My 30-days Windows Phone 7 challenge comes to an end this Sunday. It’s been an interesting experience, especially since it forced me to give up my Nexus One – the best phone I’ve ever owned.
Before getting into the details of my 30-day experiment, here’s the short summary: Window Phone 7 is a viable third option for consumers – just not today. Microsoft needs to address two things to make it successful:
1. More and better hardware choices
Up to now, there are few Windows Phone 7 device choices, and the available choices are average at best. The recently released Nokia Lumia 900 brings a lot more game, but still more needs to be done. Microsoft needs to work with its hardware partners to produce a killer device. Just like Google has with its Nexus line of Android devices, Microsoft needs to work with a partner to produce a device that sets the bar for other manufacturers to meet and exceed. Bottom line, WP7 needs to be on a piece of hardware people will covet, not just want.
2. The apps, or lack thereof
For all the talk about the growth of apps in Windows Marketplace (now at more than 80,000 and climbing), there are still too many missing apps. I ran into issues finding official apps for Pandora and Starbucks (among others), and I’m not even a heavy mobile app user. While I was able to find workarounds for my needs, the casual consumer will not be as patient. In order to woo current iPhone and Android users, Windows Phone 7 needs more quality, mainstream apps. It’s not about numbers, it’s about making sure the most popular apps in the App Store and Google Play are available for Windows Phone.
Otherwise, the operating system itself is solid, smooth and polished. Could it use some refinement? Sure. But I would put the look and feel ahead of Android and on par with the iPhone. Overall, the Metro UI is well done, and I give Microsoft a lot of credit for developing a completely new mobile user interface.
So that begs the question, when will Windows Phone be ready? I predict Microsoft cleans up the remaining issues during the rest of 2012, and 2013 will be its breakout year.
So, with the high level summary out of the way, here’s what I liked most about WP7, what I disliked, and what I found to be plain ugly during my 30 days with it.
- The phone setup process is straight-forward. It makes a good impression out of the box.
- The Metro user interface has a unique, distinctive look to it – in a good way. The tile concept is a refreshing change from the icon heavy interface of the iPhone and Android.
- It’s smooth, even on average hardware like the Nokia Lumia 710. No glitches, no freezing, and no crashes.
- The music integration between the phone and the desktop Zune software works great. If you have a PC and aren’t using Zune for managing your music collection, you should.
- Microsoft has done a great job integrating with all of the key social media platforms. I particularly like how you can merge all of your key social media activity into one place on the phone, and this is coming from someone who is not a serious Facebook user.
- Through my experiment, I discovered RunKeeper, an awesome fitness tracking app. I was using MyTracks on Android, and I won’t be going back.
- Email integration was extremely painful for me. I use my phone to preprocess multiple Gmail accounts. I’ve had to give that up during my Challenge. It’s not that WP7 can’t do email, it just doesn’t integrate well with Gmail. I’m sure the integration with an Exchange server is awesome, but that doesn’t help me, or the millions of others who rely on Gmail as their mail service.
- Multi-tasking is not intuitive. For the first two weeks, I lost a lot of work in some apps because I didn’t realize you had to hold down the back button to multi-task, which I discovered by accident. Unfortunately, you can only access a running app through the back button “long-press”. If you press the app icon, it restarts the app, erasing any unsaved work. Fail.
- Internet Explorer needs work. It’s not as fast, nor does it look as good as mobile Safari or the Android browser.
- There’s no easy way to do a screen capture. This is a don’t care for most, but as a developer, I need a way to do screen captures.
- This is nitpicking, but the system tiles are all the same color. I got used to it after a while, but it made it difficult to identify different apps for the first two weeks.
- The app situation is a major issue. Thanks to some extremely helpful people through Twitter and Google+, I was directed to workarounds for missing apps. I don’t see the public at large being nearly as patient as I was.
- The app organization needs work. I get the Live Tiles on the main screen, but having just one other screen with all your apps gets cumbersome. Sure you can use the search feature to find an app, but I like the idea of multiple screens and folders for organizing apps.
With a little refinement and TLC, Windows Phone 7 can go toe-to-toe with iOS and Android, and I believe it will give these platforms a run for the money in 2013. Having a viable third option is great (and necessary) for the market. It maintains a healthy competitive balance, keeps prices down and spurs innovation, which only benefits us as consumers.
So was Windows Phone 7 able to displace my Nexus One? Not yet. However, if Microsoft addresses WP7′s shortcomings over the rest of this year, I may be willing to give it another try in 2013.
For now, it’s back to Android.