Windows Phone 7: One Year Retrospective

One year ago, I retired my iPhone 3G and grabbed the new Samsung Focus Windows Phone 7. After a year of use, here's my take on the WP7 experience.

The Good

  • Hardware: The hardware is fantastic. Beautiful screen, fast, thin, good battery life, and a great camera. I can also say the device is very durable.
  • Linked Email: The 7.5 "Mango" update brought some great refinements, including the ability to combine multiple email accounts into a unified inbox. The advantage of WP7's linked inbox feature is you can have more than one group of mailboxes, such as having single inbox for work, one linked inbox group for personal email accounts, and another linked inbox group for business accounts. Microsoft got email right.
  • Metro UI: For applications that can take full advantage of the Metro UI experience, such as side-swiping the screen left or right, a much richer, intuitive experience can be achieved.
  • Try-Before-You-Buy: Every app has a built-in trial version, so you can try it out before you buy it. You don't have to search for a free version of an app.

The Bad

  • Streaming:¬†Even on a good WiFi connection, most streaming experiences are very frustrating with stuttering and stops. The Zune subscription service could easily be my favorite WP7 feature. Instead, I never use it. It just boggles my mind that its developers didn't do a better job of buffering. YouTube is unusable.
  • Scrolling: Scrolling through a long list of items, such as Facebook or Twitter statuses, leaves a lot to be desired. Scrolling isn't always smooth. There's a limit to how fast you can scroll. On the iPhone, for example, if you rapidly flick the screen multiple times, scrolling gets faster and faster, allowing you to quickly get to the top or bottom of a list. Also, while trying to scroll vertically, you can swipe a little too much to the left or right, causing the app to switch views.

The Ugly

  • Back/Home/Search Buttons: The three buttons along the bottom of every WP7 device serve a very useful purpose. However, because they are not physical buttons, I end up accidentally touching them all the time. Extremely frustrating.
  • Apps:¬†Except for a few games, every application I've downloaded from the Marketplace has had some kind of user experience failure. Microsoft can claim their Marketplace is growing, but there have been many applications I've tried that were just downright horrible.

Summary

For a long time I was very forgiving of WP7's flaws, knowing this was a new platform and it would take a while for the features and apps to mature. What has been most disheartening is to see bugs and bad user experience in apps that simply never get fixed. Over and over I found myself thinking, "This kind of experience would never be tolerated in an iPhone version of this app." In some cases, such as the Facebook app, apps have gone from bad to worse. You would think, for the most popular apps that users download, Microsoft would choose to step in and say, "These apps are critical to our success. Let us help you build the very best and solid applications on the market."

I honestly want to see WP7 succeed. Good competition is always in the best interest of consumers.I think some of it's features are (or could be) better than iOS and Android. Unfortunately, my patience has run out.