Hands on with Windows Phone 7

Our first look at Microsoft's new mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7

Last month we were able to sit down with the team at Microsoft's mobile division and receive an in-depth demonstration of the company's new mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7.

Windows Phone 7 is a completely new mobile operating system, built from the ground up and not resembling its clunky predecessor, Windows Mobile 6.5, in the slightest. After just a few minutes playing with a fully functional Windows Phone 7 device, we were left impressed.

What we liked

The user interface of Microsoft Windows Phone 7 is completely different to anything currently on the market. It's made up of large tiles that can be organised in any way you wish; tiles can be "pinned" to the home screen, and the default tiles can be removed. You can simply press and hold a tile to move it around the screen. The tiles offer a refreshing look and feel, with large text and live images. For example, the "People" tile — a centralised hub for multiple forms of communication with contacts — will display live photos of the last few people you've interacted with. There's no limit to the number of tiles you can pin to the home screen, so it can be as long or as short as you want.

Windows Phone 7

The Windows Phone 7 home screen is made up of large tiles.

Once you open one of Windows Phone 7's default "hubs" (People, Pictures, Games, Music, Video, Marketplace, Office), the UI utilises a panorama-style view. Slide left and right to browse through the panorama; for example, the People hub consists of a list of those you've had recent contact with, all of your contacts and a What's New list that integrates real-time Facebook and Windows Live updates.

One thing we noticed was how smooth the entire experience is. Whether it is scrolling through tiles on the home screen, opening applications, or performing basic tasks such as dialling a phone number or typing a text message, the interface feels fresh, zippy and completely natural. It's a completely the opposite experience to using previous Windows phones, which were often rightly accused of having clunky, lag-ridden interfaces. The Windows Phone 7 UI even makes the iPhone and Google Android interfaces feel slightly dated.

Windows Phone 7

The Windows Phone 7 "People" hub. All hubs utilise a panorama view; slide left and right to browse through the panorama on the phone.

The on-screen keyboard is excellent. We found it more comfortable and accurate in landscape mode, but it works well in portrait mode too. The keys are well spaced and make a soothing clicking sound when pressed, while the built-in spell corrector allows you to tap on a word to bring up a list of suggested words.

Instead of a regular contact list, Microsoft has gone the whole hog and opted for an optimised "People" hub. You simply enter your Facebook, Windows Live ID and other e-mail accounts (the OS naturally supports Microsoft Exchange e-mail) and it automatically grabs your contact list and keeps them updated in real time. Conveniently, you can choose to add all your Facebook contacts to your people hub, or simply add Facebook info for the existing contacts you already have. Facebook status updates, e-mails, calls, messages and IMs all appear in this single People hub, and you can also pin the tile of an individual to your home screen for quick access.

Being a Windows Phone, the OS naturally comes with the full OneNote Office mobile suite, including applications to create, view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.

Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7 includes the full OfficeOne suite, including apps to edit, create and view Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents.

What we didn't like

Despite all the positives, there are a number of issues with Windows Phone 7, headed by the lack of a copy and paste function. We expect this to eventually be added, but it is definitely a disappointing omission.

Windows Phone 7 also has no support for third-party app multitasking — Microsoft says that the reason for this is to preserve performance. (This is something that the company is all too familiar with considering it was a huge issue in Windows Mobile 6.5) While we can understand the reasoning, it remains disappointing.

One omission that is definitely not understandable is the lack of integrated Twitter support. The social-networking site is extremely popular and many Google Android smartphones have integrated Twitter access, including HTC's Sense UI (as seen on the HTC Desire and HTC Wildfire smartphones). Twitter seems like a perfect fit for Windows Phone 7's People hub, so we're not sure why it hasn't been included.

Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone 7 features the Marketplace for mobile apps, but there is no support for multitasking when it comes to third-party apps.

Microsoft Windows Phone 7 devices are expected to hit the shelves before Christmas, possibly as soon as October. Are you tempted to switch from your iPhone, Android or BlackBerry smartphone? Let us know what you think of Windows Phone 7 in the comments below.

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Tags Windows Phone Marketplacemobile phoneswindows phone 7smartphonesWindows Phone 7 handsetsWindows Phone 7 Series

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Ross Catanzariti

Ross Catanzariti

Good Gear Guide

21 Comments

KKK

1

Looks like you reviewed older version of the OS. They added an option to not show Facebook contacts in the RTM version.

Jonkie

2

Windows Phone 7 seems like a dumb phone parading as a smart phone. Microsoft did exactly the same thing before with its Kin phone (which failed dismally).

Windows Phone 7 is parading as a smartphone, yet it cannot Copy/Paste.

How can you perform smartphone activities when you can't copy text from one app to another. How can you copy text from an email and paste it into an office doc? On Windows Phone 7, you can't.

I'd recommend avoiding Windows Phone 7 for the first year, until Microsoft fixes all these things that will be wrong with the first handsets that come on the market.

Wait for the second generation next year, or avoid it altogether, and go with one of the more mature platforms like Android or iPhone.

techieg

3

Not even the iPhone started off with copy/paste and any sort of multitasking, at least WP7 is starting off with the same level of multitasking as iPhone currently has and has promised to deliver copy/paste with updates. Since Microsoft will be delivering updates directly to WP7 devices, I am sure going to get a WP7 device at launch and get updates and additional features when they come both as updates as well as entirely new OSes (WP7.x, WP8, etc) because the hardware you get at launch stays the same just the updates and OS releases are different.

techieg

4

I personally do not want multitasking on my phone because as an IT professional I know what that means; it takes up valuable system resources unnecessarily. People do not understand the meaning of multitasking which is why they seem to think they need it on their phone. Multitasking is beyond simply running multiple apps at the same time, this behavior takes up memory and processor resources that can be dedicated to the app you are currently using and gives it to apps running in the background that you are not currently using. In the end your device becomes unstable and slow because it is multitasking other apps in the background. The smart thing Microsoft has done is essentially only allow multitasking with essential native WP7 functionalities under their control and pause other apps in the background while system resources are dedicated to the app you are currently interacting with to run fast and stable. Microsoft calls this "Tombstoning". We all know what multitasking can esult to on some computers that have even more resources, imagine that on an even smaller mobile device with much less system resources to spare especially to background apps all in the name of "multitasking".

The iPhone has the same pause and play multitasking model, so I am not sure why people decide to make noise about it on WP7 but not on iPhone.

Keep multitasking far away from my mobile device please.

techieg

5

Windows Phone 7 devices also have a ack button so you can return to the previous app you were using in the previous state you left it. As soon as you go back to the app you essentially unpause it and continue using it.

techieg

6

Android has multitasking but its users are suffering for it. Along with multitasking, Android also has "Task Killer" and "Standby Mode". Task Killer is very well known amongst Android users because with multitasking Android phones become unstable and apps stop responding or just close/behave erratically, so they need the task killer to of course "Kill Tasks", that is apps that are running concurrently. Andoid users are the only ones experiencing device crash when trying to use multitasking apps. Standby Mode is Android's version of the same thing WP7 and iPhone both have with pausing apps instead of multitasking them. Here are links to ample Android multitasking issues for your delight;

http://www.bing.com/search?q=android+multitasking+problems&form=QBRE&qs=n&sk=

http://www.google.com/#sclient=psy&hl=en&q=android+multitasking+issues&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=&psj=1&fp=f82d49f7a278c83c

...in fact, some say multitasking on the Android devices is simply annoying.
One thing I forgot to add in my previous posts is that multitasking also eats battery life in addition to other system resources such as memory and processor. Its up to you to rid yourselves of ignorance ample in the public and think for yourself if you really want multitasking on your phone. I don't.

Lesley Higatto

7

Whichever way we look at it, Windows Phone 7 has the most primitive way (tombstoning) to deal with multiple apps.

Any IT professional would have the brains to know what apps are running, and make their own decision about what apps they want running.

Even the iPhone offers some kind of multitasking for the apps you install.

Yes, 4 years ago, iPhone did not have Copy & Paste. In fact, it didn't even have apps. Yet Microsoft thinks it can release a phone in this day and age without basic functionality like Copy & Paste.

Windows Phone 7 is going to end up a train wreck just like every mobile device Microsoft has ever had anything to do with.

Charlotte

8


***

Seems like the review is not based on the RTM update as Facebook handling in the People Hub has been implemented. A Twitter app is also available now.

Anyway, this is a very smooth and responsive UI that is superior to Android and iOS. I am amazed actually! So slick!

It looks and works brilliantly and is totally innovative! I agree with PCWorld: iOS and Android do look dated now!

***

Nathan Rowe

9

@ Lesley

"4 years ago, iphone didn't have copy & paste"? Really, is that what you would call an honest statement? Your correct, iphone didn't have c & p 4 years ago, it came out in '07, or three years ago. But it also didn't have it in febuary of last year! It was 3.0 that gave y'all that ability, late spring/early summer of LAST YEAR! I have had that ability since my first "pocket pc" in 2000 and apple people acted like they were visionaries 9 years later.

Look, I have no problem with Apple, I bought my wife an iphone 4 and she loves it (since 4.2 anyway, not before) I happen to think they make great products and they have spurred the mobile phone industry forward ever since the first iphone. I just can't stand anyone who is so in-love with their brand that will shout from the rooftops that the other will fail before it even arrives! It just seems childish at best.

Let me go on record, WP7 will not fail. WP7 will not be an "iphone killer".

Derek

10

People keep failing to realize the fact that copy/paste will evenutally make it on to WP7 through updates delivered directly to the phone. Why can't people understand this? Microsoft has gotten rid of the bloat and made a product that is slick, fast, and most importantly, innovative. The UI is unlike anything out there and does make Android and iOS look dated. I cannot wait for WP7 to be released and will be purchasing one from the start.

x0zerocool0x

11

Like most on here Im sick of the hard core fan boys just going from thread to thread and blog to blog just to let thier hate be heard. I totally agree with Derek and Nathan, Apple does make nice products, are they for me, no they are not for many reasons. Is WP7 going to be an IPhone or an Andriod killer? Absolutely not! Is it going to be an OS that sets a new standard? Absolutely! IMO WP7 will be the new standard, even without copy and paste for the first few months. I agree with techieg, keep multitasking away from my phone! Ill take tombstoning any day! You can still listen to your music through the Zune hub. Yeah Pandora is awesome but for a measly 15 bucks you get all the music you can handle with Smart DJ which I really like plus you get to keep 10 of the songs per month. I will also be first in line for a WP7.

Elias

12

losers copy winners write for themselves

Meengla

13

I have HTC Pure running WinMO 6.5 and I was thinking about Android but now I am going to wait for WinPho 7. I will definitely get a phone with WinPho 7 as soon as it comes out on AT&T.

By the way, while I realize that my HTC Pure may not be the fastest phone around it is still very functional. Over past few weeks I have discovered some cheap 3rd party apps (WMWifiRouter; RouteTracker, for example) which have made me love my phone a lot more than previously.

VG

14

Never got a smartphone. Will get windows phone 7.

Sonia

15

I am a current iPhone 3G user, never upgraded to 3Gs because it was not worth it, and will never upgrade to iPhone 4 because the phone design is faulty (even though most people DON'T want to admit it) and let's face it iOS 4 is boring! The so-called "new features" are basically things that were always available on jailbroken device! I've been checking WP7 videos, and to be honest I am very impressed! I'm looking forward to try one!

Jagga

16

I have an iPhone 4 and I love it. But it is definitely getting a bit boring now - and I hate being locked into the Apple way of doing things, especially iTunes, which is a Pig. The world is surely moving away from the "must do it my way" Apple model..?

I'll definitely upgrade to a Win 7 mobile - it looks awesome and hopefully they phone companies bother to test the arials before they put them on the shelves. I tried the HD Zune and the interface blows Apple out of the water. Sorry Apple - we had a nice time together - maybe one day again.

Surely cut and paste will be along shortly. Today, I'm more interested in innovation - and it looks like Microsoft finally have the lead in the mobile world.

Time will tell.

jack

17

Why is cut and paste so important?
are there not simple ways around the imagined problem ?
Or are we listening to jelous people?

I would like a definitive answer please.

Joshua

18

I think Microsoft is on the right track here. This phone is the missing piece to the MS ecosystem. They have the Desktop OS covered with what they did right with Win 7, the Xbox 360 has evolved in to a leading game and entertainment system, Zune has struggled, but ever scene the Zune HD a lot of goodness has been added to it, superior to though not as popular to the iPod touch. Face book came out of nowhere and completely dominated social networking (or as I call it communication networking). Media center is still the best PVR / interface available today. All of these things them selves are good, however coupled with Windows Phone 7 they can be great. And that is what it seams MS is doing here. They are adding the glue that pieces all these things together. With Win Phone 7, there is the People hub [Face book], Games hub [Xbox live gaming], Music and Video hub [Zune] and the Office Hub, cause well, corporate world is huge to phone success, i.e. Blackberry. To summarize, it takes a certain kind of company to do the right thing once, it takes a completely different kind of company to have missed the mark and then have the fortitude to make it right.

About copy and paste. Yes I want it and I expect it soon. Probably not at launch, but with in the next couple of updates. Remember, Microsoft has all the control over updates in this phone. This is the same thing for the Xbox 360 and that has been a good thing.

About multitasking. I understand why they did it and with the exception of a Pandora App, I'm not sure why I would need true multitasking more than the pause option already included. Time will tell on this one.

As for twitter. I am not a Communication Network junkie (social networking) kind of person. I really don't care about it. However twitter is included as an app. Why only an app, probably has something to do with it not being Face book and not a Microsoft product.

Lets not forget Netflix which will be available on the phone.

BONES

19

Reading through these comments, and others from other sources, it amazes me how much perception shapes many people's reality. Comments about how much better than Vista Win7 is, for example, are hilarious. Win7 is just an ever-so-slightly tweaked version of Vista, with a measurably worse WMP and a slightly uglier UI. I prefer Vista, because I use WMP a lot, but both are so similar that it really doesn't matter. Yet the perception is that Win7 magically delivers where Vista was a dismal failure.
That is going to be WP7's biggest hurdle, too - overcoming the perception that Microsoft build clunky, bloated software that doesn't work very well on mobile devices. I recently bought a Zune HD, after installing the PC application and seeing just how far removed it was from the normal Microsoft experience. The Zune device has completely transformed my perception of mp3 and the whole mobile media phenomenon. Where I used ot think of it as a convenience, much as cassettes were to vinyl, my ZuneHD has become the centrepiece of my musical interaction - home stereo, car, office and all points in between.
I am here to tell you that if you want your paradigm shifted, download and install Zune. Where iTunes and WMP feel more like spreadsheets, Zune feels like your favourite record store and teh device takes that experience several steps further. If Microsoft can do something similar with WP7, and it certainly seems like they are on the right track, I think it could be hugely successful for them and provide real competition to Apple in the longer term.

th3_outlaw

20

copy and paste to change the world....a xerox machine is what youse should be looking to buy

nuwmind74

21

Microsoftians keeps talking about this new innovative interface. Wow square buttons with a picture on it! It seems to me that microsoft is always playing catch-up. SQL server to this day is adding features that have been around open source db's like postgress for years. Security and stability in Windows OS's have until recently been seriously lagging behind Linux. dot net framework, SDK and VS IDE has always been behind the likes of Java and eclipse.

One app can change the look and feel of an andriod device. How difficult was that!

http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=781455

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