At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Microsoft unveiled their completely revamped version of the previously disappointing Windows phone, and the changes they made are both substantial and excellent. We don’t really say ____ killer anymore. But, the Windows 7 Phone could probably injure the Nexus One or the iPhone. At least it could break a pinky. Here’s why:
The Windows 7 Phone takes most of its cues from the underappreciated Zune HD interface with the same clean fonts and lines as well as identical, fluid animation. It features large, bright tiles representing your most-used or favorite apps. But the cool thing about them is that they’re “live” tiles. Meaning, you don’t have to press update in order to update them. You can, of course, tap and drag them to arrange them in any way that you like or to switch them with other tiles in order to customize your home screen.
Most of the interface for the Windows 7 Phone consists of “hubs” which aggregate content in a series of categories. There’s one for people, pictures, games, music & video, Office applications, and a Marketplace to download content. The People hub streams information from social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and photo sharing sites like Flickr to your phone. Games is pretty self explanatory with the caveat that this is the first phone to feature an official Xbox LIVE experience in-phone. The Music and Video hub takes advantage of the existing Zune content , and even includes a built-in FM radio as well as Zune Social which is sort of what like iTunes Genius should’ve been.
Browser and Email
The browser is Internet Explorer. Yikes. But, mobile IE doesn’t have all of the problems that its big brother has. In fact, even though it’s slower then mobile Safari, it does support multitouch natively as well as the ability to open multiple browser windows. The email is through mobile Outlook, and it is a great deal better than what you may be used to on another non-Apple smart phone. The text is big and readable – it’s like reading your email through a Zune HD, so that’s a nice improvement that will make this phone a worthy buy for many based on that alone.
The nice thing about the browsing, though, is that Bing and Bing Maps are both built into the experience. This is obviously a push by Microsoft to increase the popularity of the Bing search engine – they also auto-suggested download of the Bing search app to some blackberries not long ago. Luckily for them, Bing is an effective, clean-looking engine, and Bing maps is as good as Google maps mobile as it supports multitouch, pinch-and-zoom, and has features built-in location-oriented information (like restaurant reviews).
Developers have 6 months to perfect their Microsoft 7 Phone apps because none of the previous Windows Mobile apps are going to be compatible with this phone. Sucks for those that invested in those apps (not many), but Microsoft has an opportunity here to come out with a lot of cool applications to take another chunk out of the iTunes app store like they did with the open app store on the Droid.
There’s a chance, too, that they will be able to multitask some apps. Already, there is multiple tiles on the homescreen that simultaneously run to feed new content to the user which would suggest the ability to multitask. But, whether or not that ability translates to being able to run multiple, full-scale apps at the same time is yet to be seen.
Microsoft has announced that, at least at launch, there “premier” partner will be AT&T which led to a collective sigh heard throughout the greater Los Angeles area where coverage is lacking. However, it’s worth noting that premier doesn’t mean that they’ll be the only partner. And, in fact, in Microsoft’s press release, they said, “Partners from around the world have committed to include Windows Phone 7 Series in their portfolio plans. They include mobile operators AT&T, Deutsche Telekom AG, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, and manufacturers Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC Corp., HP, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm Inc.” Not exactly putting any eggs in any baskets, are they?