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Gizmodo declares, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a race" in smartphones.  (Source: Gizmodo.com)
Apps are rough and no multi-tasking blows, but not a bad start from the new OS

With the U.S. launch of Windows Phone 7 devices just around the corner (November 8), early reviews of the new mobile OS from Microsoft (and the hardware it runs on) are starting to emerge. So far, it appears that the product has a real chance to carve out a nice little niche in the budding smartphone market, though there are a few early hiccups.

Engadget didn't see a reason to completely re-write their mid-summer review of a developer device running Windows Phone 7. At the time, they said it felt incomplete -- which it was -- but there haven't been any major overhauls since then. Instead, they went back and annotated their original review with some nice additions. The following are a few take-aways:

- The software's touch-responsiveness and speed are to be celebrated, though the way applications appear in long, alphabetized lists can become tedious -- no improvement over iOS and Android's grids.
- The lack of copy-and-paste is unforgivable, though a software fix is coming "early 2011".
- No support for third-party multitasking of apps is "practically inexcusable".
- The WP7 touchscreen keyboard is very good. Almost as good as Apple's, and definitely better than stock Android.
- Facebook is deeply integrated into the OS, and is unavoidable, which could irk some. Lack of Twitter integration is puzzling.
- Web browsing is "a really pleasant experience," despite the fact that many websites that detect iPhone and Android devices to show tailored versions don't have the same functionality for WP7, and instead load unsightly WAP versions.
- One troubling area was third-party apps. "In almost every application we used besides some of the Xbox Live titles, there were major problems with either loading, rendering, navigation, or stability," Engadget writes. "Even from respected app-makers like Seesmic, the results seemed second rate in comparison to same applications on other platforms."
- Their closing comments complimented the effort, but said that the OS is at least a year behind market leaders.

Anandtech also conducted its own (very) in-depth review of Windows Phone 7. Some highlights:

- "The underlying architecture is well engineered, high performing and extremely efficient."
- Anandtech had a difference of opinion about the listed apps, praising the format's simplicity and ease of finding items over a grid.
- The UI is very clean, attractive, and smooth, thanks to a minimalist approach.
- Facebook integration is the best out of any other device.
- XBox Live integration and Windows Phone cloud access are nice touches.
- Internet Explorer mobile is much slower at loading webpages than on other OS's because of lower Javascript performance.
- The lack of quality apps and conventional task switching "are the two biggest issues facing Windows Phone 7 today."
- Windows Phone is more like an iPhone than an Android.

If the Anandtech review is too exhaustive, and you want a simple, straight-to-the-point overview, the folks over at Gizmodo have provided one. Gizmodo does a particularly good job of breaking down the OS's interface to three core concepts: Hubs, which are panoramic apps that span multiple screens; Live Tiles, which are home screen icons that update with new info (though not quite as in-depth as Android widgets); and the App Bar, "a semi-persistent menu/taskbar that hides deeper actions—like starting a new email or switching tabs in Internet Explorer."

Gizmodo also applauds WP7 for striking the "best balance of any smartphone between web-oriented and local storage, using the cloud for info like contacts and apps, tying itself to a PC (or Mac, with a basic client) only for big updates, music and video syncing."

Overall, they like the polished feel of the OS, with its beautiful, minimalist appeal. What they don't like is the fact that the home screen can only hold eight tiles, requiring a lot of side-swiping. Other drawbacks include the lack of a singular e-mail app (each account takes its own tile), lack of multi-tasking, and the cumbersome nature of searching for apps. Again, apps and multi-tasking.

The verdict? "Windows Phone 7 is really great. A solid foundation, it's elegant and joyful." It may not be an instant iPhone or Android killer, but it certainly is an option to consider. Once the bugs are worked out and the developer ecosystem is filled out, we'll have a clearer picture.





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RE: It begs the question...
By omnicronx on 10/21/2010 4:24:59 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Is it REALLY that hard to implement?
Simply put, yes, yes it is. Just ask Apple.. Microsoft has the exact same problem with everything being sandboxed.

Its not as simple as, stick this in memory, retrieve this from memory.

Same thing with multitask, I'd rather not have it at all then some half baked solution. Windows Phone will get multitasking abilities, just not from launch. Heck, I don't even find myself using it much on iOS. Because of the way it is designed, (you goto hold and press the center button or go back to the app from the main screen) I could care less for 99% of the apps I use anyways, freezing the screen state is often enough, I don't need it sitting in the background eating up more battery. Only thing I really use it for is 3rd party media applications.

If you want a good example of multitasking, look at WebOS, by far the best (I actually do keep multiple things open all the time). Androids solution is half baked at best, and accessing programs in the background is always a pain.


RE: It begs the question...
By jimhsu on 10/21/2010 5:37:21 PM , Rating: 2
From a technical perspective no. From a usability standpoint, yes copy and paste is REALLY difficult.

Mobile devices these days are essentially one button mice with a large touch surface. Now to implement copy and paste, do you:

1. Use a keyboard shortcut - too convoluted. And how would you select content?

2. Hold down a finger on the screen. Should you show it in the context menu (or is there too much stuff there already). Should you show it next to the item - what if the pop up box covers the content you're trying to copy, or goes off the screen, or is too small to be readable? What about the duration of touch - too long, too short? How do you handle HTML elements - copying from the middle of one DIV to another, more than one TABLE cell, interactive content, pop up content, modal content, etc etc.

3. Use an external button that brings up a selector - too many buttons on the device already! What if the user accidentally presses it? How can you tell if the user wants to cut, copy, or paste?

You see it's an enormous usability issue, not a technical issue.


RE: It begs the question...
By wanorris on 10/21/2010 11:14:05 PM , Rating: 2
From a technical standpoint, the other issue is security. If you copy private data from app 1 to app 2, it could be a security breach for that data to be hanging around in your clipboard for some random app to find. Considering all the Android apps that have been found to not play nicely with your data, this isn't a purely theoretical problem.

Having said that, the only reason I give Microsoft a pass on a feature I consider fundamental is that they're supposed to have C&P by the time they release a CDMA phone anyway.


RE: It begs the question...
By Wiggy Mcshades on 10/21/2010 6:01:31 PM , Rating: 2
Applications that are "running in the background" don't actually take up any cpu cycles (so in effect no power). The threads for the application that you minimized are halted and any data related to them is stored in memory. When you go to open the application again it figures out how to start a new identical thread from the stored data so it seems as if the program was just paused in the background. The application is effectively closed besides the small (compared to a full running program) amount of memory used to store the threads' data. For media applications running in the background lets just say playing music it just lets the one thread for audio playback to keep running and stops the threads that were for the ui ect ect the same way as before. That's how all the multitasking on mobile devices works, the way the user gets to interact with that mechanic is really what makes webOS's version better than android.


RE: It begs the question...
By omnicronx on 10/21/2010 7:42:09 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure how iOS handles multitasking in iOS4, but that is not 'how all mobile devices work'.(nor do I think you are correct with iOS either)

WebOS is the perfect example, you can open any two cards and you can clearly watch both being active at the same time.

From what I remember on my iPad, it also works in the background (via the 4.2 dev preview). As long as the app is not idle, its going to be consuming resources, including cpu cycles.

In fact Apple even recommends shutting down extra Applications for this very reason.

Multitasking on mobile devices is a true form of multitasking, whether or not you get even close to the same priority level as say, running an app in the background on a desktop remains to be seen. I know back from my Windows Mobile coding days that this is how it worked. (apps in background would have far less priority than foreground apps)


RE: It begs the question...
By omnicronx on 10/21/2010 8:04:25 PM , Rating: 2
Not that your incorrect about UI elements and such, but if I have an app that every 5 minutes refreshes the page (perhaps a news app or something), its still going to do so in the background unless the developer has specifically coded the app not too.. i.e its been coded to only perform certain tasks during particular sates


RE: It begs the question...
By omnicronx on 10/21/2010 8:29:15 PM , Rating: 3
Looks like you are partly correct about iOS though. Fastswitch by default and limited access to background api's if the developer chooses to implement it.. (uploading picks, gps info, etc)..

That being said if you were to background an app that makes use of these features, it will remain active, and as such will impact battery life.

In Android, you are not so limited (you have access to services for any background tasks you wish to perform)


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