Windows Phone 7: The genius of tiles and hubs

Microsoft's unique and innovative Windows Phone 7 interface breaks the traditional mold

If you line up an iPhone 4, Droid X, and BlackBerry Torch next to each other, and zoom in so you only see the display alone, the similarities between the platforms seems to outweigh the differences. Windows Phone 7, however, breaks the mold on the sea of app icons, and provides an innovative means of interacting with the information and functionality of the smartphone through tiles and hubs.

The distinction is more than just aesthetic. It is refreshing to have a different visual approach for a smartphone interface, but the tiles and hubs of the Windows Phone 7 interface provide a different smartphone experience.

Microsoft attempts to say as much in its commercials for Windows Phone 7. The commercials are clever and appealing -- not something one can normally say about a Microsoft marketing campaign. But, at the same time a tad confusing. The "people are too tied to smartphones to pay attention to the world, here -- try our smartphone" concept is a tad subtle and may shoot the nascent platform in the foot.

If you stop and look at the Windows Phone 7 approach, though, the commercials start to make more sense. Microsoft is slamming the traditional approach of wading through multiple pages of icons to find specific apps, and trumpeting the hubs concept used in Windows Phone 7 as the alternative that fundamentally alters the smartphone experience.

So, what's the big deal? I can look at my iPhone 4 and instantly see a little red bubble with a number indicating missed calls or voicemails, number of new e-mails, number of new text messages. I also have little red bubbles with numbers displaying the number of outstanding updates or messages I have in LinkedIn, Facebook, or Skype. In that regard, iOS is already delivering similar "at-a-glance" info as the tiles concept in Windows Phone 7.

The tiles in Microsoft Windows Phone 7 aren't simply numbers in a red bubble, though. You can configure them for instant access to the features and functions that are important to you. The Windows Phone 7 Help and How-To page explains, "You can pin just about anything you want to Start: apps, pictures, songs, map locations, favorite websites, OneNote notes, and even contacts. When you pin a contact to Start, you'll get all of that person's feed updates right from that tile, and it's like speed dial: it takes only two taps to make a phone call."

The hubs approach seems more innovative, and valuable -- and a more seamless approach to delivering functionality that Apple is tacking on after the fact. Grouping like apps based on the general category of use greatly simplifies navigation and makes it much more intuitive to find what you're looking for. Prior to iOS 4.0, I used to accomplish something similar by simply creating separate pages of apps -- a utilities page, a productivity page, a games page, etc. With iOS 4.0 Apple introduced folders which let users manually create something similar to the hubs concept by combining like apps into categorized folders.

Windows Phone 7 has its share of issues as well -- at least in the initial launch. But, the tiles and hubs concepts do fundamentally break the mold on the smartphone experience -- putting the focus on what you can accomplish with the smartphone, rather than on the device itself.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Microsoftwindows phone 7Phonesconsumer electronicsiphone 4Cell Phones

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?