Jan 25, 2011

Samsung Omnia 7 is now in my pocket, and guess what? I'm finally used to it.

When it comes to changes, I'm the ultimate geek. I'm unable to adjust to changes, and always looking for the way back to my known routines. The only place when I am pretty flexible and agile is technology, where changes are actually part of the routine. Well, at least that's what I thought about myself: switching from MFC to .Net, Silverlight, mobile development, web, product management and other tasks which are all around technology.
Windows Mobile, Palm, Symbian, iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, they were all part of my routine…

But then came Windows Phone 7…

Windows-Phone-Back-From-The-Dead

I admit, I liked the look of it since the day it was presented by Microsoft, I was certain that it would be the perfect smartphone for me, and couldn't wait to put my hands on one.

And then I got my first WP7 handset: Samsung Omnia 7.

It was not what I expected.

And I panicked.

The first couple of days with it – were nightmare. Not being able to purchase apps (no US credit card), not being able to connect to hidden WiFi in my office (known limitation), not being able to connect to our exchange (bug), so many missing features…

It was bad (as you can see from my previous posts too…)

But it was also my bad, as I was so busy to whine about the missing things, I failed to see the positive things of Windows Phone 7, and after 2 weeks with it, I now see a lot of them, which is why I would like to apologize to all my readers who didn't like my previous reviews (some of them sent me emails asking me why did I write the things I wrote) and to present an updated impression of WP7:

First, let's start with some explanations: Hidden WiFi indeed cannot be connected, that's a shameful limitation, and I still cannot purchase apps, but I can try them out, and I can now finally connect to our exchange server which finally made my Samsung Omnia 7 a powerful productive tool.

So what went wrong? Windows Phone 7 is completely different than anything we all got used to in the past 2 years: iPhone, webOS, BlackBerry, Android – WP7 brings something new, refreshing, even weird, it requires some time to get used to it, but in general, bringing something new is a good thing.

In addition, there are seriously, tons of missing features, many of them so basic, you end up asking yourself, is this version 1.0 or 0.5? How come an Avatar is more important than having "favorites" contacts?

The answer is something you find after a few days with WP7 – all those missing features are indeed important, but just like iPhone history proved, they do not change the fact we are all looking for a great user experience and user experience is far more important than features. Features can be added, upgraded, or be solved via apps, but user experience is much more fundamental, and so is the "wow" effect that Microsoft was looking to achieve by preferring some features over others.

So here are some of the missing features:

  • Ringtones cannot be added or customized
  • No File Explorer
  • No Tasks Manager
  • No computer sync for contacts, tasks, notes etc.
  • No copy/paste
  • No favorites contacts
  • No folders or even pages in the applications list
  • Far too little customizations options of the main UI (only 2 themes and a few color skins)

So as you can see, basic stuff is missing, and after a few days with the Omnia, I decided to put it on a sale… but then I decided to wait a few more days… and things started to change…

Finally we've reached to the positive part:

So what are the positive things about WP7? There are a few, but the most important thing is that using the OS is very simple and intuitive, it's fun, and most importantly, it feels right.

First of all, the damn thing is really funky. It has this weird charm, this magical "thing" that makes you want to open, unlock it, slide some tiles, and close it, and then repeat this stupid action after 2-3 minutes…

Live tiles may not be so lively at the moment, but they do give a decent amount of information in a single snapshot.

The email app, plus the keyboard – are a winning combination. In fact I think I can honestly say that WP7 virtual keyboard, plus the auto correction, and words selection – are the best I've ever used, better than both iPhone and Android.

Speed of the OS is freaking amazing. True, it has random lags, but I guess those are bugs, besides them – that's an amazingly fast operating system, every activity is done quickly even with the animations. The touch experience is perfect, and the UI processing is fast. It makes using Windows Phone 7 – extremely fun.

Pictures hub is fun and simple to use, and it has some nice additions to the basic stuff of the iPhone and Android like favorites, recent, etc.

The lock screen holds some important information like new emails, messages, meetings – it's a cool thing as well.

And of course there are other cool things, like the single click to switch to selection mode and check an email before deletion, integration with facebook, live, and other accounts, and more.

Oh, and I do want to say another thing about the keyboard: I really like the typing sound of the iPhone, I do not like the Android typing sound which sounds too old fashion, but WP7 bit them all, the typing sound is addictive and together with the typing speed, and auto-correction – writing text is an impressive but also fun experience.

OK, so what's the bottom line?

Bottom line is that after 2 weeks with the Samsung Omnia 7, I'm kind of falling in love with it… slowly, but it happens. The best proof is  that I now keep my iPhone in my bag and haven't used it for quite a while. It never happened to me before with Android or BlackBerry devices for instance.

True, I don't think I will recommend on buying a WP7 phone to my friends who are mostly looking for one powerful smartphone with zero risks. In such cases I would probably recommend on iPhone or Android – they deliver much more in terms of apps and features. On the other hand, I know many people who are beginning to get bored with iPhone, and Android is not that big of a difference, to them I may say: "it's still limited, but it has potential, and you will probably love the design of it".

So bottom line, I still think that Microsoft did good with Windows Phone 7, but the hard work just started. They must release 2-3 updates this year to make WP7 a decent OS that can compete with the big guys.
Without it, it can probably give a decent fight to Palm or even RIM, but still has a long way to go when trying to compete with with Apple or Google.

As for myself, I'm planning to keep my WP7 phone. Yep, crazy, I know, but I'm turning it into my primary device… see how that ends up…



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