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All Right Fine, WP Not So Bad

lolthatsmeonawpGet in some iPhone user’s face and say, “Let me tell you something, pendejo. You pull any of your crazy shit with me, you flash your iPhone out on the lanes instead of this Windows Phone I’m giving to you to evaluate, I’ll take the iPhone away from you, stick it up your ass and squeeze the battery ‘til it goes ‘squish.’” If you did that, and if you freaked him out well enough by saying “squish” slowly and seductively, especially if you’ve got nail polish on, based on my experience yesterday (and my bizarre imagination) he may not only find WP appealing, he may even be susceptible to subsequent pressure on your part to lock him in as a solid WP convert. It’s good.

Cracked open my new Surround yesterday morning (backstory) to serve as my phone my phone for the day, retiring my Google phone (except to tether the WP). For those just tuning in I’m this site’s loudmouthed Google fanatic who actually managed to talk enough Microsoft trash here that one of our readers, sm0k3y, said to himself Screw it and mailed me a Windows Phone. Why? Possibly in an attempt to shut me up a bit, or show me the light, prove that I’ll talk trash against Microsoft no matter what even if it’s in fact decent, whatever. I think he just wanted to see what would happen honestly, no forethought. As he covered the shipping and since I’m Mister Integrity I’m obligated to report my first impressions no matter how somewhat positive they may be, which they were, mostly.

If the The Jesus reference didn’t sum it up for you, the details from yesterday during which I did my best to pretend I was just a regular guy who bought a smartphone (IE not a devoted Google lover who was once advised he should “just marry Google”): the thing booted up lickity split, tout suite, right quick. Hit the button and hey now, it’s ready to go. And by that I don’t mean the lock screen’s there for you to slide and then wait another fifteen seconds for it to finish thinking, it was ready and useable. Excellent first impression.

So that was a fast boot all right, which would turn out not to be too important as I’d end up not having to reboot the thing throughout my trial. Well actually I did shut it down right after that first boot to see it boot up again because damn, you know? And let’s be clear, I did not read up on other sites including ours for grievances to search for, I really tried to give this thing a clean slate to carry me through the day. So back off when I get to the negative stuff. Not there yet.

I used the phone with above average intensity from noon through 1:30am transfixed by the Bin Laden stuff (but still committed to seeing how long the battery would last while screwing with it), thirteen hours and that was starting with only a partial charge, about fifty minutes plugged into a car charger from zero percent. That’s it. Entire paragraph devoted to the impressive battery life. And the Navy.

There was no learning curve (other than getting used to everything being dumbed down and simplified), just a quick acclimation. Popped in my new Live account and a couple Google accounts too, Facebook, everything synced up just right, contacts and calendar as well. Nothing crashed. Nothing force closed or blue screened of death on me. Nothing lagged, nothing stuttered, even saw a cool squishing effect of overscrolling – frickin’ awesome. And those fruity tiles, they’re animated too, didn’t know that and I believe one of them, the People tile, managed to scoop out my Google contacts contact thumbnails and mix up a bunch of them, sort of floating around all nice and pretty and personalized.

Took and emailed a picture like the skydiving commercial minus the altitude change. I even managed to install some apps and a game, Astroids or something like that, witnessed firsthand perfect rendition of 1980s graphics using the phone and platform’s optimization to render those lines and shapes. Used IE and danced around some websites, nice and snappy, Bing Maps, the camera, Facebook, what else … I made my laps around the stuff a normal user would run through in his first few days or so and that’s impressive. I went to Youtube hoping to see it not work to bitch about it but no problem, installed a Youtube app, badabing. This is more about WP than this phone but the sound on this Surround, makes it worth the extra grams, a little micro boombox. Between the speakers and the kickstand and the ability to play video you’ll find yourself using headphones less because of these speakers. But back to WP.

Changing gears on you, the first thing I had to do was go on my computer and make a Live account. Spent maybe fifteen minutes trying to bang that into the phone until I realized it was a Hotmail address and not an or MSN or whatever else. I asked if I needed to do anything else in the hour I had to hit the road, the advice also included downloading Zune. Well screw that, these phones are supposed to be computers, why do I need computer involvement and if there was a way to make the Live account on the phone (which they really should either call Hotmail or use the domain) I didn’t see it, though I was in a rush. Facebook blends in with the platform in a way that makes you think it’s embedded and native, though in a good way.

Proceeded to add a couple Google accounts and Facebook, everything synced up nicely, began to get used to everything being oversized, flicking up and down and left and right, stopped wondering whether or not the header text in various places running off the side of the screen was intended but paid it no mind. But when trying to email the writers something silly with the stupid Windows Phone sig for them to laugh at (I bitch at them for not changing their stupid WP email sigs), I couldn’t email them because I couldn’t change my From: address from my Gmail to my MobilityDigest account. On top of that, we have a mailing list thing and when hitting reply it would ignore the reply-to header from the mailing list thing and reply to the sender, not the mailing list. So that was the first instance of needing to go on my other phone, track down the email I wanted to send to everyone and not just Jagan or Matt or whoever it was, then switch From addresses to the one the listserv would accept and then finally wave my WP flag – but through the Google phone.

proofofwpBut that’s a special need, most people don’t have several email accounts on their multiple Gmail accounts. No, scratch that, switching your from address is not a rare thing, I remember reading plenty of complaint threads on Google about that lacking from the Android Gmail client until it was eventually added. But I shrugged it off, more to experiment. Also in that email I was able to attach a picture, and this took some ingenuity to prove that I was using the phone by using the phone, proof that I was actually using a Microsoft device, using the mirror in the shade thing, sun visor or whatever. So, proof that the email thing almost went smoothly and that the camera works on my first attempt with the Google phone on the left, again, just used for wifi tethering. Oh right and for GPS, that’s why I was holding it close.

I’m aware you can’t do this on iPhones either and that I said I’d try not to let my Googleness infiltrate this endeavor but wouldn’t you agree that in this post-Osama era, an age where it’s weird to realize that a lot of the young ladies in the pictures I sometimes post are no longer my age (usually), I mean come on, you sell me a phone that you call smart, give me my damn 3D turn by turn with live traffic included out of the box, installed, just one drive safely warning to tap through that for some reason the GPS industry decided they should throw at us as if it would curb our GPS device interaction. Bing Maps, okay, nice satellite resolution, zooms smoothly I guess, it produced directions (just not in 3D or turn by turn), but once we were back in the city and about to hit the subway, nope, no transit directions. Doesn’t do transit, unless I missed some fruity live tile to get the transit directions. Where are my transit directions? What, got to install something through Zune on my PC? Didn’t we report that they have transit directions now, or was that just a test in one city, but aren’t I in the most important city? No transit? I rely on that. If I couldn’t get Google’s transit in Google Maps on my Google phone but could on a Windows Phone, I think I’d own one. Seriously.

The other biggest low point of this phone, and I am sympathetic to the Microsoft team and know that they didn’t want this to happen either but for whatever reason had to cave, 22.2% of the used tile sectors are made up of orange AT&T shit, the same shit from my first WinMo phone but in tile form. What, 22.2% isn’t that bad in your mind? Flipping the tiles over to expose the list, more than half of the programs listed on the screen (without scrolling), AT&T shit, five in a row. Okay fine, let’s try AT&T’s TeleNav, maybe, just maybe, AT&T actually does this for a good reason from both their and the consumers’ perspective. But is Telenav free? Trial maybe? Let’s extend this open mindedness to AT&T, read the EULA first – it’s huge, it had to fire up IE just to contain it and, great introduction to the browser, when I zoomed in to try to dissect this EULA it would not resize the text and I had to slide back and forth each line so screw that (though IE worked fine on every other site I tried). Man I hate AT&T. Can’t even make the EULA readable. I know the browser otherwise works, just not when reading the AT&T EULAs. I guess they figure no one would read them. I’m done owning phones with carrier shit on them, and so are enough people for the Nexus line to continue. Fuck you AT&T.

But I digress.

Some polite suggestions of how this would have been better, ditch the separate HTC app stuff. Why do they need their own little category and tile? Isn’t this Windows Phone? If I want an HTC app hub source let me download an HTC app source program from the Windows Phone market. I’m an average consumer, I don’t need to hear any more company names or brands than Windows Phone. Don’t confuse me. I don’t want to see HTC anything, I sure as shit don’t want to see AT&T anything, that’s for damn sure. And in the Marketplace, I’m seeing nothing but shareware with two star ratings up front. Maybe polish that up a bit, reorder some things. Hey, maybe buy me a few games on the house.

Also make it so I don’t have to tap on as many things to download, install and run something. I know from server logs of every site I’ve been involved with that consumers, when it comes to clicking or tapping anything, are extremely lazy so trim the fat. Make it so that whoever said I needed to install Zune on my computer would not have said that because I’m only plugging this into my machine either because I’m using my charger to charge something else or I’m dragging and dropping MP3s, pictures and … some pleasant videos.

All right so when I plug in the USB line don’t prompt me to download some Zune shit, rather just mount and pop up an explorer window, or pop up Zunes if I elected to install Zune. Zune may be good for some other part of your business but it’s not making me want to buy this phone and your priority, I think, should be selling this damn phone, then maybe include your Zune in Windows 8 or whatever. Don’t dampen the experience. Or maybe that’s just me.

Phase out the computer dependence. Apparently it’s not that bad as I got through the day only using a computer to make a Hotmail/Live/MSN/Bing/Whatever account. This sounds crazy, I know, but why not just let me download Youtube without hitting any EULA or making and banging in some account I don’t want to use? Yeah, too nuts. And make failed Marketplace downloads auto-resume (or be manually kicked) because I need Need for Speed, but not that badly. Also I could be mistaken, didn’t look too hard, but where did the apps I downloaded go. I don’t see them in the list, the XBOX tile doesn’t seem to show any sign of a way to launch them but they did download.  I’m not hunting them down now, this was a one long-day test as someone who had never heard of XDA.

All right now there’s obviously no way I’m converting to Windows Phone, we already knew that. The big spaced out tiles, yes I can see the appeal, the big text too, big everything, but I have about twenty five icons, mail shortcuts and widgets (custom launcher scaling job) on my default home screen alone, not to mention the other four virtual ones not initially displayed, made up with too many arcane things I do rely on that are not on the Marketplace. It’s not happening. If you want to know all the reasons, I’ll save that for another article, this one is way tl;dr.

Which reminds me pal, I’m sorry this is so long, lot of shit to cover. So here, seventh inning stretch, a treat for you (don’t tell Smith, this one’s a little over the line, but has enough redeeming beauty for even him to let slide):


Where were we. I like the lockscreen. Just flip the thing up, done. Effortless. As with most other areas of the phone, effortless flipping and grace, no? I’d complain about the battery indicator not being that specific but the battery life was, again, impressive and not an issue. You know what else was impressive, status bar wise, and I realize this is hardware but Microsoft did coordinate the hardware standards, the wifi connection was more robust than that of any other phone I’ve used. The phone passes the mom test too well, she can handle Android (and Linux on her laptop) and now has her special needs but the dad test, yes, I would have gotten my father not a Google phone but a Windows Phone instead of his Blackberry which has proven, in spite of the simplicity commonly associated with Blackberries, too complicated for him to learn (maybe they let him teach at MIT for the irony?) if sm0k3y had sent me one of these a few years ago.

All right so it’s not quite for me but it definitely exceeded my expectations and I can think of at least one person I’d push it on. From Sunday’s experience, filtering out my history of bashing the platform and what I’ve read elsewhere, there is nothing deficient about this phone platform so it really is a damn shame, and I feel your pain now, that the programmers kicked a severe amount of ass only to have the ball dropped massively by AT&T and the suits up the ladder, all the shit that went wrong leading to sales, adoption, that absolutely does not reflect the quality of the product. Handled properly (and ideally a few years ago) I would have not bet $50 against its success. So out of newly-elevated respect for the developers at Microsoft, third party developers and you enthusiasts I wish you the best of luck with the Nokia endeavor and I’ll restrain myself, at least in this article, from telling you not to hold your breath or a string of things along those lines to sour this happy article.

I liked the calendar. I liked the calendar and the contacts, all that shit synced up. Thought I’d be bitching about that but nope, this was well taken care of. Credit due and credit deposited, now cut me some slack.

Do not read into this please but sm0k3y if you don’t mind I’d like to screw with it for another day or two. Just a few days and I’ll mail it back. Need to make sure I didn’t leave anything out of this important review, that’s all. Fact checking. Cool?

Doug Simmons