Has Windows Phone 7 ‘Arrived’?

This is my first of a few posts detailing my experiences using Windows Phone 7 for a couple weeks.

I’ve been given an opportunity to try an HTC Arrive on Sprint for a couple of weeks and rather than just dabble with it, I have decided to put down my Evo for the time and use this as my main phone. Will Windows Phone 7 have itself a convert at the end of this or will I go running back to Android?

I’m going to try to avoid turning this into a full walkthrough of the phone. You can get that plenty of places. In fact, here are links to many that I read or watched before starting this.

What I am going to do is talk about what’s been going through my mind as I use the phone. I received it yesterday and at this point have had it for less than a day.

The Arrive

HTC Arrive, Sprint

Most of this will hopefully be about Windows Phone 7 itself, so let’s get the hardware out of the way. This thing is a tank. The weight isn’t bothersome, but you sure wouldn’t want to have it thrown at you.

I think the keyboard sliding mechanism works very well. It can be a little tricky at first but either it has loosened up a bit or I’ve gotten better at it. Either way, it opens and closes easily.

The ports are exactly what we thankfully come to expect on a phone. A standard headphone jack and a micro-usb jack. It’s hard to believe that not long ago each manufacturer had its own ports for charging/data/audio.

The battery is a standard HTC 1500 mAh battery. My last three phones have all used the exact same battery—which is awesome! I had a fully charged battery ready to go which I just popped in. While we’re on power, this phone gets very warm if you use it for any length of time.

I have not noticed any notification lights on the Arrive. I don’t know if this is an omission of the Arrive—that would surprise me as my other HTC phones have lights on them—or if it is not something that WP7 supports. Regardless, it is major pain as there is no way to tell when the phone is off if there are messages awaiting you.

Using Windows Phone 7

Lock Screen

The lock screen is beautiful and gives you a lot of information without needing unlock your phone. Besides the time and date, it tells you what your next appointment is and through icons at the bottom of the screen also tells you how many messages you have, by account. I could tell just by looking this morning how many personal messages I had and how many work messages I had without even entering the phone. That’s pretty slick and something that I wish the Android lock screen would adopt.

Glance and Go

I don’t get “Glance and Go”. It’s what all of Microsoft’s WP7 “Really?” commercials focus on. They would lead you to think that just a quick look at your home screen will tell you everything you need to know and that you won’t be spending any time, checked out from the world staring at your phone. This hasn’t been my experience at all.

The lock screen tells might tell that you have 5 exchange messages and 4 gmail messages and maybe 2 text messages. Once you unlock your phone and get to the home screen, it will tell you via tiles that you have 5 exchange messages, 4 gmail messages and 2 text messages. Now you are engaging in the same activity you would be with any smartphone, tapping on each tile/icon and reading/filing/deleting messages. If any OS is possibly “Glance and Go”, it is Android. You can find widgets that do nearly anything, including putting the actual message subjects right on your home screen so that you don’t have to even enter your mail to see what is there.

While there are a few “Live Tiles” (tiles that are dynamic and show information), they are mostly decorative and at this point, in my experience, do not give any more information than the little numeric badges that appear on iOS icons when an application is trying to tell you something.

Home Screen

I can’t decide what I think about the home screen. The tiles are clean, big and easy to tap. Some of the live ones move around and give the home screen some life which is nice. On the other hand, the tiles are large and not that many fit on a screen at one time (4 to 8 depending on the size of the tiles), meaning that you are doing a lot of scrolling to see the rest. I don’t think I would mind this at all as I’m not doing any more scrolling down on this home screen than I did left and right on my Android home screens, but there is again nothing “Glance and Go” about it.

Maybe this doesn’t bother others and perhaps I’ll get used to it, but I’m annoyed by the large empty spaces on the top and right of the screen. I can appreciate the design, but I don’t like to see space on a smartphone screen completely forfeited. Seems like some quick-launch icons or other useful widgets could find a home there.

Network/Radio/Battery Status

Something that really struck me yesterday afternoon was that there is no battery status on the screen. Nor are there status icons for your Wi-Fi, cellular connection, bluetooth or any of the other things you would find on any other phone. I found myself caught between “Why the heck wouldn’t they put the icons there?!” and “That looks really really clean!”. I was delighted (Ballmer would be happy) when a finger swipe down from the top of the screen revealed the icons for a short time before they zipped away. Nice.

Mail/Calendar

I’m going to detail this later, but here’s my brief experience so far. Gmail was easy to set up, but I had to specifically select to sync the calendar in the settings as the default was to only sync mail and contacts. Google Calendar is only syncing my personal calendar and does not see any of my other calendars. Activesync was hard to setup against our Zimbra server at work. I finally figured it out, but it was much more difficult than Android, iOS or WebOS.

Voice Search/Dialing

Voice search is very useful on this phone because looking up contacts is a pain in the bottom. Given this, I’ve been happy to discover that so far it works better than any voice dialing I have used in the past. Each name I have thrown at it, it has pulled up and dialed without needing a second chance.

I have a lot of faith in Google search. I can’t say the same about Bing. So when we wanted to call a pizza place in another town last night, I was ready for my phone to throw up on itself when I searched for the restaurant. I was pleased/surprised when the phone had no problems finding what I was after and returning a phone number to me.

More to come later!

Well, the kids are waking up and it’s time to get another day started. This will be my first full day with the Arrive. My Evo is sitting right here next to me looking lonely and I already miss it a little as well. Here’s your chance WP7 🙂

This entry was published on March 23, 2011 at 7:14 am. It’s filed under Mobile and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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