First Impressions: Windows Mobile 7, now known as Windows Phone

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Microsoft announces Windows Mobile 7, now officially dubbed "Windows Phone"

We’re not allowed to say much about it, so we’ll leave it at this: I got a bit of hands-on time with Windows Phone (the official name for what was previously known as Windows Mobile 7) prior to its announcement. I’ll have a bunch more to say about it once I’ve spent some time with it in a setting that allows for video/photography – but in the mean time, read on for my notes and early impressions.

Notes:

  • Windows Mobile 7 is officially known as “Windows Phone”. If you’re talking about this build in specific in relation to others, its “Windows Phone 7 Series”, but Microsoft primarily refers to it as “Windows Phone.”
  • No consumer devices will be shown today, nor is it likely that any will show up this week at Mobile World Congress. The only ones floating around are pre-production, development-only handsets
  • We’ll have a full list of hardware partners soon, but the names we’ve heard mentioned so far are Dell, Garmin-asus, LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, and HP.
  • The first Windows Phone handsets will launch “in time” for the Holiday season of 2010

Impressions

  • The interface is a rapid, massive departure from Windows Mobile 6.5. Really, it’s huge. There is next to no resemblance between Windows Phone and any past version of Windows Mobile
  • As far as we’ve heard so far, the details we broke in January are spot-on. Much of the interface is very Zune like. As we said then, manufacturers will not be able to make massive modifications to Windows Phone. Microsoft specifically said that things like HTC’s TouchFlo will not exist on Windows Phone.
  • The Zune brand will be used for music/video content, while Xbox Live will be used for Games.
  • The homescreen is made up of two pages: on the left is a series of “panels” (Update: They’re called “Live Tiles”), either square or rectangular, which serve as shortcuts to your favorite applications and pull in data from them. On the right is a simple list of all the applications installed on the handset. You flip back and forth between the two pages by swiping.
  • The panels on the homescreen (the shortcut icons) are dynamic, to some extent. The “Photos” panel pulls in recent photos as the icon background, for example.
  • The entire thing reminds me very much of a combination between the Zune interface and the new Xbox 360 dashboard
  • Panels can be dragged around and rearranged on the homescreen the same way icons are re-arranged on the iPhone: tap and hold, then drag.
  • Each screen has been stripped down to its core – if it’s not necessary, it’s not onscreen. There is no Start button lingering at the top of the screen at all times; hell, there’s not even a clock/WiFi/battery bar up there until you click the space it would usually be.
  • Windows Phone is very heavy on the animations, and Microsoft is proud of it. Take the calendar, for example: when you jump from a day view to month view, it zooms gracefully from one to the other. It makes the entire interface look incredibly slick, though we’re already hearing people ask if they can be turned off (and no, they can’t.)
  • There is at least rudimentary Facebook integration; I spotted Facebook status updates being pulled into the contacts screen (which is called the “People” hub), and you can update your own status from the same place.
  • All Windows Phone handsets must have three buttons: back, Start (Windows key), and search. As we’d heard, Microsoft is being pretty strict about the specs of Windows Phone handsets.
  • The search button is context sensitive. For example: on the homescreen it launches Bing, but tapping it while on the application list screen will let you search through just your apps.
  • I’m not sure if we were supposed to see this yet, but holding the search button will launch a voice searching feature. It wasn’t currently functioning
  • As far as I could tell, there is currently no copy/paste functionality. We were told that “developers will hear more about that” at Microsoft’s MIX conference next month, though it was implied that it would be about why copy and paste “won’t be necessary” rather than when it was coming.
  • The build we checked out was really buggy – but considering that they’ve got almost a full year to patch it up, I’m not too worried at this point.
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