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?

Posted: 31/01/2012 21:01:54 by Kurt Farrar | with 1 comments

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.

E-mail conversations

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.
Posted: 15/12/2011 22:34:02 by Kurt Farrar | with 2 comments

Pinning people and groups

This is a fantastic and innovative way to keep up with what friends, family and colleagues are up to.
Out of the box (once you've added an account for your social network) it has a people hub that brings together activities and photos for all of your social network contacts into one place. This is great in itself.... However there's also the option to pin one of these contacts to your start page which shows you their current picture and latest update on the live tile, but then also allows you to select that person to see their posts across all of your social networks and to view images that they've posted too.

To take this a step further, you can create a group (such as family, for example), put contacts into the group and pin the group to the start page, and again you can see all posts from that group of people. This could be a great way of keep up to date on developments in your industry, or key players in your industry. A fantastic feature in my opinion.

Saving a number to the phonebook

I found this frustrating. I had someone call me yesterday. They weren't in my phone book, so I went to save them (as I normally would) and couldn't find an option to create a new contact from a recently dialled or received call. I thought this was pretty basic functionality included in the £15 talk and text pay as you go phones you can get at the moment.
I couldn't even find the ability to copy and paste that number.
I ultimately resorted to writing the number down and rekeying it in to the new contact. Frustrating to say the least.
Thanks to Dan Harris, I've now found how to save the number. It was obvious that I could tap the number. I'd tried tapping and holding and could only see a button to call the number. Oh well... Lesson learnt... Seems easy now I know how. 


These seem to be a little bit more flexible than they are on iOS, probably to the same degree as they are on BBOS6. There's plenty of system tools that fill some of the gaps such as quickly toggling the WiFi and Bluetooth off/on (Toggle), the sort of customisation that I only saw in iOS when it was jailbroken.

Apps generally seem to be more expensive on the Windows Phone platform. I don't know the reasoning behind this. For paid apps, you're generally looking at about 2-3 times more with a fair number of games being around the £4.50 - £5.00 mark while I would normally expect these games to be to be around £1.99. Similarly, 99p games on iOS are retailing for around £2.50 on Windows Phone. I don't know whether this is the same for the rest of the world, and whether this has anything to do with any additional licensing costs to link the app in with Xbox Live. 

Some favourite apps already

I know this is a Windows Phone 7.5 review/experience, but if you take any mobile OS on their functions and don't consider their app ecosystem then Symbian and BBOS would be ranking as high as Windows Phone, iOS and Android, so I thought I'd cover some of the gems I've found as I go along.

I've got 2 favourites so far, Lync 2010 and Diarist. 

Lynx 2010 is a mobile client for Lync Server and Lync Online. You must have one or the other to use it. Fortunately for us, Lync Online comes with our Office 365 service (if you're interested in more info about this, give me a shout).
Lynx is a corporate IM application, on the desktop it allows online meetings, desktop sharing, integrates with VoIP systems and more. I've been fond of this system since it was Microsoft Office Communicator, having (like others) experienced the benefits of Windows Live Messenger and it's predecessor MSN Messenger, both aimed more at the consumer market.
This app works well and like most things I've experienced with WP7 so far, looks great.
Diarist is a little app I've found for writing blog posts, which makes writing this one easier on the move. It works with the MetaBlog API which Kentico CMS uses (we like Kentico, we're Gold Partners). It's free and well worth a try if you want to post while on the move.

The URL format for setting up a Kentico Blog with Diarist is:
http://<application path>/CMSModules/Blogs/CMSPages/MetaWeblog.ashx

General look and feel

I'm really liking the high contrast appearance of apps, and the really wide apps that you only see a small portion of at a time. I didn't think I would, so it really is a pleasant surprise. It's great to see that app makers have all bought into this too by creating their apps in the same style. We'll see if I'm still saying that in 29 days time.
Posted: 14/12/2011 20:44:46 by Kurt Farrar | with 2 comments

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