Things to like about Windows Phone 7

After using Windows Phone 7, I have found that there are some features that make it a compelling mobile platform.

I use an iPhone 4. I upgraded to the iPhone 4 from an iPhone 3GS. However, prior to making the switch to the iPhone I relied on Windows Mobile smartphones for years. With all of the excitement generated by Windows Phone 7, though, I felt it was worth a deeper look, and perhaps it might be time to embrace the new Microsoft mobile platform.

To be fair, Microsoft abandoned me before I abandoned it. I made the switch because Windows Mobile was simply not keeping up with the features and capabilities offered by the Apple iPhone. Since Microsoft essentially shelved its mobile OS and went back to the drawing board, I switched platforms while waiting to see what it would come up with.

I generally liked my Windows Mobile devices -- I had the HTC 8125, followed by the HTC 8525, followed by the HTC 8925 -- more affectionately known as the "Tilt". I was already with AT&T and never really had any serious complaints, so my comparison of smartphone platforms is at least apples to apples when it comes to the wireless network behind it.

I have had an opportunity to spend some time with Windows Phone 7. I switched from my iPhone 4 to an HTC Surround and used it as my primary smartphone for the past couple weeks. I appreciated the chance to see Windows Phone 7 in action on HTC hardware since that is what I was used to, and because I always felt like HTC made the Windows Mobile OS better.

1. Wireless Syncing. It is nice to be able to sync data from my PC to Windows Phone 7 without having to physically connect it to a USB port. I did not miss having to tether my smartphone to my computer and invoke iTunes to get synced.

2. Native Office Apps. I like Office. Even if I didn't like Office -- I rely on Office. One of the first things I had to do with the iPhone -- and with the iPad -- is figure out how to go about enabling the ability to view -- or better yet create and edit -- documents in Office formats. One of Microsoft's mobile strengths has always been the native integration of Office, and Windows Phone 7 continues that tradition.

3. Facebook Integration. While the recent rumors of a Facebook branded smartphone did not come true, Windows Phone 7 is probably close to what one might look like. The People hub on Windows Phone 7 ties in nicely with Facebook and provides the latest status updates and feed from the social network.

4. Beyond Windows. I don't have a Mac (yet -- still hoping Santa might deliver a new MacBook Air), but I always found it very limiting for Microsoft to make its mobile OS so Microsoft-centric. With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has expanded to allow the smartphone to connect with and sync from Mac OS X as well as Windows.

5. Cloud Storage. The iPhone has been derided for its lack of expandable memory since its inception. While Windows Phone 7 devices do, in fact, have an SD memory card slot, the concept is actually a little "yesterday" when it comes to data for mobile platforms. Granted, virtually any Web-enabled device -- including any other smartphone platform -- can access cloud storage services, but Windows Phone 7 integrates access to Skydrive as an inherent option for storing data.

I did also appreciate the unique UI -- the Tiles and Hubs concepts are refreshing compared with the iPhone and all of its clones out there, and it is actually a fairly intuitive means of navigating the device once you get used to it. That said, my Windows Phone 7 experience was not all wine and roses, and I don't have any plans of permanently defecting from my iPhone.

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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