Windows Phone 7: A Quick Rundown
Most enthusiasts have at least played with a friend's Android- or iOS-based device. Windows Phone 7 is a far less common animal. If you've tried out the Windows 8 developer preview, then WP7 should feel pretty familiar. Both operating environments employ the Metro UI, though there's a fair chance that you didn't know it was originally intended for phones. Microsoft's use of Metro in Windows 8 was a more recent decision that was made in order to more effectively unify the company's product line-up, from the smartphones it powers to its Xbox 360.
It'd be easy to spend an entire story talking about Windows Phone 7, and indeed, we plan to do just that in the days to come. However, it's impossible to talk about the Lumia 710 without some feedback on the WP7 ecosystem.
- The home screen is only displayed in vertical orientation, and it consists of arrangeable tiles that you can pin. Each represents an application or action.
- WP7-based phones have three navigation keys: Back, Home, and Search.
- The arrow key on the home screen expands, exposing a full menu (no landscape mode).
- Individual applications can switch between landscape and portrait mode.
- Naturally, you scroll with your fingers.
- Synchronization must occur through the Zune application (opens in new tab) in Windows. On Macs, you need Windows Phone 7 Connector (opens in new tab).
At present, it's hard to really pin down how the Windows Phone 7 story will play out. Its interface is nice, but there just aren't many apps available for it (relative to Android). Notably missing are the impressive 3D games. Yeah, we know. Many folks think smartphone-based gaming is silly. However, we contend that the existence of high-quality games, even if they come across as mere exhibitions, indicate the potential of well-designed hardware and, ideally, a development platform that more mainstream programmers can jump into.
Android has Riptide GP, Galaxy of Fire 2, Sprinkle, and Shadowgun. Then, there's Real Racing HD 2 and Infinity Blade on iOS. In comparison, WP7 has Need for Speed: Undercover. Really, it's just another racing game, and its graphical detail is pretty blocky.
Microsoft is emphasizing the quality-over-quantity message. However, as the market for WP7 expands, so too will the demand for a broader selection of applications able to satisfy a broader audience. We'll have to look forward to that evolution as it happens.