Many years ago (2000) I was one of the early adopters who brought in to the Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC, which also included the introduction of Pocket PC 2000. The OS eventually evolved into Windows Mobile 2003, followed by Windows Mobile 5, Windows Mobile 6 and earlier this year Windows Mobile 6.5. Well I didn't get that far, my relationship with Pocket PC ended after using the T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition, I never made it to Windows Mobile. Interestingly enough, its 2010, ten years after my first affair with Microsoft's mobile OS and I am reviewing Microsoft's newest entry into the smartphone market, Windows Phone 7.
I am happy to say Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 is a serious contender! My review device is the AT&T HTC Surround, one of five new smartphones HTC developed for Windows Phone. The Compaq iPAQ and the Pocket PC Phone Edition was also developed by HTC. The interface is a departure from the icon based home screen, the Windows Phone home screen is a very simple grid based design. The only other screen to the right is the apps screen with preloaded apps and downloaded apps. On the hardware side, there is a back button which takes you back through your series of clicks, center is the Windows button which brings you back to the home screen and on the right is the search button which depending on the app you are in searches within the app. i.e. If you are in mail, it searches your mail, in Maps, it searches the map and on the home screen it brings up Bing.
Navigation of the OS is fairly intuitive, you either drag up and down or left and right, at times there isn't even much clicking to go from one screen to another. For example in the Facebook app, you can scroll right or left to see top news, photos, events and notifications without a single click. This is true for most apps developed for Windows Phone. The Windows Phone touch screen keyboard is pretty accurate and according to Microsoft they've worked closely with all hardware manufacturers to calibrate the touch screen for accuracy. Customizing the home screen is pretty easy, moving around the apps just requires a simple click, hold and drag. To move an app from the apps screen to the home screen, just click, hold and you will have the option to "pin to start".
While Windows Phone 7 is pretty easy to use with its simple interface, it doesn't mean the OS is perfect. The Windows Phone App Marketplace is in its infancy so there the selection is not too robust. But most of the important social apps are available including Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare. New apps are being introduced every day. There is a slight lag when going from vertical to horizontal which is also not too noticeable but definitely needs fixing. There is also a very minor lag in certain apps but once thats been worked out the overall navigation experience will be a lot more seamless.
Windows Phone 7 will definitely be a contender in this already full smartphone marketplace with a great selection of phones to choose from. Look for Windows Phone 7 in Europe starting tomorrow and in the US starting November 8th.