anh.do

Just a computer geek alternating his life between Hà Nội and Sài Gòn.

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Journey to the Windows Phone 7 Platform

June 14th, 2012 · 3 min read

For some strange reasons, I had to part with my iPhone 4 and chose to switch to another platform while waiting for the next iPhone’s imminent launch. I picked Windows Phone 7 and bought a Nokia Lumia 710 to go with it.

There’s not much to talk about the phone itself. Being a low price model, its build quality is subpar; the plastic case feels cheap, and the screen quickly attracts smudges and dirt. The speaker isn’t well placed, so listening to music loudly is a bad option. The camera is so-so. That said, I don’t expect much from the hardware; if I want something impressive, I’d go with the 800 or 900 model. The 710 one is a bang for the buck, and I appreciate that.

The absolute downer is that Lumia 710’s battery drains WAY faster than I expect. A full recharge lasts me only slightly more than half a day. Bummer.

Windows Phone 7, on the other hand, is refreshing to use. In terms of UI, it looks nothing like other platforms. Live tiles, panoramic views, typography-base UI are nice to look at. The way social networks are integrated deeply into the system makes it really useful for an information junkie like me. I love the ability to link profiles from different networks to a contact and check out that person’s updates in one place.

Good things end there though. The platform is pretty much in its infancy, much like iOS 2.x back in the days. Basic functionalities like multi-tasking, orientation lock, and screenshot capture (!) are missing. Built-in Vietnamese typing method is nowhere to be found. It’s easy to mistype. IE sucks. And after a while, the ‘flat’ interface feels tiring. I have no idea if a tap is registered or not, and with Lumia 710’s low performance, it means repeated tapping is necessary to ensure things happen.

Come to think of it, the main drawing point of iOS is its abundant supply of high-quality apps. Windows Phone 7 has its own marketplace, but the number of choices is severely limited. There’s no Tweetbot-level Twitter app, nor Reeder-class Google Reader app. Paid apps leave many things to desire. Official apps like Facebook are slow and unresponsive as hell (not that the iOS version is better).

I travel to and back from work in the tube 1 hour a day, which means I need a large dose of readings to kill the time. Normally I will catch up with last night’s Twitter stream, Google Reader’s unread items, and Instapaper’s queue. Best alternatives I’ve found so far on Windows Phone are rowi, NextGen Reader, and Articles for Instapaper. While they provide the basic necessity, I miss the refinement that iOS apps bring. For example, there’s no quick way to send a tweeted link to Instapaper, nor the possibility to archive/delete Instapaper articles offline. It severely limits my workflow. I’m forced to find another pastime on the go: listening to podcasts. Again, the best app I could find, WPodder, is no Instacast.

As for games, Microsoft builds some free ones for Windows Phone, but they’re riddled with ads. I wish I could pay to remove them — I’d rather pay than looking at those (admittedly unobtrusive) ads. In the end, I settle with only one game: Angry Birds.

The nice thing about Windows Phone’s Marketplace that I really appreciate is the ability to try an app before buying; I wish that would come to iOS eventually. Having to buy a bunch of similar apps only to try and find the suitable one is painful.

All in all, I find Windows Phone more like a toy platform than a serious one (at least in the current state). I can’t wait to get back to using iOS.