With the first device launches around the corner, we thought we would give a review of the UI using the device we have. This is the same device but running the final RTM build. Microsoft also recently unlocked some features that were previously unavailable to those with devices such as:
And a few others. So lets get this review started!
The Home Screen
When you boot up the phone (Takes about 20 seconds, will vary) you are greeted with the home screen with all of its tiles. The tiles give you some important information that will let you know whats going on. For example, unread emails will appear next to the tiles , missed calls in the call box, and new messages in the message box. These tiles can also be updated from other applications, which can be used for a news app that has a tile for instance.
On the home screen, you have two options: open an app via the tile, or click the arrow/swipe to go to the app list. On the second page you can find a list of all your apps and links to open them. The tiles are also linked to the application it represents, so by tapping a tile will open the desired app. A long press on the app in the list will bring up a little menu and will give you the option to “Pin to start”.
It is very minimalistic like the rest of the UI but is able to represent an array of data in an organized and simple matter. The whole system can be skinned using a feature in settings that allows you to accent the whole UI, we chose Lime and White colors.
The App and Zune Marketplace
Microsoft and their consumers share a similar feeling when it comes to this platform, apps. Many of us have been wondering whether this platform will attract developers. When we got our device with the latest build, the market was disabled, days later we checked again and sure enough the market was live. We could browse and download apps and music.
We were surprised at how teeming of life the market was even before launch, it featured many apps such as:
The market was pretty full of apps and we were excited about this as it means developers are pushing content and the devices aren’t even released yet, by launch day there should be many more apps available for download.
If the app market keeps it up, then this platform will attract more consumers and more potential users down the road. The market is pretty nice to browse and the UI for it is a pleasurable experience being able to swipe through different screens. One issue we had is with the title of apps when you view them. If the title is too long such as “Star Wars: Battle For Hoth” Then is doesn’t fit on screen and you cant see the whole name of the app. We hope this is somehow fixed maybe using a scrolling title because it becomes an issue when trying to read the name.
Overall, we like the market and it has a lot going for it, as long as they can keep the apps coming in at a steady pace then there should be no reason why users wouldn’t want to switch or upgrade (although having a hackable device would be a plus).
Office, Search, Maps, Dialer, Calendar and Lockscreen
In this section, we wrap up some of the main applications that are included in the stock build of Windows Phone 7. To start us off is the Office Suite.
The built in Office is a major upgrade from previous versions seen in Windows Mobile. The new Office features Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, and Sharepoint which is a big plus for business users. The suite is very nice to use and it makes it simple to edit and save attachments received in emails. We tried editing some documents and found it very intuitive to do. This is a definite plus for us and we think everyday users will find it very useful.
With the Sharepoint and OneNote additions, corporate users will be grateful for these features and will be able to easily connect these to their corporate network to sync notes and other content. One of our favorite features of OneNote is that you can now add voice recordings to your text based notes. So, when going back to look over a note, you can play the recording made previously.
When Microsoft initially showed off Windows Phone 7, we saw them showcase the search features of the platform. Microsoft has integrated features comparable to that of Android and Google’s search engine functionality. We took the voice search for a spin and we found it pretty accurate but still had some off words here and there, which is understandable as it is not perfect on all other platforms yet (although, Android is pretty spot on). The results are displayed neatly and offer you a page for “nearby” results, which is very useful and organized if you are looking for a Business or Restaurant for instance. The search being location aware is a nice addition and wraps up the whole search experience quite nicely.
We also like the little boxes that change daily with the background that show little bits of information about the picture or the topic displayed in the picture.
Those who have used Bing™ maps in the past are going to like the new maps application built into the OS. It can find your location using GPS or using your network or WiFi connection. The pinch to zoom is very responsive and results that are displayed are linked to Bing™ Search. Using the maps, you can find nearby points of interest and even get directions to a location using your current coordinates. There is also a “Locate Me” button, we found it to be pretty accurate only using the WiFi connection. These features are comparable to those in the Google’s’ “Maps” and “Navigation” apps baked into the Android OS. They behave similarly and are both pretty equal in terms of performance, results, and accuracy.
The Dialer application is very minimalistic and nice to use. It was responsive to dial and place a call. When you enter the dialing app you see recent placed calls along with three buttons at the bottom which act as the buttons for Voice mail, Dial pad, and your Contacts. The contacts app leads to the “Peoples” application, which is nicely integrated into your social networks such as Facebook and Windows Live.
Using the calendar to place an appointment and address recipients who will be in attendance of the meeting couldn’t be easier using the built in app. This app showcases the live tile functionality on the home screen, which updates and displays upcoming events that are scheduled soon. The calendar is clean and easy to use, which is a big plus as some 3rd party calendar apps on other devices can be bulky and complex.
The Lockscreen on the device is quite minimal and bare compared to other devices.It features the date, time, and notifications such as new emails/messages/missed calls. on the top is the bar which displays network connectivity, WiFi, time, and other statuses. The Lockscreen is customizable with any picture of your choice. to unlock the device you swipe the screen up and it displays the home screen.
Lastly, the email application. For the safety of our source and the writer of this review we will not be displaying a real email account but an empty one just to show the interface. The email application, after extensive writing, has a very functional UI and is a great experience. We found it better and more elegant to use than Android or Blackberry systems. Synchronization of multiple accounts is simple and emails downloaded fast. Attachments downloaded quickly from emails and the application specific to the attached file opens equally as fast as it takes to download the attachment itself. Sending and receiving was very easy to do and makes handling a mass amount of unread mail quite simple. The email application is ready for use with Exchange, IMAP4, POP3, Gmail, Windows Live, and Yahoo! Mail Services.
We are very excited to see what you, the developers and users, will do with this platform as it has a bunch of features. Many of the UI elements we experienced are very simple and comprised of a text based layout with minimal graphics. This is okay in some senses but coming from Android we found it very plain and not very exciting. Everyone has an opinion and we are simply supplying our view of this platform. We are sure that when this finally launches for everyone we will see this platform turn more graphically based.
Overall, we like this OS and hope to see it take off better than any other Mobile OS Microsoft has put out. It seems like a viable contender with other platforms such as the Blackberry and Palm OS’s. We hope you are just as excited as we are.
-XDA News Team_________