First Look: Windows Phone 7

I had a first look at the upcoming Microsoft Windows Phone 7 a few weeks ago at Microsoft Singapore office. Let me just state first that this is still not the final built. But I guess the final released version will be more or less the same. And also, I don’t have any information about the hardware yet. I only know that the phone we tried is a LG phone with a landscape slideout keyboard. Oh well, the focus is on the OS anyway.

Firstly, the Windows Phone 7 is a complete rewrite from the Windows Mobile 6.5. There is no similarity between Windows Phone 7 and Windows Mobile 6.5. (No more START button. Yippie!!!) Which is something good. Microsoft made the right move by reseting the entire mobile OS. Windows Mobile 6.5 belongs to the PalmOS era. The Windows Phone 7 is able to let Microsoft compete better with other mobile OS like iOS and Android.

The home screen consists of “live tiles” which are dynamic icons. Interface is pretty straight forward and easy to use. Microsoft does not allow phone makers to slap another layer of user interface on top of the existing Windows Phone 7 interface. I don’t really mind that since the Windows Phone 7 interface is pretty good. But I wonder how are phone makers going to compete against each other if they can’t customize the home screen.

Microsoft also make it a must for all Windows Phone 7 maker to include 3 physical button on their phone. These 3 buttons are Back Button, Window Button and Search button. Phone makers can, however, add more buttons if they wish to. I’m expecting lots of phone makers to have the dial and hang up button too. But honestly, I think the Back, Window and search button is good enough. Oh ya, the camera button is also a must for all Windows Phone 7. WAIT! Does that means all Windows Phone must come with camera? Hmmmm….. Let me get back to you on this.

There is quite a bit of facebook integration on the Windows Phone 7 platform. You can synchronize your contact book with facebook contacts. Strangely, there isn’t any integration for Twitter yet. But not to worry, I’m sure someone will write an app for that. And yes, the Windows Phone 7 does come with an app store. That’s the default thing for most smart mobile OSes. Right? I didn’t get a chance to look at how the App Store looks like. There is also no information on whether Singapore will have paid apps or not during Windows Phone 7 launch. I’m praying that there will be. It’s always good to have a wide selection of free and paid apps.

Office suite comes installed on all Windows Phone 7. I’m pretty impressed with the One Note which allows you to take note easily. There is also Word and Excel on the Windows Phone 7. There is also a Zune music player. From what I understand, the interface is the same as the Zune MP3 player. Users can synchronize and transfer music and audio files between their phone and PC using the Zune PC software as long as there is no Digital Rights Management restrictions. I don’t have information on whether Singapore will have Zune Marketplace. My guess is no. It’s just like iTunes Store. We just don’t get it here in Singapore.

I didn’t get a chance to try out the Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7 because it was not ready when I test out the phone. But there is already a long list of games that Windows Phone 7 users can expect to see on their phone. You have Bejeweled LIVE, Fruit Ninja, Guitar Hero 5, Mini Squadron, Real Soccer 2, Star Wars: Battle for Hoth etc etc etc…… There’s too many for me to list everything down here. If you are interested, hop over to Microsoft’s website for the full list. The Xbox Live on Windows Phone 7 will also offer try-before-you-buy demos, Xbox LIVE leaderboards, turn-based multiplayer modes and achievements.

Windows Phone 7 is looking pretty exciting. Can’t wait to see the first phone running Windows Phone 7. It would be interesting to see Microsoft using Windows Phone 7 to compete with other Mobile Phone OS like iOS, Android and BlackBerry. We should be expecting to see Windows Phone 7 be out in the market by end of the year.


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