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Windows Phone 7 – review

Microsoft has re-entered the smartphone market with the launch of its new smartphone operating system Windows Phone 7. But does the platform hold up to the hype in the industry, lets take a look and find out…

Windows phone 7 contacts screen

Little has changes since Microsoft gave a preview of the Windows 7 OS last summer, apart from software tweaks and fixes, but of course there is the Xbox Live service and third part applications, two crucial elements.

The OS uses some vivid colors, and the touch responsiveness is excellent, wildly different from previous attempts from the software giant. The screen transitions everytime you move between pages or apps, which while looking nice we sometimes don’t want to watch every time.

Navigating the OS comes down to three main sections, the homepage, the applications installed and the hub pages. The homepage is broken into tiles, mainly designed to glance at to see if that app has an update for you. While the navigation is in the most part intuitive the main ‘function’ key of the OS is actually a long press on the screen, which as you have no visual cue to do this can take some getting used to to even realise there are options available.

A drawback out of the box for the new OS is the fact that copy and paste, and multitasking capabilities are not supported which is a real shame considering both Android and Apple now have this functionality nailed down. Early 2011 should see the introduction of copy and paste, so no major groan there, although no word yet regarding multitasking of apps. As we come to use our smartphone apps more than we do our actual work laptop, it is something that Microsoft need to cover off sooner rather than later if they intend to be taken seriously about being rivals to the iPhone and Android OS’s. It would be nice to be reassured that it is in the development pipeline so if you were to choose to invest in a Windows 7 device you know you have some substantial updates to come soon.

If the lack of multitasking was not enough to decide against a Windows 7 smartphone, the fact that simply locking and unlocking the screen returns you to the homepage and not the app you were using is seriously annoying. Sometimes you just want to use an app, switch the phone off, get off the train, and switch it back on. Not with this OS. You have to re-launch the app every time. This needs sorting asap, as after using the phone day to day it is one of the features you dont realise you use so often.

Overall the usability is good, with some slowing and lagging between apps. Lets remember this is the first generation of its kind, and I am sure Microsoft will have some significant updates to come where all the above groans can be ignored and this article will quickly become out of date.

KeyBoard

Windows 7 Keyboard Image

Windows 7 Keyboard

Lets get one thing straight first of all.  The keyboard on the new Windows smartphone is excellent.  Better than Android, equal to iPhone.

After each keypress the key pops out above as visual confirmation you have pressed it.  Hold a key and you get additional options just as you would expect.  We really liked how the comma and period keys are always present, and just like the iPhone you can press on a punctuation key and slide your finger to select the desired character instead of pressing multiple times.

Word correction is easy, either adjusting mistakes for you as you type or allowing a double tap of a selection to get some other options.  It is a bit tricky to select other words, but not a massive problem.

Having used Android devices where text input is irritating at best, this is a major strong point for the new Windows 7 devices, given that it is the only method of input on todays new touch screen interfaces.