A month ago, I thought it would be good to try out Windows Phone 7 to see if I liked it. The plan was that I could always revert to my trusty iPhone 3GS if I didn’t. That plan came unstuck when my iPhone got wet whilst I was out running. The phone works well, except for the SIM card reader, and is deemed “irreparable”
One of the things that was holding me back from moving away from the iPhone was that RunKeeper hadn’t yet been released on WP7. It was released on the 9th of March, but I didn’t realise how limited the functionality was compared to the iPhone version until I actually used it.
I bought a Samsung Focus on eBay for around $330 AUD landed and unlocked, and so began my journey. I already started having issues with the phone as soon as it arrived; I needed to ring Microsoft to activate it. This is unusual, and I assume it’s because my phone is running a pre-release version of WP7, 7003. I discovered this after powering on the phone for the first time.
The Samsung Focus itself is actually quite nice. It doesn’t have the quality feel of an Apple device, but it’s light and has decent specs. I put in a 16GB MicroSD card, so I’ve got around 22GB of total storage. It’s light, and the OLED screen is bright and easy to read.
Now that AT&T have released the “NoDo” update for WP7, I’m still unable to update my phone. It’s not a stolen “demo phone”, but still Microsoft feel the need to block updates to 7003 devices – even though my Focus the same physical phone as others that are receiving updates.
Here’s my list of things that I like about the phone, as well as what I dislike. I’m actually really looking forward to moving back to an iOS device as soon as possible. Apart from the things mentioned on the list below, there are other things I miss such as the Juniper JunOS Pulse VPN client, being able to connect to my work’s hidden WPA-PEAP WiFi network, and stable RunKeeper and Endomondo apps amongst other things.
- No multi-tasking
- No phone backups like in iTunes, so if you have to nuke your phone or swap phones you’ll be spending hours reconfiguring
- No inbuilt e-book reader. All e-book reader apps (for generic e-books, not Kindle) are rubbish
- Slow. Apps stutter when scrolling though lists. Not just one app, but the majority of them
- No task integration in Outlook. Come on, Exchange and WP7 are both MS products
- No mass storage mode when plugged in to a PC. Even the iPhone gives you limited access to just photos and videos. WP7 expects you to have Zune installed and paired
- Apps get featured on the marketplace even though they’re buggy and don’t work properly. Looking at you, Endomondo
- Hardly any live tile support for major apps. Facebook? no Twitter? no. No push notifications for these apps at all
- Live tiles are buggy. The AU Weather Pro app has heaps of issues with live tiles, and their devs blame the platform so I’ll tend to believe them
- This one really pissed me off – no iCal sync via web calendar URLs. Hello?
- Can’t connect to hidden wireless networks. This is supposedly for security purposes.
- Limited theme colours. The available colours get old pretty quickly
- Hardly any quality apps. Heaps of junk on the marketplace
- Apps are limited compared to their iPhone counterparts due to limited hardware access in WP7. You only need to look at Microsoft’s own developers releasing PhotoSynth on iPhone first, due to the fact that they couldn’t do it on WP7 at the moment
- If you configure a passcode lock, you can’t disable it without wiping the phone
- Address book lookups don’t work properly for all Exchange accounts
- Too easy to touch music player controls on the lockscreen if you’re carrying your phone around
- Microsoft’s refusal to update 7003 devices, even if they’re a non-developer device
- Hard to navigate around with more than 10 rows of live tiles on the home screen
- Navigating the marketplace and finding top apps in certain categories is painful.
- Can’t select multiple photos in order to share or delete them
- No tethering over Bluetooth, or easy tethering using the cable. I know it’s possible to tether with the Samsung Focus, but it’s not a simple menu item. You have to do into the diagnostic menu to enable it.
- In typical Microsoft fashion, many apps require you to give them “run under lockscreen” permissions. Why should then end-user care about this? Just make it work, and don’t bother them with it.
- Better looking than the iPhone interface. iOS’ interface is starting to look dated
- People hub integration with Facebook, etc is excellent. Being able to merge info from multiple accounts is great.
- Predictive text system is better than the iPhone’s. It offers better suggestions, and a better method for picking between those suggestions. Also, editing words you’ve typed previously is easier on WP7
- Dedicated camera button, and the fact that you can take photos without unlocking the phone
- Being able to block caller-id sending to people who aren’t in your contact list is a really simple and smart idea
- SkyDrive integration is good for photos
- Sharing photos is easy, as accounts integrate into the “Share” menu. If you’ve configured your Facebook account, you get a share option for Facebook.
- Pinning stuff to the homescreen is handy. Pin your favourite contacts, or an office document.
- Mobile IE7 works fine. I didn’t have any issues browsing sites.
- Phone functionality works well
- There are hardly any kid’s games available on the marketplace at the moment. I had a whole page full installed on the iPhone that were very handy for keeping my daughter amused when I took her with me to the barber, for example.
- Music functionality works well
One thing that I’ve observed it that it seems harder for people to transition between two different smartphone platforms, as opposed to moving from a “dumb” phone to a smartphone. You’re used to the apps that were available on the old phone’s platform, and the way your old phone did things.
As it stands, I wouldn’t recommend WP7 to anybody. I just recommended an Android phone to my brother last week as an upgrade from his Nokia N8. Once the “mango” update comes out, Nokia get on the bandwagon properly, and another year or so has passed, I think the platform will be a compelling alternative to Android/iOS. Just not yet.