Microsoft Launches Windows Phone 7 – And I Buy An iPhone

Windows Phone 7 handsets have been available here for a couple of weeks now.  They look good and interesting.  I would have bought one too … but my operator hasn’t launched them.  The other operators went live on MS’s launch day, btw.

I’ve had an LG Windows Mobile 6.5 handset for nearly a year.  At first it was good.  But then all the little things started to get to me.  The LG shell was awful.  Alarms?  Forget about setting them.  The GUI would jump-scroll when I clicked on something so I couldn’t enable or set an alarm.  As for clicking, it needed a stylus which hung from the phone by a string – that looks really cool, kids.  The screen just couldn’t handle and adult finger.  My car has built-in bluetooth for hands free calling.  When the screen is locked on a Windows Mobile 6.5 phone then it will not accept an incoming call.  Rubbish! 

Moving on with the basics of a phone … answering a phone call was a gamble.  It required sliding a control on the screen.  Most of the time, it would jump back and the call would continue ringing.  I wouldn’t dare press the green button because that would hang the call up.  And as for apps … what apps?  I’m convinced most of the problems were because of LG.  The handset itself had a bad screen and the LG shell/apps were awful.  I would love to have installed a pure/clean MS OS like I do with a PC.  OEM installs are the cause of most issues.

Anyway … I needed a phone.  I went into the shop with an open mind.  I knew I couldn’t get a Windows Phone 7 handset so I was considering Android or iPhone.  I’ve seen many people were happy with Samsung Galaxy phones with Android.  The girl in the shop was really helpful and spent a good bit of time with me, allowing the try the sets.  The Samsung screen was good and nice to use.  Android is very popular and a huge library of apps is building up.  But here’s the thing … the OEM’s are putting a shell on Android.  Would this put me in OEM build hell once again?  I was fearful that it would.

So I went with an iPhone 4 16GB.  I thought “I’ll never use 16GB”.  Hah!  But more on that later.  First impressions – this beats the hell out of my old LG phone.  It’s smooth, simple, intuitive, etc.  Second impression: Apple gives you zero documentation for setting up your phone.  I had to google to find out that I had to activate it using iTunes.  Luckily a mate who is an Apple nut walked me through things.  And iTunes is not intuitive at all.  It took an evening to get myself set up with copying movies and photos onto the phone.  I’m not impressed with how that works.

On to the apps.  That’s the magic of iPhone.  Obviously the library is massive.  Things like Tweetie, Facebook and VLC went on there straight away.  VLC is great because I can watch AVI movies on the train while commuting to work.  Tweetie is a tidy Twitter app client.  Angry Birds is a seriously addictive game.  I also got some sniper game with impressive graphics, moving the handset to aim the rifle!  I was in London last weekend and the app library was extremely useful.   I loaded the Underground map which was a lifesaver because most of the city routes were closed and the system was in chaos on Saturday night.  A cheap street map made it easy to find underground stations and places I wanted to visit, without having to enable data for the built-in maps service.

One of the nice features is the mute button.  I often find myself in meetings where I need to mute my phone.  This can be done with a few clicks on my work Blackberry.  It could be done with a LOT of clicks (some successful and some not so) on my old LG.  There is a dedicated button on the side of the iPhone 4 to mute my phone.  I can slide that, and bang, the phone is muted or un-muted.  This was clearly designed for professionals.  It’s also handy when I’m playing Angry Birds on the tram in the city 🙂

Finally, the camera.  I’m a serious enthusiast photographer.  I have some big kit but there’s times when a pocket camera is desirable.  The camera in the iPhone is pretty damned good.  I was amazed to find a HDR mode.  HDR is when you merge multiple exposures of a single scene to capture dark and bright parts and to recreate what the brain interprets as the eye moves around and compensates.  I took some shots in the foyer of the Natural History Museum and the hall of the British Museum and was very impressed.  With a DSLR I would have to set up a tripod to do the same and that’s a no-no in those places – as security informed me :-)  The video mode is pretty good too.  I recorded the kickoff of the Broncos/49ers game (go Niners!) at Wembley and the picture and sound are pretty good.  I would have loved a zoom feature but what can you expect from a phone!

BTW – I wasn’t affected by the DST alarms bug.  I’m lucky that I chose to sleep in on Sunday morning instead of setting an alarm to go out early with the camera bag.

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