Mobile OS grope – Windows Phone 7

For the next three posts, or whenever I get bored, I’m going to attempt to use my extremely limited knowledge of smartphones to explain the difference between iOS by Apple, Android by Google, and Windows Phone by Microsoft. I’ll undoubtedly miss details, get things wrong, contradict myself, make stuff up and hide dirty images in the text (tilt the screen waaaaaaay back), however I’m new to all this phone stuff and I needed a break from the politics so please, be gentle. If at times I sound like an ad, you’ve probably browsed onto another site. To save some time, try this one, it’s great for killing time. Anyway, here’s my warped interpretation of the differences between the three current players on the smartphone market. Maybe it’ll help you decide which one sounds right for you, but it’s unlikely.

DISCLAIMER : Yes, email, Facebook, googles, angry birdies etc. This is all standard on every platform now, simmer down. I’m trying to stick to the stuff that sets each playground apart.  

Much like the schoolyard, when choosing something to pick on it’s best to begin with the new guy. Windows mobile is currently on version 7.5 (aka Mango). If you’ve accidentally fallen out of a taxi and landed within ten miles of a phone shop in the last month or so, you’ll have seen lots and lots (and lots) of advertising for something called the Nokia Lumia. It is (apparently) “faster, funner, easier”. Than what, I hear you ask? Well, seeing as “lumia” is a spanish colloquialism for “whore”, it’s safe to say that the phone is probably faster, easier and funner than your mother. Is this the first WP7 phone? Hells to the no, however it is the first new one this side of the Atlantic in just under a year and if i’m being honest, it’s hotter than your mother too.. But I digress. This is all about the OS, right? Not the advertising, right? About the latest attempt by Microsoft to plant their dirty seed in the mobile market after repeated disasters, right? Right. So first, a teensy (i promise) bit of history.

Windows phones so far can basically be categorised into three phases

  • Everything before WP7 , which was a disastrous attempt to force a desktop OS onto mobile devices the size of your left leg
  • WP7.0 , which would have been lovely if the handsets weren’t so damned scarce
  • WP7.5 , which seems to be hot dirty sex
Seriously, it’s the most idiot-proof OS i’ve seen yet. As smartphones start to move from the 20-35 trendy category into the “even my granny wants to use Skype” category, ease of use has become the highest priority and – strangely for microsoft compared to, say, apple – they’ve nailed it. Everything is beautifully laid out on one scrolling page, with your favourite apps pinned to the front. Full list of apps is a tap away (although I must admit, i see that one big list getting extremely bloated if people download as much as MS would like). Stability, too, has improved greatly over 7.0. The lack of mobile hotspot is a bit of a killer, but for anyone that can hold their nose and use Bing instead of Google for ten minutes, there’s a deliciously gimmicky feature that scans text and translates it into a language of your choice. Does it work? How the fuck should I know, I can’t tell if the Arabic grammar is correct or not. That said it looks like it does and that’s good enough for me, as long as I don’t need to find directions in Riyadh any time soon.
Here’s something nifty, though – MS office. Excel, Word, Powerpoint. Right there on your phone. No, not half-a-loaf “read-only”. No, not a trial. Full-on editing and easy sharing of proper format MS documents. Once again, Seattle does the smart thing and aims squarely at the business user, and that alone gives them a slight head-start on…oh, wait, no, everyone else has a 3 year head start. Anyway, the office thing is handy and awesome and free with ALL WP7 devices. Now you can send a spreadsheet mathematically calculating the odds of Charlie Sheen overdosing this year from the comfort of your very own jacks. Life begins today, no? On to the scoring (that’s right, i’ve got a scoring system!)
RANGE – Second place. WP7.5 is currently only available on the Nokia 800. If you want to try out a WinMo phone that ISNT a Nokia, you’ve to go for the WP7handsets (one each from LG, HTC and Samsung). Y’see, like all things MS, the operating system takes up more space than all those old CDs you don’t listen to anymore and has higher requirements than a NASA application. High spec only, no little phones. Big displays. Big CPUs. Big memory. Big demands on designers. And what, dear readers, goes up when the specs go up? You guessed it…

PRICE – UH-OH! No, not really. If the current crop are lined up, you won’t pay more for a Windows phone than an iPhone. You will, however, pay more for most Windows phones than most android phones. You know those nifty little 100 euro or less jobs that do all the app things? Those aren’t going to be running Windows any time sooner than years from now, I reckon. That said, the Nokia is probably the best one out with Mango and usually the cheapest, so they land right in the middle here again.

WHY GO FOR IT – At the risk of sounding like an idiotl, it’s so preeeeeeeetty. GUI – Slick, stable, colourful while not at all cluttered. The office thing is sweet, the Nokia one is a pretty savage piece of kit, and apparently it does something cool with your Xbox achievements. Not only that, but Windows 8 for the pc and tablet (click here for the preview version, I swear to god, that’s really windows 8, click it and try it out. Free. Really) looks EXACTLY the same. This is a system that pretty much everyone is going to have to use anyway unless you plan on abandoning windows on your home computer It’s going to seem VERY familiar within a year, not that it’s difficult now.

WHY AVOID IT – One word – apps. Being the youngest of the mobile OSeses, it’s got a smaller range than the others. Much smaller. The iPhone’s app store crossed it’s 25 BILLIONTH download during the week. Android’s market has had 4.5 billion out the door. Marketplace has….eh, less. Not only this, but many of the more popular ones cost more too. Angry Birds, for example is 99c for iPhone, £0.00 for Android, and €2.99 for Windows. Three quid. Of course if it takes off there might be MORE apps, which of course will also mean cheaper apps. At least I would hope so, because they cost a bloody fortune right now.

NEXT – ANDROID

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Mobile OS grope – Windows Phone 7

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