Since the launch of the Windows Phone 7 last year, Microsoft has been scrambling to deal with the many bugs, quirks and annoyances that have cropped up with the devices. It’s been a tough first year for the underdog Windows Phone 7, as Microsoft plays catchup with Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone devices. iPhone has legions of dedicated fans and Android is the coolest kid on the block. Where does that leave the Windows phone? Scrambling for market share and respect, that’s where. Responding to complaints and input from users and developers, Microsoft previewed a big upgrade to the Windows Phone 7 software promising hundreds of new features and improvements, code named Mango, to take the place of the buggy Metro. Mango will be available to existing users as a download in the fall. For all of its problems, the Windows Phone 7 still has a lot going for it, especially in the non-business consumer market. Its user interface is incredibly intuitive and its Live Tiles feature is a dream.
Below, in typical Crash Course fashion, is a basic primer on the Windows Phone 7. Let’s call it the good, the bad and the ugly.
The Windows Phone 7 is very user friendly, much like the iPhone. But the iPhone still comes out ahead. The familiarity of working with a Windows operating system is appealing to a lot of users, who rely so much these days on smartphones for browsing, emailing and connecting to social networks. And with the Mango release offering an upgrade to IE9 that will look and behave as a desktop browser, it should appeal to even more everyday users. What’s even more important to most users, is the look and feel of the user interface. The Windows Phone 7 shines in this area. The interface is uncluttered and classy to the point of being spare, which is a very good thing. The phone’s touch responsiveness and touch virtual keyboard also belongs in the positive column. It’s smooth, very smooth, responding to pinch and zoom without a hitch.
The Live Tiles widgets on the start page can be customized, much like shortcut icons and they serve as gateways to the phone’s simple layout of apps, and hubs, consisting of people, games, music and video, marketplace, and office.
Say what you will about the current shortcomings in the people, office and games hubs, the Windows Phone 7 has a lot going for it in the music hub. The music experience is integrated with the Zune client, which makes listening to, downloading and enjoying music a breeze.
Although not released yet, the Mango upgrade properly belongs under the good section. The OS upgrade appears to address most, if not all of the of the initial bugs, annoyances and oversights of the Windows 7 Phone. But until the fall, users will have to accept the bad stuff.
The bulk of the negative features of the Windows device have to do with inexplicable oversights. Below is a list of the top bad decisions made by Microsoft in developing its smartphone.
- No copy and paste feature.
- No on-board device encryption.
- No Flash support
- Unable to view HTML 5 websites.
- No third-party multitasking
- No system-wide search
- No unified in-box for email
- No Twitter integration in the people hub.
The ugly aspects of the Windows Phone 7 are the bugs, lots and lots of bugs. Really, this past year has been one long beta test for Microsoft’s smartphone. When numerous bug fixes are required after a major roll out, that’s a big red flag. Worse, the fixes themselves proved problematic. An upgrade fix released in February failed for a large number of users rendering their devices inoperable. One nasty bug caused a huge data drain resulting in overages. Microsoft blamed it on Yahoo.
You know what else is really, really ugly about the Windows Phone 7? The many shortcomings in the office hub, making the phone without the Mango upgrade ill suited for everyday business use. Don’t try and compose an extensive office document on the Windows Phone 7, because you may throw the device against the wall in frustration. Formatting options for text, bold face and so on, are severely limited in Word, Excel and OneNote. You can only make the formatting changes one word at a time. And the lack of copy and paste is a huge drawback. You can’t create Power Point files, but can edit and view such documents.
Thankfully the Mango upgrade should answer most of the problems with the office features. Word and excel is reportedly improved. And support will be added for Office 365 and Skydrive.
In the final analysis, the Windows Phone 7 is an elegant, easy to use phone with lots of personality. But its shortcomings are just mind boggling. If the Mango upgrade is everything it’s cracked up to be, then Microsoft may have a real contender on its hands. And with some snappy new handsets with 4G capability, Microsoft has a good shot of challenging the top players in the market.
During the recent VIP preview event for the Mango release, Microsoft claimed the OS upgrade offered over “500 new features.” So far, the tech giant has shown evidence of a few dozen or so. Let’s hope the 500 figure is closer to the truth, because the Windows 7 phone could use them.
What was left out of this crash course? Tell us about your experience with the Windows 7 smartphone.
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- Crash Course: Weekly Tech News Roundup (May 23 – 30)
- Microsoft Offers Students A Free Xbox 360 Console With The Purchase Of A New Windows 7 Computer