Back in October, I got myself a Samsung Omnia 7 running Windows Phone 7. The latest and apparently greatest mobile operating system to arrive out of Microsoft. Now here’s the thing: back in October/November-time, I put together a full review of the platform, and all in all it stacked up pretty well for a newcomer.
However, since then the platform has been entirely stagnant, with only one attempt at a software update and that didn’t quite go to plan. But that’s not all, there is so much wrong with the platform it’s hard to know where to start, and it’s been boiling up inside me now for so long, it’s time to get it off my chest.
For starters, as I’ve already mentioned, there has only been talk of any software updates, and that, in the words of Peter Griffin, really grinds my gears. Considering it’s a newbie on the mobile front, you would have thought that Microsoft would be going all out to iron out any early bugs. But no, instead the focus seems to have shifted somewhat to tying up deals with Nokia regarding future hardware. Hardware is all well and good, but if the software’s crap, there’s little point. Just ask Nokia.
But there are also little issues which at first I thought would be eradicated over time. For starters, the quality of the majority of the apps on the Marketplace is atrocious. And what’s more, the Marketplace is atrocious. Just the other day I hammered gently on the Marketplace tile to see what’s new, only to find the ‘new’ section of the Marketplace had been littered with apps which were only available in Chinese!
The names were in Chinese, so I didn’t even know if I would have liked them had they been in English. Now, I know that Microsoft has deliberately steered away from the Apple-style restrictions on app-submissions, and I know that there has been a blatant ploy to get as many apps in there as quickly as possible, but come on guys, have some dignity. There are apps in there called ‘I am rich’, costing customers well in excess of £300, for what I assume is nothing. Surely this sort of nonsense should be outlawed by whoever, if there actually is anyone, monitoring the app submissions.
On top of that, I can only assume that the sales figures of Windows Phones have been somewhat diminutive, as Microsoft remains coy on the subject. This ambiguity has probably been the root of my next issue. The complete and utter lack of ‘official’ apps. When you look at iOS you have apps for Evernote, Dropbox and all manner of wonderful applications coming direct from the manufacturer.
On Windows Phone however, there are, in a couple of instances, some clients made by a third party for Dropbox and a few others, but as for Evernote, there’s nothing. Dropbox and Evernote are just two I use regularly on other platforms which is why they are the examples here, but there are lots more I can assure you.
Similarly, something that leaves me with a great sense of anger burning in the pit of my stomach is Microsoft’s half-hearted effort at producing a YouTube application. Now, YouTube has become an integral part of the web, with many millions of users on a daily basis. So you would have thought it be a necessary inclusion. Microsoft obviously thought it possible to get away with what can only be described as sheer laziness, or incompetence. The app itself is truly appalling, and at first I thought it had been crafted by an ham-fisted moron, rather than a multi-billion dollar company primarily skilled in software development.
Microsoft even went as far as integrating YouTube videos into the Music & Video Zune suite, but simply made a mess of it. The app itself is actually just an embedded browser displaying the mobile site, and obviously this provides a ‘watch video’ link, which then takes you back to the video player. Shocking. If you’re sent a link, for example, you have to open it up, and manually change the URL from www.youtube.com/….. to m.youtube.com/…. It is criminal for such an ambitious operating system to allow this shit to be a key part of the web experience you get on the platform.
On a slightly less angry note, something else has been bothering me. As much as I like the concept of the Metro UI, I can’t help but feel it has been quite poorly implemented on Windows Phone. The titles, for example, are outrageously big, to the point that they dominate each and every screen leaving little room for content. This is OK, for something such as a weather app, but when your reading the news on a screen that is essentially reduced to roughly a 2.5″ diagonal, it makes you wonder why you splashed out for a phone with such a capacious display in the first place.
we’re I’m talking ranting about news on Windows Phone 7, there’s also the small matter of news feed applications. There are hundreds (not literally). And all of them are shit! For one reason or another, they just don’t cut it when compared with what’s on offer on iOS or Android. In fact, I’ve been driven to using the web, which is all well and good, but Microsoft decided it would be a good idea to put IE6 on there, make it slow, and to be honest I’d rather use an app after using iOS for a while and becoming accustomed to an almost perfectly high standard.
Going back to the UI for a moment, there’s yet another thing punching me repeatedly between the eyes. And that’s the ‘live tiles’ concept. And really, it’s nothing more than a concept because as far as I can tell, Microsoft has completely disallowed its usage on third-party apps. Now I know that’s not the case, as there are a few which do offer live tiles, but when I say ‘few’, I mean ‘few’. I could probably count them on one hand, the good ones at least. That’s poor, and I am unsure why. If there are any Windows Phone developers reading this, I’m curious, how difficult is it to make a live tile? At the moment the whole ‘Glance and Go’ in reality is more like ‘Glance, Press, Wait, Crash, Throw’.
Anyway, these things are all pretty trivial in truth, the most important part of this little satire of mine is Microsoft’s apparent lack of enthusiasm regarding integration of its services. When you look at Android and iOS, Windows Phone 7 is in many respects a happy medium. One area where this is not acceptable, though, is with software integration. Apple does it perfectly, with Mac OS X and iOS apps almost perfectly in-sync. Google does it, too, with its batch of software, so why doesn’t Microsoft see fit to throw some SkyDrive in there? OK, so Xbox Live is in there, but it offers no synchronisation at all with your Xbox 360, as none of the games are the same. It’ll be interesting to see how Sony go about converging the gaming experience on the PS3 and the NGP handheld console. Hopefully better than Microsoft, as Windows Phone 7 gaming is no more than a handful of indie titles with half a billion dollars worth of branding attached to it.
Of course, there are a lot of positives to be taken from version 1.0 of Windows Phone 7, and it is a promising platform, Microsoft just needs to address some pretty terrible flaws and fix some outrageous bugs. The biggest problem, though, is Windows is just not ‘cool’. Sorry Microsoft, but Apple just does ‘cool’ a million times better.