Should you get a Windows Phone 7 device?

Darren Humphries
Columnist from  Oshawa, ON Canada
| Published: November 25, 2010

By now you probably all know about Microsoft’s reboot into the mobile market with Windows Phone 7, officially available since the beginning of the month.  What you may not know is if it’s the phone for you.

I’ve been lucky enough to have some hands-on time with Windows Phone 7.  For the last couple weeks I have been using the LG Optimus 7 from TELUS (a Canadian carrier) and before that had some time with a developer unit.  While the Optimus has to go back in the next couple days at least I can hang on to the cherished memories of the time we...ahhh, never mind.

Let me just say this about Windows Phone 7; it isn't for everyone.  Now, why in the world would a Microsoft MVP say that?  Because it’s true, at least for now.

Windows Phone 7 is a fantastic and very fresh restart for Microsoft.  It’s a real testament to Microsoft to see so many positive reviews of Windows Phone 7 by press that had been convinced Microsoft’s time in mobile had passed.  The beauty of the platform is it’s slick Metro UI, borrowed from (or inspired by?) the Zune HD.

Using one of these phones is wonderful.  Windows Phone 7 is so fluid and fast that you very quickly feel like other smartphones will have to play catch up.  But this wonderful UI can be less than perfect for users that need more than the basics.

Basic user

How you plan to use the phone really will dictate whether you should get one.  If you plan on using the phone for it’s core functions such as contacts, calendar, web browsing, email, etc. a Windows Phone 7 device will be perfectly fine.  In fact, it is a complete pleasure to use with built-in functionality, especially for email.  It is extremely fast with a lot of hidden power.  For instance; you can load up a LOT of email accounts on the phone with no problem, including multiple exchange accounts.  I have heard some users having 12 email account all working perfectly.

As well, the Office hub works very well with the included Word, Excel and Powerpoint support.  The Live Tiles on the start page are great for customizing your experience and will continue to get better with time and use.

If you plan on mostly using the built-in capabilities with only occasional forays into third-party apps you should certainly consider a Windows Phone.

Power user

If you want to do a lot of everything with your phone perhaps Windows Phone 7 is not for you; at least not at this point.  While there are already a lot of apps available there is still a long way to go both with breadth and depth.

The biggest challenge for power users will be the lack of multitasking.  This already feels like an old argument, and it really is.  Users of the iPhone complained about it so much that Apple caved and added it...sort of.  Windows Phone will not have multitasking other than for some native apps and it’s already becoming a problem.  As an example; if you want to post on twitter you will have to start the app, wait for it to load, then update the threads after which you will finally be able to post your tweet.  While the wait is technically only a few seconds it is painful if you go in and out of the app all day.

Microsoft created a way to ‘kinda-sorta’ simulate multitasking by saving the state of an app so that if you jump back into it you are right where you left off.  Sounds like a good idea but it seems that developers may not have understood how exactly to implement this.  No doubt, this will change as developers update their apps but right now it can be frustrating.

Microsoft is aware of this and has said it’s one of the key things they are looking at.  We already know that Microsoft is going to be updating the OS far more often than they had been with Windows Mobile, so there is certainly hope.

Bottom line; Windows Phone is a fun and fresh experience.  The user experience with built-in apps is excellent and should be perfectly fine for those that don’t want to conquer the world from their phone.  If you are a power user you can either take a chance and put up with some limitations or wait it out just a bit longer.

Have questions about Windows Phone 7?  Be sure to post in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.