OK, so I’ve had my Windows Phone 7.5 for 50 days now and although I got bored of blogging about it after a fortnight, I don’t think that reflects badly on the phone… how much can anyone REALLY write about a phone?
Anyway, it’s fair to say that I’ve not had any particularly bad experiences with my Windows Phone, and I’m still very pleased with the device.
Since my last post about my Windows Phone, I’ve found some great features, and found some disappointment with the manufacturer, but that’s not Microsoft’s fault.
So anyway the highs, I discovered a number of useful apps like Cardmobili. and Xbox Companion which lets me control my Xbox 360 from my handset. I’m more involved in what’s going on with my family on social networks on a daily basis, and I’m more on top of my e-mails than ever.
Tonight, I found some nice features that I felt worth blogging about. Recently my wife was involved in an RTA in our car (not her fault, and she wasn’t injured) but whilst the car’s at the body shop being repaired, they’ve given us a hire car… a ‘10 reg Megane with loads of extras.
I was pleased to see the compatibility with my Dell Venue Pro. A real bonus for business users/regular travellers. From pairing (which was easy). It offered to sync my phone book, and even share the pictures on my device. I found that it instantly knows when it’s connected to the bluetooth, and when I receive a text message it announces it over the car’s handsfree system, and allows me to voice command it to read it outloud, and even reply by voice. This is amazing.
As you might expect it allows me to play Spotify over bluetooth, via the car speakers too which makes for great music and no dodgy signal as you move between broadcasting regions.
The best part of all this, is that “it just works” – and anyone who knows me will know that I like systems (software, hardware, or both) that “just work” without requiring any technical knowledge or any great deal of work from the user. My Windows Phone and the in car sat nav/audio system in the Renault Megane fit nicely into this category.
Has anyone had this level of experience with other platforms? Voice command text messaging and everything? I know BlackBerry has ‘an app for that’ but does anything else have this functionality built in?
OK, so I've been off work today (of a fashion) full of a cold. OK, so I ended up working pretty much my normal, but from the comfort and warmth of my bed. As my head is all bunged up, you'll have to forgive me if today's post isn't as long as the past few days.
Today I had the opportunity read/write some e-mails in a conversation in my inbox. By a conversation (if you don't already know) I mean a number of e-mails going back and forth grouped together. Anyone that uses GMail will be familiar with this format, and Microsoft have tried to replicated it in Outlook and Hotmail in the past, but it's never quite worked the same, or as well in those products. These examples however are where conversations are in use on the desktop/web browser. I've not seen any successful use of conversations on a mobile device, until now.
The conversation view on Windows Phone 7.5 is just great. It shows the conversation as a header telling you, as a summary, how many e-mails are in the conversation and how many of them are unread. Tapping the header expands the conversation to show all messages in the conversation, from where you can tap a message to view it's contents. This is certainly missing from iOS and BBOS, and it was missing from Android early days (afterall they were missng a proper mobile e-mail client initially) but I don't now if this functionality exists on the Android platform now.
I've had an opportunity to play on some trial games on Windows Phone 7.5 today. I was intrigued by the level of integration with XBox Live, and XBox. Even to the degree of being able to control your XBox from your phone (with the use of an app). I spent a bit of time configuring an avatar which I intended to look like me, though I found myself spending far too much time on the eyes, and still not being happy with them. The games themself perform very well given the graphics level that they're running.
I'm sure I'll cover these in a little more detail as I buy some full games over the next few days/weeks.
Following the BIS issues this summer in the UK and the rest of the world we looked at how we could make ourselves a little bit more resilient. Afterall, losing access to mobile e-mail for a number of days had a significant impact on our business and the way we respond to our customers.
For those who don't know, the problems largely affected BlackBerry's BIS service (BlackBerry Internet Service) which provides internet access, BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) and push mail. Though it did have some impact on BES (BlackBerry Enterprise Server) service, this was largely limited to BBM messages that needed to be handed from BES users to BIS users.
Anwyay, the technicalities over, we looked initially at moving our BlackBerry smartphones to BES to make them more resilient. At this point we found that Vodafone have been selling us some sort of substandard service. We've found (for a while) that pushed e-mails don't come through as quickly as they used to when BlackBerry smartphones first became mainstream. We didn't expect that switching to BES would restore our service level to the same as it used to be. E-mails come through immediately rather than up to 15 minutes later.
Anyway, you're by this point probably thinking that this blog post was supposed to be about Windows Phone 7.5. Bear with me, I'm getting there... I thought it worth explaining why we're looking at Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" at all.
We've previously used Apple iPhones, and although they're very responsive devices and have a number of apps available for them, the lack of a hardware keyboard means I waste far too much time correcting what I'm typing rather than just typing it. Switching from an iPhone 4 to a BlackBerry Torch 9800 would a good thing in this regards.
Having found that we've been provided with a bit of a duff service since we switched to a BlackBerry, I felt this was the icing on the cake following the summer outages and we started to look at alternative platforms.
Following our move to BlackBerry, we found that things were FAR better with a hardware keyboard and a touch-screen combined, so this was a requirement of whatever we moved to.
What platforms were available in the market? We'll there iOS, Android and Windows Phone. I personally don't like Android... it feels too cheap, device makers aren't consistent enough, devices generally have poor battery life from what I've seen, and because the platform is so open, it's far too easy a target for malware creators, whether they already have, or are going to create viruses, spyware, trojans etc.
So that left us with Windows Phone 7 (7.5 the current version). Now to find one with a hardware keyboard.
We liked vertical slide of the BlackBerry Torch 9800, so that helped to limit the choice... to 1 handset.
Dell Venue Pro
I was surprised that there's only 1 device running Windows Phone 7.5 with a vertical slide keyboard, and it's like gold dust in the UK. Sure you can buy a brand-new sim free device direct from Dell, but if you want a pre-owned one, then they're really hard to get hold of. Whether this is a good sign, or not, we'll surely find out during the 30 days that I plan to run this series of blog posts for - seeing as that's how long I'm told I seem to keep a mobile phone for.
This was actually a little more painful than I expected. The user interface is very intuitive, but I got stuck at the first hurdle adding my e-mail account, and downloading apps from the Marketplace. It just wouldn't happen.
We run Office 365 for our enterprise e-mail, contacts, calendar and tasks etc. so it's nice to see that the phone has support for Office 365 out of the box, including task synchronisation (normally requires a third party app on other mobile platforms). So why wouldn't my account work?
A few minutes later, I tried adding my Windows Live account to the device, at this point I got a message saying that the date/time on the device is wrong and that it should be corrected before attempting to add the Windows Live account. Sure enough, the time was way out, obviously the result of a factory reset.
This seemingly was preventing the device from doing any sort of communication with server-side components, such as Marketplace and Office 365.
Anyway, date/time sorted, I'm pleased to report that everything else has gone smoothly.
I've run through the installation of pretty much every app that I'd actually made use of on my iPhone, and BlackBerry was only every running a small sub-set of those (given the limited nature of BlackBerry's AppWorld). Installation was a doddle. I've even installed a few apps that I didn't have before.
At this point, I want to play with the device a little to understand it. There's a few features that I want to look at more. I've had a glimpse with what I've done with the device so far, but I want to see more such as:
- Pinning people and groups to the start page
- The people hubs and the way that they bring social networks into one place
- Lync 2010 client (although it's not part of Windows Phone 7.5, it's in the marketplace so I want to play)
- Microsoft Office
- SharePoint integration
I'll hopefully cover these in a little more detail in tomorrow's post. So far my first impressions of this device and platform are very positive, perhaps a little more positive than I expected.
Check back for another post tomorrow to see if I'm still as pleased.