Not that long ago,
With its recent release of a completely revamped version of its mobile operating system,
The new software, dubbed Windows Phone 7 and debuting next month on three phones running on
In developing Windows Phone 7,
Given the effort that
The home screen for Phone 7 has a series of tiles. By tapping on a tile, you can launch a program or a "hub" where you can find a group of similar programs, such as games. Other tiles are dynamic; even without clicking on them, they can display helpful information, such as upcoming appointments or recent updates posted by friends on social networking sites.
Once you launch a program, there are other differences from other smart phones. Windows Phone 7 uses clear typography as titles for programs and hubs, so you always know what program you are using. On the iPhone and Android, different screens within particular programs are usually accessed by tapping small virtual buttons or text links. In Windows Phone 7, by contrast, you often have to simply swipe left or right to view different screens of the program. This interface is very slick and works well.
Another compelling feature of Phone 7 is its built-in support for Facebook. Once you sign in to Facebook, the software will automatically link entries in your address book with their corresponding Facebook profiles. Windows Phone 7 takes things a step farther by linking its "Pictures" hub to Facebook also, allowing you to access pictures your friends have posted on the social network and view all the galleries you have uploaded to it.
Windows Phone 7 also provides a link to Xbox Live,
Despite these touches, there are lots of things Windows Phone 7 lacks. It doesn't support copy-and-paste. It doesn't offer an easy way to switch between open applications. And it doesn't have a universal search that allows you to find applications, content, messages or other data stored on your device.
What's more, its Web browser supports neither
Adobe's Flash software nor HTML 5, which Apple has promoted as an
alternative to Flash. Without those technologies, Windows Phone 7
devices can't display many of the videos or interactive Web sites that
you can access from the latest Android devices or the iPhone. It does
But the lack of such key features makes Phone 7 devices less useful than their Android and iPhone counterparts.
In some ways, the operating system, for all its slickness, can also be more frustrating than its rivals. For example, when you are using the Web browser and rotate the screen so that it's in landscape view, you lose all controls over the browsing experience. Want to enter a new Web address or go to a bookmarked page? You have to rotate the screen back to portrait view first.
The e-mail experience is similarly frustrating. Each e-mail account you set up is represented by a new application tile. There's no way to access all your e-mail accounts by launching one application — much less view the messages from all your accounts in one universal inbox.
But perhaps the biggest problem with Windows Phone 7 is the scant list of programs available for it. Yes, the system hasn't even launched yet, so maybe it's not fair to criticize this. And some of the most popular mobile apps, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flight Control, are already available or soon will be.
But many, many more applications just aren't available on Windows Phone 7. Among the notable omissions: Pandora, LinkedIn and "Angry Birds," the hit iPhone game.
So Windows Phone 7 puts
WINDOWS PHONE 7
—Troy's rating: 3.5 out of 5
—Likes: Sleek, easy-to-use, visually appealing interface; dynamic application tiles show information without having to launch apps; links to Facebook, Xbox Live and other social networks.
—Dislikes: Lacks key features such as copy-and-paste, universal search and Flash; some features frustrating to use; very few available apps.
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