I’ve recently been suffering from a condition that I’m sure many gadget lovers have gone through over the years; I’m bored of the existing ‘must-have-gadget’ of last year. Specifically, I’m getting a little tired of iOS after using it for the past 3 years.
So for the past few weeks I’ve been on the hunt for ‘something new’. I’ve looked into BlackBerry, but pretty much everyone has told me not to bother, unless I’m trying out the new OS7. I guess using an iPhone 4 means setting a really high bar for smartphone usage. And in any case, the news of falling profits and market share coming out for RIM has made me not to invest in that platform, at least for now.
Obviously there’s Android, but I simply don’t feel comfortable with that OS at all. It still feels very rough around the edges, and with all the customization and additional layers of UI that various mobile makers have put on the OS has really fragmented the market and, ultimately, the user experience.
LG Optimus 3D, iPhone 4, HTC 7 Mozart
This left me with only one OS , so I jumped at the opportunity when I was given an HTC 7 Mozart running Windows Phone 7.5, or Mango as Microsoft lovingly calls it. Mind you I had, up till last week, only seen Windows Phone 7 in videos and just had cursory glances from others. This was my first time using WP7 thoroughly.
So running the latest WP7 OS on a one year old smartphone, my first thought was how damn fast the thing was. Now the HTC 7 Mozart is no speed king, with a 1GHz Scorpion CPU on a Qualcomm QSD8250 Snapdragon chipset with 576MB RAM, but given Microsoft’s stringent hardware requirements for all WP7 handsets, the performance seems to be par for the course.
So the first thing that I liked was the flow of apps going downwards, rather than side to side, quite unlike the iOS and Android. Having the main window where all apps can be ‘pinned’ was a real convenience, because on the side screen there was a huge list of all the apps and settings for WP7. Some people may not like scrolling down so much to reach an app, but to me this is no different from scrolling sideways on multiple pages to reach the app you need. Failing which, there’s always the dedicated ‘Search’ button on the handset; the other two being the Windows icon and the Back button.
Another thing I really liked was the uniformity of all the apps. Again, like the hardware requirements, Microsoft have also laid down the groundwork for how applications should look on their OS, which meant a seamless experience on every app I tried. So whether it was IMDB or Twitter, I knew how to navigate each app.
Speaking of apps, the App marketplace seemed quite like the Android Marketplace or indeed the Apple App Store, but where the Windows marketplace shone was how easily I could see more information on each app. For any app, the first page always shows the developer’s description of the app and other technical info like the size and customer ratings. Now to see how customers have reviewed the app, I don’t need to click a button that loads up another page, I just swipe to the left and all the reviews are there for me to read.
What I’m trying to say is that the whole app buying and using experience on WP7 was very intuitive and very smooth; two things I feel Android, and to an extent iOS, still lacks in. Games are a totally different story of course, because how each one is developed for a specific OS depends entirely on the developer. Still, kudos to Microsoft for maintaining the Xbox Live Marketplace habitat on WP7, where every game can be downloaded in full, and tried out for free. Should the person like it, then they can buy the game. Of course, then there’s the whole achievement system that is ported over to WP7, which I’m sure many people will appreciate as well.
I will say one thing that Android trumps both iOS and WP7 in: I don’t need to have a cumbersome software in between all the media on my PC and my smartphone. iTunes and Zune are still not as elegant and seamless an experience as simply copying and pasting files and folders onto my smartphone.
I don’t know how bad the original version of Windows Phone 7 was, but with Mango I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t meet with huge success right out of the gate. My whole experience with WP7 was nothing but pleasant, and honestly if iOS 5 doesn’t live up to my expectations, I’ll actually go for a Windows Phone 7 handset for my next smartphone.