After a long absence, a hell of a flu, and other occasional unpleasant matters, I'm finally back. While I was "gone", sick as a poisoned mouse, I had one thing that kept me strong: no, it wasn't the love of my kids or wife, nor my friends, or family, it was knowing that today I'm getting a new Windows Phone 7 smartphone.
And so, after my long endless anticipation, I finally got the new Samsung Omnia 7 – arguably the best WP7 handset to date.
For a few months now I've been fascinated by the live tiles, hubs, panoramic views, the mixture of text and signs, wrapped up in a flat simplified look & feel. As a former WinMo fan and developer, I was happy to see Microsoft coming back with something different, interesting, unique, something with potential to change something in the mobile realm.
My thoughts after my first 24 hours?
I've been RIPPED OFF by Microsoft. Again.
I know, I know, it's too early, I haven't seen anything yet, it takes time to get used to a new smartphone, who am I to criticize after 24 hours – all of it is true and I'm aware that I may completely change my mind in just a couple of days. I'm also aware that being sick as I still am might change the way I see things right now, but nonetheless, I will say it again: I've been ripped off by Microsoft.
Here are my notes from spending 24 frustrating hours with my first WP7 handset:
Omnia 7 In General:
Before talking about the operating system, few words about the hardware:
It's generally great, thin, large, fast, but it has 2 things that bother me:
- The back cover of the phone is made out of the most slippery material I've ever seen in a smartphone. It's like someone at Samsung said: "what can we do to make people drop the phone every time they pull it out of their pocket?" and someone else came up with this horrible plastic cover. I've never seen it before, and I'm pretty shocked with how slippery it is and how inconvenient it is in the hand.
- The screen: I know, Super AMOLED, amazing stuff, this is why I wanted this phone in the first place – but guess what: it's too shiny, too bright, and together with the exhausting UI (which I will describe in a moment), and the high contrast between the white text and black background – it's just too much for my poor old eyes. I tried reducing the brightness, but guess what: Microsoft only gave 3 options instead of a full scale so it's not much of a difference… Overall, after 2 hours, my eyes hurts, I cannot use the phone any longer and must get some rest…
Exhausting User Interface:
You see, using the phone for a couple of minutes hides one of the biggest problem of WP7 – the user interface is exhausting! Text, and more text, with different sizes, different fonts, different colors, some is cut, some is not, everything is just so much in your face – it's exhausting. After a few hours with it I just couldn't wait getting back to my relaxing iPhone where everything is so easy, smooth, relaxing.
The huge amount of text, the endless animations (which some of them are quite nice actually), the areas which are cut (which used to excite me before I actually got the phone) – are just too much for my eyes (which may sound like I'm kidding, but I'm not)! For a while I had teardrops coming and I just couldn't look at the screen any longer.
Live tiles? hmm, let's see, so you take a shortcut icon, make it square, way too big, and place a number inside and call it a live tile? Or better than that: you take a bunch of pictures from facebook (most of them from friends I don't care about) place them inside this small square in a completely random order so they actually mean nothing and that's a social media integration? I'm sorry, but if the live tiles are supposed to be a combination of the iPhone shortcuts and Android widgets then I think it's a complete failure. They take too much place, and unlike widgets, they do not provide real value.
Of course, I'm to be blamed here, as I knew this is how the OS looks like before I purchased the phone, somehow I expected more out of those tiles, and maybe there is more and I just didn't find it yet, who knows, but currently I'm under the impression the live tiles are not yet where they should be.
Give Me More Hubs
The hubs are great, I'll tell you that, but it's not yet optimized: for example, in my pictures hub, I expected to see more actual pictures I took than pictures from facebook which I really don't want to see on my front page. Another thing that is currently missing is the ability to expand each HUB or further customize it.
Of course I wouldn't mind having more hubs available OOTB, hopefully that will come soon as well.
Some Positive Notes:
But you know what, enough about the UI, as I said, it may be too early for me to judge. Let's mention some of the good things I can already talk about:
- The Back button is simply huge, I love it. You almost don't need multi-tasking when the system allows you to jump back and forth so quickly and stay in the same context. I think that way that the entire workflows behaves in WP7 is very good, and the back functionality takes a bug part of it.
- Good camera. I don't want to say super, because it's not, it's good, and I like it, that's it. You get a button for it (no idea why Ballmer was so excited about that at CES) which is nice.
- XBOX Live seems nice. Unfortunately I never owned an XBox, so I guess I will not be able to enjoy one of the greatest advantages of WP7… what a "joy", someone is really making fun of me now…
- Touch quality is perfect, well, it better be, as I would expect that 4 years after iPhone 1 was released companies like Microsoft will finally learn how to provide a good touch experience… Nevertheless, I can mention it as a good thing.
- Keyboard is fine: the sound is cool, the touch, the auto-completion – no complains over there.
OK, now that we went over some of the good stuff, I must go back to whining about how Microsoft ripped my ass:
Too Many Missing Features:
OK, so being a nice guy as I am, I decided to switch to my new Omnia and completely dump my iPhone. Pulled out my SIM card (thanks again Apple for making such a basic task so complicated…), entered it, boom, it's working.
Now what? I need to synchronize it with my organization exchange, just like I did with my previous BlackBerry devices, iPhone, Droid, etc. right? Shouldn't be hard, given that it's Microsoft, right?
WRONG. The craziest thing happened: from all devices in the world, the Windows Phone had issues to connect to our exchange, it simply refused to use our certificate. How about that? Now what? How can you use a phone that doesn't show your emails?
"OK, screw that, let's connect to my Gmail" I said, and lucky me, it worked instantly. Emails aren't so bad actually, although it's really hard to distinguish between read and unread mails (but you have a dedicated view for that).
What I've immediately noticed is that the phone did not connect to our office WiFi. Since it's a hidden network, I tried 'settings' to look for hidden networks, but guess what – there is no such option! Apparently just another "missing feature", and not the first one I've encountered in those 24 hours.
"OK", I said to myself, "screw work, screw WiFi, get yourself some apps", and immediately started downloading applications from the Marketplace, which also misses some critically important features like showing the price of an app from the search view. I loaded a bunch of nice looking applications but guess what: the apps list is so flat, and is always sorted alphabetically, you cannot really organize it. I'm asking myself what will happen when I will rich my 100 downloaded app, when there are no folders, pages, anything… brrr. I cannot find my settings app already, hidden inside a few other downloaded apps.
Do not expect it to be a review, it's far too early for me to determine but for the time being, I'm totally upset and disappointed with my shiny new toy. I expected a big hit, and for now it feels like I've been hit.
I'm not giving up just yet, and will try to keep on using it for a while, see how that turns out, and who knows I may change my mind over time.
But for now, thinking of my 620$ which could have been wasted over an iPhone 4 or Nexus S, I cannot stop myself from thinking it's not a fair match, WP7 has such a long way to go until it reaches the point it can be competitive with those 2, and so far it doesn't look like the next OS update will be so drastic. I'm holding my fingers crossed for Microsoft, but for now I must honestly say I've been ripped off…
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