Our first review of Microsoft's Windows Phone noted that the basics were all in place: a stylish and innovative interface, smooth and fast operation, and a tight integration of Microsoft services like Xbox and Zune. But it was the first version of a major OS, and as we all know, those are never really great--just look at how far iOS and Android have come--so here we are again, taking a look at Microsoft's first major update, known as Mango, which was released this week. It solves lots of the problems with had with version 1.0--though some still remain.
What's new are essentially fixes to just about every issue users of the first generation of Windows Phones had. Multitasking, copy/paste, fast app switching, Twitter integration: all here. Plus tons of little details we hadn't thought to ask for, like a very smart Groups concept that links certain contacts together for easy monitoring (like Work or Family), or the legions of pretty animations that are the hallmark of this OS.
Lots of stuff! The basics of the phone are all great--the Live Tiles, halfway between an icon and a widget, manage to take the best parts of both, showing clear information like weather, unread emails, and media without having to go into the app itself. The OS as a whole is damned pretty, as pretty as iOS in its way, with flat, bold colors and a heavily text-based interface. The OS feels even faster than before, with hardly a stutter to be found. The app selection is surprisingly good; there may be fewer apps than Android or iOS, but the quality tends to be very high, and, to be honest, the catalog has just about every app you'd want.
Other great things: The lock screen has pretty pictures and lots of (but not too much) information. The Zune app for music, video, and podcasts is amazing, at least as good as iOS's media setup. Windows Phone has the best Netflix app on any mobile platform, without question. The "People" app (which is kind of like an overview of your friends' social media presence) and the "Me" app (which feeds into your narcissism/anxiety by showing how people are reacting to your social media presence, with comments and Likes and all) are unexpected ways to socialize, and good ones. Mobile IE9 is an awesome web browser. Local Scout is kind of like Google Places, but better: wherever you are, tap the Scout button, and you'll see stuff to do, places to eat and drink, that kind of thing (and this will also get better and more complete with time). Facebook integration is intensely good, and I love that (in another WebOS swipe) it integrates Facebook chat with other kinds of chat, so conversations with each person are in one place, regardless of whether you used Facebook or texting or MSN to chat. (Although please add Google Talk and AIM.)
But what's hard to get at, with all those features (and Mango is seriously crammed full of features; those are just what jumped out at me), is how fun and easy Mango is to use. Microsoft may advertise how easy it is to get in, get your information, and get back to your life, but I found myself unpocketing the phone just to dive into its swoopy, angular menus. A lot of thought has been put into making this thing entertaining to use, and it's largely succeeded.
There are still some little weirdnesses, here and there. Bing Maps, while mostly a fine substitute for Google Maps, lacks public transit or bike options. Not enough apps take advantage of Live Tiles. Multitasking is still not done: Mango uses a WebOS-lookalike for this, in which you hold down the back button and are presented with big thumbnails of your currently-running apps which you can swipe through and select. That's great, in theory, but it has some problems. Apps take up multiple thumbnail slots, sometimes, for no reason I can tell. And, more to the point, multitasking isn't really multitasking. That's a tired thing to say, I know, but it's true: Windows Phone apps have to be adjusted to take advantage of Mango, and just about none of them have. Rdio, for example, can't play music in the background while you're reading your email or browsing the internet, and if you switch to another app and then switch back to it, you're taken to the Rdio homescreen, at which point you have to search for the song you were listening to all over again. That sucks. Same problem with other apps like Twitter and Kindle. Weirder, sometimes the back button would just refuse to take me into the multitasking thumbnail view, leaving me to hammer away on it for awhile and then give up.
Oh, and you can't close apps from the thumbnail view, like you could with WebOS. That's sort of indicative of a deeper problem with Windows Phone, that it's completely inscrutable. In theory, that's just another approach, designed to keep things simple-- but if you're going to give me this power user thumbnail thing with multitasking, let me be a power user! Along the same lines, I would really love some universal search. When you hit the magnifying-glass search button, you're immediately taken to what's basically a Bing web search app. It makes some small steps towards being universal, searching through the app Marketplace and such, but it doesn't search your contacts or apps. It should. Fix, please.
The other thing that really bothered me, that seems like a minor thing but became a legitimate frustration, is the menu bar. On every other phone, in the history of the world, you could look at the top of the screen and see the time, battery information, and connection status. That's not frivolous. Those things are important. Windows Phone does away with that. Sometimes, in some apps, you can see the time, and tap near it to see the battery life and connection status. In a lot of apps, you can't. Using Twitter and want to know what time it is? Go back to the homescreen. Then go back to Twitter, and wait for it to reload, because it doesn't support multitasking yet and had frozen into a hibernation state while you checked the time. This is really, really dumb.
Windows Phone Mango is rolling out to currently available devices now--I used it on a Samsung Focus, which is about a year old--and new hardware will be coming out soon, including the first Nokia-made Windows Phone. Price will probably be around $200 with a contract, as with most phones.
It's getting there. Windows Phone is, in my opinion, the second-best OS out there, after iOS. It's more cohesive, reliable, pretty, and fast than Android, and less dead than WebOS. It still has a little maturing to do--once the apps start taking advantage of multitasking, it'll be a different phone--but really, it's ready to go now. I have no hesitation in recommending it: it thinks differently, and works differently, but often just as well or better as any of its competitors. Most importantly, it's easy and fast, especially for social media--it's probably the best-connected social media phone out there. I may still be waiting for it to really live up to its promise, but that doesn't mean that it isn't an extremely usable platform right now.
The review is quite good but you missed some of the key features like the voice control(which according to me so far the best because of accuracy),internet sharing etc.,when it comes to the cons I definitely go with you.....
"Oh, and you can't close apps from the thumbnail view, like you could with WebOS. That's sort of indicative of a deeper problem with Windows Phone, that it's completely inscrutable. In theory, that's just another approach, designed to keep things simple-- but if you're going to give me this power user thumbnail thing with multitasking, let me be a power user!"
Pretty good review for the most part however I would like to mention that to close out Apps from the "Task Switch" mode just select your App thumbnail and press the back button.
Continue pressing back to close out all open apps until you're just left at the Homescreen. I'm sure this will be fixed in future updates with a simple X on the right corner to close out the apps.
I definitely agree though that it's up to the developers now to fully exploit all the new APIs in Mango to take advantsge of the multitasking and other new features.
IOS then Android then WP7?
You need to check around your chair for an open tube of model glue and put the cap back ON.
I have played with them all and I do mean ALL.
Apple, Android, WP7 even the Web OS.
The order should be
Android - Rock solod with more apps than Apple now.
WP7 because its a solod non glitchy OS with potential to run a lot more than a smartphone.
iOS. Why? Not really sure its still buggs on power. Cant see a lot of websites, battry power stinks.
I want one of these! It looks COOL and alot of FUN!
It's too bad not a single windows phone has a decent keyboard for the deaf. Nothing comes close to the new T-mobile sidekick 4G yet.
I guess Samsung doesn't care about the deaf and hard-of-hearing which require an excellent texting keyboard and so it makes no phones that they can use worth a darn--including the Samsung Epic which has a horribly spaced square keyboard with no spacing between keys, not elevated enough, and with the number keys to close to the edge of the screen so you can't get your fingers on them without a straight on approach which waste time.
I agree with many of the negatives. There are still minor things that I just don't understand why they weren't implemented. Not being able to close an App in the fast switch boggles my mind. Yes, you can hit Back, but for some, like IE, you have to hit the Back button multiple times.
Copy/Paste has been on WP7 since the Spring with the NoDo release. How can you not mention Bing Vision? I love that feature. I guess it's like Google Goggles, but it's great to point the camera toward a book, game, movie and instantly get information about it and where to buy it. I was amazed at how I can point to text and have it translate into several different languages. It isn't perfect by any means, but it's a cool feature.
Linked emails, Shazam-like Music search (even though the Shazam app also exists), Linked-In integration, Instant Messenger integration, Voice-to-Text are all new. Yes, they have more work to do, but I'm satisfied with the phone by far.
@Gizmowiz You should look into the LG Phantom, I love the keyboard on it thou some may complain about the weight but you get used to it.
@kormiko IE has the tab option, just have your phone in portrait layout and look at the bottom menu. Once in the tab section you have a little "X" for each tab open.
I also agree with all the features listed in the review and think that the new Windows 8 (which in my opinion should be called phone 8) which is going to be released on tablet devices should be just as fun and useful.
Sorry I meant to say Quantum not phantom... wish you could update your posts on popsci...
@Vipert1000. Yeah, I know about the Tab (and was gonna mention that way too), but it's still not practical to use: Select the menu, select tab, close the tab(s), then hit back. You should be able to just close any program easily. With WebOS, you swipe up each open card to close. With iPhone, you can close them with the minus button on the icons.
It just doesn't make much sense that they don't think about these things before putting them out. And the solid theme color is not the prettiest ever.
It's a great OS, I just don't like having to explain to friends about why it doesn't do certain simple things, like how to close open Apps or why Cellular, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Airplane On/Off switches are on separate areas of Settings.
Well I was an iphone user for over 3 years from 3GS to 4, and let me tell you one thing, it crashes way too often to be considered the #1 iOS. I got it based on it's reputation, and quite frankly I was dissappointed. But what else was out there at the time. Recently I decided I was tired of apple and the raves about how goddly they are supposed to be, so I decided to try a windows phone. Bought a used Samsung Focus, my plan was to re-sell as I found a good deal. To keep it simple, I've sold the iphone and kept the windows phone. I was blown away by it's responsiveness and lack of stattuering which I constantly experienced with the might iPhone, I even found it faster then an android phone (which I was going to buy originally, not anymore). as for multi-tasking, I like what windows did, atleast I don't have to close 50 apps to see if it's something that's causing the stuttering, however I agree that they could improve it's ability to multi-task better but only for the last 5 apps/screens I like that. To my biggest suprise the windows phone feels like an underestimated assassin. As for the battery indicator I thought it was the greatest idea, I don't want to see battery status when I'm doing stuff period more space for the things I look at :) Market isn't the biggest but I personally don't care, I have the essentials that I need and I'm happy with it, because it lets me pay more attention to life not the phone and the latest available apps that I must have lol. Android by far is the most customizable interface though, but it's ok WP has a unique feel and look to it, like no one else.
Great review btw, I just don't agree that iOS is comparable, even android does a better job :)
Speed & Responsiveness & Stability
1. WP7 - to my biggest suprise
I think all windows platform phones could use an overhaul. They all seem to have quirks in them that with each new version never really get better. They may fix one or two things, but overall they still have bugs. I agree with the cons of this phone more than the pros. There is still work to be done on interaction with user and other content such as multitasking. Overall the iOS is better and that's what I prefer for now. I don<a href="http://tvsmartreview.com">'</a>t understand why we have such good technology and still can't get it right. It has to be in the flow chart and the engineer's not thinking all aspects through. It would do them good to have think tanks to help them with these issues. Maybe on the next version or two I will purchase one.