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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  • soaringrocks - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    I find it amusing that for a 'phone' there is often little to no discussion on call quality, reception, and ability to maintain connection in a difficult environment. We know that all phones are not equal on that score...

    It's like you don't expect people to actually make phone calls.
    Reply
  • beefnot - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    Making phone calls with your smart phone is just so passe. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    They said they have reviews of the actual phones coming, that is the type of info that would be in a review of the phone, not the OS. Reply
  • thartist - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    sick amount of quality work. the only WP7 review on the web so far as it had to be done.

    Anand, keep that quality work that puts you so above from the rest.
    Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    The lack of "change on the fly" micro SD is a deal killer for me.
    It's a shame too, because I really like everything else about this phone.
    Reply
  • Smilin - Monday, October 25, 2010 - link

    Curious: Why do you need such a feature? Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Friday, November 5, 2010 - link

    whoa, i don't know if anyone else, or even you will get back to reading this but...

    i use SD cards to store music on. i have a situation where i can't always sync with my home pc very often, and i can't always carry around a laptop, so bringing along a handful of different SD cards with a variety of tunes has been important to me.
    what i'd really like is for card-swapping to get more convenient, like in cameras.
    Reply
  • btdvox - Thursday, October 21, 2010 - link

    In your review you guys say the LG Optimus 7 has a MicroSD slot that we can expand on, yet nowhere else does it say that on the web. Can you verify this? If it does than this phone is a clear winner for me, It's also avail in Canada btw. I'd hope we're just as important as Asia and Europse but I suppose were not haha. Reply
  • softdrinkviking - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    the trick is that the microSD card gets treated like part of the built-in memory, and you cannot replace it without completely erasing your phone and starting over.

    so you basically have to choose a single SD card and stick with it, there is no changing on the fly like in android phones.
    Reply
  • btdvox - Friday, October 22, 2010 - link

    Wasnt really my question but thanks.

    But still unanswered is, I dont think LG Optimus 7 has a microsd slot, Engadget just reviewed it and stated it doesnt have a memory slot. Can you guys confirm this?
    Reply

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