Just one month after my experience with an HTC Android phone, following the untimely bifurcation of my Palm Pre, I managed to drop and crack my replacement Pre. Unsure if I was eligible for a replacement, and unable to wait due to impending air travel, I decided I would once again venture out from the comfort of WebOS into the brave new world of smart-phones having two years advancement on the Pre. After all, given Moore's Law, they should be at least twice as good, right? (I understand Moore's Law does not apply to UX, but it should, what's your excuse MicroGooPpleBerry?)
Having a Friend who recently purchased and praised a pair of Windows Phone 7 devices, and seeing that the Samsung Epic (I had been told from multiple sources that non-HTC android is better) was out of stock, I decided to try it (hoping, at least, that Sprint would afford me one more return if I didn't like it).
The list of things I want to do with a smartphone is pretty short.
At least, I thought it was, until I saw some of the things that Windows Phone 7 does not do, that I had taken for granted.
Easy Google integration; no streaming media; winning buttons
I purchased my phone on Friday afternoon and found no trouble connecting my google account to sync my contacts and start making calls. While it did take a while for my contacts to show up, they did eventually.
As I got in my car to head out, I earnestly went to test whether I could stream music from one of my favorite streaming stations. Remembering that they provide a Windows Media friendly stream, I was optimisitically disappointed. Windows Phone 7 suffers the same User eXperience fail here as my former HTC Evo Shift: it downloads the relevant file instead of opening it in the media player. I have not yet found how I can listen to streaming media of any type, without an application specific to the provider, such as YouTube or TWiT for WP7. A working general streaming app could not be found.
I noticed two things about the HTC Arrive that my former HTC Evo Shift lacked in a bad way. First, I can adjust the ringer volume without unlocking the phone -- that means turning the ringer off in a pinch. Second is the separate camera button, that also works without unlocking -- that means I don't have to miss a photo unlocking my phone. Win.
Ignores multiple mobile numbers
Early Saturday I got a text message from a number I did not recognize. After the typical identification correspondences I realized the contact and wondered why it was not identified by the phone. As it turns out, Windows Phone 7 only permits each contact to have one Mobile number, and does not permit custom number types (like "mobile2" or "google voice"). Since the number was stored in my google contact as a second phone number of type "mobile" Windows Phone 7 ignored the phone number, and failed to identify the source of the text message. This is UX fail number two.
Stacked open apps wins; no mail sent view fails;
vanishing phone numbers
Something I have enjoyed about Windows Phone 7 is they way it "stacks" what the user is doing, I don't know what they call it, but I liken it to a stack. I can return to the home screen and start something else, then return to what I was doing before by repeated use of the back button, which guides me back through each activity, even visits to and through the home screen, to what I was doing before each. In this way, I can be in the middle of responding to a text message, and go home, open email, check a message for information, then back back back to finish the text. It's not WebOS's "cards", but it's good UX (imho).
While attempting to do just this, I went to check an email I had sent in my google mail account. This, however, is impossible. The default Google mail client does not provide a way to access sent mail. I don't know who developed this client (google or microsoft) but from this user's perspective, it's UX fail number three.
Later this same day, I was sifting through hundreds of contacts in my google account, using the
google website, to rectify conflicting Mobile numbers as a work-around for yesterday's problem.
I went first to some contacts I remembered as having two mobile numbers and discovered one of the
numbers missing. I know certainly that it was there the week before, but since giving Windows
Phone 7 access to my contacts, this secondary mobile number was not only inaccessible from the
device, but deleted from my google account. I can't imagine a market where this behavior is ok,
but neither have I confirmed by experimentation and reproduction that the phone is to blame, so
I'll hold off on numbering this fail. [UPDATE: I have been unable to reproduce this]
Marketplace win; Facebook fail
I agree with Tom, the "Try before you buy" marketplace model is nice. A few runs with the familiar Fruit Ninja makes me optimistic about the future of the Windows Phone 7 marketplace, even if today sees infant selection.
Attaching facebook as a secondary contact source took a few tries because of some unknown error that came without a retry button. Eventually this worked. Getting bumped out, and having to re-enter my credentials to retry is a UX fail - four.
One volume to rule them all; Incoming call fail
I went on a download binge yesterday, selecting several games to "Try". While I cannot acquire the games I learned to like from a distance -- the distance to my friends' iPhones and Androids -- I did find a few games to enjoy. Parachute Panic and Krashlander have both entertained me today. Not to be rude, I turned the volume down while I played. Later I noticed a missed call; I didn't even hear it ring! My ringer was off, so I turned it up. After a couple more similar experiences, I realized the connection: Windows Phone 7 only has one volume setting, for everything. I cannot control activity volume separate from ringer volume - UX fail five
When I'm playing a game and a call comes in, some games do not pause or get backgrounded (others handle it well). Additionally, I cannot see the whole of the game screen, so my ability to continue play, or pause it, is compromised. The OS should either background the app, giving priority to the smartphone's primary function; or indicate the call with minimal interference to the current app. Doing neither (even leaving it to the app developers, instead without a suitable default) is a UX fail - six.
Linked Contact Win
While running some tests related to the vanishing mobile number, I noticed some unlinked contacts, that is a contact with separate entries for google and facebook. Having dealt with this in both WebOS and Android, I knew to look for the link option and connect these entries. This is where Windows Phone 7 wins: suggested links. The phone presents the user with likely links, which saves a lot of time in searching versus WebOS and Android.
No fail today!
Watch for part 2
tl;dr? I continue to explore my new phone, for it's wins and fails. I'll be back with more of my experience on Windows Phone 7, including what my new list of expected features is, in the coming week.