Seven Days with Windows Phone 7

Last Friday I decided to put the Blackberry down for a week and use a new phone for seven days. If you know me, you’ll know I’m an avid Blackberry user. I pretty much don’t need a laptop, on my Blackberry I’m nearly as efficient as I am when I’m sitting at my desk at my computer. For this test, I chose a Samsung Focus, a Windows Phone 7 device with the stock operating system (no Mango) and used it for a week. Here are some of my observations:

Pros:

  • The screen is beautiful. Inky blacks, vibrant colors, everything looks beautiful on the device.
  • The UI. For the iOS diehards out there, you might find Windows Phone’s animations a bit over the top but I’m absolutely in love with them. I found myself often swiping the UIs to just play with the animations.
  • The phone feels alive with data. It does a fantastic job integrating my Facebook, Google and Windows Live accounts and giving me a holistic view of my friends and contacts.
  • Live tiles. I wish there was more of this, but the live tiles as the app icons is sexy. They pulse with information that’s hiding under them. Some of them aren’t really that useful or interesting like the Zune app or the Photos app (I don’t need to see Lady Gaga’s for two straight days — show me my album art).
  • The browser. Before you jump down my throat, remember I’m coming from a Blackberry. Even though it’s IE7, the browser to me is a huge step forward from what I’m used to.
  • The camera. Beautiful photos and great videos. Love taking photos with this phone.
  • Windows 7 Phone Connector for Mac. I was surprised to see how much care and attention went in to making the phone work on the Mac. Music syncs seamlessly over from iTunes (altho there’s no audiobook suport and the Zune app keeps forgetting my location within a podcast).

Cons

  • The keyboard. Oy, I miss a real keyboard. Of course compared to a Blackberry keyboard, the on-screen keyboard holds no salt. On the other hand, I also own an iPad and I have an iPhone, and I feel that I’m 10x more accurate typing on iOS devices and it’s 100x better at making suggestions than Windows Phone. This, more than anything, holds me back from making it a full time phone. I constantly found myself having to backspace because I accidentally started a new line, pushed space by accident, or something else equally obnoxious. I never had these issues typing on an iOS device.
  • Windows Live, Twitter, Linkedin. You can’t turn off the Windows Live contacts. Once you hook your device up to your Windows Live account, you can only turn off email sync from Hotmail but you can’t disable Contacts sync. Come on guys. My Hotmail address book is so dated and unused so showing me all those contacts is silly. Let me turn it off. No Linkedin app, which is a minor annoyance, but the Twitter app is a trainwreck. It’s slow, buggy and doesn’t integrate at all with the phone well.
  • Apps. The Marketplace has a dearth of content, and half of it seems like it’s made by Microsoft. In addition, navigating the Marketplace is impossible and it seems totally chaotic and disorganized.

There were other minor annoyances, such as there being no unified Inbox (e.g. my Sencha email and my personal Gmail have their own icons), but that’s more on the minor side. My understanding is a lot of this is fixed up and better in Mango, so I’m looking forward to that.

Overall, I think if I were to buy a phone, it’d be a two horse game between Windows Phone (assuming Mango is all that) and iOS. I haven’t spent a ton of time with Android, but based on what I’ve seen and having now used Windows Phone, I think the experience of Windows Phone is far better than Android’s.

Track of the Week: Escape 700 by The Chemical Brothers

This week’s track is Escape 700 by The Chemical Brothers, off of the Hanna soundtrack. I haven’t heard much from The Chemical Brothers in a while and haven’t seen this movie, but the album randomly crossed the desks of Track of the Week. Escape 700 is a pulsing, yet brooding electronica track, perhaps best described as electronica/house meets Middle Eastern beats. There’s probably a whole label out there that specializes in this genre of music. Of all the tracks on the Hanna soundtrack, this is maybe the one that’s most “song”-like, as many of the others are ambient mood setting types of sound. It’s a great track in an otherwise good album.

Track of the Week: I Want the World to Stop by Belle and Sebastian

This week’s track is I Want the World to Stop by Belle and Sebastian off of Belle and Sebastian Write About Love. I’ve had this song in my library for a while and have kept putting off sending it out, mostly because it feel out of my Recently Added list. I’ve never been a huge Belle and Sebastian fan and Write About Love their first album I own. When I first heard of them in the early 2000s, folks might have described them as folk music but as I listen to them now after the indie revolution (is that a thing?) I would probably call them indie pop. The sound of this specific track harks back to The 5th Dimension’s Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In but at a slower BPM with a somewhat mid-late-60s sound.