Switching to Windows Phone 7.5

My iPhone is probably the most used device in my tech kitbag. I carry it everywhere and it's essential for keeping in touch by phone, text and email. I use it as my sat-nav and portable gaming device. So, how does Windows Phone 7 stack up?

For the record, the device I used for my Windows Phone 7 experiment was a HTC HD7. But this isn't about the hardware — it's about the operating system, my experiences and the switching process.

The great thing about the dominant mobile operating systems that are around today is the diversity. Turn on a BlackBerry, iOS, Android or Windows Phone 7 handset and it's clear that they are all different. What stood out for me when switching from an iPhone to Windows Phone 7 was that iOS is very app-centric. The home screen is dominated by application icons and folders (it reminds me of Windows 3.x in that regard) whereas Windows Phone 7 is about information.

Windows Phone 7 puts the application icons in a list on the second screen. The home screen is covered with a series of tiles that represent both applications and the data within them. For example, the People tile provides access to your address book. But it also displays a dynamically updating mosaic of contact photos that, if you choose as I did, pulls together Facebook, Google Contacts, Twitter and LinkedIn information for my contacts. For me, that ability to bring together disparate information sources was a huge plus over the iOS silo approach.

I spend a reasonable amount of time browsing the web on my iPhone so I was keen to see how the latest mobile version of Internet Explorer fared. Interestingly, several websites I visit regularly don't render with their mobile versions under IE whereas they do with Safari. I quite like getting the full website and zooming in and out as necessary. Others might prefer to see a mobile-optimised site but I'm happy to get the full experience.

The number of apps available to a mobile platform is, by some, considered to be a sign of the platform's strength. I'm not so certain — how many silly sound apps do we really need in the world? However, I was able to find equivalents for all my key apps - Evernote is a major one for me and there are plenty of games to choose from. However, I couldn't believe that Microsoft has made Photosynth for iOS and not Windows Phone 7. My advice is is that if you're planning to make the switch away from iOS then you'll need to do some research to ensure the apps or functionality you need are available cross-platform.

When I started my Windows Phone experiment, Mango hadn't yet been released. One of the main features I was expecting with Windows Phone 7.5, aka Mango, was tethering. I relied on my iPhone's Personal Hotspot feature as a way of connecting my iPad or MacBook Air to the Internet when traveling. I have a generous data allowance with my phone contract that provides enough connectivity to meet my needs when traveling and away from WiFi.

Unfortunately, tethering is a no show. That's a big omission in my view.

Conclusions

From a usability point of view, I ended up preferring the way Windows Phone did most things. Even the unlock screen was easier to use as I didn't need to find a slider. All I needed was to drag a finger upwards somewhere on the screen. Task switching is easier and more elegant with Windows Phone — just tap/hold the Back button and swipe between recent applications.

However, I was annoyed when my preferred view of email, the All Mail folder, couldn't be set as the default view when I entered the email application. But that wasn't a big deal.

My suspicion is that most users would be equally happy using either platform.

What are your thoughts? Is there a showstopper feature in either platform that you couldn't live without?


Comments

    I'm an Android user and I find that iOS and Android are similar in that they are app-centric.

    Windows Mobile is starting to look very neat but I find that it just doesn't have the versatility in functions that you would find with an Android - and I think that comes down to the strong UI focus of Windows Phone 7.

    Haven't tried Mango, is that a step away from this?

    There are definitely little quirks in WP7 like the mail one that you highlighted. Overall Mango was a solid release, but the biggest thing I have an issue with is the investment in apps on iOS.

    There's also no phone - tablet ecosystem like iPhone/iPad. Perhaps that will arrive with Win8 tablets next year.

    While MS have been agressive about getting devs to write for WP7, there are some that are still missing.

    The lack of Zune Pass in Australia is also a massive ommission. Buying music through iTunes or the like, then syncing to WP7 is just a bad solution.

    The wider challenge for the industry is to get more people using smart phones, not to get iPhone and Android users to switch. WP7 is a solid competitor and I certainly wouldn't pay out anyone who chose to go down that path.

      Actually, I use iTunes on my Mac and have a WP7 device and it syncs wonderfully. Zune on Windows gives you Wi-Fi sync and greater control over which items get transferred, but the Windows Phone connector for mac is sooo simple to use - plug my phone into computer and it syncs playlists, podcasts, videos and photos.

    I had a Mozart 7.

    I really liked it. The UI is really nice and clean, and it pretty much did what you needed a phone to do.

    But eventually I couldn't wait for the update, and I wanted new hardware that had more app support too.

    However I'm sure the new hardware and Mango will bring WP7 back up to speed. I wouldn't mind dabbing my fingers with the OS again in the future :)

    Overall - good experience with WP7

      Now I have a Galaxy S2 which rocks!

    Good read :)

    Side note tho apparently Tethering is a block applied at the carrier level now for Mango phones and is allowed in Mango but sadly a lot of the current phones have not had the update applied or the phone wont support it (Currently only the Dell is reported to not support Tethering, Based on what i have read)

    I have been using WP7 since the HD2 -> Wp7 rom was released early this year and must say it was enough to win me over to the platform when i purchased my HD7 only a few months ago.

    One of the major things for me :
    The people hub is an amazing tool for linking and sharing content quick without the need for apps etc. Posting/checking status from the people hub is quick and painless
    Mangos new Me updates which allow me to check into places without loading any apps is quick but would like some "Fav" or "Recent" section to save regular locations
    Same goes for the Notifications section of the Me tile, great and 1 list for FB, Twitter, Linked in etc :)

    MAJOR DISLIKE!!!!
    Mango bought with it 1 feature i hate with a passion... Losing the contextual search function from NoDo to Mango is one of the WORST moves MS has done... Having Wp7 from early this year it taught me to use the dedicated search button to 'search' the section of the screen I was in used to be an amazing feature… Now I find my self on Bing as I mistakenly assume the search button is universal…

    Overall tho apart from the 1 little issue i have, WP7 Mango has been great to me :) Personally i recommend WP7 to anyone looking for a new phone...

      Agree with you mate, it's amazing system. Also feel the same about the contextual search too. I can understand why they changed though, I couldn't work out how to search the marketplace until I accidentally pushed the search button.

      Believe it was done to make things clearer, but I do miss it

        We need a contextual search on/off switch :)

        http://windowsphone.uservoice.com/forums/101801-feature-suggestions/suggestions/2285070-bring-back-contextual-hardware-search-button?ref=title

    Some of your key complaints have been dealt with in the Mango Update.

    You can group your mailboxes into one mailbox if you like (although this can get a touch over the top if you have a stack of inboxes) and the teathering side of things does work (is wifi based), however you need a compatible device to do this (sadly the HD7 isn't one of those that supports this (I have a HD7 and was sad that my device doesn't support), apparently HTC cheaped out on the Wifi card in the phone).

    But I agree that the way the OS works is so much better. You can link up a large number of accounts (mango: Live, google, facebook, twitter, linked in, etc, etc) into the phone and link contacts from them all so that you have a single contact that shows and not 15 contacts for the same person. When you go to send a message, you can choose which system to send the message through with no need to load up a specific app to do so. It's just like SMS'ing your mates, except it goes to the system you nominate.

    Would really recommend people try WP7/7.5 just to see and experiance something different to the iPhone and it's copiers.

      Where did you read this? (Regarding Tethering)

      Based on XDA the HD7 is supported and the block was applied at the carrier level?
      http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1280623

        Can't remember where I read, but it was something about the wifi card not able to do it as well as HTC not updating the drivers for the phone. Will try and dig up the source for you though

          http://pocketnow.com/windows-phone/htc-confirms-windows-phone-internet-sharing-how-will-it-arrive

          Last para... Cant find any 'official' wording from HTC tho :/

            Yeah, thats sort of the wording I read. Can't find the article I read though. Chalk it up to internet loss

    I've been using the HTC Trophy for a while and have successfully updated to Mango (takes a long time) and I yes I don't like the new search button where you are taken to Bing (agree with brent there) but overall the experience is great. Speed isn't an issue as it is quick flicking through the phone and I've always said that you don't need the greatest hardware to be fast, just the right programming.

    I can't wait for Skype but I'll need to purchase a Mango phone for that and I just might.

    I've said here many times to many iOS and Android lovers that you have to try it with an open mind and then decide.

    The apps isn't a major problem as I know they will be out sooner or later (evernote for example).

    Another thing that is annoying and a feature I like is when you receive an Email, I would like the phoen to vib, at the moment it only makes a ound or nothing.

    I highly recommend the change to all and with the mango hardware around the corner, even more so now.

      My HTC Mozart vibrates when I get an email...

    wow - a geniunly non-bias review/comparison! how rare!!! lol

    tethering is near "bread & butter" these days.. though i think with an increase in demand you may see that pushed out in further releases...

    My only real reason I wouldn't switch now is the amount I've spent on apps.
    Although, I haven't used a Windows phone, I've always been severely disappointed with the Android Market, which was a big killer in me selling my Xoom

    Could I suggest going to "Settings" then "Applications" then selecting "Internet Explorer".
    You can then select if you want IE to load the mobile or desktop version of the websites you're going to by default.

    If I were to get a Windows Phone 7 device which phone would you guys recommend? I would really like a bigger screen than the iPhone.

      Best Value for money Optus Samsing Omnia 7 and its screen is sooo good running on the AMOLED display (Starting on a $29 plan for 12 months as well, cant go wrong)

      HD7 is the best large display if that is what takes your fancy but till limit you to Telstra or $400ish from eBay.

      If your keen to wait the Titan and Radar are coming soon as is Nokia to the playing field. No news on if they are coming this year or next year sadly :(

      My household had a HD7, Trophy and Omnia7. So i have had a good play with the high, mid and low range models :) Even saying that they all are min 1GHz phones which is great :)

      http://www.mobicity.com.au/phone-categories/smartphones/windows/windows-phone.html will give you an average price for an imported phone and whats available in the marketplace. If thats the way your going Radar has been getting some good reviews.

      In conclusion (I ramble a abit sorry :P )
      Why get a new 'Mango' branded handset? Has more power + front facing camera.

      Best deal for now, Optus Omnia 7 with 12 Months (If you like Optus that is)

        You have to be careful when buying mobile phones from oversea import companies like MobiCity. The networks are different here and there so if you get a cheap phone (iOS, Android and WP7) you may only be able to use 2G networks. Be very careful as this is one of the main reasons why I kind of shy away from oversea mobile phones. I bought my outright for $400 and it's an Australia HTC model which means it works on all Aus Networks.

        alright thanks. Pity that the Titan has a pretty low ppi. Around 180ish I think I read from somewhere..

          I would suggest the Nokia Sea-ray windows phone which has N9 design. I really liked that phone jus waiting for a wp7 OS on it(to be released next wek from nokia).

    I have a Mozart (bought at launch) now running Mango and three things annoy me to the point that I will probably switch soon.
    The first is phone related - HTC's use of Virtual buttons at the bottom of the phone rather than physical buttons. The amount of times I bump back or search - Grrr!)
    Secondly the lack of tethering. I waited for almost a year only to find the promised feature never eventuated. I don't think I can live much longer without it.
    Finally, the universal back button - I hate the way it tries to decide if it should be an in-app back or between-app back function. Try getting to a previous page in IE if you've been to some other apps...

    Having said that - Everything else I LOVE about Windows Phone.

    So if I can get a phone with physical buttons and tethering before Christmas I might stay on WP7.

      Your reasons (except for tethering) seem small and I wouldn't have them as reasons why I would switch from WP7 to something else.

      Though my back button in IE has always gone to previous page and I have an HTC too.

      Each to their own I say :-)

      Not sure why people are saying it now in October after Mango was released that they want to switch because there is no tethering...are you guys kidding me...one of the major features of mango is just that (500 total) I have my Samsung Facus which i bought last October and updated to Mango like a charm and now have fully working tethering. Just go to setting > internet sharing, next turn it on. Once on your loverly i917 will create a network that your laptop can tap into, there is also a setup button where you can pick a WPA/WPA2 and password.

      IMPORTANT: This feature works out of the box on new mango phones, on existing phones you have to update to mango and do little hack. Install DiagProvXML and WP7 Root Tools and enable "Internet Sharing" option...that's it.

      Now, on another note is that i just got back from ATT store and checked the new iPhone 4S which is a really great product, however, it is identical like iPhone 4 (100%) it even has the same bubbly background, the same app-centric approach. At least WP7 gives you different experience. I also checked Android Samsung Galaxy S II, i agree with Andrew Lees MS Phone Division president...Android is a mess OS. It is all over the place, i just don't like it. If WP7 didn't exist I would have an iPhone in a heartbeat it is way superior over copycat Android.
      Go apple and all the apple fanboys, this time I will stick with you guys!! Apple and Windows old veterans rule!!!

      Second Note: That ATT store had only one broken original Windows phone 7.0, no wonder it is not selling if stupid retail store don't give a damn. I told this stupid lady hey you better replace that broken phone with Samsung Focus Mango right now!!!!

        Stop hating on Android. We have just as many buttons as you(3), our multitasking is BEAST, and it looks nothing like iShit. Have you even used a Galaxy Nexus? It makes iPhone look like Windows 3.1 to Android's Windows 7, or Macintosh to Mac OS X 10.7.

      Hopefully HTC will release their Tethering fix for the current HTC's soon :)

      With regards to the back button, thats more a software developer thing.. But i thought it did take you to the previous page rather than out of IE :/

      It seems real buttons are on the way out sadly... very few phones actually offer physical buttons... Just be glad you don't have android with their 4-5 touch buttons on the base :P

      from what I read, tethering will only be available with new phones(HTC Radar,Titan etc..,).

      The virtual keys are great IMO. More lazier, less effort to click.

      And the back button to get back into your apps is the best feature. With Android its hard to tell if you have apps running in the background unless you go into settings.

      I like android but Windows 7.5 is easier, Don't need to download many apps. Im one of those people who use windows live mail and msn. So setting up email and msn on my Mozart is flawless. Android is the opposite with microsoft products. Well not surprising...

    Your reference of iOS being like Windows 3.x is very true. The screen with icons dumped all over it looks very ugly and old fashioned these days.

    Im glad youve decided to try the WP7. You should get in contact with the WP7 team and do the Mango challenge they have been offering people (celebs, developers, reviewers, etc). They give you a phone to try for a week or so. If you like it you keep it. If you dont they will donate $1000 to your charity of choice.

      I think you'll find that the Mango Challenge is USA (or north america) only.

      Mobile phones are always geared for US or Europe market with Australia as an after thought and this is one of the things that made Apple successful here as they included features for Australia when it was first released but it doesn't seem to be that way now.

      Google and WP7 seem to be making an effort for the Australian market. Even though I think M$ should be making a bigger effort for the Australian market, open up Bing features to all and not the USA market. They have a great tool on Bing maps that shows you the layout of malls, shopping centres and that but it's USA only. Little features like that aren't available here (yet)

    Oh, and also, you can pin an email folder such as "All Mail" to the start screen. Just open your folders and long press the All Mail icon.

    I think your summing up of iOS as Windows 3x is an excellent one, in fact if you create little folders with a bunch of app in, it reminds me very very much of Windows NT 3.51. Although there are only 40,000 or so apps in Marketplace (my favourite one ECB Cricket is still missing!!!) Metro's functionality means there are a lot of occasion where I don't need "an app for that"

    I think if the carriers were to give Mango the same vigorous marketing as say Android or iOS devices, WP7.5 would become a serious player overnight because in my opinion, it does make all other O/S's seem pedestrain

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