Windows Phone 7 Thoughts: Glen( AKA chinch)

image Today has been a day that has much news,and to get away from that, here is the 2/3 thoughts of the day, this time a little long(4 Days left).


I have used WM for years going back to the original Casiopia E-115 sitting on a shelf nearby. In the past 18-months I have lived & worked with what are some of the best Windows Phones made… HTC Ozone, HTC TouchPro2 and currently an HTC Imagio. I use the phone 7-days a week for: phone calls, sms/mms, e-mail (send & receive using multiple IMAP accounts), calendar, birthday reminders, web browsing, weather & alarms.
I use these features regularly, but not daily: music, GPS/navigation, Bing/local searches, PDF/DOC/etc. file viewing, camera, casual games. While I use VNC on occasion as well as some other apps, I must confess half my "apps" are tweaks to fix WM issues & glitches. For example a Registry Editor… this should NOT be required on a phone. LOL. Or an app to keep your phone from unlocking to a "screen align utility" that cannot be closed without battery removal. Or "reStart" to properly alphabetize or place your start menu icons.
Lets get this out of the way… I loathe WM6.5 and the shortsightedness of Microsoft’s now defunct mobile strategy and complacency. But I use it anyways.
Regardless of how you consider other smartphone platforms (I find them all half-baked to be honest), we must come to terms with the fact that Windows Mobile 6.x is woefully lacking from a consumer/retail standpoint. It simply requires too much tinkering & tweaking to be user-friendly which is evident by it’s sales decline relative to other smartphone ecosystems. Sure you can spend hours tinkering & tweaking WM to get a usable frontpage but the average person is stuck with a jumbled mess. For reference my home screen is 70% scrolling calendar using Today’s Agenda plugin, a row of 6 shortcut icons to launch apps (Easy Today Launcher), Pocket Weather by sbsh, a line for mail notifications and a line for clock/date. Most users will run touchFlo3D (a memory hog) and simply deal with slowdowns, crashes and less then optimal performance from a "smartphone". Which is intolerable even if the phone didn’t have an overall clumsy interface & setup.
Make no mistake, this bad experience makes the Windows Phone/Mobile ecosystem look flawed and pathetic. Something you can gladly leave behind and not look back when your contract expires. Even if the experience is due to a carrier or hardware manufacturer skimping on requirements for holiday sales, or saving something for the "replacement model", it reflects poorly on the Windows Phone "brand".
Let me ask the "power users" something… what is more annoying than your phone requiring a reboot? A phone requiring reboot while in the middle of doing something really important like scheduling something or saving a contact! Sad to say this an unfortunate reality that WM6.5 users face. All the tweaks, ROMs & tinkering cannot solve the foundation of WM6 that was laid on quicksand. Windows mobile 6.x is as frustrating to phone users as Windows 3.x was to computer users. Probably worse actually.
There is no reason a stock ROM from major carrier should ever hang/freeze to the point of requiring removing the battery to restart. Some of you reading will deny this ever happens with WM6.5 but you need to be honest with yourself. Actions from customers ring loud & clear… retail sales show Windows Mobile 6.x has been dying in retail (USA especially) long before WP7 was announced.
I am anxiously awaiting Windows Phone 7 to cure these ailments and start a new evolution of smartphones. As a person with real-world needs – not a tech junkie using new gadgets to cure boredom – I fully relate to the WP development team who speaks sensibly and shares my same concerns. My phone is indeed a highly personal device that is mostly with me whenever I’m awake. I need a phone that does what I need to do without hesitation, delay, freezing, rebooting or premature dead battery (for example from a camera app that i forgot to go into task manager to "close" instead of pressing X to go to another "app" ). My phone needs to be intuitive and anticipate problems & pitfals I don’t have time to consider.
Maybe it because I am gainfully employed in the real world and don’t base my self-worth on tech gadgets or their appearance (or "beer apps") but I’ll say this much with near certainty… all of my friends, family, co-workers and non-corporate users would BENEFIT more from the direction of Windows Phone 7 smartphones then they would any Windows Mobile 6.x device or even any any current Android, Blackberry or Palm device. Just watch a soccer mom with a Motorola Droid and see the utter confusion using something as simple as Picasa photo upload or e-mail sync.
You could argue Microsoft’s KIN phones (music, web, social, photos, sms/mms/qwerty, etc.) might be even more useful (and better priced) to many of these people… and will ultimately attract a larger audience than any smartphone going forward but that is another topic for another day. I do consider iPhone as the most usable "consumer smartphone" in regard to what real mass-market people want from a "smartphone… browse the web, check email, sms/mms, send photos, listen to music, entertain young kids while waiting or running chores, schedule/calendar, etc. The iPhone has it’s warts too… even when it’s freed from AT&T in the USA it’s lack of qwerty keyboard significantly limits its appeal to a youth market that lives to SMS on their phone and probably has a iPod touch to wifi-surf and preserve their phone battery life. It’s social component is lacking also, requiring jumping from app to app which most users barely comprehend.
While the media has championed Android’s rapid rise (makes for good reading now Apple vs. Google), I consider this neither a surprise nor an obstacle to WP7. It simply validates how woeful and pathetic Windows Mobile 6.5 is to both vendors and consumers. We must remember that like the internet circa the AOL dial-up era was at it’s consumer infancy , so too is the Smartphone market, and what it spawns – KIN1, KIN2 or future gaming phones for example.
This is not to say my WM6.5 phone is useless and unworkable – it does many things and some my launch WP7 might not do initially (Garmin XT turn-by-turn is my best guess as to what I’ll be missing)! It’s just that Windows Mobile is max’d out… the good – never great – player past his prime on the downside of his career… fading fast right before our eyes. Unfortunately my WM6.5 device with it’s "unrestricted" use is soooooo darn limited & restrictive (196mb RAM ugh, 32mb addressable per application as per CE5.x) it’s just frustrating and annoying. Not exactly the type of consumer satisfaction a company like Microsoft wants associated with it’s services or software at the start of the mobile revolution. Of course this is highly ironic as the "power users" and "geeks" clamor about about how "locked down" they feel WP7 is. ROTFLMAO… like a guy living in a studio apartment for years complaining the Taj Mahal is too small to comfortably live.
I expect Microsoft to deliver phone software that I don’t NEED to tweak & geek, that respects what I am actually doing (foreground process), respects battery life while showing sensibility and practicality at all times. If this is not Windows Phone 7 then it’s a cryin’  shame because it’s certainly not Android (v 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.01, 2.1, 2.2, etc.), Palm or Blackberry. Or even the latest iPhone. As "Dumb phones’ are getting "smarter" and more powerful, it seems obvious that Smartphone devices will distinguish themselves more and more by cohesive services (see iPhone/Apple ecosystem), a great user experience, usability and word of mouth…  not by hardware specs, geeks or side-loading apps to memory cards. Windows Phone 7 is poised to compete here which benefits all smartphone users… long-term if not short.

Please respect other views, and if you disagree say it kindle or better yet, until the 15th I am still taking thoughts by readers on WP7 or anything Windows Phones for posting or just to tell me how you feel.

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