Following the launch of Windows Phone 7 yesterday, there has been more emphasis on the new handsets than on the operating system itself, perhaps because we were introduced to the software many months ago, but have been speculating on the hardware ever since. However, just because we saw Windows Phone 7 at Mobile World Congress, doesn’t mean it was finished then, as Microsoft have been hard at work making it into a release-ready version; and that’s what we were shown on Monday.
Microsoft’s Corporate VP of the Windows Phone program, Joe Belfiore, gave another in-depth run through of what Windows Phone 7 was like to use everyday, something he has obviously been personally doing for a while before the event. In case you missed it, we’ve got some of the key features for you right here.
This is a major part of Windows Phone 7, as it was a big downside of Windows Mobile. Instead of the cluttered, cold environment found there, this is bright, welcoming and customisable, primarily on the home screen. The line ‘always delightful, wonderfully mine’ was used several times during Monday’s event and although it’s hideous marketing-speak, the ‘wonderfully mine’ appears to be quite appropriate, as you can add, remove or move around any of the home screen tiles to suit your needs; keeping the information you want close to hand.
This leads us on to the Live Tiles, which means that tiles on the homescreen referring to functions such as calls, SMS, emails, Xbox Live or any other online service will automatically refresh with new data. This stops you having to open up an app or visit your social networking sites in order to check what’s happening; it can all be done on the home screen. Watch Microsoft’s new ‘Really?’ advert to understand how much they’re pushing this.
Anyone who has been following the Windows Phone 7 story since Mobile World Congress will already have a good idea of Hubs, as Joe Belfiore discussed it there too. There are six Hubs in total: People, Pictures, Games, Marketplace, Music + Video and Office.
They can be thought of as individual homescreens set aside for collating information on one particular subject. For example, the Office Hub contains all the mobile versions of Microsoft Office, plus access to Sharepoint services, while the People Hub collects all your social networking updates into one place. Music + Video is where you’ll find all your podcasts, video, music and radio, plus access to the Zune store.
Pictures grabs all your own images and those your friends have shared on Facebook, plus provides the chance to comment on them or upload more. Games is where you’ll find Xbox Live, games you’ve already downloaded, suggestions for more and the latest news from the Marketplace. Finally, if you just want to browse through the store itself, the Marketplace Hub will let you do just that.
Search and Speech.
All Windows Phone 7 devices have a dedicated Search button ready for use wherever you are in the phone’s OS. It will automatically recognise addresses in emails and provide ‘instant answers’ for localised search results, both of which integrate with Bing Maps too. By pressing and holding the Start button, the speech recognition feature will activate. It recognises actions associated with Call, Find or Open commands to allow voice control of your phone.
Like most modern smartphones, Windows Phone 7 will be able to run applications downloaded from the Marketplace. We took a look at the apps expected to be available at launch here. Developers who are writing apps for WP7 will be allowed to make use of the camera, Push notifications, the accelerometer, GPS and the multi-touch screen.
We’ve already mentioned the Office Hub, which is a huge bonus for business users, with Outlook looking especially impressive. There will be access to OneNote and SharePoint services, multiple Exchange server support and unlimited Push accounts. Microsoft haven’t ignored business users entirely, but without the ability to install applications outside of those found in the Marketplace, we would have to question its usefulness in larger organisations.
Other Cool Stuff!
It’s the little things that often convince people a device is for them, so here are some great additions to Windows Phone 7 that could do exactly that. You can sync your phone over Wi-Fi, there is free access to the Find-my-Phone service, remote wipe and lots more on the official Windows Phone 7 website. Holding the shutter button down for a few moments puts the phone into camera mode, ready to take a quick picture and there will be free trial versions of apps in the Marketplace.
Finally, Windows Phone 7 will see the launch of Zune in the UK, which brings with it unlimited music streaming and easy transfer of music and video to your phone.
There is always something! Until we’ve given the software a good test on a retail phone, we don’t want to be overly negative, so here are just a couple of features that we know are missing. Copy and paste isn’t in there yet, and neither is any form of multi-tasking, not even the app-switching approach taken by Apple. None of the phones will have a microSD card slot for increasing the memory either.
Microsoft will be launching Windows Phone 7 in the UK across all the major networks on the 21st October. Will you be buying yours?