Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Really? Part Two

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm very happy with my Windows Phone, to the extent that I would say that the whole "glance and go" concept that MS put forth is totally off-base: I can't take my eyes (or hands) off of the thing.
Even when I'm not actually doing anything with it I still find myself just randomly scrolling around and looking at it, being amazed at how smoothly everything moves, and some of the nice little touches that round out the UI, such as the way the arrow on the Home screen, which points to the "next" screen over, which is home to all of the installed apps and other functions, bounces between the edge of the screen and the live tiles when you scroll all the way to the bottom.
Or the way you fly up and over in Bing maps when locating yourself after having moved from one place to another.
In short, it's just plain neat.
However, in terms of the "glance and go" concept, they did actually pull that off pretty well, as the lock screen displays a wealth of information at a glance, such as indicators for any new e-mail, calls, or text messages you may have, the time, your next appointment, and indicators for signal strength and battery life.
Of course, I wouldn't be Jon - and Microsoft wouldn't be Microsoft - if there weren't a few things for me to cmplain about.
On the topic of the lock screen, I wish that it were a little more customizable than it is - an overall lack of customization options across the board is probably my biggest complaint - beyond simply being able to choose your wallpaper.
For example, I wish that there were a way to get the lock screen to also display weather data for your current location.
The lack of customization options throughout the OS/UI doesn't bother me too much, since I like the basic look of it anyway, and you can adjust the important things, like the number and kinds of live tiles on the Home screen, but still, I would like to have a few more options.
Along those same lines, there is a paucity of options in terms of settings for how tiles and apps behave, which, again, most of the time isn't an issue, and I understand why it's as locked-down as it is, but the ability to change just about anything you wanted was one of the things I liked most about Windows Mobile 6.5 (and about the Windows desktop OS, for that matter).
Still, my complaints are few, and relatively minor...except for the lack of Bubble Breaker. I'm not much of a gamer - note that I have little or no opinion on the XBox Live integration into the phone, since I don't use it at all, but I assume that, if you're into that sort of thing, it's really cool - but Bubble Breaker has been my go-to time-waster since the days of my PDA, and I'm definitely feeling its absence. There's a free third-party app that's like Bubble Breaker, but I find it to be kind of ugly, and the developer didn't really do much to make it finger-friendly, which, given the lack of a stylus, is an issue.
In any case, here's a rundown of some of my other petty complaints:

The Pictures hub is very cool, especially since it gives you access to any photo albums you may have on Windows Live, Skydrive (the free online storage service from MS), and Facebook, but I do have one small complaint. By default, as you scroll sideways to get to different options, it shows you a sampling of some of your pictures. However, the pictures it displays are more or less random, and I'd like to be able to actually choose which pictures are showing up. Also, while I understand that they're competitors, I'd like for MS and Google to play a little nicer with each other and allow you to access your Picasaweb albums via the Pictures hub.
(Also, on an unrelated note, Google seriously needs to improve the mobile version of Picasaweb; finding a specific picture in a large album involves constantly clicking on the "next" link until you get to the page it's on. Gee, if only Google knew anything about performing searches...)
While the Windows Marketplace is constantly expanding, espcially given that MS has gone all out in making developing apps for WP7 an easy and attractive proposition, I do miss having the ability to "sideload" apps obtained from other sources.
(I will say that having to move things to and from the phone via Zune - or, alternatively, via "the cloud" - isn't terribly onerous. It's certainly got iTunes beat. Still, I would like to be able to plug the phone into a computer and have it be recognized as just another storage device.)
On a related note, if there's a way to sync with your PC via Bluetooth, I haven't found it.
The deep integration of social networks -Windows Live and Facebook - is very cool, even for someone as anti-social as myself, but I think that the failure to integrate Twitter as well is, well, a failure. Same goes for blogging. It'd be awesome if I could make a blog post right from the "Me" tile in the same way that I can update my status on Facebook.
As for the phone itself - meaning the actual hardware - the SuperAMOLED display is awesome, and I love how light and thin it is, but by that same token, perhaps just because it lacks heft, it feels kind of cheap. I also wish it weren't quite so rounded; I much prefer the look of the otherwise identical Omnia 7, which isn't available in the US.
Battery life is - as I expected, given the raw power of the hardware - terrible, but it's sufficient to get me through my work day
And in terms of the carrier - AT&T - I don't really have the kind of complaints that so many other people seem to; I've generally found it to be reliable enough for my purposes. However, I do wish they would offer some sort of 4G service.

To get back to the things I love about it, the Zune interface for music and videos is, in my opinion, vastly superior to the iPod. If it weren't for just one issue - which I'll get to below - I would be perfectly willing to get rid of my iPod Touch entirely.
Now that Netflix is offering a streaming-only option, I may have to sign up just so that I can make use of the phone's Netflix app.
Oh, and the IMDb app? Gorgeous.

I won't complain about some of the missing functionality that's set to be added via updates - such as Flash and cut & paste - but here I'll have to mimic the commercial and say, "Really?" about the inability to create custom ringtones.
And now for my wish list:

The aforementioned display of weather data on the lock screen
An alarm clock app that allows you to wake to the music stored on the phone. That should be basic functionality included in the Zune interface, frankly. (This is what keeps me from ditching my iPod, as I have a physical alarm clock that interfaces with the iPod and lets me wake to music). I've seen some alarm clock apps that may provide that function, but I'm not certain if they do or not.
The real Bubble Breaker!
Better indication of remaining battery life; the graphic just doesn't cut it. I want percentage listed.
The return of Outlook Tasks.
Again, the integration of blogging tools into the OS.

As you can see, it's a pretty small wish list, which, considering that this is a Microsoft product, is pretty amazing.
A few other notes...
Most of the phones have the ability to have additional storage via MicroSD cards added, but the Focus is the only one that makes it possible for the user to add storage. However, once added, it can't be removed without wiping the phone, as it gets integrated into the system memory. This works fine, given the inability to sideload, and the great job the OS does of organizing files for you.
In my case, I bought a 32 GB MicroSD card at the same time I bought the phone, which brought the total storage available on the phone up to 40 GB. To put that in perspective, that's nearly 400 times as much storage as I had available on my very first desktop computer.
On a phone.

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