It’s a short week, but there was no lack of mobile and web news.
With the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show just about two weeks away, the pre-conference rumors and reports are pouring in. I’ll be attending press conferences, industry sessions and hitting the show floor to bring you the latest and greatest news and info. Keep and eye on the Recursive Awesome Twitter, Facebook and Blog feeds!
Recently, we picked up a shiny new Windows Phone 7. Our device is the Samsung Focus on AT&T. If you’ve ever used a Samsung Galaxy S phone, then you’ll feel right at home with the hardware. The power/lock and camera buttons are on the right, the micro USB and headphone jacks are on the top, and the volume buttons are on the left. On the back you’ll find a 5.0 megapixel camera with LED flash and the loudspeaker. The camera also shoots HD video. When the screen is off, the front is black as midnight. Tap the power button and the 4″ Super AMOLED screen comes to life. Like the Galaxy S phones, the screen is the is bright and colorful. But enough about the hardware. It’s just a piece of black plastic without the software.
Windows Phone 7 is a pretty big departure from the ol’ Windows Mobile. For starters, Microsoft isn’t allowing carriers and manufacturers to muck up the core WP7 experience. However, that doesn’t mean that the carriers don’t have a presence on the phone. When you launch the Marketplace — their version of the App Store — there is a section carved out for “AT&T AppCenter” and “Samsung Zone”. Also, any manufacturer or carrier apps, that are preinstalled, can be uninstalled.
Like other platforms, WP7 has a ”home” screen, but instead of pages and pages of app icons, there is an infinitely scrollable screen of tiles. You see about 8 on the screen at a time and you can have as many or as few in the list as you want. In fact, you can remove all tiles and you’re “home” screen is replaced with your full app list; Also infinitely scrollable, only with smaller icons and text labels. In most cases, the home screen tiles are static icons. However, some tiles have additional visual effects. For instance, the XBOX Live tile shows your Avatar playing with the logo. Some tiles also have badges for missed calls, text messages, emails, app updates available and so on. Currently, only WP7 core apps have the “live tile” functionality, but I see this opening up in the future. Like widgets, on other platforms, these may have a negative impact on your battery life.
Many moons ago, Microsoft started implementing the “Metro UI” scheme on their Zune media players. Well that UI has found itself on WP7. The idea is instead of a tab bar on the top of bottom (a la Android or iPhone), you swipe left and right to navigate between the activities. Each activity has a large font header. In most cases, you can see the leading edge of the next activity, which is a visual indicator that there’s more to the right. Overall the UI is VERY responsive. Transitions between activities are snappy, animations aren’t jittery, and the look & feel is solid. Instead of loading spinners, Metro employs dots that come in from the left, bunch up in the center then whoosh off to the right. Like their Bing “decision engine”, apps have random, full-screen wallpapers. Since there isn’t a physical “menu” button, or a tab bar to host a “settings” icon, activities can have context sensitive actions in a bar, located on the bottom. I’ve noticed that these can be icon only or icon with text and the text is only visible when you tap the “…” icon. Love it or hate it, Metro UI is a slight departure from the norm.
What does Microsoft have that Google, Apple, and RIM don’t?
How about a wildly successful gaming business and their very own game studio.
Sure, all of the major platforms have gaming categories in their app directories, and Apple even deployed Game Center, but they are a far cry away from ANYTHING that Microsoft has done in the gaming industry. There have been rumors and speculation, for years, that MS was going to come out with a portable gaming system. Well, they finally did…and it also makes phone calls. WP7 has a central repository for games, ironically called “Games”. This app is tightly integrated with Xbox Live and your Gamertag. You can see your achievements, friend requests, and even edit your avatar. Enough about the interface, let’s talk about the games.
Microsoft Game Studios stepped up to offer several games to show off the power of the hardware. I’m currently addicted to a game called ilomilo. It’s a cute little puzzle game that is set in a 3D world. You can swipe to change the camera position. After I made it through the first level, I heard the familiar “badoop” sounds and saw “Achievement Unlocked”. Yes folks, there are achievements for Xbox Live games. Some games even have cross-platform play between the Xbox console and the phone. This is a HUGE advantage for WP7.
Gaming isn’t the only thing Microsoft does well. Have you heard of a little application called Office? Yeah. That’s on the phone too. Many of the other platforms support Microsoft Office documents, but who could possibly support them as well as the creator? Office for Windows Phone 7 includes the standard suite of apps; Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and One Note. You can easily upload, access and share your files using SkyDrive or your companies SharePoint. I didn’t spend too much time in the Office app, so here’s a video for your viewing pleasure.
In summary, here are my top 5 reasons why you should keep an eye on Windows Phone 7:
Microsoft is partnering with the top hardware manufacturers and stealing some of their best form factors for WP7. They also have a minimum spec for said hardware; 4-point multitouch, 5.0 MP camera WITH flash WITH physical button, 8GB memory on-board, DirectX 9. Good for you, Microsoft!
With XBOX Live integration, and the backing of Microsoft Game Studio, this platform is going to be a gaming powerhouse.
Windows Mobile has always been a staple in corporate culture. Being so tightly knit with Exchange servers didn’t hurt. Take that integration, feed it steroids, add all of the new Office features, PLUS a killer UI, and you have yourself a “company issue” phone that you WANT to use.
…or lack thereof. Microsoft has tightened the reins on the OS. Right, wrong or indifferent, manufacturers like HTC won’t be able to slather on their own UI layer. Every user will have the same experience.
When Android first came around, folks didn’t quite know what to make of it. Now that developers and companies are warming up to the idea that iPhone doesn’t have to be the only route, you’re seeing more and more apps being developed for other platforms. WP7 is no different. Big names like eBay, Netflix, Seesmic, and Fandango are stepping up to the plate to be some of the first apps on this fledgling platform. When I first saw the phone, there were 500 apps in the Marketplace. Reports are putting that number at 4,000.
At Recursive Awesome we work hard, and bring products to market quickly and effectively. Our team is agile and our products are... well.... awesome! And we have the portfolio to prove it. So, if you're looking for a mobile and web software development company, then hire us and your next project can be awesome too.