Windows Phone 7 – an editorial comment

So here we are: the final big hitter in the world of software has entered the ring. Now the fight really begins…

Just as we were getting used to the Apple versus Android debate, the long gestating Windows Phone 7 software is upon us and we can now get a good look at what is to come. Unfortunately, I can already feel a lingering sense of disappointment.

All too often whilst using this device, I kept thinking “It’s just like the…”. Whilst familiarity is a good thing, you’d expect more originality from a Windows phone. The highly clear, responsive touch screen is just like the Samsung i9000. The body of the device is clean, well built and looks very much the Samsung S8500 Wave. It feels robust, well-sized and with a reassuring weight that has become fairly typical of recent Samsung devices. The camera response is good (if unspectacular), and features a vast array of customisation.

In the end it is hard to pick a fault within the hardware. Battery life is better than expected (when compared to other smartphones) and the camera has a built in flash. For the audiophiles, there is an impressive loudspeaker on the back of the device, but there is also a 3.5mm jack for those moments when you don’t want the entire bus to know you are listening to Steps.

It is surprising to look at what Samsung have done with this device and all their recent mobile phones. Not one to stick with a single operating system, they currently have one of the top Android devices on the market. Their own Bada OS is exceptional and is driving sales of the Wave.

Currently, Microsoft are driving the Windows Phone 7 OS to the world. However, without wishing to see my glass as half empty, in truth I feel they have let down their end of the deal. Coming in late to the show is a very big problem unless you have something that is unique, spectacular or both. With much regret, the Windows 7 phone brings neither to the table.

Android has been developed to be fully customisable, and available on such a vast range of handsets that you can pick it up on budget handsets under £100. You can remove huge chunks of the software and create new ways to manipulate the device. It can come across as geeky, but there is very little that cannot be controlled by the user. The iPhone is seen as the pinnacle of extravagance, the ultimate cultural statement. To own an iPhone is to have arrived in the upper echelons of social hierarchy. However, there is always a sense that it is doing everything for you, dictating to the user how it is to be used and not the other way around.

With Windows Phone 7, their bullish attitude could potentially come unstuck in the long run. You will use IE as the browser and you must use Bing to search. You must use Zune for your media and you must use Office for your documents. Call me old fashioned, but I’m not sure telling me exactly how to use my phone is the right way to keep me happy as a consumer. Apple get away with it because of their fanatical drone-like following, but Microsoft?

You will see the general theme of the phone as either flat and unimaginative or modern and minimalist. You can choose white text on a black background, or the opposite of that. Being simple and streamlined is all well and good, but lacking in substance is not. No file transferring via Bluetooth, no video call, no call barring, the list goes on. A lot of these can be implemented in software updates, (as Android and Apple have already done) however, you have to wonder why Microsoft have left it so late to join the party as they are already a good 12 months behind the trend.

At the end of the day I feel as though I have been given a sports car, but I am being driven by a short sighted man without his glasses. Well done Samsung for bringing one of their best pieces of manufacturing to the game, but shame on Microsoft for believing their own hype. There will be many who look at this device as the ‘saviour’ of the mobile phone industry, but I’m certain this is more out of spite towards the current crop of mobiles. At the end of the day, I can’t help but ask myself:

“Is that it?”

- C.

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