Saturday, February 05, 2011

Windows Phone HTC HD 7 - First Impression

Two weeks ago, right after the arrival at Manchester Airport and while waiting in the baggage claim area, my mobile phone stopped working: the touch screen was no longer operable. I noticed one spec on the screen at one location, as if the layers of the touch screen surface have collapsed at that point. While the screen still showed data and the buttons of the phone worked fine, the touch screen no longer responded to any touch.

Fortunately a few days later my contract allowed me to get a free upgrade. Which phone should I get? I am already using an Apple iPhone for project-related work, so I would look for other alternatives. Android looked good, but in order to get the HTC Desire HD I would have to switch to Three, and I would prefer to remain with O2. O2 only offers the lower-end version HTC Desire as an Android phone. Since around 1998 I had quite good experiences with Windows CE devices: first the PDAs, then PDA phones. I liked the backward compatibility and the ability to edit Word and Excel docs on the mobile device, so also my most recent phone had been a Windows Mobile (6.1). Since October the new Windows Mobile Phone 7 devices were out - breaking completely the backward compatibility and actually offering less functionality (I wonder why it is so hard to implement copy/cut-and-paste; Apple had the same initial problem). There is still one phone out there with Windows Mobile 6.5.3, which still offered the old well-proven functions, such as synchronising with Outlook (even without Exchange) and backward compatibility, so I could run some of the software that I still was using (for example CodeWallet was a very nice utility for storing passwords; they are working on an iPhone app). But then I got lured by the latest Windows Phone: the HTC HD7.

The upgrade was free, and so I got my phone on last Friday. And here are some first experiences:

The overall look of the interface is very slick. Nice fonts, although the overall stylishness and coolness sometimes leads to text being shown too large and going beyond the screen.

There appear not many customisable settings, especially in comparison with the iPhone. There is only one main screen with those tiles (which can be arranged and configured), then there is one other screen which sorts all "application" icons in an alphabetical column. I have not yet found out if one can actually define more screens, which I would prefer.

Similar to the Apple Appstore one can also here directly download apps. The selection appears much smaller than for the iPhone; also the prices for many apps are somewhat high; but there are also free apps. These apps appear somewhat of a lesser quality as the ones for the iPhone: for example the Twitter app for Windows Mobile does only support one account, whereas the same app for iPhone supports multiple accounts - although both apps come directly from Twitter. Similarly the Facebook app, which works fine, but seems to have only few configurable options on the Windows Phone side. It also shows less information on Windows Phone, for example you cannot even see which people are behind a "like".

In some other cases there is stylishness over function: for example on the "people" tile, the faces of contacts pop up in a random manner. While this looks interesting, it has no meaning at all, as these face popups appear only to be random. It would have been great if these would be linked to actual activity online, for example when a contact post something on Facebook, or when an email arrives. But the faces fade in and out even when there is no network; when I see those faces and then check for the actual activity of that person, there is no correlation whatsoever to the tile display and the actual activity.

One positive thing: all contacts are now accessible under one tile, providing one access point for contacts from Outlook (Exchange), Facebook, and all other email accounts. This is really useful.

On the other hand, there is no common joint inbox, as it is on the iPhone: instead each email account has its own tile on the main screen.

One big advantage of the old Windows Mobile phones had been the capability of synchronising data and files with a PC, although the synchronisation suffered from terrible programming of ActiveSync, which often resulted in duplicate items and updating of the wrong file. The new Windows Phone has replaced this by using the Zune software. First one has to download a 120 MB big file for the Zune installation, then one has to wait for another 30 minutes until all the updates for this have been downloaded and installed, then Zune is ready. Supposedly the synchronisation of the Windows Phone with the PC would work from there. But I had connected the phone per USB to the computer already before I installed the software, assuming (hoping) that there would be some kind of self-installing driver there, as it is with many USB devices. Unfortunately that was a wrong hope - the device did not install itself, and when I tried then to use Zune for installing the drivers, the phone did not show up there in the "device" settings. That had worked better with the iPhone on the Apple Mac... no surprise about this.

So it appears to be a big problem that I had connected the phone to the PC before I had installed Zune... fortunately I found the solution in a forum, and I was finally able to have the HD7 installed as a "portable device". But then it did still did not show up in Zune... until I realised that I had to click an "ok" somewhere in order to move on. Strange GUI...

Unfortunately this Zune software only synchronises media files, but no other files such as Excel, Word etc. There is some mention on synchronising "One Note" files, but I will have to explore this further.

The camera takes excellent sharp pictures, and the 4.3" display (800x480) is very nice: bright and crisp.

Overall the experience with this phone so far is mixed. I still am looking for a proper way of getting the synchronisation going. On the website, it says I can sync notes from my phone by tapping on "Office>All>Sync". But that does not exist... instead there is mention of a "Sharepoint", which I found out costs something... so it looks pretty bad, and I may not be able to get my car petrol statistics or the list of all my flights (all in Excel files) over to this mobile phone, which really is a pity.

A year ago Microsoft had about 7% market share of smart phones. This has now dropped to 3%... and if they do not soon provide an update to their new Windows Phone OS with all the features one would expect (cut-and-paste, synchronisation of Office files with PC), then soon there will be the well deserved end of their attempts in the mobile market. Windows Phone does have potential - the look-and-feel is good, but it needs more substance.

1 comment:

El presente ya es el porvenir y el olvido. said...

Me quedo mil veces con el htc por que tiene mas accesorios htc desire hd que ningun otro y sus aplicaciones.