This isn’t intended to be a review. It’s not like there’s any shortage of those on the Internet. This is just a collection of my thoughts after a couple of weeks of using the OS. I won’t give a rundown of all the apps or anything like that. Instead I’d like to talk about some of the things Windows Phone 7 brings to the table to that the others don’t.
It was a bit of a shock, coming from iOS and Android to such an alien interface. Unlocking the phone led to a moment of disorientation, a brief “whoa” upon seeing the big, colorful tiles. It took a couple of days for me to start finding my way around without fumbling a bit, but the trouble was worth it. Navigating the live tiles is far quicker swiping through the grids we’ve become accustomed to, with most of the tiles giving me the information I want without even opening the app. It’s an interesting compromise between widgets and icons, and it works.
The baked-in features are also much better than anything I’ve ever used. The Bing app is a great example; last night my wife wanted to go see The Avengers, and asked me to check for show times. I could have opened Flixter, but instead I went for the search button. Immediately I was presented with a synopsis, show times at my local theaters, and links to buy tickets. Oh, and did I mention that the search was location aware? All I had to do was put in the title of the movie and let Bing do the rest. That’s awesome.
Social butterflies will love the Facebook and Twitter integration. Not content with a simple contacts app, Microsoft has turned the People tile into a full-fledged social network hub. Not only can you call, text, and email your contacts here, but also you can view your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn streams (no Google+, but you’re not using that anyway) all at once or by themselves. You can also update all of your networks and check all of your messages and mentions from your contact tile. It works so well that I rarely find myself opening up the dedicated Facebook and Twitter apps.
That’s actually a theme throughout the entire OS. I quickly found that I had less of a need for apps than ever before. In addition to the location-aware search, Bing also has built-in song discovery, barcode scanning, and local business reviews. That means you won’t be needing Shazaam, ShopSaavy, or Yelp. In fact, I only find myself going outside of the default apps for a couple of specific things, like checking my Google Analytics or browsing my RSS feeds.
Not to mention that all of this is tucked into an experience that’s every bit as polished and speedy as iOS. It’s so fluid and responsive that you’ll quickly forget that it’s only running on a single core processor. Android rarely comes close to this level of usability on far more powerful hardware. Sure, a WP7 device isn’t going to win any benchmark battles, but it wins where it counts: in day-to-day use.
All this isn’t to say that it’s a perfect experience, however. I happen to enjoy the large, cut-off text at the top of the screen, but there are times when it takes up a little too much real estate. Viewing your social feeds in the people app is a great example. In a situation like that where as much vertical space is beneficial, having that large text scroll up and off the screen would be nice. There also isn’t a ton of integration for competing services to Microsoft. For example, you get integrated Windows Live messaging in your SMS threads. That’s great if you use Windows Live Messenger, but my friends that I chat with are all on Google, and a little love for gChat would have been nice.
All in all, those are just minor complaints. As a whole, I’m very impressed with Windows Phone 7. I expected that I’d be back on Android within a week, but after two I feel like I’ve found a new mobile home (yep, that was bad). I’ve enjoyed using it so much, in fact, that turning on my Transformer Prime makes me want to pick the phone back up. I can only hope the Windows 8 tablets offer the same intuitive and beautiful experience. If they do, then my Asus may be going up for sale sooner than I had planned.