Best phone OS I’ve ever used: Windows Phone 7

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I can’t believe how much impressed I am with Windows Phone 7. It’s so beautiful, so graceful, so predictable, so responsive and so reliable that I can only assume that Microsoft farmed it out; it’s unlike anything they’ve ever produced.

Phone’s I’ve spent at least a few weeks with:

  • T-Mobile HTC Dash running Windows Mobile 5 – a few years. Pretty cool at the time.
  • Nokia E71 – a few years. I still love just holding the phone. The hardware is that perfect.
  • T-Mobile HTC HD2 – a week weeks – great hardware let down by Windows Mobile 6.5.3. Returned to E71.
  • Palm Pre Pixi – a few weeks. Ridiculously amazing, beautiful WebOS let down by a tiny screen. Also there’s no dashboard on which you can see how things are going like previews of new email or upcoming appointments. The screen had a flickering issue for which I eventually returned it. Returned to E71.
  • T-Mobile HTC G2 – a few weeks. Android 2.2 issues: display of images in HTML unreliable, forwards and replies wouldn’t attach a signature, no means of precisely placing the cursor in text. Hardware issues: screen brightness would not automatically adjust in response to ambient light.
  • T-Mobile HTC HD7…

I’ll get the bad out of the way because that’s shorter:

Hardware:

  • The power button is too shallow to be pressed reliably, and it’s flimsiness belies the fantastic hardware everywhere else.
  • I wish the notification light would blink when you have a new email and/or text. As it stands, it notifies you of only new voicemail.
  • The speaker phone is a pure turd. The audio cuts out at all volume levels. Interestingly, audio from music and streamed Netflix content, for instance, sounds fine.

Software:

First, and this is the big one: The Phone App. Making and receiving calls using the handset while a Bluetooth headset is connected is nearly impossible. Say, you just want to make a quick call using the handset although your BT headset is connected. You make the call and the headset picks up. That makes sense. Click the Bluetooth button and the call returns to the handset. However, the moment the recipient picks up, the app returns your call to your headset! This means you might have to unlock the phone, fumble with the phone app to return the call to your handset.

Even this could be easier. The phone app has buttons for Speaker, Mute, Hold, Bluetooth and Add Call. What’s missing is a button for Handset. True, clicking on Bluetooth disconnects your headset, but your mind doesn’t say, “I want to disconnect the headset,” it thinks, “I want to use the handset.” There’s even an available space in the 3×2 grid of buttons just begging to be filled by an icon labeled Handset. Moreover, adding this button would bring much needed tiers of button importance:

Primary functions on the top level: Speaker, Bluetooth, Handset
Secondary functions on the bottom level: Mute, Hold, Add

  • Pressing the search button doesn’t let you search phone’s content. This means you have to first click on People then Search to search for contacts. Would love to see full phone search a la Just Type on Palm WebOS. This seems so obvious I have to believe this will be addressed soon.
  • Internet Explorer: way, way too slow. I’m talking about, “The first bit, is a zero. The second bit is a one…” kind of slow.

The good:

Hardware:

  • I’m not sure how much of this is hardware and how much is software, but the I’ve never seen text rendered so crisply! I love zooming in only to watch the text get sharper!
  • Well, there’s not a whole lot of other hardware to talk about. It’s pretty much a black slab. The three soft buttons are always responsive, and the kickstand is fun to play when then you’re bored.

Software:

Finally, this is what I’ve wanted to get to. Not that mid-November was that long ago, but I still remember the moment I first scrolled through the tile list – so fluid, so responsive, so right now! Not even a trizillionth of lag. I can’t imagine what they had to do to get it this good. Every other device I’ve used, if even just long enough to setup an Exchange account on it, now lets me down. I recently poked around on a client’s Droid X and compared to the HD7, it felt like something was using 90% of its processor.

Microsoft, not known for attention to the minutia of the user experience, got it so, so right this time. When you press on a button, the button will ever so slightly nudge in that direction. When you press a tile, all of the other tiles shake just the tiniest bit – so little that it took me about two months to notice, but it’s there. When flipping from the tile list to the long list of all of your programs, the little arrow at the top doesn’t just go from pointing in one direction to the other, it actually rotates through 180 degrees. The smiley face emoticon icon for text messaging app changes from a 🙂 to a 😮 when you have more than three text messages. Once I saw that it was a frown. That was to inform me that a text I sent couldn’t be delivered. Seriously, Microsoft. Who did you hire to do this for you?

The lock screen is so informative, that you truly rarely have to click past it. In one beautiful image, you know how: much cell reception you have and what type, whether your Bluetooth headset is connected, whether you’re on WiFi and its strength, amount of battery power remaining, the time of day, the day of the week, the date and your next appointment.

I’ll be adding more. More than two months, and I’m still in awe of this phone.