Let me start by saying that I respect David Pogue and I don’t think he skews his reviews to meet an agenda. With that preface, his review of Windows Phone 7 has several errors and omissions that really ought to be corrected. First, let’s get to his overall view of Windows Phone. He praises WP7 for taking on a new look and style that’s not an iPhone or Android clone that’s filled with clever ideas. He concludes:

It’s amazing that Microsoft pulled off the hard part: it created a truly fresh approach to managing an app phone’s 17 gazillion features that’s fun to use, crisp and attractive.

Obviously, Microsoft still has a lot of work to do, and it will be a long time before its store offers a decent selection of apps. The company intends to deliver free software updates as it fills in the holes. In other words, for now, this may not be the phone you’ll want to buy.

But it’s definitely a phone you’ll want to watch.

OK now let’s get to the meat of his arguments.

There’s no copy and paste. No folders for organizing your apps. No way to add new ringtones. No way to send videos to other phones as MMS messages. No video chat. No front-facing cameras.

And there’s no multitasking. You can play your own songs while working in other programs, but you can’t listen to, say, Pandora Internet radio.

It’s true that today there’s no copy and paste but this was already addressed and we know it is months off, so just say that. And true, there’s no folders for organizing apps but that’s because Windows Phone does some organizing for you. Games all get grouped together in the Games hub. And the photo and music hubs were created to be extensible so if an app is created to edit photos then you’ll see that app as an ‘extra’ when viewing photos and if an app is designed to give you music lyrics then you’ll see that in your Zune music app.  And of course you can launch any app with your voice. As for not being able to send video MMS I don’t know who does that – email the thing or upload it to YouTube like most users.

Windows Phone have front facing cameras. It’s entirely inaccurate to say they are lacking. What David means is that the phones in the US were neutered of their front facing cameras, which are present in other countries, and that likely has more to do with the carriers and less to do with the OS.

Regarding multitasking, that’s double edged. Battery life gets slaughtered when apps are running when they shouldn’t be and Microsoft, for now, has a host of notifications and live tiles that can be updated independent of the app running in the background. So you can’t listen to a music app but you can get weather notifications and other status notifications without having the app running so then you know to run the app. I think it’s fair to expect an author of the caliber of Pogue to explain what WP7 does do though and why it does it. Clearly, they could just turn on multitasking (since the OS does multitask) but they balanced the options and we know how they came out. It’s fair to expect him to explain why it is the way it is.

Like the iPhone, the Web browser doesn’t play Flash videos on the Web — but it also won’t play the HTML5 videos that the iPhone plays, or even videos in Microsoft’s own Silverlight format. So, no YouTube, no Hulu, no online news videos.

Whoah buddy. Two things. First off, we already know that it will be able to play both Flash and Silverlight shortly – it’s just MS finalizing how plugins will work so this is another short term omission that’s months off. But wait, no YouTube? Uhm that’s just entirely wrong. It has support for H.264 plugins and it DOES play YouTube with a small download that’s already available that permits it. And for the most used streaming video site in the country (NetFlix) there’s an app for that (and not for Android).

The address book has the opposite problem: it displays everyone from all of your accounts, including Facebook, in one long list. If you have hundreds of Facebook friends, they clutter up the list of people you call often. (There’s no Twitter integration at all, only a separate app.)

Regarding Facebook contents, MS fixed this a long time ago and in the final release it’s up to the end user to sync all contacts or just those that they already have in their contact list so there is no fear of this mass clutter. And having a standalone Twitter app puts WP in exactly the same boat as iOS and Android so it’s disingenuous to knock them for that.

Unfortunately, you can’t speak to type, as you can on the iPhone (with the free Dragon Dictation app) or Android (built-in).

Knocking Windows Phone for this is fair relative to Android but not on the iPhone where it’s just an app that’s not fully integrated and instead you need to use copy and paste and work around the OS.

A WP7 phone comes with Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Still, considering that Office is supposed to be Microsoft’s strong suit, they’re weirdly stripped down.

Let’s compare them to what’s preinstalled on the iPhone and Android. Right. From that perspective WP7 is killing them because something is better than nothing. And the ability to make comments and view tracked changes in Word is about all a lot of us need (me at least).

If you own an Xbox game console, your statistics and avatar (an onscreen cartoon icon) show up on the phone, and a rich assortment of interactive games is already available.

That’s really half the story. Yes, that’s what it does today (more to come of course) but the bigger story here is that both the Xbox and Windows Phone can run XNA so a developer can code once and port it to both platforms while changing very little except for controls and some resizing. That’s a huge win and that’s why they can already get Xbox games (not mobile games but the real thing) right on the device.

Battery life is another story. As with similar phones, you’ll have to charge these early WP7 phones every night. And beware standby; these babies drain so fast overnight, you’ll think there’s a hole in them.

The real emphasis should be that it’s the same as similar phones. Don’t knock it too hard when every smartphone needs to get charged every night. It’s a combo of fast processors, cloud based data and small batteries and it’s not unique to Windows Phone so be easy.

Anyway, there are other less prominent items that can be harped on but I think I’ve gone far enough here. I find it hard to believe that someone with the background of Pogue would have a laundry list of errors and omissions but I think that his post leaves no other option. If he is going to look at Windows Phone 7 with a fine toothed comb then he needs to not just show its faults with that lens but also its successes. David Pogue is educating his readers since most of them are not reading tech blogs all day. If he is going to do a well rounded review of a new product or OS then it needs to be that. In this case, I think the edges were left a bit sharp and that means a lot of end users may never really give this OS a chance even though the flaws that are shown as deep grooves are just small scratches.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Put an “i” in front of WP7 and somehow I think his review will take on a different tone…. On the other hand why are the opinions of people like this held in such high regard, are people not able to make decisions for themselves? Oh right, they cant.

    And lets face it, at the end of the day MS released WP7 knowing it lacked many features and that this would be easy ammo for all its detractors and even if these features are added later you will hardly find anyone going back to update their review. They should have done better, knowing the anti-MS horde was just waiting to pounce on anything negative they could find, and MS delivered it to them in spades. They are hardly going to pass such an opportunity up. v1 or not, MS should have seen this coming and worked to avoid it at all costs.

  2. @efjay: I know a lot of people that read the Times and think they are up to date on tech by reading the tech section. That’s their tech digest.
    We all know MS knew of these issues and I think they played a few cards wrong, but it’s not fair to fault them for lack of YouTube support when it’s clearly there for example. It will be itneresting to see how WP7 progresses but there are a lot of things we know are on the short list and will be fixed within the next few months (like copy and paste and flash/silverlight) so at least it will stop people from pointing to those things and they can move on to whatever else it is that they intend to pick on them for.

  3. I think Pogue left himself the out.

    If he roundly endorsed WP7 in its present form, he feels like many of his readers would hold it against them if they had unmet expectations.

    But Pogue didn’t say “It’s a failure.” He said “WATCH this phone…”

    He’s left the door open to come back and give the green light. Which is better than the back-handed glowing non-recommendation that Walt Mossberg gave.

  4. I tend to side here with Ramon on this type of thing. I remember when I was reading the reviews for the first iphone and iOS. Nearly all of the now pegged Apple lover sites and reviewers glossed over all of the glaring flaws both had and endorsed both as the best phone available despite having the worst camera, not being 3g, no copy and paste, no flash etc. etc. etc. There is some obvious bias going on here and regardless of what people equate of WP the bottom line is this platform is the most complete fresh idea not to mention 1st gen mobile OS to be released. Is it lacking some serious features that need to be there. Yes. Like Ramon saide, they nailed 80% of their target and 95% of what would make or break the platform … (how clean it looks and smooth it runs, office integration and the hubs)

  5. For the record: Microsoft’s WP7 product manager confirmed EVERY SINGLE ONE of the missing features I wrote about. So there are, in fact, no errors in the piece.

    The gist of your post boils down to, “OK, he’s right, but Microsoft is working on fixing the holes. They’ll be patched soon.”

    Which is EXACTLY what I wrote! “The company intends to deliver free software updates as it fills in the holes.” (I also made the same point you’re making: “These are precisely the features that were missing from iPhone 1.0, too.”)

    The hilarious thing is that I’m getting pilloried by the Apple lovers for writing a RAVE REVIEW of WP7! How can you BOTH find the same review slanted–in opposite directions?

    I find it bizarre that your post says, “He needs to not just show its faults with that lens but also its successes.”

    Did you somehow miss these paragraphs?

    “Somehow, Microsoft has pulled off the inconceivably difficult task of coming up with a fresh, joyous, beautiful new software design that doesn’t look anything like iPhone or Android…”

    “Fresh, clever ideas abound. On any WP7 phone, there’s a dedicated camera button—and you can take pictures even when the phone itself is turned off— a fantastic feature….You can speak to dial, search Bing.com or open apps…
    How do you know that you can swipe to view the next panel? Because you see the edge of the next “page” peeking out from the edge of the screen. Clever…”

    “Entering text is quick and accurate, thanks in part to the row of possible auto-complete suggestions that appears just above the on-screen keyboard…Even the Lock screen has been visited by the Good Idea fairy. Without even fully waking the phone, you can see the date and time, your next appointment, and how many new messages await (e-mail, voice mail, texts)…”

    “A WP7 phone is every bit as speedy and joyous as its rivals…”

    Sure sounds to ME like I focused both on the omissions and the successes!

    –Pogue

  6. @Pogue – Thanks for dropping by to rally for your article. Respectable that your convictions are so strongly rooted that you felt you needed to defend yourself on our blog site. Second, you were still wrong. The biggest issues in my mind (facebook/contacts problem and youtube) you are definitely wrong about. I’m not saying you’re crazy or you dislike Windows Phones or any other such nonsense even if those things be true. All I’m saying is you were wrong, and half the quotes you posted in your comment are IN David’s article. It seems sort of redundant as well as pedantic to post those things claiming he did not acknowledge them. Density is one thing Mr. Pogue but you are currently acting thicker than lead pudding. If your article was written while playing around with beta software then shame on you. Never give opinions of a final product (whether it’s a yes/no/ or your own indecisive maybe in a silly attempt to absolve yourself from the responsibility to your readers) based on beta software. That is a rookie mistake.

  7. I hate to say it but I completely agree with his commentary on office. Lets compare WP7 office to WM6.x’s version of office. OMFG it’s CRIPPLED. Not to be picky but most of the things that made WM a good OS have been removed. Streaming from any video or audio feed, was a favorite feature of Windows Mobile Media player. Zune has streaming… from the zune service, not a complete fail but CRIPPLED. Multitasking CRIPPLED.

    Microsoft, you make me cry.

  8. I personally thing that MS got rid of alot of that stuff because it is a bit overkill for what most people do from their phones on office (well at least me). And stripping those parts down assisted in making this slick new UI what it is.I may be a bit biased though as I am writing this out with my WP7 Focus ;) love it by the way…

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