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November 21, 2010

Windows Phone First Impressions

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It has been almost 6 months since my last new smart phone (an HTC Evo).

That means one thing: time to jump ship and get a new phone.

I was very happy with my Evo. But the gadget lover in me and my reputation as being a “Microsoft shill” required me to get a Windows Phone (WP).

For a good review of WP, see Paul Thurrott .

I picked up a Samsung Focus that runs on AT&T. I chose the Samsung Focus because it is super thin/light and has no keyboard. I have changed my view on smart phones and keyboards. I once thought a keyboard was a requirement. Now I tolerate the on screen keyboard in exchange for a thin phone that fits better in my pocket. The Super AMOLED display looks amazing, too.

My favorite features in Windows Phone:

  • The UI. It is beautiful and feels "next generation.” It makes the iPhone and Android UI’s look dated in comparison. I love to study new UI’s and this phone is loaded with them.
  • Zune. I used a Zune HD for music before, but now I use my phone instead. Since I use the Zune Pass, I can access almost any song I want without worrying about purchasing. I like how I can use Shazam to discover a new song and immediately add it to my collection via Zune.
  • Wireless Media Syncing. I *never* plug my phone into my computer, yet the phone always has the same media content as my computer (and vice versa when I add music to my phone). How? I setup wireless syncing. As soon as my phone detects my home Wi-Fi network, it automagically connects to my computer and synchronizes:
    • Music
    • Videos (Movies and TV shows)
    • Pictures
    • Podcasts
  • Xbox Live Games. I love getting achievement points on my Xbox 360, and now I can get more via my phone. I’m definitely going to be playing more video games on this phone than I did on Android. Right now I’m playing ilomilo and Flight Control
  • Developer Tools. Here is another area where Android and iPhone look really dated. The free toolset (Visual Studio 2010 Express, XNA Game Studio, Expression Blend) make building beautiful apps easy and fun.

Here are some neat changes to how phones normally work

Quick access to camera

What do you normally do when you want to take a picture with your phone:

  • Turn on phone
  • Unlock phone
  • Find camera icon and launch
  • Take picture if moment hasn’t passed

To take a picture with Windows Phone:

  • Press and hold the camera button (all Windows Phones have a camera button) to turn on the phone and enter camera app (phone remains locked, but camera is usable)
  • Press the camera button a second time to take a picture

Fast startup and shutdown

33 seconds to startup.

8 seconds to shutdown.

Status Area

Most phones lose the top line for status (battery, signal strength, GPS, time, etc.)

Windows phone only shows you the status that is relevant to what you are doing. On the home screen, the only thing you can see the time. Press the time and all the other status information drop down. The icons are overlaid on top of the home screen so you do not lose any screen real estate. The battery only shows when the battery is low or is charging. The network strength only shows when you have no signal. It is a nice touch that simplifies the UI.

Automagically Stores Pictures/Notes in the Cloud

As soon as I take a picture, Windows Phone will upload the picture to a private folder on my SkyDrive (like a disk drive you can access from any web browser). Same is true when you take notes in OneNote (which I’m starting to really like.) I started typing my notes for this post in OneNote on the phone and now I’m looking at them via the web version of OneNote on my PC.


*Everything* is animated in the Windows Phone UI. It looks cool, but it also leads your eye to what you should be looking at and gives you and idea of where you came from. The animation makes using Windows Phone more entertaining than other phones.

Final Thoughts

I lost a lot of features (wireless hotspot, video conferencing, large app catalog) moving to Windows Phone. Did I make the right decision? Yes. The UI, Zune access, and games are worth it. I really like this phone.

Comments (2)

Russ Urquhart:

I was wondering WHEN you would get a windows phone.

I've thought the lack of cut/paste, keyboard, and multitasking would be deal breakers for you.

(btw, the Engadget review you pointed to said, that games/app etc. have to be restarted when you change apps/put the phone to sleep. Is that your experience?



cut/paste - miss it, should be added next month
multitasking - miss it, should be added next month

keyboard - like I said in my post, I prefer actual buttons. However, I can tolerate an on screen keyboard if it gives me a thinner phone with more screen space. I've switched my view on keyboards since my palm pre, palm treo, and windows mobile tilt. I no longer see a keyboard as a requirement (but I do miss them).

Yep, if you turn off the screen you restart the game from the last save point. Same for app switching.

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