How Windows Phone 7.5 Worked For Me

I’m an iPhone user, and I just spent the last two weeks using a Samsung Focus as my primary phone.  The Focus runs Windows Phone 7.5 as its operating system, and I was curious to see how the software stacked up.

Am I biased?  Well, yes and no: I’ve owned every iPhone since the original one came out, but I’m not so blindly loyal that I shelled out money for an iPhone 4S.  My iPhone 4 is good enough, and I’m not the kind of guy who wants to be seen walking down the street telling my phone what to do.  I live in a loud, windy city, and voice dictation isn’t the best way for me to work with my phone.  I’ve used Siri, and I understand that it’s great for people who hate typing, but I love typing, and I’m pretty good at it.  I offer up my unwillingness to buy an iPhone 4S as evidence that I don’t live entirely on Kool-Aid.

For this review, forget screen size, pixel density, CPU speed, camera quality, and any of those hardware specs that reviews usually focus on.  I’m going to talk to you about what I do with my phone, and how Windows Phone fared in my day-to-day use.  Instead of features, we’re going to talk about use cases.

Use Case #1: What’s New Since I Last Used the Phone?

Every morning, I spend 30-45 minutes walking Ernie around Chicago parks.  Every afternoon, we do it again.  During most of that time, I’m on the phone doing email, reading news, and tweeting.

When Ernie and I get to the park, the first thing I do is pull the phone out of my pocket and ask it, “What’s happened since the last time I looked?”  Here’s how those two phones answer the question with their lock screens:

Windows Phone 7.5 shows me a little email icon informing me that I’ve got mail.

The iPhone shows me a list of tweets and messages right on the lock screen.  I can scroll up and down through that list, and here’s the killer feature: if I make the unlock slide motion across a message, I go directly to that message inside the particular app.

If you don’t want people to see your incredibly secret messages on the lock screen, no problem – just go into Settings, Notifications.  All iOS apps use a central notifications service, so for each app, you get to pick:

  • Whether the app is allowed to show notifications at all
  • Whether it shows up in the lock screen
  • Whether a preview of the actual notification shows up, or just the fact that you’ve got notifications
  • Whether the notification shows up as a popup, a banner (aka toast), or only on the app’s icon
  • How many notifications it can show (1 most recent, 5 most recent, or 10)
  • Whether the notification gets repeated (I like my incoming SMS messages to beep repeatedly every couple of minutes)

These notifications aren’t just available in the lock screen – they’re also available anytime in the phone by sliding down from the top of the screen.

Rather than using a central notification service, Windows Phone 7.5 uses a concept of Live Tiles: you can pin whatever you want to the home page of the phone.  This does have some cool capabilities, but it just doesn’t work for notifications.  I can’t go to one place and see everything that needs my attention, in the format that I want it.  For example, take the “Me” Live Tile.  At the moment, it shows “44 new items”, but if I click on that icon, it takes me to my own profile – not the new items.  I can slide over to areas for “notifications” and “what’s new”, but it’s not clear which one of those is the new items.  I’ve learned over time that if I want to see my 44 new items, I don’t go to what’s new – I go to notifications.  That’s the kind of basic usability problem that makes me want to drop this phone into the sewer.  But deep, calming breaths, and let’s get through this review together.

Use Case #1: What’s New Since I Last Used the Phone – iOS5 wins.  The Live Tile concept may come from behind and catch up, but it’s going to require a lot of work from developers.  Right now, the lock screen is useless, Live Tiles just don’t have enough information density, and the Me/Notifications screen is all but useless.

Use Case #2: Typing

I prefer the iOS keyboard, but that’s not fair – I’ve been using it for years.  Rather than giving personal opinions, let’s take a really simple use case – spelling the word “one.”

“One” seems to pose a problem for virtual keyboard for a two reasons.  First, you might have hit “o” instead of “I”, and I by itself is a completely valid autocorrect option.  If I typed “O eat bacon,” the phone could see the oh-space-eee and autocorrect the O to an I.  Second, you might hit the space bar instead of “n”, and the space bar really freaks out autocorrect software.

In your phone, whatever phone it is, fire up a new email and try that test, but move your fingers carefully.  Try to inadvertently hit the space bar instead of the N.  Try it repeatedly, and see how far into the space bar you can go before your phone’s keyboard decides that it’s a space instead of an N.

I can’t take a decent video of this, but side to side, iOS does a much better job of predicting when you want an N and when you want a space.  Windows Phone 7.5 switches over to the space much faster, and once it’s entered a space, it won’t autocorrect back over to “one” instead of “o e”.

The WP7 software keyboard has something akin to IntelliSense – it shows several options for completions of what you’re typing, as opposed to iOS which just offers its best guess.  If you don’t mind staring at the WP7 autocomplete options as you’re typing and consciously thinking through which word is right, then you’ll prefer the WP7 keyboard.  I would rather bash keys mindlessly and have the autocorrect make the best guesses.  My style works better with iOS because it seems to make better guesses.

Use Case #2: Typing – iOS5 wins for me, but your mileage may vary.  I do have to give my personal opinion here though: the WP7 keyboard logic infuriated me so much that I started calling it AutoIncorrect.

Use Case #3: Sharing a Photo

Both iOS5 and Windows Phone 7.5 have the ability to take a picture and share it via email, SMS, or Twitter, and that’s alright – but it’s nowhere near good enough for power users.

Camera + effect filters + GPS location database + social networking = Instagram, a free iOS app:

Opened Instagram, seeing recent photos from my friends. Click the Share button at the bottom.

Take a picture.

Apply effects and borders if you’d like, and click Check.

Enter your picture title/caption, then click Geotagged to get a list of nearby Foursquare locations.

Choose from a list of nearby Foursquare locations or add a new one.

Pick which social networks you’d like to share it on.

Your photo shows up in Instagram and all your social networks.

Game over. And in my case, the photos even show up on my site because I’m using a WordPress plugin.

Use Case #3: Sharing a Photo – iOS only wins with the help of an app, and that’s like cheating, right?  Thing is, Windows Phone 7.5 doesn’t have a photo-sharing app anywhere near this good.  As of December 2011, the WP7 app marketplace is a lot like the OS – it covers the basics the same way Windows Mobile 6.5 did, and there’s some new shiny gloss on top, but this isn’t where innovation lives.  WP7 gets Instagram copycats like Apict and Bubblegum that offer buggy subsets of Instagram’s functionality.  Since I’m not a developer, I don’t know whether that’s a problem with the platform itself, the coding tools, the lack of app buyers, or what, but as an end user, I just know it’s a problem.

I have a couple of other personally important use case needs that iOS solves with apps:

  • Manage tasks with RememberTheMilk.com – RTM is a fantastic site that I’ve used for years.  They’ve got wonderful iPhone and iPad apps, but no WP7 app.  I don’t know whether that’s a demand problem or a developer problem.  3rd parties have stepped in to provide apps that use the RTM API, but they fell down on functionality.
  • Syncing passwords with 1Password – my phone, tablet, and laptop always have my passwords synchronized.  I can log into sites with browsers on any of them.  They don’t have a WP7 app yet.

I can’t say that the iOS app market wins overall, though, because these are just my needs.  I can only say that for my needs, the iOS marketplace fulfills things that I couldn’t live without, and WP7 can’t do it yet.  I keep trying to justify WP7 by saying, “Well, but I’m weird, and most people don’t want to share photos.”  Then I hear that out loud and just shake my head – I’m weird, but I’m not that weird.

Use Case #4: Find Interesting Stuff Nearby

I travel a lot, and when I get somewhere, I want to know what’s going on.  Is there a concert or festival nearby?  Any museum exhibits?  Where’s a good spot to eat or shop?  I can answer those questions in iOS5 with several different apps, but it’s scattered.

On Windows Phone 7.5, the built-in Local Scout app is pretty gosh-darned good.  It has screens for:

  • eat+drink (restaurants) – with distance, cost, style, and rating all listed on one screen with a tiny map
  • see+do (events and attractions) – with thumbnail photos and names that grab the eye.
  • shop (uh, shops)
  • highlights – although I have no idea how they’re coming up with this list other than paid placement, because these were nowhere near the best things near me

It’s not perfect – for example, near me, see+do listed a long-closed museum.  See+do also offers an “apps” tab for each attraction, and the apps list is laughably unrelated, showing things like “Stockholm Travel” and “Pick a Park at Walt Disney World” here in downtown Chicago.

(I’d love to show you screenshots of the app in action, but Windows Phone 7.5 can’t take screenshots.  As I grew more frustrated with various apps, I became convinced the lack of screenshot ability was part of a conspiracy to keep bad UI design a secret from the public.  Argh.)

Use Case #4: Find Interesting Stuff Nearby – WP7 wins.  The Local Scout app is awesome.  It’s so good that it sparked me to look for travel apps again on the iPhone looking for a competitor, but in cases like this, the iPhone’s abundance of apps can be a drawback.  Sometimes it’s tough to pick through the vast volume of apps.

General WP7 User Interface Frustrations

Whenever I go into a new app, I want to be able to interact with it as naturally and quickly as possible.  To do that, consistency is everything: apps can look different, but the basic way I interact with each app needs to feel at least roughly similar.

Take the different ways each system app handles deleting a message or thread:

  • Email app method 1: click on the left side of the thread (there’s no icon for this, you just have to know it) and click the trash can
  • Email app method 2: click on the thread, click the trash can
  • Messaging app: click on the thread, click the “…” area, click “delete thread”
  • Phone app history: click “…” area, click “delete all” (because you can’t delete one, and heaven forbid you try the email app method #1 in the phone app, because it will try the call again rather than deleting the history)

Another example is knowing when Windows Phone 7 is doing something over the network.  Sometimes there’s a series of blue dots racing across the top of the screen.  Sometimes it’s a series of red dots racing across the middle of the screen.  Sometimes it’s a progress bar at the bottom of the screen, and all of these are just with the apps that shipped with my Samsung Focus.  I don’t understand what the differences in these displays mean, and I can’t understand why a brand-new platform would have such differences from screen to screen.  It’s not like we’re talking about a system with years of piled-on development – this thing’s supposed to be the brand-new rethink of user interfaces, and it’s a mishmash.

The example that really kills me, though, is the three buttons on the bottom of the phone and how they interact from app to app:

  • Windows button – takes you back to the home page of the entire OS.  Only use this when you’re ready to bail out of an app altogether, and since most apps don’t support multitasking, be prepared for a 5-10 second wait if you accidentally press this button and have to go back into the app – it’ll relaunch from scratch again.
  • Search button – does this search inside the app or inside the entire phone?  Actually, it fires up Bing, which does neither.  It searches the web.  As a result, apps like email have search buttons at the bottom right of the screen to designate a search function inside their own app.
  • Back button – takes you back one screen in the app.  Use this everywhere – all apps rely on it.  I hold the phone in my right hand, and on the Samsung Focus, it’s simply impossible for me to reach the back button with my thumb, and yet THIS IS THE BUTTON I’M SUPPOSED TO BE USING CONSISTENTLY.  But I digress.

Now what does each button do when you hold it down?

  • Hold down the Back button, and it switches between apps like alt-tab.
  • Hold down the Windows button, and it offers voice dictation.
  • Hold down the Search button, and it…well, it just does search.

This is where iOS’s lack of buttons seems to pay off.  When you want to do something, you click the button on the screen for it, and there’s no misunderstanding of what it does.  The three buttons on Windows Phone 7.5 are already overloaded with functionality that don’t match up to their labels, and that’s not off to a good start for such a youthful platform.

Lastly, about hardware buttons – I promised I wasn’t going to review hardware, but there’s one aspect of the Samsung Focus that I just can’t ignore.  The back/Windows/search buttons on the phone are backlit – but only AFTER you press them.  I don’t need them to light up AFTER I press them, I need them to light up BEFORE so that I know where to press.  This is especially important with a screen as good as the Samsung Focus’s – the blacks are so impeccably black that you can’t tell where the screen ends and the buttons begin.  I absolutely loved this screen (except for how it renders text in IE, but I’m not sure if that’s an IE problem or a Samsung problem.)

WP7.5 Doesn’t Fit Most of My Use Cases – Yet

After two weeks, I appreciate that Windows Phone 7.5 has come a long way.  The Live Tiles concept is exciting and different, but … well, it doesn’t solve a use case for me.  I don’t doubt that it enhances the phone experience for other people, but it doesn’t help me deal with the things I use my phone for every day.

I’m sure WP7 will continue to improve and the app scene will get better, but is it a question of too little too late?  My Zune-using friends tell me that Zune was the Betamax to the iPod’s VHS, a technically superior solution that just never caught on in the marketplace.  My Xbox-using friends tell me to hang on, because WP7 will eventually catch up and dominate just like the Xbox did.

I look forward to using a future version of Windows Phone with better apps, but one thing is for sure: the Samsung Focus isn’t the hardware I’d want to run it on.  The phone felt cheap and flimsy, the battery life was awful, and the button placement drove me crazy.  I’m willing to pay premium prices for a premium user experience, and the Samsung Focus wasn’t it.  Picking up my iPhone today with its solid build quality and premium feel really drove that point home.

Note: I received the Samsung Focus with voice & data service free from Klout.com for being a tech influencer in the Chicago area.

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts

About Brent

I'm a geek goofball who lives in Chicago, Illinois with my wife Erika, my small dog Ernie, and a lot of bad habits. I like wine, travel, photography, and sharing everything I've learned so far.

33 Responses to How Windows Phone 7.5 Worked For Me

  1. Russel

    Hi Brent,

    I really appreciated your review, if for at least just the reason that I didn’t know you could hold down the Windows button for a few seconds and go to dictation mode. (Explains some weird behavior)
    I have the T-mobile HD7 with Windows 7 and most of your review I believe would pertain to my phone as well. But in a nutshell I’d say ignorance is bliss for me. I’ve never used an IPhone so don’t know what I’m missing and love my HD7 for the most part.
    I agree that the location finding ability is superb…mine came installed with a “maps” GPS navigation app. It takes dictation and as well with a recent update of the software verbally gives driving instructions like a normal GPS. Jsut being able to verablly dictate to it (“Bicycle shop”) and have it find the closest bike shops is awesome!
    As for notifications I just rely on the main screen with the small number/indicator on the given icon showing of new items to look at, as well as the top line and the lock screen both have some tiny indicators. I’m sure if I saw how you use your IPhone I’d be like “DOH! Never thought if that…wish I could do that!”.
    The two things I’ll agree with unequivocally is the button placement, and the typing autocorrection. Good grief man! I can’t hardly touch my phone ANYWHERE without accidentally either hitting the back button or the search button (third button (magnifying glass)), the camera button, the off button at the top, or the screen. My god am I suppose to levitate the stupid thing while I use it?
    And secondly the autocorrection/suggestion capability is not good as you noted. I MUCH prefered my HD2 which has SWIPE….still not sure why they did not provide SWIPE for the HD7. I LOVED SWIPE.

    Thanks again Brent!

    Russel – PS: Miss working with you at Quest, if only remotely! Hopefully see you again some day.

    • Brent

      Russel – thanks! That’s been the experience with most of my WP7-using friends – they think WP7 is fine, and then they see what iOS and its apps can do, and it’s an eye-opening experience. WP7 by itself is quite good, and if it was the only platform out there, it’d be the winner. Of course, it’s not in isolation, and that’s where the problem comes in. It’s strong, but it’s still not #1 in terms of basic functionality.

  2. Jeff

    Excellent review and perhaps the definitive one that all switchers should reading before committing to WP7. I have been playing around with a number of the newer handsets running this OS and have been impressed at its uniqueness and “fresh” approach. Like you, I’m a long-time iOS user and as much as I enjoy new stuff, your review certainly has given me pause and squelched my “gotta have it” enthusiasm. I’ll probably pick up a used Focus on eBay just so I can play with it, however, it sounds like I won’t be using it as my primary device.

  3. Brad Hedlund

    Hey Brent,
    I’m an iOS to WP7 convert too, going on a year now. I also have the same Samsung Focus phone, and love it. If you’re app junkie, you’ll hate WP7, but I wasn’t. If you’re a productivity guy where your world revolves around MS Office Apps and MS Exchange, you’ll really appreciate WP7 and soon stop caring about all the bells and whistles you’re missing form iOS. Just takes a little time and getting used to.. :)

    Cheers,
    Brad

  4. Dave

    I agree with Brad. Since I and the majority of office workers use Outlook and other Office software, having a Windows phone really makes things easy. Its Outlook syncing speed is second to none and having Word, Excel, and Powerpoint as OEM programs is very convenient.
    Also, having the built-in ability to use my HD7 as a hot spot, free of charge, is a God-send.
    So yes, the iPhone can download lots of apps but quite frankly, I prefer having the critical ones built in.

    • Brent

      Dave – Thanks for the feedback. I’d like to hear more about what you do with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on your phone. Do you just read documents, or do you actually create new ones with complex formatting?

      My personal approach has been to only read documents on the phone (because viewers for all common documents are built into all phones these days, including Android and iOS). If I want to edit documents, that’s beyond any phone’s interface – WP7 included. I was not impressed with the editing capabilities in WP7.

      • Brad Hedlund

        Brent,
        For me, like you, it’s most reading and viewing documents. I can’t tell you how many timesI wanted to chuck my iPhone into the Chicago River after it mangled PPTX files I was asked to provide feedback on. The person had to wait until I got back to a PC, and by that time 10 other things have distracted me. Total loss of *productivity*.

        That, and every iOS user knows the challenges with MS Exchange calendaring and meeting requests/responses.

        • Brent

          Brad – hmm, I’ve never had that problem with mangled PPTX files. I may use simpler templates though.

          About the challenges with Exchange calendaring – that isn’t in my use cases either because I don’t use Exchange. I’ve used hosted Gmail ever since they offered it, and the iOS platform has always excelled at that.

          Thanks!

  5. dave

    This is a very positive review from an iDevice user. Windows Phone outright won one category and should have won a second except “there’s an app for that.” The evidence for the author not being a fanboy being that he doesn’t have an 4S after saying that he has had every other iPhone made is laughable. Adding the word yet to that statement would make more sense.

    Notifications…Depending on how you use your phone, the notification functionality could be better. However, a “geek” (I fit into that category too) wouldn’t have a problem configuring the privacy settings but what about your average user?

    Typing…in most cases I have found that if you keep banging on the keys wp7.5 will make it’s own best guess. I have never used an iPhone, but I do have a Kindle fire and I can tell you that the auto correction feature and the editing text in general is better on my Samsung Focus running WP7.5.

    Camera…I find the Focus camera button easier to use and more intuitive than the iPhone volume button trick. Apples to Apples…you shouldn’t need an app to prove your point. It’s not a very scientific approach. Again I’m not sure the average user makes that jump so quickly.

    Device choice…Comparing an iPhone 4 hardware to a Samsung Focus is like comparing a 3GS to a G1. Why couldn’t the author get a Focus S or a Titan?

    Certainly Windows Phone isn’t for everyone, but no phone is. However, I don’t feel that I am settling by choosing one over an iPhone or Droid device.

    • Brent

      Dave – you don’t have to call me the author. It’s just me. I’m right here. ;-) Most of your comments are very typical of what I heard from my friends who only used WP7 devices and had never picked up an iPhone. I encourage you to give it a shot – borrow a friend’s phone for a day and try it out. The device choice for this review wasn’t mine – if you read the post, you’ll notice that I got the device free from Klout. If someone else would like to send me a device with a phone & data plan and unlimited apps, I’d be glad to try that too.

      “However, I don’t feel that I am settling by choosing one over an iPhone or Droid device.” – It’s easy to have that feeling when you also say “I have never used an iPhone.”

  6. Peter

    Overall a reasonable review though I tend to agree that “there’s an app for that” does seem unfair. :)

    One thing to note is that starting an app from the launcher always restarts the app. Somewhere in MS coding specs for wp7. Using back or task switching will get you to the version you suspended if the app was recompiled with Mango tools.

    Every user us different though. I have an Android and a wp7 device and pretty much only use Android for work email. The Focus is my main device. (And if you want to complain about keyboards use the stock Android one.) I haven’t had the keyboard issues you mentioned but could be down to familiarity.

    Appreciate the look at the Focus from your point of view.

    • Brent

      Peter – wow, it seems really odd that hitting an app from the launcher would always restart it. We shouldn’t expect end users to know the difference between holding down the back button and hitting an app versus hitting it from the launcher. It’s not like the desktop where you can start multiple instances of an app – there’s just one instance. Innnnteresting.

      Is using an app unfair? Only if users aren’t allowed to use apps on their phones either. It’s just a fact of life that the iOS app store is freakin’ robust, and it really helps the platform.

      Thanks!

      • Peter

        Totally agree that the launcher restart doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that was in there from day one. I think it’s the idea that if (somehow) you really mess up the app you can get back to a fresh start that way instead of some indeterminate state along the way. (Never had that happen, but I get wanting to restart … sometimes.)

        As for the app, I just find it amusing that it was virtually a tie except for the app. Of course the apps are there to be used. I’ll agree that there are a ton of apps out there for iOS and some truly quality apps are missing for WP7. I kind of wish MS had capped their marketplace a bit more to avoid the ton of “this app is just slightly different from my last app” entries, but that seems to be a problem everywhere.

        Once again, I appreciate the honest review. It’s fair to say that every user is different and will want different things. I’m a content WP user and find that the platform works well for me. :-)

  7. Jason Rendel

    Nice review. I have a similar background, however I did go ahead and get the 4S. Having the 4S for a little over a week I want my Focus back.

    There are some features on WP7.5 that are just far superior to the iPhone. Local scout is one, but you didn’t touch on Zune integration. For about $11/month I get the best music management and discovery I have ever had. After years with iTunes Zune is spectacular.

    The social integration on Mango is also much better than the experience on iOS. The people tile that highlights your friends updates is a really nice way to see what’s going on with everyone else in my life.

    Thanks for posting!

    -Jason

    • Brent

      Jason – Funny you mention it – I didn’t touch on Zune because I use a Mac, and I’ve got a staggering music collection that I’ve bought and paid for over the years. I tried using the Mac tool to sync my music, and I couldn’t get it to work with the Focus at all. The iPhone would have won that comparison hands down. :-D

      • Neek

        Appreciate your views Brent, some strong and pertinent points there!

        I’ve not had a problem syncing music to my Omnia 7 using the Windows Phone Connector, though i haven’t tried the drag and drop features in the update. I have to say, I’m pretty impressed that the program works decently considering how long it took Microsoft to warm up Office for the Mac. The phone can even play music in the Apple format (AAC i believe).

        I think Jason’s point is on the Zune service as opposed to the software – it does offer some strong advantages over iTunes, mainly subscription and downloaded as opposed to purely downloading. Although I can’t get it here in Singapore :/

        I do agree with the notifications and app-launching/multi-tasking – the ability to jump from lock screen straight to said item is useful, and the multi-tasking is better implemented in terms of functionality in iOS (though not as prettily done as WP). Just to note, for WP, it seems push notifications (pop-ups across the top of the screen) allow you to access the item directly as long as developers enable it, like whatsapp. Perhaps a twitter app might offer you a workaround? (i don’t use twitter often so the in-built integration is enough for me). And in terms of launch times, it is really down to developer optimisation – whatsapp has come a long way.

        I hate the Now app too, but Samsung has added some functionality in that you can use it to display the weather on the live tile (which saved me from deleting it). For a news aggregator, try Weave.

        I am finding certain things that I really like about WP:

        1.) Pinning tiles – the ability to pin tiles is really a boon when you consider that developers can create a shortcut to nearly any screen in their apps – i can jump to creating a new note in Evernote with one tap; i open Facebook messages directly instead of the homepage first; with WP shortcuts i can jump straight to my WiFi settings. And i can jump to a specific location in my Busguide app directly.

        2.) Linked E-mail inboxes – i like how you can choose which inboxes are grouped; i have one for work, and the other for my other accounts

        3.) Other little thoughts. I like that you can press and hold on many options to bring up a second menu (you can actually delete emails that way too), and that Apps are automatically listed in alphabetical order on the second home screen without me having to shift them around. I also like how things are centered around contacts (though this could still use some work), which is how a phone should be, as opposed to apps.

        It will be a difficult choice for me when the Windows 8 tablets are out – I have a Macbook and an iPad, but having used a WP I’m really torn. Things will be interesting in the next few years!

        • Neek

          Ah yes, and I belong to the camp that likes their words displayed as they type instead of the OS removing that choice. Also – I like that selecting text requires just a single tap (although there doesn’t seem to be a select all like in iOS!)

  8. Airborne Geek

    You knew you would hear from me, at leat a little bit ;-)

    So, I think this was a pretty good review; anything that talks about actually using the device instead of just comparing feature lists & stuff is going to win.

    I agree with you somewhat on the keyboard thing. We’ve talked about the spacebar bit before, and I still notice that now more than ever. It just throws it all off. I disagree with not getting good results while just banging on it, though. I get soooo much better results just banging on my 7.5 keyboard than I do with my work phone’s iOS 4.xx KB. I feel like iOS is better at fixing misspellings, whereas the WP7 KB is better at fixing fat-finger syndrome. I’d really like to study this difference, both between devices and people, but I don’t really know how.

    The central notification thing in iOS5 is cool, but you had a GIANT list of stuff there. All of that had come in since you last used the phone? Really, either way, its usefullness is questionable to me, due to the quantity of stuff shown on yours. I’m sure you get a lot more notifications like that than I do, anyway, but I like the notifications on teh WP7 lock screen & the counts of messages/objects on the live tiles.

    I understand that you only used Twitter to demo the notification stuff. But, you compared a third-party app on the iPhone to the built-in stuff on WP7. Third-party WP7 Twitter apps do a lot better job at notifications than the built-in Live Twitter integration does. Hell, it doesn’t even check for those in real-time! I just feel that this particular comparison was a little stacked. I know the iPhone would still win that notification comparison (to each their own), but it could have been a little mor equally compared, IMVHO.

    Also on that note, I think WP7 was short-changed some on your setup of it (oh no, I’m delving into “you’re doing it wrong” :-( ). OK. I’m not going to say you’re doing it wrong. Because you weren’t, necessarily. Let me try this again, heh.

    One of the places where Live Tiles on WP7 shine is in their customizability. If you pin individual contacts to tiles, then you do get a lot more information about those people. Same goes for groups (obviously you can’t pin all of the individuals you care about). Such tiles also function as shortcuts to their contacts and all communications from them, regardless of the medium. Those last two things are killer features for me, even if I do only use them for one or two people.

    Same is true for some third-party apps. The Weather Channel app can have locations pinned, so they show you on the tile what the temp & condition is. It even flips to a little radar pic every few seconds. That was AWESOME at PASS.

    In general, though, I still think you did a pretty fair review. I wouldn’t have minded seeing talk about manging mail & actually doing that sort of work on it, but like you said, you talked about how /you/ use it, and maybe you don’t fiddle with mail much from the phone. NBD.

    Not that the outcome was any surprise, but I had been looking forward to reading this :-)

    • Brent

      Howdy sir! Actually, I *did* try numerous Twitter apps on WP7 as fellow tweeps suggested. I tried Mehdoh, Seesmic, and a couple others. None of them did real-time notifications as shown in the video.

      I did try Live Tiles, and I don’t show that in the video. I set up Live Tiles for both Jeremiah and Kendra, for example, plus Aaron Nelson. I was pretty disappointed at the functionality – it would only show the most recent tweet, and “most recent” was pretty far behind – often hours. That doesn’t really add functionality for me.

      Thanks!

      • Airborne Geek

        Interesting about the other Twitter clients–I thought that was what everyone loveda bout Mehdoh (the notifications). I haven’t played with it very much, as I don’t really like it as a Twitter app (haven’t found one I do, actually…that’s one thing I am a bit spoiled with the iPhone on), but I thought that was its main thing. Welp.

        I haven’t seen Live Tiles be that far behind on Tweets… Guessing that goes back to the lameness that is the Twitter-Live.com “integration.” I still like the “everything from the user” that clicking on the tile gives you, but that’s just my use case. This is why there are different phone OSes ;-)

      • Airborne Geek

        I actually checked Mehdoh last night, and sure enough, it won’t background check more often than 30 min (and you can’t even change it), which I think is the same time that Live checks. Useless. Who thought that was a good idea???

        • Peter S

          I’ve used MoTweets for a while (even back in the WM 6.x days) and it works pretty well for WP7. From what I remember, you can change the polling interval, but it doesn’t do toast notifications so that may be a deal breaker for some. It does have a live tile showing the number of mentions/replies, but no details. I haven’t tried leaving it running in the background so far, but I was always pretty adamant about closing apps most of the time and it’s a hard habit to break. :)

  9. Russel

    I use MoTweets as well, on my HD7 and it has auto refresh settings of 1 minute, 5,15,30, etc. I really like MoTweets’ quick location check, click a tweet, the globe and in 5 seconds or so the map on the planet pin points that person (if GPS enabled of course). Then another feature to see whose tweeting around them.

    • Brent

      Russel & Peter – MoTweets sounds good – now if only it had notifications (including the lock screen) it’d be able to tie back up with iOS. Thanks!

      • Peter S

        Re-reading through some of the article – you’re not alone in wanting better notifications. I’m okay with the basic notifications and like the next meeting reminder, but can see the case for the notifications.

        From what I can tell, MoTweets just hasn’t decided to implement Toast. I’m assuming that would just be for mentions or dms. I can’t imagine getting a notification for every new tweet in a stream by default. Ouch. With Twitter getting a bit more aggressive with 3rd party clients, I imagine that a lot of those vendors have been scaling back a little bit lately, trying to find the next thing they can do.

        • Russel

          I contacted the makers of MoTweets and they added notifications including to the lock screen to their future feature list:
          “Hello Russel,
          Thank you for your interest in Panoramic moTweets. I’ve added this to our Feature Request list so hopefully for the next version it will be added.
          Best Regards,
          Panoramic Support”

          • Peter S

            Good to know. It’s not a high priority on my list, but I’m sure I’ll end up using it. As much as I see the usefulness of Twitter, I rarely find the time to spend looking through the relevant tweets and take part in the conversations. I’m just not using it as much as Brent (nor a lot of other prolific SQL Tweeps). Gotta take a look at their site and see if I can see any of these Feature Requests. :)

  10. stzeer6

    The first video is a pretty awful comparison. You didn’t get any notifications because you didn’t install a twitter app. I don’t know if they were available when you did this review but there are twitter apps that would have both sent you a toast and displayed the info on a tile. But even if there weren’t that would be more a reflection on the quality of the app store than the notification system. Tiles and toasts are how notifications are handled not “notifications” in the me tile that’s just an alternate way to view/organize your social data while in the me app. The majority of third party notification data on any platform requires installing an app.

    Giving the option to have missed toasts displayed on the home screen is a valid suggestion. I appreciate the interface’s attempt to get out of my way and not having an overly busy lock screen but many will find this annoying or confusing. But apart from that I think the real issue most people have with metro is that they’re taking a new and innovative interface and complaining that it doesn’t conform to the older paradigm that they’re use to. The point of Metro is to unify task launching/switching, notifications, & widget-type information-at-a-glance. Striping out this functionality into additional interface elements is a step backwards. Smaller tiles may not get quite the same amount of data as a notification center but you do have toasts and you do not have to manage or open an entirely separate interface and from that interface decide whether or not to open an app. Information that deserves your attention should be on the tile and if it’s not it’s a developer issue of not introducing parity between their tile and notification data. This is the screen you access the most and it’s ordered according to importance to you so glancing it for me is a non-issue and a lot more fun than a list(like when the messaging icon frowns if there’s an issue).

    It’s been awhile since I used an iOS device, but one of the things I hate the most about Android is how notifications are handled. I get spammed with more useless notifications than useful ones. I’m a little compulsive about dismissing them whenever they appear, which gets tedious. Also going hunting through the settings for each app to look for the option to deactivate notifications, if it exists, isn’t a good experience. As you mentioned the iPhone is much better with this, but in WP7 the management micro or macro is simplified to a point of beauty.

    I apologize if I’ve came off as a little hostile as no offense was intended.

    • stzeer6

      sorry I meant “Giving the option to have missed toasts displayed on the lock screen(not home screen) is a valid suggestion.”

    • Brent

      Stzeer – unfortunately, I *did* have Twitter apps installed, but they don’t pop toasts anywhere near as fast as iPhone apps.

      If you feel that notifications are spamming you, you can disable the notifications in a central control panel in iOS, not by “hunting through the settings for each app.”

      I can’t stop giggling when you say, “in WP7 the management micro or macro is simplified to a point of beauty.” Having no options or features isn’t the same as simplification, but to each his own. Enjoy!

  11. Chefgon

    I’m an Android guy myself, but I have a little iOS experience, and I recently switched to a Lumia 800 Windows Phone. It isn’t without its quirks, but I think it’s really fun to use and I’ve been satisfied with it so far. The keyboard has been fantastic for me, several orders of magnitude better than the various Android keyboards I tried over the years, but I haven’t done any heavy typing on iPhone so my lack of familiarity makes the occasional typing on iOS a frustrating experience.

    Notifications on Windows Phone are.. incomplete. I’d be satisfied if any app could put an icon on the lock screen, but that’s reserved for built-in apps and eventually forced me to give up Kik Messenger in favor of traditional SMS because I wasn’t noticing my messages. For non-critical notifications I think the live tiles work pretty well, but there needs to be something extra in place for IM. I also REALLY miss the notification light from my Nexus One. I honestly never got too involved in iOS’s notification center, but my first impression was that it was a poorly implemented copy of Android’s that was missing some of the key features that made me love Android’s notification system so much.

    I really like the home and back buttons on the Lumia. They’re easy to reach and logically placed, and they’re backlit at all times when the screen is on. I really never liked the back button in iOS because I tend to hold my phone so the bottom of the screen is easier to reach than the top (and with my right hand so the top left corner is the hardest place on the whole phone to reach), and for some reason I always want to use the back button to exit an app, but iPhone hides the button on the app’s first screen. Pressing home just feels like you’re abandoning it in the background when I really want to close it because I’m done. I know it makes no functional difference, but the design clashes with the way my brain works. I also never figured out how to navigate back into an app when it loads up a website or something.

    I do completely agree that the Bing button is a total waste. I wish I could disable it because the only thing it’s ever done for me is accidentally quit the app I was using. I never liked the hardware search button on Android and this one is just way worse.

    Overall, what really has me sold on Windows Phone is the minimalist, futuristic UI style. It just looks very star trek and it makes everything really fun to use. I know that’s not really a “feature” but it makes for a great experience that’s worth more to me than an Instagram app. The UI on Android is all over the place and more often than not feels very amateurish, and the UI style on iPhone always struck me as overcrowded. There’s just too much stuff crammed onto a tiny screen and using it makes me feel just a little bit claustrophobic. I’m sure I’d get used to it after a while, but I much prefer the sweeping openness of Windows Phone’s UI, where everything is intentionally big and the content on each screen stretched across several screens worth of real estate. It feels like you’re using a much larger screen than you really are and just flowing from one section of it to another when you swipe. It’s very cool.

    I also really like the App Bar that has common actions in circles and a pull-up menu with more stuff when necessary. It makes for a very consistent place to find the actions on each screen. The music playback controls that pop up when you change the volume are a nice touch, too. There just seem to be a lot of little touches in the UI that are well thought out even if they don’t directly influence your ability to get work done, and they all add up to an experience I really enjoy.

  12. rbg

    i am using window phone 7.5, on I am having proble to delete “ME” nottifaction messages. somebody typed and posted vulger messages i m afraid if it remains in the notifaction it will be appeared to my otcontacts. please help me how to delete. Thanks.
    RBG

    • Brent

      RBG – I no longer have a Windows Phone so I can’t say.

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