Review: Windows Phone 7 OS

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Because of the fact that there is no distinguishing changes on any Windows Phone 7 phone and the fact that we don’t want to keep copying and pasting the same things all over again for every time we review a Windows Phone 7 phone, we have published our verdict on Windows Phone 7 as an operating system.

Does it live up to the hype that Microsoft produced, or will it – like its name – confuse the heck of people in traditional Microsoft fashion?

Our verdict is after the jump.

  • Score:

    6.4 / 10

  • The Good:

    Huge improvement in UI, applications, browser improved, easy-to-use

  • The Bad:

    Several key smartphone features ommitted, lack of customisation, confusing aspects

  • Bottom Line:

    An improvement but not there yet when comparing it with Android and iOS.

Interface

The interface for Windows Phone 7 is pretty clean. While it does not feature a “widget interface” a-la the Android, it does have two screens – easily accessible by flicking to the screen’s left or right. The home screen features the core apps and what apps you have pinned to feature on the screen. Core applications – such as Mail and Contacts – aren’t static like their downloaded counterparts, but are “active”. This means that they show new information – such as missed calls and voicemail, or how many emails unread. Flicking to the right shows every single application.

There are also something called “Hubs”. Think of this as a merger between a folder and widgets. These hold a collection of applications – such as “Xbox Live” or “Office” holding games or the typical Office applications respectively – but also have some interactivity where it constantly updates information (well, in the case for Xbox Live).

Applications, except games, have a common interface – mainly due to strict UI requirements by Microsoft – and it is also very clean. Sliding through offers an alternative view or another section to visit, while a “Hub” like interface makes it easier – such as Seesmic – to see the many Twitter/Facebook accounts.

One problem is that the typical “Settings” are all over the place. While “Settings” do offer much help in customising your experience – changing your SIM PIN is not there. That’s in the Phone application under “Call Settings” – and normally, they would provide a link, but there isn’t a link there. Nor is any changes to Internet Explorer. Basically, we’re saying – provide links to other settings in “Settings” in order to make more changes in this complicated procedure.

Applications

When we were using the OS, we found that we could not purchase applications directly from the App Store – on both 3G and Wi-Fi – with our registered testing account. While we were forced to actually sync the applications via the Zune software, we didn’t bother looking in very much in the application store. There was not much in the offerings by Microsoft – but we soon expect that to change with Nokia’s plan to join the Windows Phone 7 movement (if you can call it).

I was astonished on how many paid applications they were – especially when several of those apps were free on others. Then again, some of the applications, such as the AudioBoo application was not the official application, and the ones free we had were Seesmic and Twitter. That’s about it. Most of the applications, especially games, were very expensive – especially when you could pay up to $6 for a game that you may play once or twice.

The Store’s interface wasn’t that friendly either. It did not feature pagination and seem to merge much details of an application into one row, making it feel cluttered and especially deep into the list, you cannot go quickly to the top does annoy some people. I also found that the clutter of application categories did not distinguish between free and paid, meaning that I was found with a lot of irrelevant results.

Maps was, well, a mess. The maps were very pretty, but we are not counting on style only. The interface made it almost impossible to use. I was looking for a restaurant in Melbourne, but was only taken to some random place that had nothing to do with my search. It appears that locations search was not made available to us, which is a shame.

Social and Communication

Thanks to Microsoft’s investment, Facebook does have a prominent space in the OS. It connects with your Facebook profile by combining your contacts with their Facebook profile – most importantly, their status messages. While it is a limited view of Facebook, it’s just enough to keep you updated and not constantly spammed by Cityville messages or notifications of unusual wall postings from your friends.

Another nice picture is Microsoft is finally playing fair game with other mail clients – with Windows Phone 7 now able to not only handle POP3 and Hotmail, but also Gmail and Yahoo – something missing from Windows Mobile 6.5 (you know, the previous model). As well, the mail UI is also pretty useful and easy to use. You can easily delete messages and identify important emails. And now you see why Outlook is the most trusted email client in the corporate world.

Also included is Xbox Live – it’s gaming network. However, it’s pretty limited to showing off your Xbox Live avatar and achievements across both the Xbox 360 and now on the phone. We wanted multiplayer, a-la Game Centre on the iOS, but we might have to wait a bit further. Plus, it would be nice to actually beat my brother in a game without me touching a single controller.

Performance & Internet Browsing

We found that it was pretty fast for an OS, and much better from the clunky Windows Mobile. We haven’t seen the phone crashed once yet, and hopefully that bricking incident on Samsung’s phones was an one-time happening. This could also be due to the strict hardware conditions that Microsoft has placed on its manufacturers, making it more faster.

There is no multitasking, though we can live without it – but we hope it does make it in an update. There is exceptions to that, however, with only the core applications getting it. The others have to wait until its made available for all. Also, no copy-and-paste, something crucial in a smartphone and yet ignored.

Browsing the Internet gets a little bit better under Internet Explorer for Windows Phone 7. It is what was needed for the mobile web four years ago with its Windows Mobile platform. Now with HTML5 and CSS3, it is still behind in web technologies – which is a shame, as many are starting to adopt these standards despite being still a draft standard. But on the positive side, it actually works with pans and zooms. It still lacks Adobe Flash – something Android does also support.

The Final Verdict

It’s a great beginning for Windows Phone 7 and for Microsoft in terms of mobile strategy, especially for the hardware specifications. But it now has to fix the bugs before we can whole-heartedly accept it as an OS as in comparison to Android and to the iOS. But with big name brands such as HTC and Nokia, we hopefully pray that this makes the two-horse race into more of a three-way race.

This review will update as new information is at hand for Windows Phone 7 updates.


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