To keep up with its competition, the new iteration of the Microsoft Windows Phone (earlier known as Windows Mobile) is definitely better than its predecessors. However, when you compare it to the competition that consists of Google’s Android OS and Apple’s iOS, it is very limited in terms of its features. Now, it’s a new platform and such platforms are generally buggy – it will surely mature in the coming versions of the operating system.
The major difference between WP7 and other mobile platforms is that it isn’t centred around apps like iOS and Android. The home screen, called the “Start Screen”, is made up of “Live Tiles”. Tiles are links to applications, features, functions and individual items (such as contacts, web pages, social networks). They are dynamic and update in real time – for example, the tile for an email account would display the number of unread messages or a Tile could display a live update of the weather. Now the apps are not completely missing. You do get to them once you delve into the main menu. The best part is that every app can be pulled to the home screen (or the main screen) as a Tile. Microsoft believes that the tiled interface will reduce the amount of time an individual spends on the phone.
The second major difference are the “Hubs”. Hubs basically merge similar content and information into one entity. There are six hubs; People, Music, Pictures, Games, Marketplace and Office. From the Hub, users can directly comment and ‘like’ on social network updates. To illustrate hubs, consider People; it groups all the data from your social networking activity with your phone and email contact list.
I tested the HTC HD7 (doesn’t have expandable memory). Phones from Dell, Samsung and LG which run on this platform are available in the market.
Where it sucks: It is just too Microsoft centric. Google Maps is way better than Bing Maps however Microsoft will bundle only Bing Maps and other Bing products instead of allowing other app developers to do what they are better at doing. So, you will have to do things the Microsoft way or you don’t do them at all.
The number of apps for this platform is far less compared to the Apple iStore or the Android Market and it will remain low thanks to Microsoft’s closed app environment. Let’s not forget that there will hardly be any free apps on the platform. Not a good thing for people like me who like a few specific apps on a phone. Microsoft will take quite a while to match up to its competition in this respect.
Another big problem is the lack of customisation options, Microsoft has designed it in such a way that it can’t be customised much (you can’t even add a custom ringtone) and for Android users like me, it’s a big flaw.
Where it kicks ass: Xbox Live has been ported to the platform and hence the gaming experience is surely going to be good when more developers take to this platform. The media experience is brilliant because it is based on the Microsoft’s Zune Media Player interface and the media experience is better than the iPhone and surely years ahead of the Android platform.
Corporate users might want to shift from their BlackBerrys to this platform, you will love Microsoft’s serious office-oriented offerings and the inclusion of Microsoft Office (including Outlook) makes things easier.
As I mentioned earlier, this platform is relatively new and a lot will change with the coming of the Mango Update (http://www.microsoft.com/windowsphone/en-us/features/whats-next.aspx). Though I see the lack of customisation as a problem, I have to agree that it makes the platform very fluid and the user interface is a refreshing experience. The virtual keyboard is excellent and it even has a dedicated emoticon button, and given Microsoft’s tough hardware specifications, the experience should be same over all the devices that run it. By the way, even Nokia will release a phone that will run this. For now, try going to a store near you and trying this phone out. I sure had fun doing that!