Monday, November 8, 2010

Windows Phone 7 arrives finally

Finally after nearly a year long wait, Windows Phone 7 was announced last month, and devices are now available for sale in Europe, Asia Pac (Singapore and Australia) and most recently, US. MS is backing the launch with aggressive advertising and has claimed in Computerworld that the OS is more efficient than either iOS or Android, requiring 20% fewer steps to perform daily tasks.

According to Mashable, the handset partners for Microsoft - LG, Dell, HTC and Samsung - have 9 WP7 handsets between them.All phones for the WP7 platform will all carry a '7' in the model name eg. HD7, which will distinguish them from the often similarly named Android handsets made by the same manufacturers. All of them are GSM handsets; the CDMA handsets are expected to debut only in 2011.

There's a fairly wide and confusing range on offer,across feature sets and price points. I mostly blame HTCs increasingly confusing line up for this, but Microsoft's insistence on certain base specs for all WP7 handsets, does not make differentiation any easier.

1) HTC Trophy 7 is the budget phone in the range and is sold unlocked. It is available only in Europe, but has been discredited by reports of display defects in some user forums.
2) HTC Mozart seems to be geared towards snappers and has an 8MP camera with Xenon Flash (N8 competition?)
3) HTC 7 Surround is positioned as a media phone and has a kickstand, slide out speaker and SRS WOW sound effects
4) The Dell Venue Pro, HTC 7 Pro and LG Quantum are all sliders with QWERTY keyboards. Dell Venue Pro is a portrait slider, and therefore stands out from the rest in design.
5) The Samsung Focus (US)/Omnia 7 (Europe) has very similar specs to the Galaxy S, but with a more premium looking body. It appears from reviews that the Omnia has only 8GB onboard storage and no expansion slot, while the Focus does have a MicroSD slot. The Super AMOLED screen is praised as the best display of the entire bunch.
6) The HTC HD7 has the largest screen (4.3 inches) and similar specs to the Desire HD. It has been reported in reviews that the TFT screen does not do full justice to the large display, especially next to the Super AMOLED Samsung display.

WP7 has entered the market really late, allowing competition, notably Android, a lot of time to settle in. Even Nokia and Blackberry, both of whom take their time in innovation, have launched their OS refreshes already. Microsoft's delay in launch has cost the company, with the MS market share of smartphone shipments down to 3% by Q3 2010 according to Canalys.

The general consensus is that Microsoft has created an OS that is differentiated, smooth to operate and most importantly, fast. It is also praised for being a beautiful looking interface; something that matters when you will be looking at it on a SLCD or Super Amoled screen! And it has serious potential as a music and gaming device, given good integration with the Zune marketplace and XBox Live. 

There has also  been criticism of some of the inherent shortcomings of the OS, notably:

1) It does not support multitasking of third party apps, only the original ones. Reviewers report that this causes some serious problems; when the screen locks, apps shut down and have to be reloaded, as they are not allowed to run in the background.
2) No tethering is allowed; you cannot use your phone as a modem to access net on your laptop, let alone use it as a wi-fi hot spot as people are doing with the Evo 4G and the  Droids of the world
2) It has only one homescreen, meaning that there are limited apps and widgets you can place on your screen and you have to scroll down to find the rest
3) It does not show an integrated mailbox for all accounts; every individual mail account becomes a separate app.
4) It won't let you set custom ringtones (no, really? The teen crowd is going to LOVE that!)

Hopefully, MS should fix at least some of these issues in firmware updates.


No word as yet about the WP7 launch in India, but Samsung and LG at least should be bringing their handsets down soon. Expect the pricing of most of these handsets to be Rs.25,000 +, given the hardware specs.

Sources
Gizmodo (list of all the available WP7 handsets)
Mobiletechworld (Specs of all WP7 handsets)
Techradar (Detailed Review of WP7 OS)