Windows Phone 7: Software and Hardware detailed!

  • October 11, 2010 11:20 am

Today is the big day — Windows Phone 7 launch day. But not only is there a ton to talk about software wise, hardware junkies have plenty to chow down on. Initially, the US will only see 3 Windows Phone 7 phones at launch — the Samsung Focus, LG Quantum, and HTC Surround. But that number will quickly grow as new models hit the streets. But enough chit chat, let’s get on with the show!

 

Windows Phone 7

Games

What would a serious Microsoft-branded software/hardware combo be without Xbox Live integration? Look, someone has to make the comparison — the game matching features are a lot like Apple’s Game Center. But trust me, that’s where the similarities end, because there’s an entire different aspect tied into Windows Phone 7′s gaming sphere — avatars.

Those little figures (love ‘em or hate ‘em) have just as big of a role in Windows Phone 7 as they do on your Xbox. In a separate tab config page, you’re free to tweak your avatar until your heart’s content. Anything and everything you can think of can be done to your avatar’s appearance. But why spend so much time on something so insignificant? Because, it’s not insignificant. Xbox Live integration is going to be a huge feature of WP7, as Microsoft hopes to reclaim some of that young hipster crowd that has since defected to Android and iOS.

From what we’ve seen so far, the possibilities of Xbox Live integration and gaming overall on WP7 have a lot of potential.

Music & Video

I’ve always loved the Zune’s minimalistic UI and “twist” navigation. There’s just something about it that seems..fresh. With that said, if you’ve ever touched, or at the very least seen a Zune, you’ve already got the Music features in WP7 down pat. In much the same way Apple took the iPod and built it into the iPhone, Microsoft has taken the Zune and built it into a phone — many, many phones.

Within the same app (same as Zune device) is the video player. Same principle applies here — it’s awesome.

Office

Business users and more “productive” consumers will be pleased to know that Microsoft Office support in WP7 is phenomenal. From rich, vivid slides in PowerPoint to simple, quickly flowing emails in Outlook, Microsoft has really knocked one out of the park in terms of office productivity apps.

My favorite aspect shown off at the keynote today was the calender app, specifically how it handles appointments. Just like many other mobile platforms, you can accept/reject appointments which then automatically get added to your calender. And perhaps just like other platforms, you can quickly and easily see when conflicts arise. Stretching it even further, however, is a feature in WP7 that allows you to go back to those scheduled appointments and update them with a late status. It’s the small things that count folks.

Pictures

A photo gallery is a photo gallery, right? Well, in most circumstances I’d agree with that. And to be honest, Windows Phone 7′s photo gallery isn’t anything too special. Though there are a few things worth pointing out. First, the Metro UI really shines in rich apps where there are a lot of pictures/video. Photo app + Metro UI = sexy!

But it’s not all looks. Microsoft has tied Facebook deep down into the OS’s core that in this instance, allows consumers to tag photos from within the photo/pictures app without having to actually venture to the mobile site or launch a Facebook app. It’s all a part of Microsoft’s new “less is more” and efficiency crusade.

Bing/Search

Carrying around all of this content and having access to an unlimited amount of data via the wondrous world web means you’re going to stumble into a lot of crap (not meaning crap in a bad way). Usually, one would think of Google when it comes to kings of search. But don’t forget Microsoft has their own foot in the door with Bing.

On Windows Phone 7 search is an integral part of the experience bringing in search results (at the owners convenience of course) from local address book entries, emails, and phone records to the untapped, unlimited resources of the internet. It’s more or less like universal search on competing iOS and Android platforms but with it’s own unique face. And yes, I’m in love with that face.

Overall UI, thoughts, conclusion

In order to starve off death and not become another Palm, Microsoft really had to hit one out of the park. Did they do it? From the initial views we’ve seen of WP7, I feel pretty confident in saying “Yes!”. Windows Phone 7 is a radically new approach to mobile computing with a Microsoft device. The Metro UI is a fresh design on mobile UI’s much like iOS was back in 2007. It’s just different. With that said, I know some people won’t like the whole minimalist approach.

On the flipside however, we’re in an age full of graphically intense UI’s. Maybe, just maybe Microsoft has something with this less is more approach. Looks like we’ll find out if that new philosophy pays off for them. What do you guys think so far: Has Microsoft done well in your eyes? Is Windows Phone 7 a new contender with Android, BlackBerry, iOS, MeeGo, and webOS?

The Launch Phones (US)

AT&T:

  • HTC Surround — 3.8″ 800 x 480 WVGA display, 8GB internal storage, 1GHz processor, 512MB of ROM/576MB of RAM
    • Samsung Focus — 4″ display



    • LG Quantum — 5-megapixel camera + don’t-do-a-double-take-or-you’ll-mistake-me-for-a-Samsung-Focus look.


    T-Mobile:

    • HTC 7 Mozart — 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 512MB RAM/576MB of ROM, 8GB of internal storage, 8-megapixel camera w/ Xeon flash, Dolby Mobile and SRS Wow HD, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, G-sensor, ambient light sensor, and GPS.
        • HTC HD7 — 4.3″ display, 16GB internal storage, 5-megapixel camera

        • Dell Venue Pro — Vertical slider w/ 4.1″ display

        Sprint:

        • HTC 7 Pro — 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM/576MB of ROM, 5MP camera w/ LED flash + 720p video recording, 1500mAh, and 16GB of internal storage.

        Conclusion — Hardware

        Disappointed. None of these devices have any big “wow” factors. Even worse, they all make use of the dinosaur-age Qualcom M8525 Snapdragon processor. Granted, it runs @ 1GHz. But so do countless other smartphones across many different platforms. Simply having 1,000MHz at your finger tips doesn’t hold the excitement it once did. Besides under the hood specs, the phones themselves don’t look all that different. Hell, if you look too quickly the Samsung Focus and LG Qunatum come across as the same device. Definitely not “launch material” in my book.

        The software looks to be good enough to allow people to overlook the relatively uninspiring hardware right now. How will that same methodology fare a couple of months down the road? We’ll find out.

        In the meantime, let us know what you think — hardware or software — about Windows Phone 7!

        Oh, and for the record: Copy & Paste is coming in “early 2011″.

        **Parts of images used from Engadget



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        Gadget lover, smartphone collector, and beer connoisseur. I’ve been writing about gadgets for three years now and loving every minute of it. Outside of the digital landscape, I enjoy being active outdoors. I’m always up for a good conversation, so feel free to drop me a line!