In 2010, Windows released a new mobile computing platform: Windows Phone 7. Since Windows has been stagnant -- and, some would say, dead in the water -- for quite some time when it comes to mobile, many tech pundits were not expecting much. However, many (such as Apple blogger John Gruber of Daring Fireball), were pleasantly surprised by much of what they saw in Windows Phone 7. From the User Interface to the speed and responsiveness of the user elements, Windows Phone 7 is a true competitor to Android, WebOS, and iOS.
Even Gruber, a lifelong Apple fan, said that he would rather use a Windows Phone 7 than an Android phone (although he obviously did not concede that it was better than iPhone).
The user interface is where Windows Phone 7 truly shines. Instead of trying to compete with iOS by copying the grid layout of the iPhone, the Windows Phone 7 interface goes in its own unique direction. This is to the benefit of users, as the user interface was built from the ground up to be easy to use and seamlessly integrated throughout the system.
THe user interface, codenamed Metro, is primarily black, and applications are organized into hubs. For example, users can set up a social hub, which includes applications such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, as well as a productivity hub, which includes applications that increase business efficiency (no, Twitter does *not* improve efficiency).
The touch screen's responsiveness, often a complaint of Android and WebOS phones, has been described as very good. The developers of Windows Phone 7 clearly thought about the user interface when developing the operating system, and it shows. When you flick down a website, for example, the page has "inertia" just as it does on an iPhone. It does not try to follow your finger -- instead, it feels like you are manipulating an object on the screen.
Is the responsiveness as good as it is on an iPhone? No. However, it is close, and it is much better than the responsiveness on an Android. This is one of those seemingly minor features that can make your computing happiness *much* greater in your day to day life.
The multimedia engine is based on the engine that Zune, Microsoft's failed iPod competitor, is based on. However, they have brought some much-needed improvements which allow the Windows Phone 7 to be a much more viable iPod competitor than the Zune ever was.
One of the most important aspects of a mobile computing platform is its ecosystem. Is there a healthy ecosystem of applications? This can make or break a platform. For example, there are hundreds of thousands of different applications on iOS. On Windows Phone 7, this is unfortunately not the case. There are Windows Phone 7 developers, but not to nearly the degree that developers are developing for iOS. If Windows Phone 7 is to be a viable iOS or Android competitor, then it will need a better ecosystem.
Windows Phone 7 is a great choice for a phone if you do not want an iPhone. In fact, some would say that it is even better than Android. However, until it gets a better ecosystem of application developers, it is probably worth holding off on buying one.