Archive for November 2010
Today I came across a review of Windows Phone from Christer Holloman (Twitter) of Sky. It was very complimentary, as many Windows Phone reivews have tended to be, and it contained the following rather outlandish statement:
Windows Phones 7 will pass iPhone’s global user base within the first 24 months
I don’t mean to be rude Mr Holloman but what on earth are you smoking? I mean, Windows Phone is good and all (and you know I think so) but I shall go go on record here and now and say that on 8th November 2012 (two years to the day after the release) there will absolutely not be more people in the world using Windows Phones than there are iPhones.
Truth be told I don’t how this stat could even be measured (its not the same as total sales – although that’s a pretty good barometer) but still, it will be interesting to return to this statement in two years time and see how right Mr Holloman was. I have put a reminder in my calendar to do just that and if I’m wrong I’ll be happy to own up to it so, check back here in a couple of years time.
Mr Holloman’s review is available at http://blogs.news.sky.com/techtalk/Post:68e285e1-320a-46f7-8b22-cdb7f75e9d1d and I have copied the text of it below in case Sky does something strange with its URLs in the next couple of years.
Mobile phones excite me about once every five years. Most recently it was a few years ago when the first generation iPhone was introduced but now it has happened again with the introduction of Windows Phone 7 on the new Samsung Omnia 7.
The first mobile phone I ever laid my eyes on was an Ericson Hotline the size of a small briefcase. I was a teenager and it belonged to my best friend’s hotshot dad, I thought it was beyond cool. A few years later I had the same reaction when I saw a mobile with a color screen, and again a few years on after the first glance of the iPhone.
Apple clearly has a track record of changing consumer technology paradigms but iPhones haven’t fundamentally changed much the last four years (I have had all versions of them) which is why there is no surprise Android is already outselling iPhone in North American 4 to 1 and Microsoft have spent the last 2 years developing something more innovative.
Forget everything you might have heard or experienced when it comes to Windows Mobile platforms, Windows Phone 7 is the new kid on the block.
Just when you didn’t think smart phones could get any smarter or mobile phone interfaces any more beautiful in comes Microsoft.
The first thing that strikes you is an ultra clear screen and an interface that is incredibly good looking and a definite game changer in the world of mobile UX. Rather then static icon overload that you get on most smart phones today Microsoft is using dynamic panes.
Depending on what kind of app the pane is for it will display relevant information from the app so that you are always kept up to date with the latest at a glance without having to open and load.
A great example is the Train Travel app from Avanade. Enter your favorite route and the pane will display the nearest next departures without having to open it, great when you’re dashing off to the station in a hurry. Click here for more information.
Talking about developers, the platform is also great for them. It won’t require labor-intensive adaptations of applications to each handset as with Android, if an app work on one brand of 7 phones, it will work on all. Add to that a consumer target market larger the Apple’s and we will soon see this new app store flooded.
This fact in addition to Microsoft’s superior distribution channels by working with several leading mobile manufacturers I predict that Windows Phones 7 will pass iPhone’s global user base within the first 24 months.
It’s not just the interface that is more intuitive; with multiple phone manufactures simultaneously pushing each other to develop a superior phone, new hardware innovations also make 7 phones fundamentally better compared to anything you’ve seen so far.
Let me give you one example, on the Samsung Omnia you don’t have to turn on the phone, open the camera app, and then press a button to take a picture. You just press a button. Sounds obvious and easy when you hear it and do it – but Apple never thought of it.
Finally a smart smartphone.
- I wrote above about how I love being able to sync my OneNote notebooks from http://office.live.com to my phone but I can’t ignore that setting up syncing of a notebook up in the first place is a very difficult thing to do. I managed to get myself into such a pickle first time around that I believed my OneNote notebooks on the phone were in unrecoverable state (for more details go read my thread on WinPhoneJunkies) and had no option but to do a hard reset of the phone. As it transpired the proper remedial action was not quite so drastic but I wouldn’t have known that had it not been for Jon Noble’s blog post How to open your existing OneNote notebooks on Windows Phone 7 that explains the decidedly intricate process required to do this. This whole process is not in keeping with the positive first impressions that I spoke of earlier. and nowhere do Microsoft try and explain it to you
Other issues with OneNote:
- if you have any section groups in your Notebooks they and the sections/pages within them are completely ignored
- there is no search function which is a fundamental need in a note taking app.
All of these OneNote foibles are indicative of the “unfinished” nature that is prevalent throughout the phone.
- The Music and Video hub is indeed a delightful experience as I emphasized earlier but still its missing things and, quite frankly, some of the foibles I find downright bizarre. For example, I can shuffle all of the songs on the phone but I can’t shuffle a playlist. Huh? That seems like a glaring omission to me and is one that I miss a great deal because in general I make great use of my playlists but listening to them in the same order each time is not really what they were designed for. (UPDATE: Thanks to Chris in the comments who pointed out that you can shuffle a playlist although given the obscurity of it I don’t feel bad for not finding it. Read Chris’s comment here.)
I had already purchased a Zunepass (to enable streaming of music) prior to purchasing the phone but streaming wasn’t immediately available when I first took delivery of the phone and plugged in my Windows Live ID. I can happily report that it is working now but I have no idea what caused it to be “triggered” and I don’t understand why streaming wasn’t working from the get-go.Speaking of streaming – here’s another issue. One would assume (I did anyway) that having opted to stream (say) an album that the whole album would be getting downloaded as the first track was being played. Not so, it only downloads a track when it reaches it in the playlist and hence we get a 10-20 second pause in-between each song – not an ideal way to listen to music I’m sure you’ll agree!SmartDJ. Where is SmartDJ? Its a great feature in both Zune on Windows and on Zune devices but its not here on the phone – a glaring omission.Zune Social. Again, where is it? It simply aint here! One of the reasons I got on board with Zune a long time ago is because I liked the notion of building social into it so I find it strange that they haven’t built it into the phone.Again, the word that springs to mind when using the Music and Video hub is “unfinished” and to be honest that is a common theme across the phone.
- The Home screen is in keeping with the pleasing aesthetic of the phone but, as Charles Arthur was quick to point out in his Guardian article Windows Phone 7 review: you sure Microsoft wrote this software?, quickly becomes unwieldy as you add more and more apps to it. Granted it is possible to launch an app using your voice but in my limited testing thus far it doesn’t easily my recognise my gruff northern England twang. Admirable though the home screen is Microsoft need to fix this.
- Copy and paste. Ah, copy and paste. its well known that this feature is currently missing from the phone and some observers have commented that you don’t really miss it. They’re wrong – copy and paste is a fundamental need on a smartphone and I find it bizarre that Microsoft thought they could leave this out in version one. The expected update in early 2011 that is going to bring copy and paste can’t come soon enough.
- I spoke about the Calendar being beautiful, and it is, but its sadly lacking in functionality. I am subscribed to many many calendars at http://calendar.live.com but only one of them, the primary one, shows up on the phone.
My biggest complaint is reserved for apps written by Microsoft or, more accurately, the lack of them. I have just searched in the Windows Phone marketplace for apps created by Microsoft and have found ten (they are YouTube, Facebook, Unite, Last.FM, Level, Weather, Translator, Unit Converter, Shopping List). I think that’s a pathetically paltry number for a company that sells software by the bucketload and whose target market for these phones should be the existing customers that already know and trust them.If Microsoft truly are serious about this phone then their product teams should be churning out apps for this thing by the boatload; where’s my mobile MSN viewer (the MSN Celebrity app doesn’t interest me), my Remote Desktop client, my mobile SQL Server admin tool, my Microsoft Dynamics client, my Live Meeting client, my Windows Live Writer Mobile program (yes, I believe there is a need for such a thing), my Microsoft Connect client, my OData viewer, my Codeplex client and (most of all) my Windows Azure admin client? These apps and many many more are conspicuous by their absence and it highlights the inherent problem Microsoft have in effectively being many many different companies under a single brand. Somebody should be banging down the doors of product teams throughout the company and getting them to build apps for this thing but clearly that is not happening.
- When typing a URL into the address bar in Internet Explorer there’s no “/” on the facing keyboard. What the….? [OK, its there if I long-hold on the period but still – you’d think this would be front and centre when typing a URL]
- After installing an app from the marketplace you have to come out of the marketplace to actually launch it. Why can’t I simply launch it from the marketplace when it tells me that its finished installing it?
- Maps app doesn’t work in landscape
- Searching in marketplace will return playlists that people have shared on Zune Social. All I can do though is view the playlist or play individual songs from it via my Zunepass, I can’t play/download the whole playlist.
- I can upload photos from my phone to SkyDrive or choose to have them sync up there automatically. Strangely these two functions put the photos in two completely different places; one sends them to https://photos.live.com/browse.aspx/.MobilePhotos and the other sends them to https://photos.live.com/browse.aspx/.WMPhotos. WHY????
- When I logged onto the Music marketplace recently the main promoted release was Cheryl Cole’s recent single release. Anyone that knows me tell you that Cheryl Cole isn’t exactly my cup of tea and Zune knows this too given I share all my music plays with them so why are they trying to flog me Cheryl Cole trash? Surely they should try and sell me something they have an inkling I might like!
- Long-holding the period on the keyboard will present a submenu of different punctuation marks that I can add to wherever I’m typing. This submenu includes a dash, an exclamation mark, a colon and a question mark but unbelievably no apostrophe. It seems like a small thing but I’m left incredulous at this omission.
- I can pin a person to the home screen which is kinda cute n’all but its not what I want; I want to pin a person’s phone number up there. That would be useful.
- In my use of apps so far I haven’t found the Live Tiles on the home screen to be particularly, well, live. A very small percentage of all the apps I have installed so far actually make use of Live Tiles which is disappointing given that Microsoft’s whole sell about the phone is “glance-and-go”.
- I find the functionality of the Bing search app to be distinctly underwhelming. One of the features I like about the main Bing site is Instant Answers but they don’t turn up on the phone unfortunately.
- I have lots of content on the phone (email, text messages, OneNote notebooks, Excel spreadsheets, Word docs) but the phone doesn’t allow me to search through all of that content. It needs a universal search function.
- The Marketplace Search is annoying because it presents all content types in a single list. I don’t understand why they don’t use the now-familiar pivot interface and produce a page for apps, albums, playlists etc… Presenting all of this stuff in a single list is not helpful.
User Voice (http://uservoice.com/) is a website that allows people to submit ideas for online products and services. Their tagline is:
Your customers have great ideas. Are you ready to listen?
Earlier today a fellow who goes by the name Nitro52 set up a site at User Voice dedicated to Windows Phone 7 and suggestions have been raining in throughout the day. If you have ideas for what you’d like to see in the future then head over there, submit your ideas, and getting voting on other peoples’.
I have submitted the following:
- New hub for “Location” data
- Filter marketplace search results
- Sync all Hotmail calendars
- Search OneNote notebooks
If those tickle your fancy, don’t be shy, get over there and vote for them!