Is Windows Phone 7 actually more efficient?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: November 3, 2010

The latest word from Microsoft about their latest endeavor in the mobile realm is that the Window Phone 7 platform is more efficient than its competition. They didn't stop there, but went on to add that it take 20% less steps to complete simple tasks. I've had a little hands-on time with WP7 (I'm going to stress little), and it was very fluid and user friendly. The problem with Microsoft's statements is that I'm not 100% sure they're factoring in all aspects of other mobile platforms.

One key component that was pointed out by Microsoft was the dedicated search key. Tied to the search key is Bing search with voice-search capabilities. There is nothing new here. Android was the first to really adopt the search key and build upon it. There were other devices  with search keys before, like Windows Mobile devices, but there was nothing truly intuitive about their implementation. Windows Phone 7's use is not really any different from any other. Look at the iPhone. While it doesn't have a dedicated search key, when you unlock the device, simply swipe your fiinger from left to right. Presto! You have a dedicated, universal search page. Just start typing on BlackBerry 6 or webOS and you have universal search. Having to press a key to get to the search is no more efficient or effective as simply typing or swiping your finger.

The tile layout of WP7 is a pretty fresh look. It isn't my favorite, but I understand where Microsoft is coming from with it. Their aim was to offer realtime updates on the main page, keeping the user from fumbling around through seemingly endless application lists. They spoke as if this was a large differentiator in the game, but this is nothing new either. It's just gone about in a different way. Android has live updating widgets that support anything from weather and calendars to even Twitter feeds on your homescreen. Even old BlackBerry themes (Today style themes) offered similar functionality, though not as intuitive.You could view your upcoming calendar entries, missed calls, subject lines of recent messages, and if you had an icon layout as opposed to Today, some weather applications actually display their information as the icon (same concept).

The most important thing I'd like to point out is how smartphone power users, after having a device for three or four months are blazing fast on their device, despite how many steps it takes to get to where they're going. For instance, If I want to launch an application on my BlackBerry that isn't listed on one of homescreens, I can just type two or three letters and find it just as fast. With WP7, I'm going to have to fumble through some tiles before I can find what I'm looking for. The difference in time it would take to complete the same task on each device is minute. 20% sounds like a huge number when it's thrown around with no visual evidence. If you spent an equal amount of time with two different mobile platforms getting used to them and familiarizing yourself with each, I guarantee that after a certain amount of time, you would be able to complete the same amount of "work" in the same amount of time from each device, regardless of the platform. The point is, when you have the device in-hand and are "working" or playing with it, the "efficiency" Microsoft is boasting will make little to no difference to any of us.