Oddly enough, I'm enjoying Windows Phone this time around

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| April 11, 2012

Back in November of 2010, I had my very first taste of Windows Phone 7. The first device I tried was the HTC Surround. At least in terms of software, it was different and refreshing – raw. Its interface wasn't composed of a fixed grid of icons or cluttered with widgets of various sizes. It featured a similar but different, two-tile-wide grid interface that displays all sorts of various information on perfectly square, colored tiles. And, for better or worse, the interface comes with only four customization options: the ability to change the lock screen wallpaper, black or white background, primary accent color and tile order.

Windows Phone is a different beast entirely. Every inch of the interface follows the same design scheme, theme and pattern – a far cry from the likes of Android or iOS. It's smooth and very well-polished. Everything matches and performance is the great, across the board, irrespective of specs. Yet after several different devices, I could not come to a definitive conclusion on whether I loved or hated the platform, whether I wanted to adopt it full-time or sweep it under the carpet and forget about it.

Later, that December, I gave the HTC HD7 and Samsung Focus a whirl and reviewed both of them as well. I used them, scoured every in and out of every menu and setting. I poked my nose into every corner and downloaded as many apps as I possibly could, which, at the time, was far fewer than today.

Even now, I can't fully decide how I should feel about the platform. This is my sixth or seventh round with Windows Phone and I'm still on the fence about it.

I bought the Lumia 900 this Monday and have been using it as my primary device ever since, stepping back from Android for a moment (at least until my SIM card adapters arrive in the mail). It has been every bit as difficult as I imagined it would be. Just last week, I commented on how gaining better support for Google's apps and services should be high on Microsoft's to-do list. As an avid user of all things Google, it's especially hard for me to abandon Android altogether and to rely on third-party applications and the few built-in Windows Phone features to serve my Google needs. (After all, Microsoft is more worried about me using SkyDrive, Office and LIVE than it is about me having access to my Google cloud services.)

That said, I have been using Windows Phone primarily for three full days now. And, surprisingly, it has been ... quite nice. For once, I'm actually enjoying it.

Every time I've used the platform in the past, my biggest complaint has been the Metro UI and how utterly simple it is. It's so simple it's boring, I recall saying. Not that it's changed very much since I bought an HD7 to test out the Mango update, but I'm learning to embrace the Metro design. I certainly think it could still use a little sprucing up (and I have my fair share of gripes that I plan on sharing later this week), but I'm finally starting to appreciate the minimalism and beautiful, typographic interface.

For the past two days (I'm not counting the first because the phone was completely dead in the box and I didn't pull it off the charger until about 3:00 PM), I have been able to make it through an entire day without being tethered to an outlet ... or my Powerbag. Battery life isn't great, by any means. But it isn't terrible either. That may be more on the hardware side, but I'm willing to bet an Android device with the same specs and battery capacity wouldn't last the same amount of time on a single charge.

None of this is to say that Windows Phone is perfect either. It comes with its fair share of flaws, just as every platform does. For instance, the app selection is still sparse in comparison to the competition. There have been at least 10 times in the past day that I have needed an app, opened Marketplace and found that there is no official or alternative, third-party app for what I need. And applications having to constantly "resume" is driving me up the wall. (Again, I will elaborate on this later in the week.)

I have a feeling that the hardware has a lot to do with it. The Lumia 900, unlike every other Windows Phone to date, is not just another Android device knock-off. It is a Nokia device, reminiscent of some of the best Nokia devices ever. It's a fresh start, a different direction and the differentiating factor Microsoft has been looking for.

Whatever it may be, for the first time, I feel as if I could carry a Windows Phone device full-time. Could I carry one as my primary device? Not a chance – not yet, anyway. But if I could carry the Lumia 900 as my secondary device, replacing my iPhone 4S on Verizon, I would. For now, though, I suppose I will just stick to switching my SIM between the Lumia and the Galaxy Note.

I'm happy to finally see Microsoft headed in the right direction. The Lumia 900 launch is off to a rough start and should serve as an example to future device launches for everyone. For Microsoft, though, the Lumia 900 is definitely a mini victory, sales and botched launches aside.

Are any of you new Lumia 900 owners first-time Windows Phone users? If so, how are you liking Windows Phone? Is it refreshing to use? Or are you finding that the platform still needs work the be up to speed with its counterparts? Share your sentiments below!

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