My new WP7! What I love and what I hate!
I just went around and got myself a new Windows Phone 7 device!! It had been a LONG time coming, as I haven’t ever waited so long and so eagerly for anything to be released as a Windows Phone 7 device. And I know I’m not alone!
It’s an HTC HD7 with a massive 4.3” screen ( which is almost the only differentiating factor from other HTC offerings ). I was extremely excited to get a Windows Phone 7 device, and although I was up for an upgrade since last December, I didn’t upgrade my… err… Icon-based-UI-handset to the fourth iteration of that icon-based-UI-handset because of the preview that I saw of WP7 at Mix in February. Well, to be honest, I wouldn’t have upgraded to it anyways. I was bored of “myPhone”, had been using it for 3 years, and needed a change.
WP7 seemed to offer me that change, and now (FINALLY) that I have a physical device in my hands, all I can say is “What an awesome change!” The UI is subjective and I’ve had people look at it and go “It looks like Windows 3.1!”, while at the same time, I’ve had others look at it and go “Wow! That UI looks orgasmic!”…. Ok, I exaggerated there a bit, but I’ve had actual exclamations of joy and sharp intakes of breath when people first handle a physical device.
For anyone looking to buy a handset, I’ll say just one thing. Videos do NOT do it justice! I know I had seen just about every video there was of the device but I was still impressed by the speed and immersive-ness of the UI when I got my device. You have to hold a device in your hands and work through the UI to seriously appreciate the work gone behind it. And it’s a marmite kind of UI. People either love it, or hate it.
Setup, for me, was a breeze. One thing I don’t like about the HD7 is that it doesn’t have an expansion slot! Windows Phone 7 supports expandable storage as opposed to removable storage. I would’ve liked the idea of buying a 32 Gig Micro HD card, and plonking it in before I started and setup the device. Ah well… You win some, you lose some. I guess I’ll have to make do with 16 gigs. But first time setup was fast and easy. Start the phone, associate your Live ID, and set some options and it’s there in all it’s glory. I linked to my Facebook account, and linked to all my mail accounts, and I was ready.
After that, its a matter of taste on what apps to install and how to customize the phone. I’m not going to go into that, but I am going to first highlight some of the minor quirks that I’ve realized about the platform ( and the device ) which I think should be fixed in the first update, in addition to the things that I really like about the platform.
Things I DON’T Like in the Device ( This relates only to the HD7, as opposed to the OS )
- The physical camera button sits TOO flush with the chrome of the device. Basically, the way the camera works is, you hold the button down halfway to focus, and then fully depress it to click the Picture. Now, because the button is SO close to the actual device edge, I have to press very hard and awkwardly to take a picture. It’s alright till the halfway ( focus ) mark, but when I have to actually take a picture, it gets a bit annoying. Initially, it resulted in a lot of blurry photos because I was pressing so hard that the device was shaking when I took the picture. I’m now getting used to that, and getting better at taking snaps, but this WILL take a bit getting used to for new users.
- It’s the same case with the Power / Sleep button up top. It is just too close to the chrome. But, like the camera button, now I’m used to it.
- As mentioned before, I hate the fact that there is no expansion slot on the phone. While 16 Gigs is a lot of memory, I do wanted to expand it as my music collection itself is around 10 Gigs and coupling that with the Zune services, I can see it filling up pretty easily.
- Viewing Angles are a bit wonky because of the LCD screen. So, there is slight discoloration when viewed at an angle. E.g. Teal looks like Blue when looked from an extreme angle, but that doesn’t affect me much. Photographs still look ok at angles.
- The speakers leave a bit to be desired. The sound somehow comes out muffled, if I listen to music through the in-built speakers. Plus the edges are dirt magnets!
- This is more of a carrier point, and not the actual handset, but because the HD7 is exclusive to O2, it makes the list. The search in IE defaults to….. wait for it… Yahoo! The first time that happened, I was like… Wha…?? The good thing is the the search button is so integrated in the entire OS, that I don’t do any searches inside of IE, but at some times when it happens, it’s pretty weird. ( I don’t think this will affect anyone outside the UK, or not on O2 in the UK )
Things I DO Like in the Device
- The screen! While it is too big for some of my lady friends, I think it’s just gorgeous! It’s just the right size for me, and it doesn’t lose any sort of fidelity because of the size as the resolution’s fixed on all devices. What is a huge bonus is that they keyboard ( Or the SIP <Sigh> ), as a result is bigger and I can type *almost* as fast as I type on a keyboard. ( And I do type at a pretty respectable speed. ) The LCD’s brilliant, and the display is really clear!
- For such a huge device, it is very comfortable in the pocket. Not once did I have to err… shift things around because I had a monster in my pocket. It’s slim, it’s very light, and fits easily in all my trouser and jeans pockets.
- The finishing is alright. It looks quite classy when you first look at it, and the build quality cannot be flawed. While there are better quality handsets out there, this one is no cheap plasticy affair.
- The ergonomics of the grip are actually very well done by HTC in the HD7. The size of the device doesn’t get in the way when I hold it, and the back casing is such that it wouldn’t slip out easily either. And oh yeah, *I can use it with my left hand as well, with NO loss in signal!!*
- The touch buttons give haptic feedback while searching or pressing the Windows or Back buttons. It vibrates the phone for a millisecond and is a good way to know that the touch registered. The screen’s really sensitive and sometimes I don’t even come close to touching it, and it registers a press. In those cases, the haptic feedback helps too.
- The camera’s actually pretty good. Takes good pictures, although a bit saturated. The dual LED flashes are quite bright, and help in taking pretty good photos indoors, in the evening.
- The battery lasts me for more than a day. With light use ( when I’m listening to music on my Zune, or normal texts and phone use, or casual Facebooking and Twittering ) the batter lasts me for almost 2 days. When I do use it for more intensive tasks ( streaming, GPS, etc. ), it still lasts me almost the whole day.
- Really like the Stand on the back of the device that helps me stand it up and watch HD movies. Just hope that it doesn’t break anytime soon. It does look and feel sturdy, but I can’t help but think what is going to happen if ( and when ) someone dropped something on it with the stand out.
Things I DON’T Like in the OS
While most of the things that I don’t like in the OS are more niggles than actual deal-breakers, there are a few things that I would love to see sorted out in the first update.
- The “FIND” voice command doesn’t work in the UK! I think the US phones will be good in this aspect. I’m not too sure whether this is a Bing thing, or a WP7 thing, or a UK carrier thing, but it sucks that Voice Commands only understands “CALL…” and “OPEN…” Commands. Try a “FIND….” command and you get the MOST ANNOYING “I’m sorry, I couldn’t catch that!” error from the Tellme woman!
- The back button can be a bit inconsistent. E.g. if I’m in the Twitter App, and click on a link, it ( correctly ) launches the IE browser. If then, in the browser, I click on another link, I’m taken to that page. Now, if I want to go back to twitter, pressing the Back button will first go back through the Browser Page stack and then out of the application to Twitter. So, it takes a lot of Back button presses sometimes to get back where you started from. It’s good that applications save state when they are tombstoned, but if I want to go back to a saved state app, and persist the state of the current page in the browser, I can’t. I’ll either have to relaunch the original app by pressing the Windows key and launching it, causing the original app to lose state, or I’ll have to press back through the browser, causing that to lose state. Can’t have both!
- The app list on the right of the Start screen ( or as the MS people call it Start Experience ). While it is super fast and super smooth, I’m an app freak, and already my phone’s overloaded with apps, with new ones coming in every day, that list is becoming just TOO long for me to scroll through. It definitely needs a Search / Group function ( preferably both ) in the next update.
- Landscape mode seems to be an afterthought. While I understand that this is application specific, even for in-built apps it just doesn’t seem complete. E.g. there is a small space to the left ( or right based on orientation ) of the keyboard on landscape mode that is always blank. It is there for toast notifications / status bar. which makes the keyboard look askew, and unfinished. Also leads me to think – Why don’t toast notifications come on the top in landscape mode?
- There has been one instance of screen tearing in my phone. I’m not too sure whether it’s an HTC issue, or a WP7 issue, but I did. Since then I’ve kept my eyes open for any such thing to happen again, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Things I DO Like in the OS
This has the tendency to become a REALLY long list, but I’ll try to keep it short and simple.
- The UI! It just blows me away. While some people think it’s a step backwards, I think it’s one of the best UIs in the world today! So much so, that I’ve got Metro themed facebook and twitter apps for my desktop as well. If I were Ballmer ( What a thought ), the only way to describe how awesome it is is by shouting “METRO! METRO! METRO! METRO! METRO! MET………………………………………”
- The Integration. The integration of the various aspects in the UI is amazing. How the peoples’ hub gets the What’s New feed from facebook, how the pictures’ hub gets the Latest pics from all friends, and also contains all pics uploaded to Sky Drive And Facebook, the Zune client, the XBox client, its all amazing!
- The freshness. The thing with having a fresh UI is that you get a kick ( I’m sure all geeks would understand ) out of trying out a new thing to see if it works the way you expect it to, and it does indeed! Like, initially I couldn’t figure out a way to call a contact from the Messaging App – the context sensitive menu gave me options to only Forward or Delete the message. I tried tapping on the person’s name on the top, and it took me to their profile page with all options to call, write on facebook, etc. etc. There are millions of small things like this all over, where I try something and it works. And I still enjoy finding small little things like these.
- The SIP. Even though I think it’s name is a tad over-engineered, I am very impressed by the software keyboard. It suggest while you type ( nothing new, almost all keyboards do that ), and let’s you tap on words and gives suggestions. I simply love the speed at which I’m able to type on this keyboard as opposed to the keyboard of the iPhone.
- Attention to Detail. Small things make a difference like the “Late” button in Calendar that in one tap lets the meeting attendees know that I’m running late, to the fact that I can use the camera even if the screen is locked.
- The responsiveness. It just blew me away, on how responsive and fast the UI is. I expected no less because of the beefed up hardware specs which are a minimum requirement, but it still felt really responsive and brilliant to the touch. There was a session at PDC yesterday for developers on how to optimize apps for performance and I really hope that developers take notice of that! Because getting stuttery / low performing apps on an OS that is SO fast would be quite an anti-climax.
- The Try button in the marketplace. I’m SO glad that its there! I hate the fact in the App Store that the “Lite” version of apps are different than the actual full featured apps. Here in the marketplace, you can try an app for free, and if you like it, can make the purchase in-app, and it doesn’t download another hefty installer, it’s just a license. So, that is brilliant!
- Pin ANYTHING to the Start Screen. I really like the fact that it’s not just my favourite apps that I can pin onto the Start “experience”. I can pin URLs, songs, videos, anything that I want for quick and easy access. Brilliant!
- Remove ANYTHING from the Start Screen. Also, complimentary to the above mentioned point, I also like the fact that I can remove anything from the start screen and uninstall it. I don’t have to grin and bear any Carrier / OEM software / bloatware if I don’t want it. It’s a click away from uninstallation!
I didn’t intend this to be a review or anything, just my real-world experience with using the device. Do let me know in the comments if you have a phone and what it feels like. Also, if you’re planning on buying one and need any suggestions from someone who has a device, please feel free to give me a shout in the comments section. It would be awesome to share some of the experiences of other users as well.