Monday, September 19, 2011

Windows Phone 7–A Review

OriginalPngIt’s been more than 3 months now that I’ve been using a WP7 and I guess now I have enough idea about what I like about WP7 and what I don’t. This post is a mini-review on the review and I would not touch upon the hardware much. Also, I haven’t upgraded to Mango (WP 7.5) so I won’t talk about Mango much, though most of the stuff that I’ll be writing about would be applicable even for Mango.

Preamble – I’ve been a Windows Mobile user since quite a while and have had Windows Mobile powered devices since Windows Mobile 2003 SE. I still own quite a few Windows Mobile powered devices from Windows Mobile 5 to Windows Mobile 6.5. I have also played with iOS 4 and Android (2.3) powered devices.

The Likes -

Firstly the good things about WP7 – the OS is actually quite snappy and live tiles is a pretty cool and refreshingly different idea than almost all the other mobile devices out in the market. The lock screen on WP7 is the best with all the important stuff right there on the lock screen itself including missed calls, email/text notifications and calendar stuff. Native integration with the cloud and social networks (facebook, twitter, linkedIn) is pretty slick too.

The Dislikes or things that need to be better -

This is going be a much bigger list than the “likes” list – not because there are more things to dislike about this OS but because some of the things are simply annoying and make you feel like pulling out your hair Smile

  1. No Outlook Backup - I have been used to syncing my older WM phones with Outlook – everything on my phone was backed up including Contacts, Tasks/Calendar using Outlook. I did try backing up on the cloud using Live Mesh but somehow was more comfortable with backing up to a local computer which I use daily. The first thing that I did when I got my new WP7 phone was to connect it to the computer and heck, figured out there is no Outlook sync – so there was no way for me to get my contacts back on the phone. Quite stupid given that Outlook is still the best personal manager (email, tasks, contacts and calendar) available and I use it almost daily. I don’t think it can get any more stupid that getting your contacts synced from Facebook/Google/Hotmail takes a matter of minutes but syncing with your own personal computer is impossible. So, I had to figure out a way to sync my Outlook contacts/calendar with the cloud – in the end I had to use GO Contact Sync to sync my contacts with my Google a/c so that I can get them on my phone.
  2. No Text Message Backup - The text messages on my WM 6.5 were backed up using MS MyPhone. In WP7 there is no way to backup text messages so one hard-reset and all your messages are lost forever!
  3. Look ma no paste – I know there is copy-paste support since NoDo but what I am talking about is the paste support in the dialer app. I don’t know what the devs who disabled this support were smoking but there have been numerous instances where the phone number on a website is not recognized by the OS and the only way to currently dial such number is to write it down somewhere (or use speech) and then dial it manually. Yes, there are 3rd party apps which let you paste a number, but seriously, why can’t the native dialer app have this?
  4. No Tasks Support – Guess fixed in Mango but really silly that there is no way to sync your tasks and there is no native task app (with reminders) in WP 7.0.
  5. Text Contact Details – If you want to share a contact’s details with somebody else on WP7 then you are quite out of luck – guess sharing contacts via text messages is not considered very social any longer – you should just share them on the cloud somewhere!
  6. International Assist – Perhaps I should have RTFMed before making a phone call but this feature gave me headaches when I tried reaching a local 1-800 number and the dialler kept on adding a + before the 1 (i.e. making it an international call). A frantic Google search made me realize that it’s a feature! I hate it when some apps try to outsmart the user. Ideally, the International Assist should be turned off by default and not turned on.
  7. Mail an attachment – The only attachment that you can send from the Pocket Outlook (or whatever it’s called) is of type pictures! I know I can send Office documents using the Office hub but seriously why I can only attach pictures from the mail client is beyond me.
  8. Half Baked Call History – The call history on WP7 is like one endless list of calls without any support for fitlers like Incoming, Outgoing and Missed. I can perhaps live without the filters but there is no way in the Call history to tap on a number and view the call history log just for that number. The call history by number is important when you do get a missed call from an unknown number and you want to check if you have received any other calls from that number or not.
  9. Lack of Customization/ General UI observation – Let’s face it, users love customizing their phones – customization is what makes a phone truly yours. Unfortunately, the only changes to the appearance that you can make is altering the accent color (from a list of predefined ones) and choosing a light v/s dark theme.

    The live tiles home screen wastes a bit of real estate by showing the right arrow always. I have never clicked on the arrow ever and have always swiped to get to the app list – so not sure if that arrow is needed. Perhaps, the navigation arrow can be removed all together giving more horizontal space to the tiles. Maybe it’s just me but I somehow preferred the honeycomb UI of the 6.5 for the app list instead of an endless list (with jumplist in Mango) of WP7.

  10. Capacitive Hardware Buttons – Maybe I am nit-picking but there should be some way of at least disabling these buttons while you are playing a game like Fruit Ninja – so many times I’ve had the Bing Search open because I moved my finger accidently on the Search Icon while playing.
  11. Zune Now Playing Artist Info – The Zune Now playing integration thingie (where it pulls up artist information from the marketplace) has never worked for me even though I have an US Zune a/c with US mailing & billing address. Funnily, Zune has no issues in pulling artist information from marketplace on my computer.

That’s pretty much it – looking at the “dislikes list” it might look like that I have more to bitch about WP7 than what I like but the fact is I actually find WP7 to be quite slick and if the above inconveniences are fixed than it’s going to be quite a force to reckon with in the Mobile space.

* Image courtesy – Dell.