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I'm currently working at Ta Mère SCRL a small development shop in Belgium.

We mainly do mobile apps (iOS, Android) for clients. We also have a strong interest in Pharo Smalltalk and Rust.

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Windows Phone 7

28 Dec 2011 in phone review windows 

I’ve written this article in June 2011 and never published it. Now that Nokia has shipped their phones and the Mango (aka Windows Phone 7.5) is everywhere, it’s maybe time to click on the publish button ;)

When reading reviews of WP7.5, Microsoft has fixed almost all the issues I had with my LG Optimus 7 phone. Unfortunately, it broke during the (awesome) Dour festival. The phone became crazy and kept rebooting. (In case you are wondering, fifteen minutes of cycling reboots keeps your phone hot). The shop where I bought it did not plan to get any Windows Phone soon so they gave me a Galaxy S2 (almost) for free.

While Android 2.3 is packed with wonderful features, it’s not as polished as the WP7 phone I owned but it usually works well. Android 4 is said to address this but I don’t think it will be as fresh and usable than Windows Phone. Anyway, here’s the short review I wrote back in June:

I was the first to be surprised when I came back home with a windows phone in my bag. Three months later, it’s time to report.

A bit of context: I’m a big fan of Apple products for seven years now (and I was a Linux user before). MacOS X is an impressive operating system: the geek inside me loves UNIX, the end user part of me likes the ‘everything works out of the box’ side of the Mac experience.

Long story short, I love this Windows Phone 7.

  • Tiles are awesome. Simple, no gradient, no round corners, ni shiny effect, just the fact. Data-ink ratio is very high, Tuft would be happy.
  • Menus are kept to their minimum. There are not tons of options everywhere. Microsoft provided a very opiniated way of using the phone and they made the right choice almost every time.
  • All in all, this Metro UI is particularly well thought. Navigation follows a consistent pattern through the OS. Third party applications tend to adopt it.
  • Animations are plain right. Very subtle, never too long, they are visually pleasant and serve their purpose very well. They bring a sensation of fluidity and smoothness.
  • No custom ringtones. That sounds ridiculous but it clearly shows the direction taken by the creators of the OS.
  • Actually one of the only possible customisation is to change the dominant color. My favourite is Magenta. The color will be used almost everywhere in your phone. Elegant.
  • The Mac software is simple and easy to use. It synchronises your phone with iTunes' data. Don’t know if Apple appreciates but it works just fine
  • I have mixed feelings about the web browser though. Navigation is fast and fluid but javascript performance and CSS handling sucks at best. The navigation bar disappear when you are in landscape mode. That’s quite weird. Microsoft says it is based on a mix of IE 7 and 8. Fortunately, they will ship IE9 with the next release of Windows Phone. The stuff that could have been added without too much boilerplate:

  • They screwed up with the first update of the OS. It brought copy-pasting but deployment was a nightmare for Microsoft.

  • Notification LED. My android phone had a small LED hiddden in the speaker. Even when you’re phone is in silent mode you can see in one eye glance if you'vre a text or missed a call. very useful

  • No threads in emails. Epic fail.

  • No tethering. Annoying in the train.

  • No multiple calendars when synced with Google Calendar.

  • I cannot find a good Remember The Milk app. WinMilk is way to slow to be usable (yeah, I know, it is open source it is up to me to improve it instead of complaining)

This week, Microsoft unveiled a new version of WP7 called ‘Mango’ or WP7.5. This update brings a lot of new features. Hopefully they won’t screw the whole Metro experience (fingers crossed).

All in all, forget Windows Mobile 6.x, Microsoft changed everything. The subtle rename from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone is not innocent.

I can’t believe I’ve just said something good about Microsoft software.