Monday, October 25, 2010

Windows Phone 7 First Impressions

I'm not a usual candidate to be the first kid on the block with the new toys - I usually like to let things settle down first - but this time I took a punt.. Not 100% sure why, but I've been telling myself that this time I could write some code to run on the phone, so that would make it worth the trouble. Since Windows Phone 7 is silverlight based, and developed in C#, I couldn't resist.

I've been developing in .NET and C# so it was a natural fit - my first thoughts though have nothing to do with the developer experience however, since I soon discovered that even 'sideloading' and app on to the phone from my local Visual Studio wouldn't be possible without purchasing a developer unlock for $100. Although something I'll consider if/when I get an app worth depolying, I was still a little surprised. I had expected to deploy locally for free - naively I realise now, in retrospect, given that MS has decided to control deployment ostensibly to maintain standards via the marketplace..

As for the phone itself, I was an early buyer - early on the 22nd of October. Telstra, the most prominent Australian telco shipped the phone the day before and I received a text late that afternoon telling me to hurry to avoid disappointment. As it turns out, I have heard that others did get disappointed with limited stock, but at least from the Rundle Mall Testra Store, there was at least a few left when I arrive 9am Friday morning (so much for going to work!)


At the end of the day, I care about the price, it's not purely about function, it has to meet the features/dollar ratio in my mind - and in this case, I actually thought Telstra had this one totally sorted in my favour. $49 cap, with $400 worth of calls and 500MB data on the NextG network? Rediculous. I was expecting to pay $79 for this at least, and thought I would thus need some convincing. My old Nokia plan was the same price and was on Vodafone, slow data and old (N95) handset.. In the end tt was a simple swap actually, for no real outlay.. Awesome! now you know why I was an early adopter!

Physical Appearance

I bought the HTC Mozart and my initial response was very good - I like the weight, size, shape and overall appearance - granted it's not quite as single chassis iPhone style, but it feels well built and comfortable to hold - it fits well in my pocket without feeling either bulky or heavy. The screen repsonsive to touch too. The soft buttons do have to be avoided though, but this was sorted out after a few hours of use.


The interface is different, and overall I don't mind it. The tile concept is well put together especially the live data within each tile - even the simple colour scheme is ok to me, I'm not really sure why so many iFreaks are hating on in, I'm yet to see why a standard icon is that much more effective.., and I don't mind the hubs concept either.

The graphics looks great - smooth hardware based transitions looks slick, the way you move around the page feels very natural. The metaphor of panorama or pivot style pages works well. I didn't see too many apps that got thi
s too wrong.. a few did, but that's not surprising!

As for the secondary app list, I don't know.. Can't say I'm convinced. I will wait to see how many apps I settle on before passing judgement. Although I'm not a huge fan of the iPhone app array as a great UI metaphor (kind or reminds me of Windows Explorer View Lists), on the other the idea has some merit, since it doesn't take long for the app list of WP7 to get a bit long. I wouldn't mind if this is swappable with a 3rd party but at this stage I haven't seen anything like this - I suspect this will change in a latter OS upgrade (at least, I *hope* it will!) though, as the volume of apps goes up.


I was pleasant'y surprised at the number of apps in the market place on day 2 - There was something in every problem space I enquired about. Not bad for such early days. Obviously the quality varies, but I only had to download an try a few apps for various things to get a good 'base' collection. I did have to remove the Yellow Pages app after a while when I realised it was based on old data, and wasn't Australian enough to be useful. It is listed as a beta product though, so I hope to try it again later once the issues are ironed out. I actually bought a few apps too, a few games and some baby pleasers too - my toddler loves to press the screen, so why not touch the animal to hear some noises. Just a little fun at a $1.30!!

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube are all there and provide some decent 'basic' coverage of those sites capabilities. Not bad for free.


I had some initial difficulty getting some games to load in the app store (err. marketplace), but in the end I discovered that the games were installing, but don't appear in the app list itself - *only* in the game hub.. obviously it makes sense but since I didn't read the manual (dude RTFM..) I had to discover it myself.

There have been a few other quibbles too - It's hard to apportion blame at this stage so I'll just detail what I discovered. Hopefully others have more insight.

  • Outlook Integration - fails when the company certificate is self signed. Usually apps just ask for you to accept it anyway - but there is no setting for this that I could see. Obviously the company needs to get there exchange server act together, but I am told iPhone and Android phones within the office all accept the certificate as is.
  • Google Calendar Sync - my wife and I run our whole 'eLife' via google apps, and have a calendar for each of us as well as our daughter. 90% of my app events exist on my wife's calendar, so having them all sync into the phone is critical, but alas, no. Not only does my calendar not sync correctly (it does allow me to write from phone to gCal, ) my 'other' shared calendars don't appear at all. I read somewhere that others have claimed the same problem, and that WP7 only syncs to gCal when there is only one calendar and this is a known issue. Wish I had read that one earlier!
  • IE7 - not the most polished app I've ever used. sometimes the zoom rendering is a little laggy catching up with the resizing. overall though, I expected it to be much worse. Didn't try using a site with some modern CSS or HTML though so no doubt things go a bit funky on that end - I hope this changes soon though.. Perhaps an IE9 Mobile version is pending?
  • Predicitive texting - is actually awesome, but is a quibble because not all text entry uses it. Don't know why not.. surely this is a device level function?? strange, such an excellent feature, wish it was everywhere.
  • Copy/Paste - I know I know, you know and I know it's coming. I don't really need it much anyway (so far) but I would have thought it wasn't too hard to include up front

I don't think I want to speculate about the success of WP7 too much, but suffice to say I like it, and will definitely consider writing an app for this OS soon. I think once the quibbles are ironed out it will be a good platform. I only hope that the anti-MS types don't get too much mindshare.. I really don't see a problem with more competition in the mobile space, and hope that MS can push the envelop and then the entire industry (including general software development) will benefit.

Lastly, I was showing the phone of to my father-n-law yesterday, and I learnt he bought the same one on the same plan this morning.. Nice!


  1. when does your wife get hers?

  2. I'm very impressed. I'll be very interested to watch how frequently MS push out updates. I really hope it's pretty regular so they can 'catch up' on some of the missing features.

    Would like to see a 'second impressions' blog post in a few weeks time.

    Still trying to make up my mind which handset and when I take the plunge. I've already installed Zune software in anticipation :-)

  3. Doh! No fair - I still have to wait weeks to get one. The Mozart actually looks like a pretty good phone - certainly one (if not the) most impressive from HTCs worldwide selection. Its not offered over here in the US though - think I'm going to go with the Samsung Focus - the HD7 just looks too big.

    Its a bit of a shame you can't upload your own apps from VS2010 though. MS have been getting a lot of feedback about only syncing the primary calendar - hopefully this will get fixed soon. I'm also pretty disappointed there is no unified mailbox - the story is that their field testing suggested people preferred this!?

    Can't wait for the Laan Studios turn based, XNA strategy game. If you knuckled down uou could probably even finish it before I get a handset?

    [Damn I hope you're happy - I had to create an evil Google profile to post this :-p].

  4. @Nigel - it's all been worth it getting you to give up your life long ambition to avoid the google claws of death... welcome aboard! Actually, I had to create a live account to get the phone to work, so it's about the same. Luckily I just used my MSDN subscription login!

    I actually prefer the separate email portals - I don't really like them being merged. From the tiles screen, I can see immediately whether I have work *or* personal emails, which suits me best..

    Not sure I'll get that game going in the next 2 weeks! sorry. Wouldn't mind getting my basic app happening though - a simple panorama app (single view) with one main view model and a backend sounds straight forward - I've already written the BoM parser! Now just need the UI..

  5. Are you content with the device features on this Windows 7 phone? Do you like this better than your old Nokia? And how is it that Microsoft is "pushing the mobile envelope" when Windows Mobile was a huge failure??

  6. @RichieInOz - The device is very nice. good hardware much better than my Nokia, smooth, fast UI, and a quick network. When I said 'pushing the envelop', I was referring to Silverlight, XNA, and the 'tile' concept. also, I love the dev environment, and tiles are actually innovative in a good way! Not simply trying to duplicate the app grid was a good idea..

    Thanks for the commments, any chance you'll ever get back 'inoz'? Otherwise, you might want to consider changing your profile! :-)