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
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  • Lapoki - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    I think WP7 has potential and could very well be my next purchase. Great article guys, it was long but very detailed.. got me through a boring afternoon.
    One thing seems missing though... the infamous signal strength comparison that you have been doing for all other phones ever since iPhone 4.
    Reply
  • wht1986 - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    One of the most informative WP7 reviews I have read. I actually didn't skip to the end just to read the conclusions. I read it all and enjoyed every page. Well done. Reply
  • epyon96 - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Did I read that right?

    Only Mp4 and WMVsupport?
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    I'm guessing that is the audio codecs allowed for videos Reply
  • Tanclearas - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    "When Apple introduced the iPhone, Steve Jobs made the point that a virtual keyboard was preferable to a fixed keyboard because you shouldn’t always be stuck with the same keyboard layout. Some applications would require a slightly different layout and other applications wouldn’t need it entirely. A physical keyboard requires you to pay the space penalty regardless of what you’re doing with the phone."

    Really? So, by that argument, Google/Android is the better choice of phone. You shouldn't always be stuck with a single choice of phone layout. I use my hardware keyboard regularly on my G1. As for "applications requiring a slightly different layout", that's a load of crap. When typing, I always want letters and numbers, and I want QWERTY with number keys above. I don't want an on-screen QWERTY with a separate button to press to switch back-and-forth between letters and numbers.

    The "applications that require a slightly different layout", perhaps like the phone keypad, can still use an on-screen keypad when necessary.
    Reply
  • DP-16D - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Windows 7 Phone must be absolutely phenomenal given the writers' incredible Mac-centric slant (especially with the Windows 7 desktop non-sequitor at the end of the review). Furthermore: The e-mail and messaging pages don't include comparisons to Blackberry, the de-facto standard for communication on smartphones. In fact, I cannot recall that line of phones being mentioned at all. As an existing Blackberry user considering a switch to Windows 7 Phone your review is nearly worthless, because 99% of my phone experience is about functionality and not whether or not my handset can sing and dance better or worse than iOS and Android.

    Normally I enjoy reading Anand for very thorough reviews, but this review's omission of the essential and inclusion of the irrelevant will make me reconsider reading any future submissions by these two writers.
    Reply
  • beefnot - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    C'mon man, although Blackberry is a mkt share leader, it is a 20th century platform with very little innovation. It is walking dead with respect to consumer devices, which is the segment that Windows Phone 7 is currently targeting. I own a blackberry for work, but there is no way in hell I would consider it for my personal mobile device, and I don't give a rat's ass that it is excluded from comparison. Reply
  • Reven - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    I'm happy with my iphone 4 for now, but I will seriously consider getting the next generation of Windows Mobile phones when I eventually upgrade. Reply
  • anona6 - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Hey I live in Tucson, and I was wondering if anandtech was based out of Tucson or something.
    This article made it a little more exciting for me just because it was local to me, and you have
    one of my favorite coffee shops there that's nearby my University.
    Reply
  • Zstream - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Do you know what the talk time is for the LG? It's not showing on the graph Reply

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