This week I’ve been able to spend some (supervised) time with actual prototype Windows Phone 7 devices. I can say with utter confidence that I will be using one of these phones as my regular device before the end of this year.
You all know I don’t say something like that lightly.
I’ve been using an iPhone for the last couple of years, because nothing else has come close to the usability and consistency of that device. Yes, I’ve played with a Nexus One, which was incredibly fast. Yes, the Android platform is noble by its very nature, but I don’t need a granola bar or some home-crocheted organic yogurt. I want something gorgeous and easy to use.
Don’t call me a fanboy. You don’t know the depths of near-autistic agony I go through when touching these devices. A font out of place, or a single glitch in a scroll is enough that I have to restrain myself from crushing it with my bare hands. Yes, I did see a couple of very minor glitches in these prototype devices, but the improvement since the early videos is stunning. The important stuff like touch responsiveness and scroll speed is bang-on.
So what else did I see in these devices that makes me so confident in Windows Phone’s impending superiority?
Windows Phone nails convergence. Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live, Gmail, Outlook. Just bung your account details into the device, and watch in awe as everything is conglobulated into a seamless experience.
There’s one line from the Metro design language presentation that really stuck with me: “Fierce Reduction of Unnecessary Elements“. And they don’t just pay lip services to this: if you wait for a few moments, the Windows Phone user interface does away with the battery and signal strength icons.
Themes – those warty appendages that are to blame for atrocities like Android phones running woefully out of date OS versions – are done away with. Want to customise your Windows Phone? Sure, you can select from a number of different highlight colours:
I kid (a bit). You can also completely customise the layout of the home screen, and you can choose a white-on-black design.
I’m not a complete font-nerd, but I do know what I like. The clarity and consistency of the WP7 design is just hands-down gorgeous. Did you ever think you’d see an article referencing Adrian Frutiger and a Microsoft user interface in the same context? Cats and dogs.
No, not Adobe Flash, I mean glitz, or what the kids call bling. Even with iOS4, the iPhone OS is starting to look a little dated. Put a brand new WP7 phone beside an iPhone (and yes, the 480×800 screen will just hold its own against the mad-dense iPhone 4G screen), and I can guarantee you’ll get more “oohs” and “aahs” over the new Windows Phone UI.
OK so this is one aspect I am utterly biased on. Learning to code for iPhone, while ultimately satisfying, was not a pleasurable experience. On the other hand, with the way we developers seek purity of purpose and clarity of code, the pure joy that is XAML and MVVM can be likened to a digital colonic. Or maybe that’s just the sad way I think when I can use 15 years of coding experience on a beautiful device.
There is an inherent risk here: the sheer number of semi-capable .NET developers that now have access to code for this device. If you though fart apps on the iPhone were bad, you can understand why Microsoft limits developers to only five free free (yes, free free) applications in the marketplace.
The App marketplace is another shining example of the improvement in this platform:
- Full try/buy integration in the marketplace. None of this stupid “Lite Version” crap that goes on in the iTunes App Store. Developers have access to an “isTrial()” API, which can be time limited, and is checked against the marketplace when online and when syncing.
- Beta distribution through the marketplace. Again, no need to go and ask your testers for their device IDs. Just get their Live email address and send them a link.
- And the marketplace app itself is as gorgeous as the rest of the UI.
The only unknown is hardware. Microsoft have laid down some stringent rules, but we haven’t seen any physical manifestations. I’m hoping we’ll see some slick designs, along the lines of the HTC HD2 or other super-slim devices.
I want one. Do you?