My first week with Windows Phone 7

A week ago I finally decided to replace my aging BlackBerry Curve with a more modern smartphone. I have been talking about this for a while, and for the longest time I was pretty convinced I would join the iPhone crowd. As I thought more about what I wanted in a mobile device however, I started leaning more toward Windows Phone 7. That’s ultimately what I decided to go with.

I don’t think my decision should shock anyone – it is fairly well-established that I am a Microsoft fan! As a result of that, Windows Phone 7 made sense for me for a variety of reasons:

  • I hate iTunes. So much so that I haven’t installed it on my new computer (which means I haven’t synced my iPod touch in months). All of my music is organized on my computers using Windows Media Player, which IMHO is a much better app than iTunes.
  • I have thousands and thousands of songs, photos, and videos all organized on my Windows Home Server.
  • I have an Xbox 360 that truly is the centre of my home media experience. It plays everything from my Home Server, and is my portal into Zune, Netflix, and other services. And though I am not a huge gamer, I do use Xbox Live regularly.
  • All of my email, calendar, and contacts are in Exchange (both personal and for Questionmark).
  • I use Windows Live quite a bit, such as to sync OneNote notebooks.
  • I’m a Microsoft platform developer, so the idea of being able to easily port existing code to the phone platform is appealing.

So for those reasons, it made sense to go with a device that is definitely going to work with all of my stuff. But there were some other key reasons that I was attracted to Windows Phone 7 as well:

  • The “hub” concept made a lot of sense to me, especially the “People” hub. It integrates with both of my Exchange accounts, with Windows Live, with Gmail, and importantly, with Facebook. So far, this is the killer feature for me. I simply added all of my accounts, and now I have one master contact list, without duplicates, that is updated on-the-fly when friends update their Facebook information. It’s incredible.
  • Xbox Live integration is such a smart idea, and is really well implemented for a first version. A few simple clicks and I had Fruit Ninja on my phone, and as soon as I started playing I was earning Xbox Live achievements. That’s a big value-add.
  • Everyone has an iPhone!

Once I had decided that Windows Phone 7 was the way to go, I started looking at devices. I have to admit that it’s nice to not have to worry about this extra step in the iPhone world. I wanted to stay with Telus, so that meant I had a choice between the HTC 7 Surround or the LG Optimus 7. I went with the much more attractive-looking LG phone:

  • I would never use the SRS slide-out speakers on the Surround.
  • The Optimus 7 features Gorilla Glass, yet is still slightly lighter and smaller than the Surround.
  • Specs otherwise are mostly the same (which is the case for most Windows Phone 7 devices).
  • And importantly, the LG Optimus 7 received a positive review from Engadget.

As a nice surprise, there are a few LG-specific apps that are really cool too. Notably, the “Play To” app flawlessly plays photos or videos I capture on my phone on my Xbox. Really awesome for sharing with others without having to go to the computer. Engadget was right, the Optimus 7 feels solid and well-made. The only thing I don’t like about it is that the USB cover is hard to open.

LG Optimus 7

I’d say my first week has gone incredibly smoothly. I remember the first few weeks with my old BlackBerry Curve – figuring out how to accomplish stuff was difficult at best. But even Sharon, who swears by her “dumb” phone as I like to call them, had no problem picking up my Windows Phone and figuring it out (she loves Fruit Ninja). It’s incredibly intuitive. Here are some of the really positive things from my first week:

  • Setup was simple and painless. In a matter of minutes I had all of my accounts syncing and was on to downloading apps.
  • One of the things I hated most about my BlackBerry was notifications. If I missed a call and someone left a voice message, I would have FIVE notifications: the blinking red light (which I don’t miss at all), an entry in the call log, a message, a text message, and an icon that shows that I had voicemail. Windows Phone 7 is just simple. A simple update on the lock screen and the live tile, and that’s it. If I happen to be using the phone when a text message comes in, there’s a “toast” notification at the top. Tap it, reply, press the back button, and I’m right where I left off.
  • Wireless synching with the Zune software is awesome (podcasts sync automatically in the morning, for instance).

Of course, there have been a few negative things:

  • I would rather sync music to my phone using Windows Media Player than the Zune software. At least I didn’t have to do anything to get Zune to recognize my existing collection.
  • The volume control on the phone is annoying. I want to set the ring volume separately from the keyboard volume and separately from the alarms volume. Either it can’t be done or I am missing something.
  • Bing Maps, at least as it currently exists on the phone, sucks. I can’t ever get it to find places let alone directions. I really hope they do some work on the app.
  • The camera app doesn’t seem to remember settings, which means extra taps to get what I want.
  • There are some basic apps that should have been included, like Weather, Stocks, and a Timer. I shouldn’t have had to download them.
  • I don’t like the ringtones. Why can’t I just have a plain old ringing phone? I don’t want music.

And yes, I have a wishlist:

  • More apps! I know this will happen over time, but it is the most attractive thing about the iPhone. Most of the apps I use regularly (Twitter, Facebook, etc) exist on Windows Phone 7, but there’s not much variety right now.
  • More advanced calendar settings would be nice. For instance the ability to ignore categories from a particular calendar, or to sync multiple calendars from Google Calendar.
  • I wish the “Share” feature of the camera supported Twitter (or could be customized to support other services).
  • Opera Mini. I use Opera everywhere, and I love the ability to sync bookmarks, speed dial, and other settings across devices. I’d love to see Opera Mini on Windows Phone 7.

Overall, I’m really happy with my Windows Phone. So far at least, I can confidently say it was the right decision for me. I can’t wait to see the platform grow and evolve!