We’re hearing and reading all kinds of chatter, gossip, and Internet reports about Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 devices. If you’ve been keeping up with our coverage, you know that our initial reaction is quite favorable. From the moment we've turned this puppy on, we've been enamored with the ease of use, the social networking integration, the native functionality of Mobile Office, and the Zune integration. (Yeah, we use Zune. So?)
So what does everyone else think? We decided to track the rest of the web's reactions to Windows Phone 7. Before we get to that though, here are some more of our initial thoughts about the platform, and the HTC and Samsung phones we've been testing.
Samsung's screen is tops: Far and away, the Samsung Focus easily has the best screen of the phones we’ve tested. The company's Super AMOLED screen is bright, vibrant, and provides deeper black tones and richer colors in general. (BTW, the "super" designation refers not to an enhancement to AMOLED itself, but a technique for embedding the touch layer into the smartphone's glass versus on top of the glass screen.)
Battery life at basic function level is impressive: One of the aspects of the launch batch of WinPhones that pleases us most is that these phones all have above-average battery life. We had a short conversation with an employee at Qualcomm, who told us that the current crop of WinPhones are forsaking ARM's A9 architecture in favor of a more finely optimized OS running on the A8 microarchitecture. This appears to be paying dividends because we're seeing battery life that is 30% to 40% better than high-end Android devices.
Memory cards SNAFU. One stumbling block for these WinPhones is piss-poor support for add-in micro SD memory cards. Of the five launch phones, the only one that supports add-in memory is the Samsung Focus. And to get it working, you need to insert the card before you set the phone up the first time. There's no way to add memory to your device without resetting it. And if you do set up your WinPhone with a memory card, you can't remove it without compromising all of your data. That pretty much sucks.
Okay, let's get on with the phone's critical reception by the media. For the most part, reviewers and reporters found the Windows Phone 7 to be fresh, fun, and functional (as CNET's Bonnie Cha called it).
Engadget's Paul Miller reviewed 8 of the launch phones, and found the user interface beautiful, but had problems with buggy behavior and a lack of multi-tasking. Of the three U.S. handsets available at launch, he found the Samsung Focus to be the best, with the two HTC phones - the Surround and the HD7 - a close second. It's worth noting that Engadget didn't particularly love any of the North American launch phones.
We tend to read Walter Mossberg's regular Wall Street Journal column with a grimace because it's so watered down, but he called the Windows Phone accurately, stating that the phone has a novel and attractive interface, but that it also has some serious flaws and shortcomings. He zeroes in on the absence of cut/copy/paste functionality and a dearth of apps. Both are true, although the more we've used Android and iOS devices, the more we're noticing that we hardly ever use cut/paste functions. That said, it's one of those things that when you need it, you *really* need it. He also says that he couldn’t find a killer innovation that would be likely to make iPhone or Android users envious. Touche.
Sell out...or no? Late yesterday, we started seeing reports about Windows Phones not even coming close to selling out at AT&T stores, and completely selling out at T-Mobile stores. For what it's worth, we visited two AT&T and T-Mobile stores each, both in downtown San Francisco and San Francisco's Mission District. AT&T phones were readily available, and T-Mobile's HTC HD7 was in short supply. One of the T-Mobile representatives we spoke to candidly told us that they had less then 5 in stock. We bought the next to last one at 12:15 p.m.
PC Magazine voices what seems to be the most reasonable and well-thought out reaction to the Windows Phone 7. While they call Microsoft out for the inability to navigate the OS in landscape mode, author Sascha Segan makes the point that most of the growth of the platform is dependent upon applications support from third-party developers.
In classic fashion, Wired has a great story about the history, influence and design of the unique Windows Phone OS here, including an exploration of "Metro", the design standard that Microsoft design director Bill Flora devised to guide the look, feel, and appearance of Windows Phone 7.
And what about you guys? What do you think? The reaction ranges from meh to "I'm intrigued." When asked what they wanted to know about Windows Phone 7, one of our Facebook fans, Dennis Wood, opined: "Absolutely nothing. Microsoft needs to concentrate on building a good, stable computer OS instead of spreading itself even thinner with more platforms...Embrace the Android, it will soon over-run
iOS, and both of them are going to put WinPhone7 into oblivion."
Expect to see our review of Microsoft's nascent mobile operating system tomorrow.