Windows Phone an overlooked worthy alternative to Android, iPhone

Dec 22, 2011 By Matthew Fortner

There are many smartphone users who are not giving Microsoft's Windows Phone the look it deserves. Together Android and iOS hog more than 80 percent of the U.S. market share. Android's large chunk of the market is split among a horde of devices from several makers while Apple has relatively few.

Then there is Microsoft.

If anyone can wedge into the current smartphone landscape it would be team Redmond. Microsoft recently pushed out its Mango update, otherwise known as Windows Phone 7.5, bringing a substantial refresh to the platform.

DEBUNKING THE BEST?

Every day I get asked about which are "the best." People are sometimes surprised when I suggest they make technical specifications an important, but secondary concern. A top spec camera is useless if the UI interferes with the . A UI that makes the most sense to me may confound an equally intelligent user. Of course chances are, they will be more intelligent than me.

When I'm asked about smartphones, I offer the same advice. Get your hands on them, and see which one makes the most sense.

So, the question is, with just 2 percent of the market in the U.S., does a new Windows Phone device ... make sense?

Let go of your expectations because the innovation in Windows Phone 7.5 seems to surprise a lot people - some who are harsh Microsoft critics. It is refreshingly organic compared to the rigid, icon-based, and app-centric interfaces of and iOS.

HUBS, CONTACTS, COMMUNICATION

Rather than building upon pages packed with icons or folders of apps, Mango is designed around a user's interests, which are divided into hubs: People, Pictures, Music and Video, Office and others. These hubs connect and centralize aspects of our digital lives in a way that Android and iOS has largely ignored -even with Siri.

The People hub integrates Facebook, Twitter, and Windows Live in a way that makes apps almost seem obsolete. From a contact, you can post on their wall, send an email, see recent updates, check out tagged photos or view albums. A helpful history or roundup of communication is there too. All that is within that contact. No folder drilling, page swiping, or app hunting required.

Another cool feature in the People hub is a consolidated feed of notifications from your social networks.

WORK AND PLAY

Then there is the Office hub armed with OneNote for note-taking, and the tools to create and edit Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. Office 365 provides cloud access to your documents, email, calendar and contacts. There are ways to accomplish similar productivity on competing platforms, but you'll be hard pressed to Match Microsoft here. This is their arena.

If you know and use SkyDrive you'll appreciate Mango's integration. If you don't know SkyDrive you should. It's 25GB of free online storage for your documents, photos, videos and other files.

Microsoft recently released an Xbox Companion app for access to Gamerscore, sending messages, setting a beacon and viewing the Xbox videos, music, games and apps. Your Windows Phone can also work as a media remote with your Xbox.

CUSTOMIZATION

The Quick Launch screen is Mango's home or start screen, and hosts an array of user selected tiles. Tiles range from live-updating widgets to shortcuts for hubs, apps, contacts, or groups of contacts. They can be added, removed and rearranged.

Windows Phone offers more customization than iOS, but it is not as flexible as Android can be. Windows Phone comes as is. There will be no interface add-ons like Sense, MotoBlur or other skins on top of the OS.

BING-O

Thanks to a search engine overhaul, Bing gains some cool new tricks. Its "Local Scout" feature uses GPS to provide you with hyper-local search results for restaurants, shopping, events and other local highlights.

Even cooler is the built-in music search that works like Shazam or SoundHound which are popular with iOS and Android users. Press Bing's music search button, let it listen to the music, and it identifies the song, but I found it to be lighter and faster than my experiences with either of those dedicated apps.

Bing's visual search works similarly to Google Goggles. It can analyze QR codes, barcodes, Microsoft Tags book covers, CDs, DVDs and can translate text to and from a variety of languages.

SHOULD YOU GIVE WINDOWS PHONE A CHANCE?

Sure the Marketplace for has a fraction of the offerings available in its competitors' app stores. But at over 40,000 apps, most of what you could want is there. It has Angry Birds, Netflix and various streaming music apps.

For an iTunes and Apple user, iOS is hard to not put on the "consider" list. Android's Google services and Flash Player support is unmatched.

But if your world is Word docs and Excel spreadsheets, or your playground is Xbox LIVE, no one spins it better than Microsoft.

Windows Phone's elegant and responsive interface exhibits some of the most innovative thinking in the smartphone arena.

Even with recent Android and iOS updates, they have not really changed all that much from their debut. They have evolved, been polished, even added some cool features, but Microsoft is the one thinking different now.

Been looking for Microsoft's mojo? Windows Phone's delightful and intuitive experience makes Microsoft fun again.

Explore further: Sony wooing Japanese to PS4 with Dragon Quest

3 /5 (21 votes)
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User comments : 23

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Garfieldo
3 / 5 (4) Dec 22, 2011
this article sounds like a commercial for microsoft.

M$ already has a quasi monopolistic position over the computers OS market... so yeah.. i think it's better if some other solutions are
available for handhelds... probably boosts creativity and competition for the good of the consumer.
epsi00
2.8 / 5 (5) Dec 22, 2011
I wonder how much the author of the above article was paid to write this advertisement for M$. And no, I am not buying a phone that runs microsoft software. I am pretty sure it will be buggy and with lots of unnecessary features, in other word bloated just like window vista, 7, xp, 95, 8 and whatever number they can come up with.
trentspalmer
5 / 5 (3) Dec 23, 2011
The "people hub" sounds like bloatware. Why not just allow apps to talk to each other and then let the user decide which apps do that like in Android?

And how does WP7 integrate well with Skydrive when WP7 doesn't even have a coherent and accessible file and folder tree? You can't run file management apps on WP7 without jailbreaking it.
ThanderMAX
not rated yet Dec 23, 2011
And how does WP7 integrate well with Skydrive when WP7 doesn't even have a coherent and accessible file and folder tree? You can't run file management apps on WP7 without jailbreaking it.


whoa, then how do they store music/movies ?
Its like DUMBPHONES in pre-iPhone/Android era, where feature phones used to have that and ruled the earth.

I hate zune and related.
Negative
not rated yet Dec 23, 2011
"A UI that makes the most sense to me may confound an equally intelligent user. Of course chances are, they will be more intelligent than me."

yeah, it seems to me, from the above comments, that the author was overly optimistic.
wanderenvy
3 / 5 (2) Dec 23, 2011
People commenting on a product review with no first hand experience of the product. What a shocker! :)

Folks, if you find a Windows Phone 7.5 device, go spend some time playing with it. You may be surprised with what you see. The Mango UI is refreshingly different and some of the built in capabilities are slick. The phones I tried were physically well built and fun to use.

I have to agree with the author, this is an overlooked but worthy alternative. Keep an open mind and you may actually like what you see. I have no idea if M$ will mess this up going forward or for a change do right, but as of this instant, this product is worth a fair look.

Oh, and just so you get a sense of perspective, I am writing this using Firefox on a Mac, have regularly used some Unix variant OS for more than a decade (and prefer to do so when possible) and have no love lost for Windoze or Office. Not a M$ or Apple drone.
kingair350
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 23, 2011
I am a Windows phone user and I LOVE THE PHONE!. My wife has the iphone 4, I like it but the windows phone works so much better and faster. Android is trying so hard to make the best,fastest,most powerfull phone that they are starting to run hot amd freeze all the time. They freeze because the dual core processors are shutting down so they don't cause any damage, It is a safety mechanism built into computers. Windows phone never freeze, they are always fast and the games look like and play like Xbox360 games. I love this phone and challenge all those people that have not tried it to try it for a day, they will be sold.
antialias_physorg
2 / 5 (5) Dec 23, 2011
People commenting on a product with no first hand experience

I'm gonna diss this because Microsoft phone f**ked up the project I am working on.
They gave Nokia a BILLION dollars just so they'd stop using Symbian and start using Microsoft OS on their phones (Which caused Nokia to stop developing the Qt graphics library my project depended upon...forcing a switch to Microsoft Silverlight graphics library...which in turn now gets no more updates after the current release...which will probably force yet ANOTHER rewrite to html5)

That alone will cause me NEVER to buy a microsoft phone.

Bastards.
Scanman
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 23, 2011
Before you criticize the phone you should try it. I like the phone. The interface is smooth and consistent. It has never crashed or stopped working in the 6 months I have had it. I am not a big facebook user but the people hub integration with facebook is great. I have found apps for everything I need to do. I might have only 1 or 2 choices versus 20 choices. It is a great phone.
wanderenvy
4 / 5 (1) Dec 23, 2011
@antialias_physorg - Sorry to hear your frustration. Qt was/is a good product. But honestly, the problems for you started with Nokia not Microsoft. They completely dropped the ball on Smartphones. They had the largest mobile phone market share and the writing was on the wall as to where the market was going with the success of the iPhone and early Androids. They simply could not execute and make Symbian into a successful platform. Their options were to be yet-another android hardware vendor and compete with more efficient Asian manufacturers or partner with someone with the desire and deep pockets to push a third software platform to the market. And they had just hired an ex-Microsoft dude for a CEO!

Ironically, I think the same Asian manufacturers are going to eat their lunch even with Windows Mango.

A similar story just played out with HP's WebOS and is playing out now with RIM.

Your comment reflects the real issue that Microsoft has in this arena. People do not like Microsoft!
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 23, 2011
Your comment reflects the real issue that Microsoft has in this arena. People do not like Microsoft!

Probably because Microsoft stops supporting stuff from one day to the next (remember the first try they had at making a phone? Or any of a myriad of other developments - including some programming languages which had promise)
First it's all hype, hype, hype and then they let it die. At least with stuff like Android it can go to the open source community and live on happily ever after.
But when Microsoft stops work on one of their proprietary/closed software products then that's it. Anyone who bet on that horse is just out of luck. That's just bad business practice not being predictable/dependable.

If it weren't for Visual Studio and C# I wouldn't be bothering with them at all. For anything else there are superior (and cheaper) alternatives on the market.

And their new foray into phones will fail as well - mark my words.
ziprar2
5 / 5 (3) Dec 23, 2011
what amazes me is like how every manufacturer boasts of new 'features' when new os or software update comes out and those features being a new facebook and twitter integration and some new home screens! lol
rawa1
2 / 5 (4) Dec 23, 2011
Windows Phone just waits for more powerfull mobile CPU. After it would be able to run Windows desktop applications without difficult recompilation and performance overhead, it could become as successful platform, as the PC. The minor problem is, the user interface of Windows has nothing very much to do with usage of smartmobiles, which virtualizes the user experience with Windows desktops.
Objectivist
1 / 5 (1) Dec 23, 2011
It all comes down to, to quote Steve Ballmer, "developers, developers, developers..." Microsoft's presence is much needed, but not for usage. They are pushing developer fees and rates as they desperately try to lure developers on to their platform. It probably won't work, but what it will do is force both Google and Apple to also lower their fees, making apps in general more profitable for developers, and in the long run also cheaper for consumers.
_nigmatic10
1 / 5 (2) Dec 27, 2011
I'm all for another phone OS pushing the prices down.
Grizzled
3 / 5 (2) Dec 27, 2011
Windows on a consumer-level device like iPhone?

No thanks. Anyone who's ever been through the DLL compatibility hell will vote with all fours AGAINST the idea.

Do you really expect the end-user to deal with that kind of problem?

Or do you expect the hapless developer to do so?

And no, a typical end-user won't have the systems dept (or whatever you call it in your organisation) to deal with it.
Grizzled
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 27, 2011
Windows Phone just waits for more powerfull mobile CPU.


Ah, the proverbial bloatware in action.
CHollman82
1 / 5 (3) Dec 28, 2011
No thanks. Anyone who's ever been through the DLL compatibility hell will vote with all fours AGAINST the idea.


Oh is it the 1980's again?

I haven't had a problem with a windows driver in a decade, and if you have it was likely the problem of the third party manufacturer, not Microsoft. Lots of people like to blame the "OS" because they don't know what it is and they don't know how to distinguish it from third party software and hardware problems.
Grizzled
5 / 5 (1) Dec 28, 2011
But a lot of people do. Tell me, does that phone-based OS still have the registry it depends on? And, if you never had a problem with Windows own drivers and DLLs (not since the 80s) - well, you are one lucky guy.
Grizzled
5 / 5 (2) Dec 28, 2011
To elaborate on the above: Are you aware (just as a small but important example) that DirectX9 isn't upward compatible with DirectX7? That breaks A LOT of programs. Third-party programs, true, but they depended on the MS published specs which it magnanimously decided to disregard. Want to configure your machine to support both 7 and 9? It's doable, but it's certainly not an out of the box solution and you better know what you are doing...or else.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Dec 28, 2011
Amen to that.

With open software you can always try to augment/fix the libraries yourself. But closed software is really a terrible thing to base your software on.

CHollman82
1 / 5 (2) Dec 28, 2011
I agree with you in theory but I haven't had a compatibility problem, or any problem really, with Windows in at least 5 years, probably closer to 10. I don't use really old software though, I can't imagine having anything that uses DX7 for example, so maybe that's why, I don't know.
Grizzled
5 / 5 (1) Dec 28, 2011
Well, you may be interested to know that MS (in its infinite wisdom) chose to keep the latest and greatest distro for the X7 on its site. It's also fully supported still. The reason? Too many large corporates were VERY unhappy with the problem. As I said before - if you've never run into that or similar problem - count yourself lucky.