The VAR Guy Review: Windows Phone 7 Mango Mostly Impresses
Not too long ago Microsoft shipped me another loaner phone to test out Windows Phone 7 Mango. Well, it’s been put through its paces again, and this time, it’s definitely improved. But Windows Phone 7 still isn’t without its quirks. Read on for the re-review of Microsoft’s mobile smartphone operating system …
Most people are already familiar with Windows Phone 7, so I’ll break it down like this:
I love Windows Phone 7 Mango because …
It’s snappy. It’s snappy as all get-out. I can’t get over how snappy it is. I tap, it goes. I touch, it moves. Transitions are fun and friendly. It’s right on par with iOS in terms of responsiveness. I don’t know if it’s possible, but it seems as though Microsoft has made Windows Phone 7 snappier than I remember in December 2010. It’s also very visually pleasing: After staring at a grid of icons all day in Android and iOS, it’s nice to use something that doesn’t feel like a matrix of apps and widgets. The large two-by-two tile display has been overhauled, with Microsoft incorporating more live tiles, and that certainly makes life more pleasant.
Microsoft also incorporated multitasking and copy-paste, two big absent features from the Windows Phone of last year. It now has an Android-style cut-and-paste GUI, and like all mobile OSes, it works pretty much the same: tap and hold, drag around your quote bars. Multitasking has also taken a cue from Android: hold down the “back” button and you’ll be greeted with a wall of applications currently running. Swipe through them and tap the one you want to get back to.
I also took the time to take advantage of Microsoft’s voice-activated Bing search. It’s not Siri, but it nailed exactly what I said every time and plugged that into Bing. Everything from, “What’s the weather like in Amsterdam?” to “Who is Herman Cain?” and even, “How many cups are in a gallon?” came up perfectly. The only bummer is, you’re getting web results. Bing doesn’t relay the answer to you over a soothing digital voice.
Microsoft has also made Mango way more social network- and GMail-friendly. Facebook, Twitter and GMail all integrated with ease, including incorporating my contacts and then appropriately deleting them after I removed a social networking or e-mail link.
Overall, Mango made me feel much more at ease leaving my iPhone at home and toting around Windows Phone 7 for my daily tasks. Awesome.
Why Windows Phone 7 Doesn’t Work for Me
In iOS, when you want to go back to the top of a screen, say, after browsing a really long web page, you tap the top of the screen and the page automatically scrolls to the top. It’s hard to find this feature in a lot of other mobile OSes, in fact, I’ve yet to see it at all. Windows Phone 7 could really benefit from this, especially since its inertial scrolling has considerably less “momentum.”
This may be a personal preference, but I’m still not a fan of swiping to the left or right to change the “mode” of the application I’m in. In the Metro interface, for example, users change from their Twitter Timeline to their Twitter Mentions by swiping the entire screen to the left. Keep swiping to the left, and they’ll make it back to Timeline mode. I’d rather just tap a button, which makes it easier for hopping between modes that aren’t directly next to each other.
And Windows Phone 7’s lack of a central notification menu is irksome. The lock screen has been greatly improved to show many more notifications, but third-party apps get no place on the lock screen. Plus, after unlocking the phone, users are at the mercy of their live tiles to tell them what information they’ve missed, which, once again, is especially irritating if your third-party apps are way at the bottom of the home screen. Which leads into my other issue: Windows Phone 7 still only supports two app access modes: Users have either their home screen, with the 2 x infinity tiles, or the app list, with the infinitely long list of applications alphabetically sorted. This is hardly efficient and truly the biggest drawback.
The Bottom Line
Can I recommend Windows Phone 7? Absolutely. The Windows Marketplace has gotten so much better in the last year — every iPhone app I needed was either already on Windows Phone 7 or was available in an easy-to-use and familiar equivalent. That’s incredibly good news for anyone worried about switching platforms.
More importantly, if it came down to it and I couldn’t have my precious, precious iPhone, I think I’d go Windows Phone 7 over Android. Why? Because of the “closed” system and snappy interfaces. My day-to-day tasks require my device work every time, all the time, without fail. In other words, reliability is paramount. Android is fun, no doubt, but with the range of OEMs and unpredictable update patterns, I’d feel safer with Microsoft’s OS than Google’s. Even if it doesn’t exactly win over the average consumer heart, Mango is more than worthy of being a key enterprise mobile player and definitely has was it takes to compete with the big boys.
Nice update, Microsoft.