I was pretty happy with my Samsung Galaxy S II, especially after the non-trivial Jelly Bean upgrade some time ago. Because of that and as I wanted to wait until I had 3 vouchers from my employer (which covers the bulk of the cost of a high-end device), I decided to hang on to my S II for one more year.
But then (about a week after the guarantee period ended) it died on me. Black screen, no sound what so ever. I tried charging it (the battery was running low a couple of hours before), but the thing remained dark. I tried replacing the battery with a known good one, but still nothing but silence. I banged it against the counter of the shop where I bought it and threw it up in the air while yelling slightly frantically;
Testing! Testing! Testing! Testing! This is your nine o’clock alarm call!
THIS IS AN EX-SMARTPHONE!
But the shop-guy just said my Sammy was stunned and that it was out of guarantee anyway.
So I needed an alternative. I started out using my wife’s ancient Sony Ericsson w810 (which I used before her) but that didn’t work for me. I then convinced a colleague (thanks Gregory) to lend me the HTC Radar from his collection of test-devices, but the Windows Phone experience was pretty similar to the one I had over a year ago. In the mean time I tried to find me a smuggler who could buy me a ZTE Open with Firefox OS in Spain (thanks Tamara, thanks Pieter & Tine) but Telefonica (Movistar) support couldn’t confirm it wasn’t sim-locked so I cancelled the order.
And then i saw colleague after colleague (Benoit & evil twin Jean-Paul) surrender to the sweetness of what is considered the current hotshot smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S 4. And after someone (Gregory, great chap!) gave me his voucher (on condition he would get mine next year), I caved and ran down to buy me that beautiful telephone. So (again) no Firefox OS phone for me just yet, I have me a new PRISM-device to tame.
Every now and again you should go out of your comfort zone to get a new perspective on things. Or so they say. I love my comfort zone, it took me 43 years to build the damned thing after all, so please leave me be, will you?
But things break and in this particular case the screen of my trusty old Samsung Galaxy S2 went dark, literally. I brought the phone in for repairs and grabbed the only test-device left at work as a temporary replacement. It was a Samsung Omnia 7 with Windows Phone 7. Now look at this little droid-boy getting pushed out of his comfort zone!
I’ve been using it for 5 days now, so why not make a small list of what sucks and what’s great? Here goes:
- The browser.
It’s not I can’t live without Firefox Mobile, but boy does Mobile IE7 suck.
- No Internet connection sharing (not over USB, not over Bluetooth, not over WiFi)
- The fact that the phone doesn’t present itself as a USB storage device when I connect it over USB with my Ubuntu netbook
- The lack of an SD card slot
- I can’t login with my Live ID (my ancient Hotmail address) on my phone (but it does work in Zune), which means I can’t install applications from the Marketplace (I’m asked to call support! Seriously?)
- The fact that after installing Zune on my work PC and then waiting until I got home because Zune doesn’t do proxies, I still wasn’t able to upgrade to Windows Phone 7.5 (which does have Internet connection sharing and a more decent browser)
- There’s no way to reliably fetch information from the Exchange servers at work. Every once in a while mail gets downloaded, but in general there’s error code 8501001D ruining my Exchange experience
What’s great? Just one bullet point actually;
Really, despite my grievances about how poorly the device integrates with the outside world, my general feeling about Windows Phone is positive, and that is because Metro really is that great! The screens are sober, with lots of space and a prominent place for content (text & typography). Applications scroll horizontally to display different views and it’s the typography that makes this pretty discoverable. The graphics effects and sound add to the great responsive “feel” of the UI. And tiles are a radical break form the icon-based approach that is typical of iOS (and Android, classic Mac OS, Windows 3.11 and …), you could compare them to widgets (as seen on Android), but without the anarchy and clutter.
So yeah, really, I ♥ Metro! I hope Google (Android), Mozilla (b2g) and Ubuntu (Unity) take clues from what is, in my view, a pretty radical break in graphical user interface design, because I would love the computing environments in my comfort zone to be more about content and less about chrome as well!