other faults I reckon I'd be happy to live with until they fixed them.
    My high hopes sunk :(
    Reply
  • RetroEvolute - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    How did this let you down? The article didn't really have much of anything to say negative about the IE browser included in Windows Phone 7. Unless you're just one of those people who hate anything with the name IE or Internet Explorer...

    If you haven't already, try the IE9 Beta for Vista/Win7. It's a huge improvement from their previous versions, and you may just like it.
    Reply
  • Dobs - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Did you read page 9 (Rebuilding a Brand: IE mobile)?

    The benchmarks, blocky text and..
    "Slower page loading times aren’t as big of a deal anyways, since you can leave the browser and go do something else entirely while the page keeps loading."
    This statement instantly reminded me of dial up internet - not a smart phone.
    I don't open a browser to then go and test my multi-tasking or my patience.

    Like I said - I'll wait for now. If IE mobile is fixed I'll seriously reconsider.
    I don't currently have a smart phone and had been patiently waiting for win7 phone as I thought it might be The One - but it looks like I'll continue waiting.

    And I don't think browsers for PC have anything to do with a phone review - Thanks anyhow.
    Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    I dont think the benchmarks matter that much if actual real world browsing is still good, which it is, and that sites are rendered correctly, which they are.
    Compared to the current state of many other phone browsers at the moment IE on WP7 seems atleast decent. Other browsers might have greater speed and specs on paper but they wont run as smooth and they often have trouble displaying certain pages.
    Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Just read the Engadget review and they also like the browser:

    "we've got to say that web browsing on Windows Phone 7 is actually a really pleasant experience. "

    "Loading the desktop version of Engadget was just a hair slower than an iPhone 4, and just as importantly, rendering new parts of the page as you scroll is plenty fast -- not instantaneous, but fast enough so that you never find yourself consciously waiting for it to catch up. Zooming -- which is accomplished with a pinch gesture, of course -- is buttery smooth. The phone accomplishes this in the same way you're probably used to from other devices: when you first zoom in, it uses the same render resolution so that it can at least show you something without going blank, then it renders the appropriate level of detail as it catches up (Google Maps works the same way on almost every platform). It works well. Zooming in and out of a page -- even when still loading up content -- was super fast in our testing, and rendering happened in a split second, meaning hardly any time spent looking at jagged pixels. We're tremendously impressed with how well the browser works "

    However they go on to mention that because of no Flash (yet, Adobe are working on it) that watching streaming video is out of the question for now as the browser also dont support HTML5 video.
    Reply
  • MacGyver85 - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    I was at the launch event in Belgium at the Microsoft HQ and had the chance to ask a few questions. One of which was if they'll be moving to the IE9 rendering & javascript engine once it is finalized. The answer was a resounding yes. The guy also said that they are already using some parts of IE9 as well in addition to IE7 and 8. Reply
  • ishbuggy - Wednesday, October 20, 2010 - link

    Does anyone know how WP7 will handle updates? I really hope they enforce updates across all the devices so you don't get stuck with old software versions months after new ones have come out like with android. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now