Mobile deathmatch: Windows Phone 7 vs. Apple iPhone 4

Microsoft has a very slick device, but it can't do nearly as much as the iPhone - especially in business

Deathmatch: ApplicationsThe iPhone provides more useful apps than Windows Phone 7 does. Both provide email, contacts, calendar, browser, calculator (except on the iPad), maps, a music player, photo display, a video player, multi-user gaming, and SMS messaging apps. The apps are equivalent in most cases. One exception is the photos app, where the iPhone supports albums and Windows Phone 7 does not. Another exception is the maps app, where the iPhone provides satellite views in addition to cartographic ones; the iPhone's maps app is also much faster at returning directions.

The iPhone provides several apps that Windows Phone 7 does not, including those for a clock, the weather (except on the iPad), stocks, voice memo, and YouTube. Although Windows Phone 7 supports alarms, it offers only a subset of what the iPhone's clock app does.

Windows Phone 7 has a set of apps called Office: Word, Excel, and OneNote. But don't let the Office name fool you -- Word and OneNote are very rudimentary apps, good for basic notes entry and extremely light editing. For example, tap and hold a word to select it; from there, you can make it bold, apply a colored highlight to it, or add a note -- but you can't select a range of text. You can't choose fonts either, though you can apply numbered and bulleted lists.

Excel likewise is good only for very basic editing; constructing formulas is very difficult, as you can't tap a cell to enter it into a formula. You can tap the fx icon to get a list of formulas, as in the desktop version, but the default keyboard for Excel doesn't display two of the most common symbols used in formulas: = and *; you have to switch to a second symbols keyboard.

Ironically, Windows Phone 7 lets you access SharePoint servers to open documents stored there -- yet any organization that uses SharePoint is certain to require security policies for corporate access that Windows Phone 7 does not support. Document access via cloud services such as Box.net and Dropbox are not supported.

The iPhone comes with a basic note-taking app. It uses a hard-to-read font but is otherwise easy to work with for simple documents (no formatting allowed). If you want Office-like functionality, you'll need to buy an app such as the $15 Quickoffice or $17 Documents to Go. Both are far superior to Windows Phone 7's Office apps when working with Office documents, so keep your fingers crossed for Windows Phone 7 editions.

App stores and app installation. Windows Phone 7 is too new to have much in the way of third-party apps available in the Windows Phone Marketplace, and most of the current stock is basic or forgettable - I haven't seen attractive apps yet. Apple's App Store also suffers from having lots of junkware, which comes with the territory of 99-cent apps, and it took some time for really useful apps to become available.

As a store, the Windows Phone Marketplace is poorly designed. You can choose from a bunch of categories and search within a store, but there's no way to sort through the long list of options. By contrast, Apple's App Store lets you view and sort categories much more easily.

Installation of apps is similar: After selecting an app, you confirm your store account information and wait for the app to download and install.

Both Windows Phone Marketplace and App Store reside on the home screen and alert you to when updates are available.

App management. The iPhone has a simple app management process. For example, it's easy to arrange your home screens to cluster applications both on your iPhone and on your desktop via iTunes; you can also put them in your own folders. Just tap and hold any app to invoke the "shaking apps" status, in which you can drag apps wherever you want or tap the X icon to delete them (press the Home button when done to exit that mode). You can also arrange and delete apps using iTunes on your desktop.

Windows Phone 7 lets you pin apps to the home screen, creating a tile for each app there. You can then rearrange tiles by dragging them to a desired location on the app screen or delete them by tapping the X icon. All apps are available in an alphabetical list if you slide to the right of the home screen. You can't rearrange the list or create folders, though.

The iPhone has long let you add Web pages to home screens as if they were apps. That's great for the many mobile Web pages such as iphone.infoworld.com that are essentially Web apps. Windows Phone 7 has a similar capability.

Both the iPhone and Windows Phone 7 let you manage apps on your desktop using their iTunes and Zune clients, respectively. Microsoft has a beta sync client for Macs that works reasonably well for transferring video, music, photos, and podcasts to the phone -- but it doesn't let you manage apps.

Multitasking. iOS 4 brought multitasking, in a limited way, to iPhones this summer, providing APIs that let apps enable multitasking for specific functions, as well as a mechanism to switch among and close running apps. iPhone apps must be enabled by the developer to use the limited set of multitasking capabilities iOS 4 provides.

Windows Phone 7 doesn't support multitasking at all.

The winner: The iPhone, thanks to a selection of apps and strong app quality that far outshine what's available for Windows Phone 7. Plus, the absence of multitasking is a serious omission in Windows Phone 7.

Deathmatch: Web and InternetIn the desktop world, Microsoft is behind everyone else in its support for HTML5. The same is true in mobile, where it alone does not support the common draft specifications for HTML5.

For regular HTML4 pages, Windows Phone 7's IE7-based browser works well, displaying pages with good detail, and allowing panning and zooming with the same gestures that the iPhone has popularized. The Web viewing experience -- both quality and rendering speed -- of Windows Phone 7 is similar to that of the iPhone, though zooming is not as smooth.

On some mobile-formatted pages, such as iphone.infoworld.com, Windows Phone 7 had trouble displaying the contents, while on others (such as m.yahoo.com) it did not. The pages Windows Phone 7 had problems with render perfectly fine in iOS, BlackBerry OS, webOS, and Android.

Because Windows Phone 7 supports neither copy and paste nor multitasking, you cannot select text or graphics and copy them elsewhere, such as in emails. You can share the URLs of Web pages via email or SMS. The iPhone supports copy and paste, as well as URL sharing.

Both OSes lets you open multiple Web pages, but you can view just one at a time. Windows Phone 7 uses one field for searches and URL entries, whereas the iPhone has one field for each. I think both approaches work just fine.

The two OSes let you bookmark Web pages and add Web pages to your home screen (called "pinning" in Windows Phone 7), but only the iPhone lets you place them in bookmark folders. Bookmarks are one big list in Windows Phone 7.

Neither device supports Adobe Flash. Microsoft has suggested it will do so in the future. Apple of course has no plans to allow Flash support, given Apple's dislike of the Adobe Flash technology.

In a misguided effort to promote other Microsoft products, Windows Phone 7 provides only the Bing search engine, whose results are not always great. The iPhone lets you choose among Google, Yahoo, and Bing. (Google has made a Google Search app available in the Windows Phone Marketplace.)

But a nice capability in Windows Phone 7 is its ability to report itself to websites as a desktop browser, for those times you don't want the site's mobile-optimized pages, through a simple settings control for Internet Explorer. I wish the iPhone could do that to avoid some of the horrible mobile sites out there.

I also like the voice-recognition capability in Bing. It's pleasantly accurate in letting you search the Web via voice -- even more accurate than Android's similar feature. The iPhone can't search via voice recognition. 

The winner: The iPhone, thanks to its support of HTML5, broad search engine support, and ability to copy text and graphics.

Deathmatch: Location supportBoth the iPhone and Windows Phone 7 support GPS location, and both can triangulate location based on Wi-Fi signals. As noted earlier, the iPhone's maps app is better than Windows Phone 7's, though both are serviceable.

Although both the iPhone and Windows Phone 7 ask for permission to use your location information, Windows Phone 7 does not provide controllable settings for location use by the device or individual applications, as the iPhone does. (Windows Phone 7 does let you enable location detection to influence its search results, but that's not about helping you manage your privacy, as the iPhone's capability is.)

The winner: The iPhone, for its better maps app and its ability to control location privacy at a granular level.

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