Impressions of Windows Phone 7

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11 December 2010

I have a WP7 device: the HTC HD7.

I’ve had it for a while now (since launch date in the US), but wanted to wait a little before blogging about it to really get a good feel for what I do and don’t like.

Also, by way of disclaimer, I’m coming to WP7 from Windows Mobile 6.5, so I can’t compare and contrast to other modern phones like iPhone or Droid.

In short, I really like Windows Phone 7, but there are better devices than the HD7 (unless you are on T-Mobile).

Coming from an older phone like I did, the new WP7 phone OS is remarkable. Wonderful. Truly a joy to use! And the HD7 has enough cpu, graphics and memory to make it fast and very enjoyable.

My only real issue is that the HD7 device’s camera button is so hard to push that it is almost impossible to take a good picture, which makes the camera nearly useless. That’s not the fault of WP7, that’s the fault of some HTC engineer with overdeveloped finger muscles or something…

The WP7 user experience is smooth and intuitive. It is loosely based on the Zune HD user experience, but Microsoft clearly learned a lot from the Zune HD about what did and didn’t work, and the phone’s user experience is consistently pleasant and easy.

One of the most touted features of the phone are the the “live tiles” on the home page. And they are nice. I’ve got mine customized to show phone, people, email and weather on the very first page, with messages and a few other commonly used items further down. There are a few other apps I’ve used now and then that I haven’t put on the home page, because it is just as easy to get to them using the voice navigation.

The cool thing though, is that the weather status and my wife’s Facebook status are shown on that front page through the live tiles, so the most important information is always right there Smile

I’ve downloaded some free and commercial apps from the Marketplace. That’s a seamless experience, and includes seamless updates of the apps as they become available. My only quibble with the Marketplace is that it doesn’t seem to filter between apps, music, videos, etc. So sometimes searching for an app can be tedious because it seems that a lot of songs use the same words in their titles, so it can take some time to sift through the songs to find the app you want…

In terms of apps, there are only three apps I am missing at this point:

  1. Bing (I want the voice-prompted navigation that comes with the Bing app – the built-in Maps app is ok for maps, but horrible for actual driving navigation)
  2. TripIt (the mobile web access is OK, but a smart client experience would be a lot better)
  3. EverNote (here the smart client (with offline caching of notes) is really important, and the web interface is a poor substitute – enough so that I’m considering migrating back to OneNote where I can share everything on my SkyDrive)

In terms of phone features, the only thing missing is tethering and/or using the phone as a wifi hub. My 6.5 phone did both of those things and I used them constantly, so losing this ability is a serious drawback. If I wasn’t such a Microsoft loyalist the lack of tethering would probably have prevented me from getting this phone – but as it is I’ve chosen to live with the pain.

On the other hand, the way WP7’s “hubs” integrate together is wonderful. The People and Pictures hubs, for example, automatically pull data from Facebook, Live, Outlook and so forth – automatically bringing together nearly all the information I care to see about everyone I interact with. This type of automatic data integration is amazingly useful, and directly increases my productivity from a business and inter-personal perspective.

And of course the fact that the phone is a Zune device (and so can use my beloved subscription) is just icing on the cake. While I still carry my Zune HD when traveling because it has enough memory to hold all my songs, I do have a couple Smart DJ playlists synced to the phone for times when I’m sitting somewhere and just need a little music. I always have the phone, but don’t always have the Zune HD.

Finally, there’s Netflix. The high-res screen on the phone makes watching video content reasonably enjoyable. Not comparable to a TV or even laptop screen of course, but certainly workable. So again, when I’m sitting somewhere and feel like a little diversion there’s always Netflix content available.

Would I recommend that someone get a WP7 device? Absolutely – WP7 is a joy to use!

Would I recommend the HD7? Probably not, but if you are on T-Mobile you are kind of stuck… And really, other than the stupid camera button, it is a perfectly decent phone (I really like the large screen and overall form factor).