Sunday, November 21, 2010

Really? Part One

Several years ago, because I had some money burning a hole in my pocket and I saw a good deal on it, I bought a PDA from HP which was running the Microsoft Pocket PC OS.
Pocket PC began its life as Windows CE, or, as it was often known, WinCE, back in the mid-90s, and was a compact version of the Windows OS designed for lower-powered handheld devices.
Over time, WinCE became Pocket PC, and over even more time it became Windows Mobile and helped to usher in the era of the smartphone.
I liked my PDA a lot, but eventually got tired of carrying around two devices - my PDA and my cell phone - and decided to go the convergence route, picking up a smartphone from the handset manufacture HTC which was running Windows Mobile 5.
The phone, which wasn't pretty, but was powerful and had a nice slide-out keyboard, served me well, and when I saw that HTC was coming out with a newer phone, one that was sleek and sexy, I made the upgrade.
That was my AT&T Fuze, a phone that also served me well for a while, but eventually, after losing market share to the iPhone and Android-based phones, MS pretty much abandoned Windows Mobile, and while there was - and still is - a strong hobbyist community that develops apps for WM 6.5 - the last version - as well as custom versions of the OS itself, my Fuze was feeling pretty tired and dated. After all, it was nearly two years old, which is an eternity in the tech world.
Not wanting an iPhone, I started checking out some of the Android-based offerings, but couldn't really find anything that was terribly compelling. After all, I used my Fuze for a lot of work stuff, so I needed something with a level of integration with Exchange and Office that only MS could provide.
Then I started seeing stuff about the new mobile strategy from MS and their complete redesign of the mobile OS from the ground up, the terribly-named Windows Phone 7 Series.
I really liked what I was seeing in terms of the interface, but for a while I remained on the fence about making the switch - while continuing to obsessively track down every bit of information I could about the new platform - and found myself being kind of put off by some of the news. There was, after all, the fact that the OS would not offer cut & paste, a feature that it took quite a while for the iPhone to offer - which I derided Apple for - nor would it be a multi-tasking OS, which, again, was like Apple. Further following the Apple model, you wouldn't be able to "sideload" applications on the phone - all apps had to be added via an app store using the Zune softwae as an interface - which, again, was incredibly Appleish, and the new phones wouldn't have removable storage.
Still, I liked the hardware specs: high resolution, multi touch displays, fast processors, and 5 megapixel cameras. And I learned that some of the missing features would be added quickly via software updates.
I was put off by the inability to add removable storage, or to be able to plug the phone into a PC and just use it like an external hard drive.
But then I would see other things that just seemed so cool, and eventually I drank the Kool-Aid and decided that when the time came, I would make the move to WP7.
After making the decision, it was a matter of waiting to see the phones that would be running it. I saw some promising things from my old favorite HTC, a dead sexy offering from Dell, and a pretty sweet-looking offering from Samsung.
Sadly, when the launch came, none of the phones I was salivating over were going to be offered by AT&T, appearing instead on T-Mobile or not available in the US.
Still, there was a final offering from Samsung that I liked the look of, which would be on AT&T.
(If I were going to switch carriers I'd go with Verizon so that I could have a unified bill for mobile, Internet, cable, and landline phone, but Verizon wasn't a launch partner, and was taking a "wait and see" attitude with WP7. Now I've read that they'll have WP7 phones by the holidays. Dammit.)
When I was in Michigan for my mom, my brother-in-law picked me up from the hospital while she was having a procedure done and brought me to the AT&T Store, where I picked up the Samsung Focus, and where I made a fan of the phone out of the employee who sold it to me, as he said, "Yeah, I don't think I'm leaving here today without one of those."
What I liked about the Focus is that it's big - 4" screen - it's thin and light, and it has a SuperAMOLED display that's really clear and bright.
I do miss having a physical keyboard, but I'm getting used to the onscreen version.
If you've seen the Windows Phone commercials, you've seen the best part, which is the eager wife who's attempting to draw her husband's attention away from his phone:

I'm with you, honey; really? As much as I love my new phone, I'd put it down in a heartbeat for her.

The wife is portrayed by one Christina Cuenca, Miss Lousiana 2006. (Thanks, Internet!)
I did what I could with a cap from the commercial to create the above image, which is currently serving as the wallpaper on my phone.
In any case, on to the phone itself...
One of the big selling points of WP7 is its tight integration with social networks. Once you sign in with/create your Windows Live account and connect it to the social networks of your choice, the phone will automatically snag all of the relevant information about the people in your networks. If you have people who appear as contacts in multiple accounts - such as, for me, Scott, who is a Gmail contact, a Facebook friend, a Windows Live friend, and one of my contacts in Outlook - all of their information will be presented in a single entry, and you can save favorite people on you main screen as a "Live Tile," a dynamic image that bounces around, displaying the person's name, image, and any status updates.
Contacts are one area where I've seen people complain about the phone, since in the "People" hub - hubs are like folders that organize information - you just get one long vertical list of undifferenctiated contacts. That works fine for me, and finding specific contacts is pretty quick and easy, but if you were more social and popular than I am and had hundreds of contacts, I suppose I can see how it could be an issue.
I've decided to make this kinda-sorta review of my new phone a multi-part post, since it's been pretty long already, but in bringing this part to a close, let me just say that while there are, naturally, a few problems with it, and I do have something of a wish list, overall I really love Windows Phone 7, much more than I ever though I could or would. So you'll be seeing a lot of enthusiastic gushing in the next part, because I really am legitimately excited about the phone, and I want to evangelize for it a little in the hopes of ensuring its continued success.

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