On any given day, I’m juggling schedules and multi-tasking…trying to stay organized so that I don’t miss a school activity, a doctor appointment or a conference call. Technology is such that I can take a picture of my son, capture my daughter on video, record an interview, coordinate schedules with my husband, check my email, receive turn-by-turn navigational directions, and find the nearest Starbucks, all from my smart phone. As is the case with all technology, smart phones are getting smarter. I think back just a year or two ago and how much more I can do with my latest smart phone.
Right before BlogHer, I received the new Windows Phone 7 to review while at the conference. With just a one hour orientation, I was set-up and equipped to stay organized and connected. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about learning a new phone right before the conference, but it’s so intuitive that it didn’t take long to get accustomed to tweeting, updating Facebook, snapping photos, and syncing my Google calendar.
First Impressions: Gone are the days of bulky, weighty smart phones with slide-out QWERTY keyboards. The Samsung Focus is sleek, compact, and lightweight. The display screen is vibrant, colorful, and unlike any I’ve seen.
Ease of use: As I mentioned above, the phone is relatively intuitive and didn’t take long to figure out. I did get stumped with regards to uploading photos to social networking sites and syncing multiple Google calendars (see below), but had I not received an orientation, I don’t believe it would have taken me long to figure out the basic features of the phone.
Unique Features: Perhaps the two most unique features of the phone are the Windows Phone People Hub (for effortless Facebook integration) and Live Tiles which allow you to display the information you need immediately on the start screen. Once you’ve set up and synced the phone with your Facebook account, People Hub makes it easy to check in on your friends’ status updates (and even comment on them without ever logging in to Facebook), call/text, and access other relevant information.
Want to quickly look up your schedule for the day? Or catch someone on Facebook? When you customize the start screen, you’ll have everything you need to get through your day at a glance. Here are the Live Tiles which are currently being displayed on my start screen: 3 email accounts, People Hub, Messaging, Internet Explorer, Twitter, Calendar, Pictures, Music + Videos, Marketplace (to obtain apps), AccuWeather.com, Facebook, Where, Foursquare, Yelp, and Apict. The start screen will automatically update with pending messages, appointments, news, weather, emails, and friend’s statuses.
The Apps: One of the most sought-out features of a smart phone are the apps and heavily weigh into the decision making process. I am honestly still exploring the Marketplace Hub, but my very first thought was that Windows makes it very easy to find what you’re looking for. The apps are sorted by category (i.e. photo, health + fitness, travel + navigation etc.) and again sorted even further by top apps, new apps, free apps, and categories to make searching user-friendly. I have to admit that I’m all about the free apps so it’s nice to see them listed according to category. Because I like to chronicle moments via photos, I was particularly interested in their selection of photo apps. While I am disappointed that picplz and Instagram are not available, Apict is the photo app I’ve been using the most which enables you to create Instant Camera photos with a vintage look. You can crop, rotate, and tag your photos but you’ll need to download the full version ($0.99) if you want to save it, share on Facebook or other social networking sites.
Speaking of the camera, this phone has a dedicated camera button located on the right side to help you capture those important moments. Even if your phone is locked you can still snap photos…because we all know that those memorable moments don’t last long. I absolutely love the Pictures Hub on the phone because this is where you’ll find all of your photos and those your friends have posted on Facebook or Windows Live. Again, since this is a “hub,” you can send them to friends/family or post them to Facebook all from one place.
Windows has a list of top free apps you may be interested in checking out. Additionally, I like Gas Buddy to help you find the lowest gas prices in your area and Calorie Counter to help keep track of the foods you eat (and their calories), the amount of exercise you engage in, and your weight.
Getting Around: I use my smart phone for 3 main purposes: to stay connected, to stay organized, and to get around. A long time ago, I had live traffic on my phone and I depended on it, particularly because I’m often traveling back and forth to LA. Sadly, the cost is astronomical so now I depend on my aging GPS…until now! The new Windows Phone 7 comes with Bing built in so that you can find restaurants, theater times, weather, turn-by-turn directions, and more. This by far is my favorite feature of the phone and it’s easily accessible simply by pushing the search button on the phone.
Staying Organized: I am constantly juggling appointments, my son’s school activities, conference calls, my husband’s work schedule and so much more. Thus my calendar occupies a Live Tile on my start screen so I can easily glance at upcoming appointments. I like that both my husband and my schedules can be viewed and are color coded to differentiate the two. I haven’t tried this function out yet, but I find it very handy that if I’m running late, the phone will send a pre-written “I’m running late” email.
What I’d Like to See Improved: Coming from a person who is very attached to her smart phone, I find the new Windows Phone 7 to be easy to use and incredibly useful for staying connected and organized. With that being said, I would love to see the following updates/changes in the next version.
1. Twitter Integration (it’s in the works!): Apparently, Windows is listening and will include both a Twitter and LinkedIn integration in the next update. I’m hoping that this will be incorporated throughout the phone including the photo apps. And while Google + is just taking off, perhaps they’ll include an integration in the future.
2. Google Calendar Options: My husband and I rely heavily on our Google Calendar to ensure we’re on the same page with regards to work schedules, travel schedules, school schedules, and the like. At present, there is no option to view more than one Google Calendar and I would love to see this updated in the next version.
3. Apps: This probably isn’t solely a Windows Phone 7 issue, but on the whole, I feel like apps are developed with iPhone and Android platforms in mind. There are just 30,000 apps for Windows Phones compared to Apple’s 500,000 (which include iPhone, iPod, and iPad).
4. Multitasking: At present, Windows Phone 7 offers very limited multitasking and only when using Internet Explorer (you can have multiple windows open at once). If I’m on Twitter and I want to check my email, Twitter will close and I’ll have to re-open it. This happened to me a lot when I was first learning the phone and it got a little frustrating because I’d have to start over.
Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that there will be several updates (coded Mango) to their Windows Phone 7 coming this fall. I highly recommend reading this article from The Huffington Post for a detailed look at the changes on the way.
For more information about Windows Phone 7, visit their website.
No compensation was received for this post. I received a Windows Phone 7 which helped facilitate this review.