It’s easy to ignore the launch of Windows Phone 7. If you never took the time to see what was going on when it was first announced back in March, you’ll be wondering what all the fuss is about. So, for those just joining the party, it no longer looks fiddly, it’s been completely redesigned from the ground up and, best of all, there’s not a stylus in site.
On its own, the lack of plastic pointer should be reason enough to check out Microsoft’s revamped mobile platform but that’s something that other phone systems gave up long ago. Instead here are five things that Windows Phone 7 does better than anything else out there at the moment and why it might be the next kind of handset you choose.
It’s all been about the Apple iOS GUI since is came out and every handset doing its best to ape most of iPhone from the app grid to locking system. You’d have to say that even Android doesn’t venture that far from what Apple laid down all those years ago now. So, if you really want to use something with a more modern bent, then Microsoft has had an excellent stab at it with Windows Phone 7. No one really knows just yet if it’s actually good to use but it certainly sounds promising.
Instead of an app grid, the system is set into a series of hubs and within each hub there are various panels. For example there is a People hub, as pictured above, and within that lies the Recent, What’s New and All panels each offering a slightly different take on the comings and goings of the folk in your contacts book. Other hubs include Music and Video, Pictures, Games, Windows Phone Market Place for apps and Microsoft Office. What’s more, other companies can design whole hubs for the system as well.
The idea is to add context and relevance to everything you do. So, for example, if you’re in your Pictures hub and looking at the What’s New panel, it won’t just pull in all your social network news, it will pull in only photo updates that your friends make. It’s supposed to be more human. You want to look at pictures, go to Pictures. You want to play games, go to Games. It’s more than searching for an app in a sea of icons.
If you consider yourself a gamer, then you have to be sorely tempted by what Microsoft has launched. If you’re also an Xbox owner then you should already be placing your order. Despite the fuss Apple might be kicking up over its recently announced game centre, there really is no other in the mobile space that can offer the kind of pedigree that Microsoft has in this field. Windows Phone 7 has a dedicated Xbox Live gaming hub which, at launch, will allow you to use your phone as a companion device with the Xbox 360 console sitting under your TV.
At a basic level, which Microsoft promises this interaction is at at the moment, you can edit and use your profile, you can play XMA-based Xbox Live Arcade games, you can challenge other Xbox friends and you can bring your achievements and avatars to life with a dedicated, more interactive application. Into the future, the idea is being able to play turn based games with your Xbox over Wi-Fi and eventually real time live gaming as well. There will be no other mobile platform that allows you to play Xbox Live Arcade games and no other platform that will let you interact with you Xbox like this either. Microsoft also announced a tie in with EA at the press conference to supply games for the phone. If you’re into secret levels and bonus gear, then you have to be with WP7.
Nobody is going to do Office integration like the people who make it in the first place. Microsoft might be losing the browser wars, and the mobile ones for the moment, but for docs, business and all the slightly tedious enterprise stuff, it’s still the king. iPhone has made a lot of steps in this direction and BlackBerry a few away, but Windows Phone 7 is going to provide the best way to synch with them of all.
Every WP7 handset comes with a full Office suite pre-loaded and is going to be able to handle any kind of document that gets mailed to you without having to find some other piece of software to open it. There’s even some really neat one button quick solutions such as the “I’ll be late” entry which automatically updates your calendar to the fact as well. Companies, heavy business users and those that are pretending to be need look no further. Windows Phone 7 might just have arrived in time.
Forget the USB cable. All synching from your phone to the rest of your device will all be down over the air and up in the cloud. Now, essentially the company is saying that it’s computer agnostic because of that, but the fact remains that most people have quite a lot of Microsoft in their lives and that homogeneity is just going to make everything all the smoother. If you have an Xbox, if you have a Windows computer, if you use Hotmail and Office, then it might be time to jump on board and get involved with Zune, Bing and Windows Phone 7 on your mobile phone too.
Every mug on the street has an iPhone these days. Apologies to all angry iPhone readers at this point. You’re not a mug. That’s the problem though. It’s the actual mugs out there walking round with their iFart apps and not much idea what else to do with the handset that give you a bad name. Even Android phones are two a penny these days. No. If you want to stand out from the crowd right now, it’s got to be a Windows Phone 7 handset for you. Of course, if it turns out to be terrible, you’ll stand out for a very long time – just for all the wrong reasons.
The bottom line here is that even the most hardened of other phone fanboys have to say that Microsoft has certainly made a lot of good looking moves in the right direction with Windows Phone 7. Like those that have eclipsed it in the last few years, it’s modern, it’s attractive, it’s relevant and it looks very entertaining as well. Add to that the step of making sure all the hardware is of a certain standard as well and it might be intuitive and a joy to use too. Of course, there’s still plenty of room for it to be a pile of old tut but we’ll leave the Pocket-lint reviews lab to make that decision.