Like so many people, I was initially dubious when I heard about Microsoft's plans to release a new mobile OS to compete with the likes of Apple's iOS and Google's Android. And from people's experiences with Windows Mobile 6, you can hardly blame them.
So I left it for a bit after its October 2010 release, and last month bought a new 16GB Samsung Omnia 7 (my review for which can be found on its relevant Ciao product page), and I was not disappointed.
Of the three major mobile OSs- Apple iOS, Google Android and Microsoft Windows Phone- each has a different way of deploying to devices.
iOS only runs on Apple Software, ensuring that it runs smoothly and well on devices. However, this exclusive access often leads to overpricing on Apple's part.
Android runs on pretyy much anything, which has the benefit of competitive pricing between companies, but many devices lack certain features and sensors that may make some apps and experiences incompatible with certain devices.
Windows Phone meets in the middle. The OS is licensed out to numerous OEMs, so the prices can stay competitive, but Microsoft must approve each OEM and device, and ensure that is conforms with strict regulations, so you have the ensured compatibility and efficency like iOS. The MINIMUM requirements for the system are:
- Capacitive, 4-point touchscreen with 480x800 resolution
- ARM v7 1Ghz Processor (Snapdragon)
- DirectX 9-capable GPU
- 256MB RAM (though I believe all current handsets have 512MB minimum...)
- Accelerometer, compass, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, Assisted gps, and gyroscope
- 5MP camera with LED Flash
- FM Radio Tuner
- 6 hardware buttons: Back, Start, Search, (2-stage) Camera, Power/Sleep, and Volume Up/Down
These minimum requirements ensure a smooth and working experience for all. However, these do make it clear that the OS is definitely a high-end OS, and lower-price devices like some that are availble on Android are unlikely to be available on WP in the near future.
Metro and the Start Screen
From the moment you switch the device on you are greeted with a very different interface. While Apple and Google (and for that matter, the majority of mobile OS manufacturers) prefer a view laden with glossy icons and 3D eye candy, WP7 present a fresh, minimalist look. Most icons are replaced with simple, crisp text that, and titles that flow into different screens to create a feeling of fluidity between pages.The 'Start Screen', as it is termed, contains links to applications in the form of flat, single-coloured squares, or Live Tiles, which animate live with information relevent to the app. By default, you are presented with a useful array of the most used functions- Phone, People (WP7's answer to the contact list), Internet, Messaging (SMS), Email, Games, Music + Video, Pictures the like.
All of these are easily customisable and movable- by holding down on the tile, the user can move the tile about or remove it entirely.
It would be rather cluttered to have all of your apps on this screen, so by swiping left, an app menu appears with all of your installed applications listed in alphabetical order.