What is Windows Phone 7?

Category: Mobile

Is Windows Phone 7 as good as iOS or Android? I'm shopping for a new smartphone, and have been intrigued by the Mango interface. But there aren't many phones that offer it. Can you tell me more about Windows Phone 7, and compare it to the alternatives?

Is Windows Phone 7 (Mango) a Serious Contender?

Windows Phone 7 is the Rodney Dangerfield of mobile operating systems; it doesn't get any respect from most end-users, and it certainly isn't scaring competitors such as Google Android and Apple iOS, which currently dominate the smartphone and tablet scene. The latest version of the OS, version 7.5, is also known as "Mango".

Market research firm Gartner reported a Windows Phone 7 worldwide market share of just 1.5 percent in the third quarter of 2011. For the same period, Nielsen reported a 3 percent U. S. market share for all Microsoft mobile operating systems, lumping Windows Phone 7 in with its predecessor, Windows Mobile.

It's unfortunate that the name of Microsoft's mobile operating system sounds a lot like "Windows 7", the flagship desktop OS from the same company. And for me, it recalls unpleasant memories of Chris Kattan playing "Mango" on Saturday Night Live.
Windows Phone 7 Mango

None the less, reviewers have been generally positive about Windows Phone 7, with some reservations about missing features such as VPN support and cut-and-paste in Office apps. For certain types of users, Windows Phone 7 represents a dramatically different and preferable approach to mobile communications.

Both iOS and Android are app-centric. Windows Phone 7 revolves around the presentation of information, regardless of the underlying app. This philosophical difference is obvious in the things that different smartphones display. iPhones and Android phones display app icons, while Windows Phone 7 displays tiles and "hubs" that, in turn, display information. For example, the People hub holds contacts from a variety of apps including Outlook, Gmail, Facebook, and other sources. There are 30,000 apps available for Windows Phone 7 as of this writing. Android and iOS apps exceed 300,000 each. But collecting apps is not everyone's cup of tea.

Comparing Mango to Android and iOS

Some people like to customize the look and feel of smartphone apps; others just want one interface that works without a bunch of time-wasting tweaking. Android is highly customizable; iOS and Windows Phone 7 are much more rigid. Only two screens are available in Windows Phone 7, compared with 7 and 11 for Android and iOS, respectively. If you like the familiar uniformity of fast-food restaurants, you may well prefer Windows Phone 7.

PC Magazine says that the latest version of Windows Phone 7, nicknamed Mango, is "a teriffic OS for smartphone beginners" because it's easier to use than Android or iOS. They also praised Mango because of the hubs concept that focuses users on "People," "Pictures" and "Music" instead of apps.

People who rely on Microsoft tools such as Office and Exchange will lean towards Windows Phone 7, which naturally integrates MS products and services more seamlessly than other operating systems. In fact, Microsoft Office Mobile edition is embedded in the Windows Phone 7 OS, providing word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and other Office functions at no extra charge. The office suites available for Android and Apple mobile devices will probably seem more like toys than serious tools, for those who are accustomed to Microsoft's Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Carrier choice is middling for Windows Phone 7. Microsoft has partnered with more carriers than Apple (which supports only AT&T, Verizon and Sprint) but not as many as Android. But lack of support for 4G LTE and dual-core processors remains a stumbling block to customers who want a fast phone with a fast data connection.

Nokia is releasing their first Windows phone in the U.S. in early January targeted for those who do not yet have a smartphone. T-Mobile will carry the Lumia 710 that runs Mango, and has a modest price tag of $50 with rebate. The HTC Radar 4G is another smartphone that runs Mango. It gets high marks for a slick design, takes great pictures, and has a price tag of just $100. But don't be fooled by the "4G" in the name. T-Mobile's 4G service is MUCH slower than the true 4G LTE network that Verizon offers. (See my related article Should You Buy a 4G Phone?.) But as of this writing, Verizon offers only one phone that runs the Windows Phone 7 OS (the HTC Trophy) and none that run Mango.

Microsoft has its work cut out for it in establishing Windows Phone 7 as the third horse in the mobile operating system race. In a survey conducted by NPD, 45 percent of consumers were not even aware of Windows Phone 7. About 44 percent of smartphone owners who plan to buy a new phone said they would "consider" Windows Phone 7. Twenty-one percent said they have too much time and money invested in their current OS to make a change.

Have you tried Windows Phone 7 "Mango" on a smartphone? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "What is Windows Phone 7?"

Posted by:

22 Dec 2011

Bought the Samsung Focus for my wife. She loves it, I love it. It's a great phone with a great os. I just wish manufacturers would put some serious hardware behind it. Microsoft needs to allow expandable storage via micro sd, (only the original Focus had it and it was a mistake.) Once Microsoft allows a micro sd, skype is released (come on Redmond...you own it,) and full backup become a reality, I'm switching asap.

Posted by:

22 Dec 2011

I firmly believe that the main reason that the iPhone 5 with 4G LTE and the Retina display, has hit the battery life that Apple doesn't feel comfortable with releasing it. For Android, as they really start going with Android 4.0 (ICS - Ice Cream Sandwich) at which point Windows Phone/Tablet will still be late. Apple is also coming out with some other changes as well, and with that lead in the phone and tablet arenas, for Android and iOS and their current incursions into business/enterprise will make it harder for WP 7(.5) because people will find out that full Office is hard to use on other than PCs (whether they be netbooks, laptops or even desktops). As far as Exchange support, the Android and iOS versions work fine. Our top executives all have iPads and have also filtered down to the middle managers, all personally purchased and linked to our Exchange servers.

The biggest issue I have with Mango is that everything is in each respective areas, segregation is still required so you still have to drill down to get where you want to go, thus no real advantage over Android ICS and iOS5. So, you go into one of the tiles and if you wish to hold your work/school/personal e-mails separate, there is no advantage to Mango. I do believe that Mango might be easier to use for some, but for a user of both Android and iOS, it has the look and feel that I am not comfortable with.

But there is a guy who was working on a documentary on conditions in some third world countries where the children, who barely get enough food to eat, much less buy gadgets, saw the guy's and his staffs iPads. The director handed his iPad to a 6 year old boy, who doesn't speak English and doesn't regularly attend school, the boy was, within a minute, launching and playing a game. I firmly believe that app centric view is more easily adapted to than hubs. I bet if there was a Mango tablet available at the time, the boy would have been a bit flummoxed, but the icon of the game drew his attention. So, is Windows more intuitive for beginners? I really don't think so.

While there are a lot of people who don't have tablets or smartphones, but that is slowly changing, they will be seeing Android and iOS more often and will generally buy Android or iOS that their friends/relatives/colleagues have. One person on Sprint, when the iPhone became available, got one because for 3 others in our 6 man team, got it after seeing our iOS devices. So, 4 of us, including myself, have iPhones. One person is on Android and the last is wavering toward iOS. I am the only one with both. iOS is the most common amongst everyone with Android a close second, and in third place is BlackBerry. There are very few without a smart phone. No one at work has Windows Phone and this is amongst 500+ people. So those without a smartphone, who might be contemplating them, will generally be exposed to Android and iOS and will probably choose one of those.

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