This Phone Deserves Some Street Cred, Too

7 Aug

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In a world where Android (Google) and iPhone (Apple) reign supreme and RIM (BlackBerry) still having traction (albeit to a lesser extent due to market shrinkage–thanks to user migration to the aforementioned platforms), the mobile operating system ranked a distant 4th (in the US, according to Nielsen – March 2011), Windows Phone 7 (WP7) gets little to no airtime.
Sure, I think one can argue that Microsoft finds itself in this position largely due to its own doing. The evidence is plentiful; from lack of innovation (in the early days) to failed attempt after attempt (hello, KIN?) to make up lost ground and stay relevant, to huge missed opportunities because of lack of clever Marketing (those uninspiring TV commercials promoting the launch of WP7 still make me cringe), the list goes on.But brave souls (yours truly included) who’ve chosen to give Windows Phone a whirl are finding that the platform isn’t at all the Window Mobile of yesterday year. In fact, a lot of us are quickly realizing that not only is it a completely revamped OS which has a ton to offer (and more to come this Fall with the next iteration codenamed ‘Mango’), but also, fun to actually ‘spend time’ with.
One of my favorite aspects of the device (besides the very fluid metro-style UI) is what Microsoft refers to as Live Tiles. These can be viewed as dynamic mosaic style squares that make the interface a little more interesting rather than staring at a whole bunch of static apps on the home screen. For example, this is evident in the ‘People’ hub which is one of the first sections you see when you power on the phone. With a single touch, aggregated updates from social networking sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Windows Live — with Twitter to follow suit in the Fall) are displayed in a single instance. App developers are also taking advantage of this feature and instituting their own dynamic tiles, which makes the UI a little more aesthetically pleasing. See examples (in slideshow) Groupon, USA Today, AP, BBC, MTV News, The Weather Channel, to name a few.
On the note of apps, Microsoft takes a beating in the press for not being any close to Android or iOS, in terms of sheer volume. But, to be fair, how many apps does one use at any given time? Apple touts something astronomical like over 350K and Google, 200K+, no doubt dizzying numbers but I think folks are a little too hung up on this. At recent count, MS is nearing 30K (puny by comparison to be sure) but I feel Marketplace now has some pretty relevant apps that aforementioned figures have seized to impress me. I like the ‘quality’ over ‘quality’ approach.
So far, some of my favorite apps include:
– News: USA Today, NBC Nightly News, France24, Mosiac by Tribune (aggregated news from LA Times, Chicago Tribune, etc), AP Mobile, BBC Radio and NPR Listener (honorable mention: NY Times)
– Travel: Kayak, American Airlines, British Airways and XE Currency, Clever Translate (honorable mention: Travelocity, TripAdvisor)
– Social/Lifestyle: Foursquare, 4th & Mayor, Open Table, Yelp, Epicurious, IM+ (honorable mention: Facebook)
– Movies: Flixter, Fandango, MSN Movies
The user experience has also improved drastically. I find the innovative UI to be so much fun and seamless to navigate. In addition to the ‘People’ hub, I love WP7’s multimedia experience via the ‘Music + Videos’ hub, featuring Microsoft’s Zune software. Videos and audio play crisply with access to a plethora of content in Marketplace (most content also transfers over when downloaded from the iTunes store). This hub features a dynamic tile that displays images of the latest material you just listened to as well.
And so while Microsoft might not necessarily get the highest marks for ‘cool’ factor, with these WP7 features (and much more to come in the Fall), this phone does deserve some street cred, too.

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One Response to “This Phone Deserves Some Street Cred, Too”

  1. Awesome article.

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