Windows Phone 7 Series: Has Microsoft Nailed It?

Putting aside my obvious love for Apple products, I have to say that the freshly-revealed Windows Phone 7 Series is quite exciting and has a lot to offer.  Here's a quick rundown from my perspective as a longtime iPhone power user.  (I would check out the video below to get an idea of what the phone will have to offer.)

The Minimalist Interface is Gorgeous...

You keep seeing the word "minimalist" pop up in almost every post and review, and for good reason.  Seriously, there isn't a beveled edge, drop shadow, or cartoony, color-saturated icon anywhere on this thing.  It feels simultaneously retro and futuristic, and makes the iPhone/iPod touch icons look positively silly.  I would gladly replace my iPhone's general look and feel with this one anyday.

The look extends to everything from the calendar app to the email reader, which is actually black and white if I'm not mistaken.  Simplicity at its best.

...And So Is The Typography

I'm not an expert in this field, but I do have an affinity for clean, sharp, modern looking fonts.  The Windows Phone 7 Series has this pinned down.  I think it changes the feel of the device entirely.  It just feels more "serious" than the iPhone, which I like.

The Start Menu Is Completely Different, Which Is A Good Thing

Ugh.  The Windows "Start" menu has always been the bane of my existence. I much prefer the OS X Dock to anything else, whether it be Windows, GNOME, KDE, etc.  The same goes for Windows Mobile phones, where the "Start" button closely mimicked its functionality on a desktop.  That always felt clunky to me on a smartphone, but no more.  The WP7S (I'm really sick of typing that ridiculous name) replaces that antiquated concept with a dashboard of sorts that can display widgets and apps.  You can drag smoothly through this dashboard in a way that feels faster than the iPhone.  (On the iPhone, you must flick through "pages" of apps on the springboard, which gets kind of old... especially if the one you want is on the 11th page. Grr.)

In addition, the standby screen is super slick, and displays the day, date, and calls/emails/texts that await you when you whisk it away.

It's Also a Zune

In the same way that the iPhone is also an iPod, the WP7S is also a Zune.  No more crappy, slow Windows Media Player.  I never had any complaints about the Zune, and its presence is very welcome in this new phone.

Tight Integration

This is one of the things I've always loved about the iPhone - everything just feels so tight and interrelated, with the apps working together in harmony (at least to a degree.) The WP7S is clearly accomplishing this in many ways; just watch the videos from Engadget and Gizmodo to see what I mean.  The "People" menu can display your friends' Facebook statuses, allow you to phone, email, or call recipients, etc. The Bing search app is tightly integrated with the web browser and maps, and so on.


There are still several unanswered questions about the Windows Phone 7 Series (my carpal tunnel died down long enough for me to squeeze out the name one more time.)  Does it multitask?  Will it be "locked" to a Windows "App Store?" What kind of apps will be available?

One way or another, it looks like a damn fine UI to me, and a clear mainstream competitor to the iPhone, Palm Pre, and Android based devices.  While it's probably not the "best" choice for heavy Mac or Linux users due to inevitable syncing issues, it seems like an ideal fit for Windows users (which, of course, still compromise the great majority.)

In short, I'm excited to be able to see this thing in real life and what it can do.  Will I give up my iPhone?  Probably not, but I'm predicting it will be more for the fact that it's not compatible with the services and desktop environment I use... not because I will believe it to be an inferior phone.  In fact, I think it has the nicest looking UI of any phone I've seen to date.

The question is, its pretty face and slick demos aside, will it be usable enough to battle the iPhone?  Will it attract the same quantity of developers to create the number and quality of feature-extending applications that iPhone users have come to know and love?  That remains yet to be seen.

[More Photos, Details, and Videos at Engadget and Gizmodo]





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