Windows Phone 7: Why I’m not ready for it yet

I promised folks who were asking on twitter that I’d write up to say why I wasn’t gong to stick with my Windows Phone 7 device at the moment.  Firstly, a quick background (anyone who actually reads the shite that I pour out on twitter can ignore this first bit).

Background

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been hoping for good things for WP7 for months now.  I really fancied getting into WP7 dev (I still do), and with my contract on my iPhone running out in September 2010, I was ripe to pickup a new phone.

Android (even in its sexiest guise of HTC Desire) didn’t appeal – behind the HTC wrapper was what felt to me a clunky interface.  Sure, massively configurable and there is generally always an ‘app for that’, but it didn’t wow me at all.

iPhone 4 annoyed me – I wanted it to rock, and it does to some extent, but I refused to have to wear a condom just to make calls – stupid, stupid design and every time I tried it I saw the signal plummet as I have hands like a sasquatch.

So, as the hype built around WP7, this was me – this was where I was going, and this was the toy that was going to cover my next 18months of being tied to a carrier!

I followed the build up enthusiastically, I read developer blog posts, I attended dev events whenever there was a sniff of WP7 and loved the enthusiasm from the developer community at the impending launch. 

So what went wrong?

I, like quite a few others hunted high and low for a phone on launch day – thankfully I got the last one in the O2 shop in Newcastle and rushed it home to start the integration of it into my lifestyle.

I’d like to start out not by saying what went wrong, but what went right.

What Windows Phone 7 does well

The phone UI is stunning

It’s odd to think that a relatively simple text focussed interface could be considered ‘stunning’ but I think it’s that simplicity that makes it work so well.  I’d add a massive caveat to this and say ‘do NOT just look at screenshots of this thing if you’re considering getting one – get into a store and demo one’.  The animations/transitions and overall flow of the UI rock, and really shouldn’t be underestimated by only looking at screenshots – have a play.

The hubs are superb

This is going to sound odd after you read one of the reasons why I’m returning the phone, but in all seriousness, these are implemented very well, and with more integration options (discussed later) will absolutely rock as a means of centralising functionality – they’re superbly thought out.  If you’re happy using Facebook and Windows Live to supplement your contacts and pictures, then these guys really do do a cracking job.

Email

I loved the handling of email – the interface worked well, and the little touches ‘tap to the left of the message to mark it’ etc. really do become intuitive immediately – very good UX here.  The fact that I couldn’t mark my pop account as ‘leave mail on server’ was a pain in the arse until I worked out I could use imap – I hope those on pop3 only get the ability to ‘leave mail’ soon though – or this may piss people off.

Phone speed

Bloody fast – nuff said?  Seriously, the transitions, the animations, the starting up of the core apps – all really fast, and put my iPhone 3G (as well as the iPhone 4) to shame.

What didn’t work well for me

Occasional crashes aside (I mention them first, but only to discount them really).  My iPhone 3g still crashes from time to time (in terms of app crashes etc.) so lets not worry about those from a WP7.  I will caveat the below by saying these are my findings and it may be that they are incorrect (if so, I’d love to hear it).

Picture Hub

I have a flickr pro account and have over 500 images on there (random family stuff and the occasional lucky shot of something arty!)  I really didn’t want to have to download all of my images just to re-upload them to live so I could see them in the picture hub.  Yup, live does have a ‘flickr link’, but it only updates in your status that you’ve uploaded some pictures – it’s not tied into picture hub.  This unfortunately made picture hub fairly useless for me, which is a massive shame, as it really is a nicely implemented bit of software.  I think for me, in a ‘maximising market share’ mindset, Microsoft should now focus in future updates on opening up other means of social media into the hubs (as you’ll see below, my problem with people hub is similar)

People Hub

Love it, love it, love it.  Hate that it only integrates with facebook, and hate that I don’t have enough control over that flow.

I’m a person (as anyone who knows me will testify) that uses twitter as their primary means of social media.  Facebook is nice enough, though I only dip in/out of it to see how old school friends are doing, and how many more thousand muscle-bound men my sister has added as ‘friends’ so I can take the piss.  It’s not my primary means of staying in touch.

Integrating facebook works well, and you can even tell it only to link up those people you’ve already got as contacts in your phone so you don’t see *every* idiot you’ve ever added.  Great!  Except when you go into the ‘what’s new’ section of the people hub you still see the updates from those eejits, even though they’re not strictly in your ‘contacts’ – would be nice to have that limited.

Another failing is twitter integration – c’mon guys, aside from facebook it’s the primary social media platform!  I’d love to have my contact hub littered with random scouse expletives from @philsherry, catch up on geek things (or indeed how many cups of tea have been consumed today) from @apwestgarth, see what workmates are tweeting, etc. etc.

This one wasn’t really a deal breaker on its own for me, but added up to the overall effect.

Applications List

Swiping right from the start page and you’re into the list of apps you’ve installed (as well as those that already come with it).

I feel this section of the phone was an afterthought after the utterly brilliant start/home screen.

Seriously guys, the only way I can see my apps list is as an alphabetised single column list?

I’d only installed about 10-12 apps, and this page was already pissing me off – I dread to think what’d happen if I had the 30-40 I’d had on my iPhone!  People definitely need more control of this page – perhaps breaking off into separate pages keeping core ‘phone’ stuff on its own page or something like that – either way, it needs thought.

Zune

This one may be most controversial of all, but after 18months with an iphone (and therefore itunes) I think the zune software is clunky and nowhere near as friendly to use.  I could go into an awful lot of detail, but it’ll turn into a holywar of comments I suspect, suffice to say I personally prefer itunes by a long margin.

Is that it?

Well yes – I know it doesn’t sound a lot, and on the whole I think this phone is superb.  It’s just these things adding up for me that make me nervous about a £99 outlay then £35/month for 18months on the hope that a future software update will improve things.

So it’s enough for me at least (who really does have to consider what he spends his money on) to return to my out of contract iphone on my £30/month tariff for the time being.

What next?  Well, if the above are addressed, I’ll definitely be back.  So long as I don’t feel like I have to sell my soul to Windows Live to enjoy the key aspects of the phone (and this from a Microsoft fan boy!), then I’d happily own the phone again in future.

Android with Gingerbread sounds interesting, but proof will be in the pudding on that one to make sure they haven’t continued with the clunk.

Short term, I’ve decided to buy an ipad instead.  I have bought a lot of ebooks through manning, apress etc. and I subscribe to a lot of blogs – having an easy to use device that will let me co-ordinate all of that in a nice form factor I think will help my ‘geek’, so that’s short term.

Long term, I’d like to return to Windows Phone 7 (hopefully with some app dev experience), fingers crossed they build upon what is a great core with some of the things I’m after.

 

As per usual, your comments would be great on this – I’m guessing it has the potential to generate a lot of debate (though people may just not care of course!), and hopefully this hasn’t come across as any sort of ‘windows phone 7 is shit because…’ type post – I really do like the first iteration of the OS, and I think it’s got massive potential to generate competition in the market.  It just doesn’t feel ready yet for my personal needs.

Windows Phone 7 Launch – c’mon UK providers!

Well, as one of those eagerly waiting when Steve Ballmer launched Windows Phone 7 last week, and then immediately drooling over the devices I can say that my experience from that point on has been abysmal!

I noticed someone from the AUS market posting something similar, and thought I’d quickly relay my experiences within the UK market.

I’m currently an iphone owner with O2, and thought it great that they had the HTC HD7 as a unique offering, the screen size pipped it for me.

O2

Thursday lunchtime I thought ‘right, I’ll see what O2 have to offer if anything’ – 1 week before launch, they’re surely letting people pre-order or telling them how and when they can get one on launch day.  The conversation went:

Me: “Hey there, I’m interesting in upgrading my current package to Windows Phone 7 – have you guys got any information about tarrifs or how I can pick one up next thursday?’

O2: “Windows Phone 7?”

Me: “I know it’s just been launched this week, I’m just trying to get ahead of the game – do you have any details?”

O2: “Do you mean the iphone?”

Me: <blinks>No, surely it already shows I have an iphone – do you not have any information?  The phone is launching through you October 21st.

O2: Ahh, well if you phone us back on that day, we should have more information…

I’m sorry, but what an utterly epic customer team training fail from O2 there – just shockingly bad!

Carphone Warehouse

I’d like to say this was a unique experience, but while out on Saturday (16th – 5 days before launch) I decided to pop into carphone warehouse and ask if they had any info – retailers tend to get to launch info earlier.

Me: “I’m after tariffs and prices for the Windows Phone 7 phones, have you guys had them in yet?”

CPW: “We haven’t heard anything, though we may be getting some test devices in for next weekend”

Me: “The phone launches on Thursday though, will you not have any on launch day?”

CPW: “Ahh, we’re expecting an order later in the week, they might be in there…”

Me: <blinks again>

Closing Plea

This has been an utter fail across the board really – I’m absolutely gutted that such a powerful launch from microsoft last week has turned into the community scrabbling around for any tidbits of information.  It turns out that Orange has one of the phones on their site now with pricing, but as of the time of this post (Monday 18th 9:15am) the pertinent websites stand as follows:

Microsoft: as per launch day, listing the devices and which networks they are available under

O2: the holding page telling us it’s coming – you can sign up for information, and I got an email from them a day later telling me that they’d send me information when they had it #fail

Orange: I’ve misplaced the page where they list prices/contracts, though the fact that stuff is hard to find is still a #fail

Three: There is a pre-register page, and they’ve actually promoted it on their homepage (albeit one scroll down).  With no more information about tariff’s or contracts. #fail

t-mobile: I can find no reference to it on their search page. #fail [edit: thanks to the guys over at bitterwallet, someone has updated with a t-mobile link]

carphone warehouse: again, a search reveals nowt, and there’s nothing obvious via the navigation.

Microsoft – something in the co-ordination of this launch with the suppliers/carriers is fundamentally flawed.  The community heard about the iphone weeks in advance, they knew pricing, they knew how to pick one up on launch day.  The day of the launch, it was nice that the windows phone 7 site was pointing at the providers websites so that you could go ‘direct’ to the source of the details… only to be given a 404 not found error on every one of them – I mean FFS!

It seems that Windows Phone 7 is the big secret that nobody wants to let out – and yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if I walked into a shop on thursday and they had them, but really, that’s not the point – you have a community of people clammering for your new OS and these new devices, and nobody is telling us anything.  Yes, like the rest of us waiting I’ll sit tight and wait, but this really should have been addressed long before Steve Ballmer opened his mouth on that launch day…