My intention for the past couple months was to purchase a new WP7 phone sometime after launch day and only use it through a WiFi connection so I could download/review software and comment on other aspects of the OS. I am really happy (sort of) with the way my Tilt2 is currently configured and it was doing everything I could ask of a phone. But yesterday, once I got that HTC Surround in my hand, things changed. Everything on the phone flowed so smoothly I knew I had to have one of these babies, like now!

I expected to keep the phone in WiFi mode, at least for a while, but when my AT&T buddy asked, “do you want me to change out the SIM”, I told him to go for it and decided it was time for me to be an early adopter still again. Keyed in my Windows Live ID and the phone was ready to go. That 10 minute drive back from the store was really tough, trying to discover the phone while staying in my lane. I will leave a phone review to someone else though. My focus here will be how a 50ish user, really imbedded in Windows Mobile/Outlook, etc., got through his first day with a Windows Phone.

ZUNE – The basic Zune install went pretty easy. The install did insist I update my XP machine to Service Pack 3, which I had been avoiding because I didn’t want to waste an hour, which is about what it took. I loaded the phone up with a bunch of music, video and pictures, lots of pictures, and that was all as painless as it gets. I like that WP kept my photos in the folders that I have on my desktop making them easier to locate. After setting up my Zune ID I was able to check for phone updates (there were none) and go to the App Store. Downloaded about 16 of DavidK’s 25 Top Picks along with a few things I found along the way, No glitches or bugs to speak of, as it should be. By the time I was done with the App Store everything was already loaded on my phone.

OUTLOOK CONTACTS – I have been using Outlook for at least 10 years and rely on it for everything; contacts, appointments and tasks. I already knew that WP does not sync directly with Outlook but figured there would be a reasonable workaround for someone who does not have access to an Exchange server. Did a few Bing searches for solutions and almost everything that came up had links to Google and GMail. I had no plans to go there (I thought Microsoft created Outlook) so after another half hour, decided to try Hotmail Connector. This is an Outlook plug-in that creates a sync folder so anything you drag into contacts or calendar will sync with Windows Live/Hotmail and eventually populate your phone. Dragging and dropping went OK, but if you have contacts listed in multiple categories Windows Live will simply duplicate the entries so I spent a bit of time clearing up the 100 or so contacts I wanted to sync. Then next problem was contact photos. Windows Live will not import photos from Outlook but they said (saying and doing are two different things) I could add them later. After an hour of trying everything I gave up on that and copied a photo folder I had, filled with contact photos, to my phone. I then had to link the photos, about 50 of them, with each individual contact. A little harder to do it from the phone side but at least it got done. Windows Live desktop still does not show contact photos but I really don’t care. The whole process was convoluted and it will get worse as I add new contacts to either Outlook or WP. I am not liking this.

OUTLOOK CALENDAR – Hotmail Connector created three calendars; Jim’s Calendar, Birthday Calendar and Holiday Calendar. The same three were created in my Windows Live desktop, but no birthdays showed up in Windows Live (although they did appear in Outlook view), on the desktop or the phone. Holidays did show up in Windows Live desktop but not on the phone. I manually added birthday info to some contacts and the dates were represented by a little icon (no text) but still nothing on the phone. I eventually “manually” typed in all the birthday and holiday events in Windows Live (duplicating the entries) which made them appear on the phone. I assume it has something to do with recurring events that WP simply does not recognize. Again, I don’t know why the creators of Outlook could not create a simple sync mechanism. I assume (hope) Exchange handles this differently, but if they want to restrict WP to only Exchange users, they are really narrowing the field.

OUTLOOK TASKS – If you use them, like I do, you can forget about it in WP. Nada. I downloaded a trial of a Task app from the App store and will give it a whirl but I am already going through Outlook withdrawal on this new phone. At this point I may consider using my Tilt2 as a PDA (no SIM) until I can figure out how (if) Windows Phone is going to help organize my life. Overall, I think the WP Calendar app is only a tad better than the WinMo version. Totally unreadable text appears on calendars in month view and it you pinch to zoom, the calendar does not grow, but Agenda view, sometimes on the right day, and sometimes not. I guess Microsoft assumes that people who are going to use Windows Phone are very, very organized, with incredible memories and don’t need any help. Interesting how the platform shifted from PDA, to PDA/Phone to Phone/PDA and now to Phone/Media Center. Wonder if I can pickup a Palm Pilot at Odd Lots.

EMAIL – The setup of my three active accounts went smooth as silk, although I did panic when I saw that I was syncing 663 “staff notify” messages. I did find some advanced settings for adding signatures, renaming accounts, etc., but the phone does not make all that obvious. Where settings were a big part of WinMo, WP appears to try to tuck them away somewhere, almost encouraging users to just stick with the defaults.

APPS – I played around with most of the downloaded apps, which were all a bit short on settings/options. I did notice one thing lacking, which I found really helpful using WinMo. None of the apps I opened give you any indication of how they work. And it’s not all that intuitive. Some apps swipe left/right and other have sub-menus hidden at the bottom of the screen. I really liked the WinMo Help app with the html files that developers would drop in along with the installation. I spent 15 minutes with a trial of PC Connector, and was about to give up when i realized all I had to do was swipe left/right to view the file tree for my desktop or phone. Guess I just need to get used to them but dealing with little “wordless” icons tends to slow me down. Speaking of help, I am really frustrated that there is no CD in the box, nor is there any place to download a PDF manual for the phone. The HTC site just links to a Windows page and while AT&T has a bunch of fairly well made tutorials, there is nothing like having a bible available to you 24/7, including lots of pictures, with or without a connection.

UI – The tiles look and work well. I was able to delete all the AT&T crap (at least out of my view) with a few flicks. I would like to see, maybe a Mail hub, where multiple accounts could be banked/accessed together. Now I have to tap Hotmail, read a message, go back to Home, tap AOL, read a message, etc. If not, at least allow the tiles to be made half size for things like mail, which only include a name and unread message count. I really do miss my battery bar across the top of my Tilt2, or at least a number reading of battery remaining. The little icon does not do it for me. Last night (actually around 4:30am) the phone started tinkling, which I suppose was a low battery indicator, but I have no idea what level triggered it. The on-screen keyboard is very responsive, almost too responsive, but I did have to turn off sound for key presses cause with the volume turned up, it sounded like a Maxwell House coffee commercial when I was tapping the keys, with different tones for different clicks. Everything moves very quickly on this interface, a whole lot different than my Tilt2 experience. Actually the only screen that’s slow to open is the HTC Hub, maybe because it’s updating, but I figure it is pulling up a big batch of resources. No way of telling of course.

SETTINGS – As noted, there are not a lot of settings to tinker with in WP.  For example, I can set how long the phone stays on before going to sleep, but can’t control how long it goes into a dim state, which is only a few seconds right now. Not enough time to keep the phone awake and maybe avoid an app closing. I also found the WiFi and BT toggles hidden within settings which just seems silly. So to toggle WiFi on/off, it’s; swipe to Apps, scroll to Settings, scroll to WiFi, and turn off the toggle. I pinned Settings to my Home screen to save a step but its still cumbersome, leading people to keep a radio turned on unnecessarily, which will drain your battery. Brightness was also a little odd. You can either leave the screen set to Auto or fixed at Low/Medium/High. They suggest setting the phone to Low to save battery, but at least on the Surround, that’s like walking into a dark room. Might be better on the brighter Focus. I think the 1 to 10 scale was a better option.

Joined Facebook and X Box Live today so I have dived into Windows Phone head first. I am going to try to let this phone and UI grow on me, but I can’t make any promises. I was really comfortable using WinMo, although the sluggishness and occasional freezes were frustrating. If I can last two weeks I figure it will be a keeper. Already noticed battery power vanishing, so I ordered a spare last night, along with a 3 pack of screen protectors. Don’t know if it was just my box, but no screen protector to be found anywhere. The AT&T store had a bunch of Focus accessories including protectors, but the HTC peghooks were empty. Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long for a powered cradle, or maybe an extended battery and external charger to show up somewhere cause this baby drinks lots of juice, as I expected. My Fuze and Tilt2 both had 2000+mAh extended batteries, so I have become a bit spoiled.

Overall while there are some shortcomings, at least from my perspective, I am glad I have this phone in my hand. Don’t know if this is an iPhone killer, but it is definitely a contender. As the AT&T rep commented, now people actually have a real choice. He noted that Android is already starting to be labeled as an updated WinMo, with fragmentation, different UI’s, phone specs, etc. All things that become confusing for the average user. Time will tell if Microsoft can pull this one off.

24 COMMENTS

  1. I find your observations interesting, I have only read through about half way at this point, I will make a point of coming back to read the rest of your article later this evening.
    I do want to make a suggestion though, try not approaching WP7 like you do Windows mobile. My interesting has been lukewarm at best so I my approach my be out in left field. Try not syncing contacts,calenders and tasks, let your notification features from your LiveID account notify you of your appointment and birthdays. Only enter in the contacts which you contact on a daily basis and leave the rest in the clouds, when you need them connect and retrieve the information. I could be wrong, but I think the intent is too not to have to sync several devices. If the information is centralized in one place the info can be used anytime, anywhere and with any device.
    Don’t know if it works, but it is just my take on there agenda.

  2. I get where you are coming from, but it’s pretty hard to teach this old dog any new tricks, although I am willing to try. Like online banking a few years back (what a nightmare) I don’t yet have confidence in the Cloud. So if I need to be reminded/notified of a task or appointment and for some reason “cloud technology fails” I have no one to blame but myself. My Franklin Planner never made mistakes, only I did. I hate relying on someone or something else to think for me. A disappearing high game score every now and then may not be a big deal to someone. But missing an important meeting or failing to complete a critical task can be devastating for those counting on me. I need to develop some confidence with this new way of thinking.

  3. I haven’t tested everything I’m about to say yet, but I believe the problem you have with the calendars is that the hotmail connector for outlook only syncs with one calendar so have you tried merging your calendars into one? And I just discovered this feature today, but your live mail account supports accepting multiple other accounts into it (including pop3). I plan on testing that shortly, I’ll post again and let you know how that works out and if I can send from my other accounts through live mail if you are interested. It seems to me that MS is banking in on using your live account as a central hub for windows phone.

    Interesting post though, I just got my Focus and have been playing with it too.

  4. Jeremy has got the right idea. I too was concerned about syncing my contacts so I ended up just doing a CSV export and importing into hotmail/windows live. once i did this the phone was happy syncing and the updates are bi-directional. i do mis having notes and a to do list. it seems simple things were left out such as wifi toggle so hopefully they make the changes in SP1. we early adopters need to be vocal so maybe MS will hear and make changes….this obviously might be FAR fetched

  5. OK, finally got around to adding my POP accounts to my Live Mail account… it works really nice on live.com, including receiving from all 3 accounts in separate folders, sending from any account, and a notification of unread items in each of the 3 folders (Inbox, Yahoo, and TUI (college) for me). Using it from Outlook is the same, except you can only send from your Live account. Using it on the phone is different. It will receive from all 3 accounts in the mail tile and once again put them in their respective folders. However, it will only send from and put notifications on the tile from your Live account.

    I guess at the moment it is a pick your poison scenario, I really wish MS fixes this with SP1 because their is no way I’m going to put 3+ tiles on my home screen for each of my mail accounts. I’m going to be using the way I came up with above (even without notifications).

  6. @MAK5 – After getting through the duplicate entries (just figured the sync folder would ignore them-wrong) moving the contacts was not that bad, except for losing the contact photos. I considerd the CSV route, but Hotmail Connector looked simple enough.

    @Jeremy – I did try copying an entry from the Hotmail Connector Birthday Calendar and pasting it into the H/C James’s Calendar, but I got an error message when I tried to sync, specific to that entry. I think it’s just my lack of understanding of how Windows Live works and handles calendar functions. In Windows Live, there are three Calendar’s listed; James’s Calendar, Birthday Calendar and US Holidays. They are all checked and all viewable, but only the entries from James’s Calendar appear on WP. So while WP is saying it is syncing the Windows Live Calendar it is actually only syncing the first one of the three.

  7. Too much work….. Let me know when the phone becomes easier to use than the iPhone. Good luck with the cloud and trying to cope with a PC in you pocket.

  8. The people @ MS are a bunch of idiots & never learn. Not being able to sync outlook with activesybc/WMDC is a joke. Come on, most people that are going to use WP7 at the onset don’t use an exchange server anyway.

    There is no copy & paste.
    There is no multitasking.

    There will be no WP7 in my near future.

  9. @Odcisneros – Actually the phone is very easy to use. Problem is that us WinMo converts need to deal with moving from what was undisputably the most powerful phone OS ever created (yes, a PC in your pocket-really), crippled with a gaggle of functionality problems, to a more subdued OS designed for the masses. In Windows Phone, Microsoft used a minimalistic approach or KISS, at least in the eyes of WinMo power users. But for the average smartphone user, it is full featured phone with zero learning curve out of the box.

    Each hour I use this phone I am liking it more. I have found most of the apps I need to get me back to my comfort zone. As noted above, my biggest issues had to do with breaking my ties with desktop Outlook and thinking “out of the box” for new ways to protect my precious data. Something that iPhone and other phone users probably never had to deal with. It’s a new day, and Windows Phone is here to stay. BTW, it’s been two days and not a single glitch on the phone itself. Has not been powered off since I left the store on Monday and she’s buzzing like a bumblebee. Quite unusual from a WinMo perspective, but that is quickly becoming ancient history.

  10. @Jason – As has been noted in the comment on this thread, I think Microsoft’s intent was to keep things simple. The tutorial and Quick Start Guide actually suggest backing up your contacts to the SIM in your old phone and transferring that way. I did a spring cleaning of my Outlook contacts so I didn’t want to take that route. This is not a WinMo phone and ActiveSync is DEAD, finally. It’s time to find a new way to sync contacts and calendar with the Cloud and break free from the desktop. The one thing I do sorely miss are Tasks, but hopefully a full featured app will come along soon with a Live Tile and reminders. Trying out a few from the App Store now but so far no winners.

    So far, I really have not noticed the loss of multitasking. There is no way to close an app in WP7, so I assume thay are closing when they should. But I am surprised that when I reopen something like IE, it is right where I left it an hour earlier. Same page on the screen. I have noticed that with a few other apps, including 3rd party. So I wouldn’t say no multitasking, but maybe smart multitasking. There have been one or two instances where I was longing for cut & paste, to enter a key code on a web page for example, but I am confident that MS will get this right in the near future.

    Compared to the speed and smooth flow that this phone offers, the shortcomings at this point are almost negligible. It will only get better.

  11. From the tone of your comments Jimski, I guess it isn’t all that hard to teach an old dog new tricks.
    Push come to shove Jimski, I think Franklin Covey offers cloud based services as well, I don’t think they are free like LiveID, but if it doesn’t work one way I’m sure it will work an other

  12. @jimski: @jimski There is currently no mutlitasking on WP7, except for the buil-in MS hubs. It supposedly is coming early next year, but so far I like the pausing of the applications. WP7 doesn’t really kill apps as far as I undertsand it, but it does “pause” them.

    I have the same Outlook withdrawl that you have. One of your issues has been identified as a known limitation. In every account, WP7 will only sync the primary calendar. If you need multiple calendars then you need to create additional accounts. I am planning to use either the Google Calendar synch or the Live synch to keep my calendar up to date. At this point there is no other choice, but I am learning to live with it. I do like that if you link your Live and Facebook account it automatically pulls the latest account picture for friends from there.

    The thing I miss is the status indicator on the Fuze, but everyhting else more than makes up for it.

  13. Great article. I love “real world use” reviews to go along with all of the techie ones.

    I am a little concerned about the Outlook disconnect going on. I like to type things on the computer and have them show up on the phone. The Connector solution may not work for me because I dont use hotmail; I have a GMail Account & Google Apps account w/ my own domain. I wouldnt want the phone to use POP3 b/c I like how IMAP keeps everything the same w/ out multi managing the same messages.

    As for the tasks and to-do lists, have you tried OneNote? The app you’re looking for might be pre-installed. I dont have a WP7 device yet so I am guessing.

    I’m with you about “the cloud”. It IS a great idea but cellular data connections are nowhere near 100% and I would feel way better having important data on the device. Should an AT&T data outage cut you off from work completely? Should you not be able to function on a plane or subway?

    As for the contact photos, I gave up control of that a long time ago. I have been using the Facebook profile pic and will continue to. HTC Sense has been doing this on my Tilt2 & most of my contacts are on Facebook, so it works well. I would like to override some people who have their child or their cat or some random picture where their face should be.

    I am excited to get my Samsung Focus and I thank you for this great article. Not too glowing and not too harsh…just real.

  14. @JD – I have got Windows Live setup to sync my Outlook Contacts & Calendar and it is all working out OK. Don’t want (or need) all of my Outlook contacts on my phone so I was able to filter using the Hotmail Connector. And for Calendar, I just needed to merge the three that Windows Live created (Personal, Birthdays & Holidays) into one as WP7 will only sync with one Calendar (today). I don’t have a GMail account or use Google Calendar, but I assume all of that would work about the same for you.

    Regarding Tasks, I have used OneNote for several years, and have already setup SkyDrive sync with my device, but the Task feature is really not robust enough to satisfy my daily needs, with reminders, recurrence, etc. I have posted a Bounty for a good WP7 Task/ToDo app here http://mobilitydigest.com/bounty-offered-for-a-wp7-taskstodo-app/ and in my continued quest I ran across Remember the Milk https://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/ an online Task tool available across multiple platforms. I am using the free version now to sync with a WP7 app, WinMilk, and it “almost” has everything I am looking for. I have challenged the developer to enhace the app with the features on my wish list. Let’s see if she is up for the challenge. With a Premier account ($25/yr) I could sync Tasks directly with Outlook, but not sure if I am going to go there. For Tasks most everything is on my phone.

    I sort of knew about the Outlook not syncing before purchasing my new device, but more info on alternate solutions prior to launch day would have saved me some stress. Hence this article and subsequent posts. Trying to make it a bit easier for the next early adopter.

  15. You didn’t lose the Outlook tile. It was never there. As far as I can tell, every tile that is on the Home/Start screen is also included on the Apps list. So for example if you lost Calendar, flick left (or tap the right arrow) to open the App list, scroll down to Calendar, tap/hold and select Pin to Start. The Calendar tile will be back on the Start screen, probably down at the bottom of all your tiles.

    To move the tile back up, tap and hold until the tile sort of pops out. Then drag it with your finger to the location you would prefer it to be. The other tiles will get out of the way. When it’s where you like it tap the tile once and it will set into the position.

  16. It’s not there, outlook is gone, I don’t know what i did, but i know it’s not there. I just want to know how to get it back. I’m sure I did something by mistake oh well.

  17. Again, there was never an Outlook tile, but if you somehow lost the Calendar or People tiles, and can’t find them in the Apps list, your best bet is a hard reset. You will lose everything on your device, but via Zune, Windows Live, etc. everything will just sync right up again.

    Here is what you need to do to perform a “HARD RESET”.

    1. On the Start screen tap the right arrow (upper right corner)
    2. Scroll down and tap Settings
    3. Scroll down and tap About
    4. Scroll down and tap Reset
    5. Tap Yes to reset your phone to factory default

  18. @Oscar: Oscar, the only time I have seen the “Outlook” tile is on the Windows Phone commercials. In the real world what is on our phones is the “Hotmail” tile. It really maps to any MS provided domain (i.e. Hotmail or Live). You can add this back through the applications list and will allow you to synch to a MS email account.

  19. Ah, forgot all about Exchange Server. Sorry, Oscar. Don’t worry, you are not losing your mind. With Exchange you probably would see an Outlook tile. That’s what they show in my Surround manual.

    If you had an Exchange account before, you can recreate it, but you may need the Exchange settings. You can go to Settings>email & accounts to see if Outlook is listed there. If so, it has to be in your Apps folder (I think). If not, you can create it here, but unless your corporate Exchange Server supports auto-detect you will need the settings.

    Are we getting close. What brand of device? Corporate email via Exchange?

  20. Well here is something you need to watch out for if you have a new WP7. When setting up Onenote and syncing from your PC to WP7. Make sure you don’t rename the PERSONAL (WEB) folder are you will loose the entire Microsoft Office function in your WP7.

    I found this on the MS site.

    To ensure that this notebook syncs properly to Windows Live SkyDrive, do not change the default notebook name from Personal (Web), and don’t change the name of the Unfiled Notes section in the notebook. I’m learning but at a cost. I can create new pages from within the phone but can’t sync anything.

    http://www.microsoft.com/windowsphone/en-us/howto/wp7/office/use-office-onenote-mobile.aspx

  21. Ouch, well that sucks! I setup SkyDrive but don’t have OneNote 2010 on my PC yet, but good to know. I know when I synced my WinMo device w/OneNote 2007 (vua ActiveSync) the folder it created had to remain exactly the way and where they put it. Damn folder got recreated about a half dozen times.

    Thanks for sharing.

  22. Well I have tried just about everything. Created a new Windows live account, downloaded Onenote on another PC. When I go to sync the new notebooks, I don’t get an error, now it says it’s syncing, but nothing ever makes it to the phone. I am afraid I have really screwed this feature up on my phone.

    I would have been nice if a message would have popped up and said WAIT! DON’T RENAME THAT FILE. Geesh

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