Microsoft’s re-entry into the mobile world with its updated Windows Phone 7 won’t happen until this fall, but it’s already sending out test units with the software to some press people and developers.
Engadget’s Joshua Topolsky was sent a preview copy, and his long take on the phone isn’t good for Microsoft. At the start of the review, he says Windows Phone 7 has to be “nearly flawless” if it wants to compete with Apple and Google. At the end of the review, it’s clear that Microsoft’s new mobile operating system is flawed, and it is a sub-par experience to Android and iPhone.
It’s still early for Windows Phone 7. The phone Topolsky played with is a dummy phone of sorts, sent to developers so they can start making apps for the launch. Still, the software is almost fully baked, and Topolsky appeared careful to focus on what will be included in the actual release.
Here’s our abridged take on Topolsky’s review:
- The user interface is genuinely different and good, though it’s “definitely an acquired taste.”
- The touch screen is very responsive, and the virtual keyboard is as good as Apple and better than Android.
- Two big omissions: It’s missing cut, copy, and paste, and it won’t support background multitasking for third party apps.
- The app that pulls in contacts from Facebook pulls in too much from Facebook, so you get a lot of junk photos you don’t want or need.
- Email is good, but not great. There is no threaded email, and there is no unified inbox.
- The browser is very good. It has tabs which all load even if they’re in the background.
- The phone doesn’t support Flash or Silverlight, and it doesn’t support HTML5, either. You can’t watch YouTube on the phone! Microsoft needs to address this quickly.
- The Zune pass, which gives you almost unlimited access to music is great, but it’s about $15 a month. (But as a commenter points out, you get to keep 10 songs, so if you were buying an album, it’s a nice bonus.)
- Here’s one thing we think is cool: The camera comes with options to configure white balance and image effects as you’re taking pictures. Photo editing on iPhone is still best for third party apps.
- Microsoft did not do a great job of unifying with Microsoft Office. “The editing capabilities are weak at best,” says Topolsky. Word has some editing features, Excel has some, but neither are particularly impressive.
- The maps application is nice, but it doesn’t blow the doors off. And for us city dwellers, it’s lacking mass transit directions and times, which is a feature we use a lot on our iPhone.
- Because it’s just starting out, there’s almost no third party apps. Microsoft will have some at launch, but it will be way behind Apple and Google.
There you have it. Windows Phone 7 isn’t horrible, but it doesn’t outshine the competition. We don’t see any compelling reason the average consumer (or enterprise client) would buy this phone over rivals.