Friday, November 26, 2010

My Adventure With My New Windows Phone 7

Samsung Focus Windows Phone (AT&T)

For my first real post I thought I would take you through my journey learning, experimenting and using my new Windows Phone 7.  Of course this could be career limiting since I do work for the "former" evil empire.  I say "former" because I think Google is the shiny "new" king of that crown.   I know, I know it's pretty terrible to say that using Google servers and writing my blog on their free service but it had to be said.  This blog will aspire to always be a no spin zone kind of a place which I'm sure will get me in trouble at some point but who needs a real salary when they have a blog that earns absolutely no money.  Cool huh that I've got my priorities straight.

Anyway... back to the Windows Phone 7.  First some background.  I'm an Apple toting Mac, iPhone and iPad user.  Weird since I work at Microsoft but I'll leave that explanation to another blog post.  Also for full disclosure I didn't have to pay for my Windows Phone 7 since all Microsoft employees get one free.  You may say that I don't have enough skin in the game to be entirely unbiased and you would be correct.  In fact I come to this adventure fully wanting to love my new phone.  First and foremost since I've completely switched to it and will have to use it day in and day out.  Second being a Microsoft employee I would like to see people get excited about our products for once.  It gets old to hear all the doom and gloom from people.  Gee by the talk from some critics you think that we were going out of business or something.  Anyway, so what's my unabashed, fully biased first impressions.

I like my Windows Phone 7- Samsung Focus.

Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect, but I can honestly say that I like it and it's growing on me.

First Impressions

The Good

  • Beautiful, Bright AMOLED screen.
  • Big Lettering.  For an old guy like me with bifocals this is kind of important.
  • Dynamic Tiles - This is what the Microsoft advertising is trying to sell and it's really good.  I wish more things did it.  For example I picked the Weather Bug app over the Weather Channel app only because of the dynamic tile.  Once you get into the app itself I actually prefer the Weather Channel but the dynamic tile is the most important factor in my decision.  
  • Zune - The music app is very slick.  When you load up your music a photo and a bio of the artist gets automatically loaded into the UI.  It's very polished and adds visual flair to the music experience.
  • Hubs - These are great.  A hub is a grouping of different apps that melds them together like a single apps.  There are Hubs for Games, Office, People, etc.  In fact I wish there were more.  Why not a News hub with a top stories dynamic tile?  I tended to create this type of thing on my iPhone anyway where a single page of apps were generally grouped together by topic or content type.  Games on one page and News on another.   The Windows Phone takes it one step further by making it a tightly integrated part of the OS.  But again there needs to be more of these and not less.
  • Facebook integration.  I really like that Facebook is integrated into people and that it's really easy to see what's going on with friends and to comment on their wall.  I wish there was more integration.
  • Did I mention the beautiful screen?
The Not So Great

  • Real tactile hardware buttons or lack there of - There's something to be said for iPhone's single button at the bottom of the phone.  When in doubt, click it.  The simplicity is important but something even more critical that I didn't fully appreciate until now is the fact that it's a hardware button and not a touch sensitive screen-based button.   What does this mean in terms of Windows Phone 7 and more specifically the Samsung Focus implementation of the phone?  Well many of my gripes are because the Focus' buttons are not real buttons.
    1. To wake your phone you have to click the On/Off button on the right side of the phone.  I totally miss the ease of just clicking on the iPhone single button on the front of the phone which is entirely intuitive and easy to do.   I always find myself clicking on the Windows Logo button (which is conveniently located in the same spot as the iPhone button) and briefly getting frustrated that the phone doesn't wake.  Then I suddenly remember and contort my fingers in awkward ways to wake my Win phone. which further makes me annoyed by the entire process.
    2. I mysteriously always end up in Bing.  You see the search button is in the bottom right of the screen and it's easy to accidentally swipe and hit this button which naturally launches Bing.  Now I love Bing and it's photo front page but not when I'm trying to check out the latest news or play a game.  Good thing there is a back button but speaking of back buttons...
    3. How do I get back.  On the iPhone one could argue that having a software only back button is limiting and that the Windows Phone implementation is actually better where the Back button is always located in the same spot on the phone.  Well it doesn't really work out that way.  Maybe because it's never lit so there's not a reminder that there is a back button but when I use WIndows Phone 7 I constantly find my self wondering how to get back only to remember that I have to hit the back button on the phone and not in the app like I do on my iPhone.  I think most of the above items could have been solved if Samsung implemented real hardware buttons.
  • Lack of Apps.  I think this will be solved over time but there is a lack of key apps now.  Like I wish there was UrbanSpoon, Kindle or New York Times.  I'm sure many of the best apps will eventually show up but in this early adopter stage it's a bit painful to go from "there's an app for that" to "there's an app for that but on another phone". 
  • Doesn't run iPhone apps, movies or music.  Well I think it has to be said.  If you're already an iPhone, iPod or iPad user it's kind of tough to switch since any purchased apps, music, movies or other stuff won't play on the Windows Phone.   In fact you'll have to buy them all again.  That kind of sucks.  
  • No Favorite Contacts - Going to the people app to find someone is kind of painful.  I wish they allowed you to create a favorite list like on the iPhone so you can just get to the people you contact the most.   
In Conclusion
The Windows Phone team should be very proud of what they accomplished.  They didn't just build an iPhone clone but instead developed a unique and pretty exciting phone experience.  Believe me that's pretty hard to do in a big company like Microsoft and is truly amazing that they made it happen.  I'm using my Win Phone full time and haven't missed my iPhone yet and actually as I play with the various free apps I'm liking the overall experience more and more.  The user experience translates well.  In particular I think the Facebook and Open Table apps are actually better than their iPhone counterparts partly because of the Windows Phone user experience. 

If you have already bought into the Apple ecosphere and have apps, music and other stuff under this umbrella I don't think you should move.   The iPhone is still a great phone and Apple is continuing to innovate and come out with great stuff.  However, if you aren't locked into that world I think the Windows Phone 7 is a pretty compelling smart phone that you should check out.  I'm not going to switch back.  One of the benefits of the Windows Phone is that it ties really nicely into a Microsoft IT corporate environment which we obviously use at Microsoft so SharePoint, Office, Exchange and Sky Drive are all part of the DNA of the phone and work really well.    Plus if I stick with this phone I don't have to fear SteveB stepping on my phone at a Company Meeting.

I'm a Windows Phone 7 convert.

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