Update: the first update has been already announced, adding copy & paste (and some other enhancements)

Before Christmas I got my Samsung Omnia 7, and I played a bit with it during the week I spent skiing in Cogne.

Let’s start directly from the conclusion: I really enjoyed using it, the overall UX is great, better than the iPhone, but there are still some details and bugs that need to be fixed, hopefully with the next updates coming in the next months (the first update is already announced).

But I’m not planning to migrate from my iPhone to the WP7 yet, not because of the OS or the device, but because of the lack of the applications I use. I will not put it back into the box: I’ll use it to replace the phone I use with the Italian phone SIM (which I’ll probably use a lot since I’m going to be in Italy a few times in the upcoming months).

And now, the detailed good, not so good, bad analysis.

What is good

  • The new “Metro” UI: I was not that impressed when I looked at the static screenshots, but using it for real is a completely different thing. From an aesthetic stand point, it is very nice, no reflections but just plain colors: I really like the cool and clean look. But it’s with the subtle transitions and animations that WP7 is ahead of the competitors. Microsoft understood that the users have to be entertained, not just given the bare contents.
  • Information architecture. I also like the way information are shown to the user: you can see the contents you need in order to decide whether to stop and dive into the details or keep doing what you were doing. This is true for the built-app but more and more third party apps are following this approach and the development guidelines are pushing in this direction.
  • The hardware button for taking pictures, and it works also when the device is locked.
  • The “unified” contact list. In one place you see all you phone numbers, emails addresses from Outlook/Exchange, Facebook friends, XBox Live contacts and Messenger Contacts. This is good and bad at the same time. Merging all the information coming from different sources is a great idea, but unfortunately the implementation is bad (see below), especially if your main source of contacts is your Mac’s Address Book.
  • SMS text counter: when you write a SMS it tells you how many characters you typed and how many SMS will be sent.
  • Run Under Lock: applications can run even when the device is locked. Very useful for sport trackers.

What is not so good

  • Copy&Paste: it was missing in the first iPhone and now it is missing in the first WP7: but really, not that important. Copy and Paste will be in the first WP7 January update.
  • Applications: there are a bit more then 5000 applications at the time of writing, but they are still nothing compared to the 300.000 applications+ available for the iPhone. I know, Microsoft is moving in the right direction by doing everything the can to help developer build great applications, but until the “big names” (TomTom, Evernote, Skype, Dropbox, Kindle, and similar) are not on WP7, the platform will not be appealing to most of the users.
  • Synchronization with the Mac: You need to use the Zune to synchronize all your data (photo, songs, contacts, video, etc…) with a WP7. Which is not completely bad, if there was a Zune client also for Mac. Ok, there is the WP7 Connector for Mac, but it doesn’t synchronize contacts and apps. If Microsoft doesn’t build a full-fledged Zune client for the Mac, WP7 will not be appealing for Mac users.
  • No unified inbox: if I configure many email addresses, I’d like to have all the new mails in one inbox. And I’d also like to see the overall “unread count” in the live tile: now I have 3 mailboxes in the home screen, one per email address.
  • No "sent" notification: when you send an SMS or an email nothing tell the user the message was sent.
  • Email syncing: emails are downloaded either in push mode or manually. What I'd like is the email downloading process starting as soon as I open the email application (I’m not using the push mode as it drains the battery), while now I have to push the "sync" button, for each email account I have.
  • The keyboard: despite the screen being bigger then the iPhone's, I find myself typing the wrong key a bit too much, and sometimes even pushing the buttons in the appbar.
  • No data usage counter: I don't know how it is in the US, but in Italy and Belgium data plans have a cap. So I'd like to know how many MB I transferred over a period of time. Some carrier have an app for that, but not all have.
  • No "confirm shutdown": when the device is locked, if you keep the "power" button pressed long enough, the device will shutdown. I turned it off accidentally 2 times in 4 days while I was skiing. A "touch" confirmation would have prevented this to happen.
  • Phone number categorization: why just one mobile phone per contact while I can choose between 7 landline numbers? Most of the people I know have a personal and work mobile phone: but the work number is treated as landline, so I cannot send SMS to it. Also, being an expat and working in an international environment, most of my contacts have mobile phones in different countries, so I would like to be able to add new types of phone numbers, like I can do with the iPhone.

What is still bad

  • Email attachments: I guess this is “just” a bug, but a really annoying one. If you receive an email sent from the iPhone and with nothing but images, the images are not shown and cannot be saved. I worked around it by forwarding the email to me.
  • Still some too geeky settings: Microsoft got it right with the general UI concept, but many small things are still showing that sometimes they forget they are building for the end-user and not for a developer or a system engineer.
    For example, what is the difference between System Locale and Region format? I know what it is, but I guess that most of the non developers cannot tell the difference? And even if they could, how many people would want the date format from a country, but the System Locale form another?
  • The Browser: still doesn’t support HTML5, acts very strangely sometimes. Hope they will fix this asap.
  • Synchronization settings: when you setup a remote account, Gmail, Exchange, normal IMAP, Facebook, Hotmail you can set various sync options, but unfortunately you can apply them only after the first synchronization.
  • The unified contact list: as as I said above, great idea, but bad implementation. I don’t want all the 700 “friends” I have on Facebook to show up when I search for a phone number to call, or an email address to add as recipient to a email. There is a flag that should import from Facebook only the friends that are already “contacts” in your phone, but unfortunately it’s affected by the problem I just mentioned, so you have first to setup the sync, wait for the first sync to complete, and then you can set the flag. But at this point the damage is done. If it was supposed to delete the unwanted contacts once the flag is set, it doesn’t work for me.
  • The Live ID is required to connect to the MarketPlace and to XBOX Live, but it is also automatically used to synchronize with your Hotmail account. But unlike Gmail, you cannot choose not to download the contacts, the calendar and various other things. So now I have my “unified contact list” full of garbage since my MSN Messenger account was full of contacts I was not using since ages.
  • Languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German are probably the most used languages in the Occidental World, but they are missing languages of great possible markets, like all the Nordic countries, the Baltic ones, and also they are missing Dutch, which, besides being the language of Netherlands, is also the most spoken language in Belgium. And also Portuguese, is the language of Brasil, another huge market. And of course, Japanese and Chinese.

Drawing up some conclusions

For the first time Microsoft didn’t copy (or bought) anything from other companies, but invented something really different, and only time will tell if they were right. Personally I like their approach better then the usual “desktop-inspired” one. But they still have to fine-tune some implementation details to make it really a hit. And to start, I have made a list of precise things I’d like in the next updates of WP7.

And really, they should make the life of non Live and Outlook/Exchange users easier. I’ll write a post in the future about the process to setup your contact list if you are not falling in that category.

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