Home > Uncategorized > Windows Phone 7 is good. Really good.

Windows Phone 7 is good. Really good.

So a few weeks ago, I lost my mind and instead of upgrading from my Android-powered Samsung Captivate to the latest and greatest Android ICS powerhouse, I picked up a Lumia 900, Nokia’s recently-launched flagship Windows Phone 7 phone. And it’s pretty much awesome.

There are things I miss from Android: Swype, good LastPass integration, Tasker, and Amazon MP3. But the WP7 stock keyboard is decent and the lack of custom keyboards also handicaps LastPass. Tasker is the big gap, since I have to manually silence my phone at work, and at a movie or timed event. That’s fairly ironic because back in my dumbphone days, I deliberately chose Nokia phones for their unique timed profiles setting that let me silence my phone in school.

That said, none of those things really grind on me, and the rest of the WP7 experience is really good. The email and calendar integration, both Outlook and Gmail are impeccable. Likewise for the Kindle app, texting, and web browsing. Basically, all the main tasks I use my smartphone for are supported natively, work well, and feel nice in a way that Android only ever approached with custom ROMs.

The one thing I will highlight as particularly useful is the handling of media applications. First off, there’s the native “Music + Videos” application that is the most flavorful app on the entire phone, thanks to the way it changes its background and your lock screen to show a scrolling collection of artist photos for whatever you’re listening to, and leaves its live tile showing the most recently played artist’s picture. But it also works as a complete, if unremarkable, media player, with with lock screen controls that you can also access from any app by hitting the volume up or down button. What’s particularly useful over Android’s “roll your own” lock screen control system is that everything that plays media automatically hooks those controls, so that third party apps like Slacker have lock screen and global controls baked right in. I heavily use my smartphone as a media player for music and podcasts, and that’s a killer feature for me.

Now, I am using Slacker’s streaming radio service more than I did on Android due to a combination of the app being high quality, inexplicably better than Android’s, and the lack of ability to stream from my Amazon MP3 library. I’d actually be quite happy to download my entire Amazon MP3 collection to my phone, which has about 10GB of free storage right now, but Amazon makes it harder than I had expected to exfiltrate your entire collection, so I just have a dozen albums or so for frequent listening.

At this point, you should be detecting a theme: Windows Phone 7 isn’t a perfect replacement for my Android phone, but for its deficiencies it also excels in a couple of ways I really appreciate. It has all the major third-party apps I want (Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, Evernote, LastPass), and the first-party apps are great. And the platform is only getting started. With Microsoft’s backing and Nokia betting the company on WP7, I expect to see a lot more app and development support for the phone to make it even better over the years.

Actually, the biggest fear I have in the long term for the Windows Phone 7 platform is the fact that it’s got a terrible reputation with the geek early adopter types that Microsoft is going to need to spread the word about the platform. I’ve had many technical coworkers and fellow developers question, doubt, or mock the phone with an intensity that’s honestly surprised me. In this horse race, Android is the choice for the discerning geek who wants control over his technical life. But I’m not going to lie, in my two years with an Android phone, I got more than my fill of flashing custom ROMs.

At the end of the day, if you offered to swap my Lumia 900 for an SGS2 or HTC One X, the top-end Android AT&T smartphones right now (forgetting that they cost $200 and I paid negative $50 for my Lumia 900), I’d turn you down. I’ve been there, I’ve lived the Android thing, and it’s fine, but I’m on board to see where WP7 goes.

I just hope I’m not going back to Android in a year if Microsoft really leaves Windows Phone 7 flapping in the wind when 8 comes out.

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