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Pogue: No On WP7…Wish He Had His Facts Right

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.