If you could go back in time a year ago and come visit myself, I’d have met an iPhone-toting Apple fanboy who couldn’t say two sentences without bad mouthing Windows. Thankfully, I’m not like that person anymore thanks to the rationality of Paul Thurrott and the totalitarianism of Apple over their devices and software.
So I became a dedicated Windows user, but I was still stuck with my iOS device. Last week I finally removed those shackles and picked up a Windows Phone running 7.5 “Mango”, and I’m going to review some of my favorite features in this article. I’m not going to compare 7.5 to 7.0 since I don’t go that far back, so this review comes from the point-of-view of a converted iOS user.
Let’s Go Home…
When I first started up my new phone and looked at the home screen, I wasn’t impressed. It wasn’t bad, but the background was black (iOS 3.0, anyone?). I thought the home screen was boring, but I was wrong. After using the phone for a day I didn’t even notice there wasn’t a wallpaper because of Microsoft’s greatest UI invention on the phone: live tiles.
For those who don’t know, the live tiles update with everything from pictures of the band that I’m listening to on the Music tile to a slideshow on the Pictures tile. The home screen on Windows Phone 7.5 may not look like much on outside, but it quickly shows its elegance.
Now to you Windows Phone users that have used the last operating system, this may not be big news. But a lot of changes have been made to them so that apps can update content on their own live tiles. Some apps allow you to have multiple tiles for different aspects of the app, so you can have a tile from the People hub for your best friend and one for your sweetheart.
Social On The Phone
Windows Phone 7.5 includes something that’s vital for any phone to survive a month out in the wild: Social network integration. Though the iPhone supposedly got Twitter integration with the release of iOS 5, it was actually a stolen feature from Windows Phone’s Facebook integration.
With the release of Windows Phone 7.5, Twitter and LinkedIn are now included with Facebook in social network integration. It makes it incredibly easy to take a picture and have it spread across the internet in a matter of seconds.
Give The Music Some Love!
It was frustrating to watch your friends rocking out to Last.fm on their iPhone or Android, and then to look down at your sad little Windows Phone and remember that you couldn’t have background audio at the lock screen unless you were using the Zune software. I mean, how stupid is that?
As a music lover, this would have been a dealbreaker for me and I would be writing for the Android blog down the street. Thankfully you can now listen to music from all sorts of different apps on Windows Phone 7.5.
The selection of audio apps available is actually quite vast. I’m a heavy listener of Last.fm, and I was relieved to see that there was an app for it. The experience is quite good, and I was pleased to see that it took full advantage of the Metro interface. However if you’re not a Last.fm user, there are also apps for Spotify, iHeartRadio, Rhapsody, and Rdio. Heck, if you want to stay in the Microsoft world then you should be using the Zune Pass, which doesn’t need an app since it’s already integrated into the Music and Videos hub! How cool is that?
Basically, there’s no reason for you not to be a Windows Phone user if you’re into music. Most of the top music services are available for use. Oh yeah, and the earbuds that come with most Windows Phones are better than those cruddy Apple earbuds.
Share your connectivity!
So you’re in the airport with your laptop and you check for Wi-Fi hot spots. You can typically find one pretty easily, but it’s not unusual for an airport to charge an arm and a leg just for getting some work done.
Enter internet sharing, a feature now built into newer Windows Phones that will allow you to use your 3G or 4G internet connection as a Wi-Fi access point. However I will warn you: You will be charged for using this feature. Phone carriers are very restrictive about their data connections and will charge you whether you use this feature or hack your phone.
That being said, being able to share your internet connection is very convenient when you’re working on bigger-screen projects or want to review and upload photos from your DSLR onto Facebook. Just be sure you know what you’re doing (and have deep enough pockets) before you turn this feature on.
Xbox LIVE on your phone!
This is not a new feature in Windows Phone 7.5, but I love it so much I had to mention it anyway. If you’re an Xbox gamer and you have a Windows Phone, you’re in luck. Xbox LIVE exists on the Windows Phone in the form of an app that acts as a portal to all the games on your phone.
Some of the games available on the Windows Phone Marketplace have the Xbox LIVE banner on them, which means you can play against other players online and submit your scores to a leaderboard.
Now as a former iOS user, I see that Apple has the GameCenter to compete against Xbox LIVE. But Apple missed out on one thing when they made GameCenter, and that was holding first place in the hard-core console market with the Xbox 360. That’s where Microsoft is right now, and I don’t see them leaving any time soon.
Where We Go From Here…
Windows Phone is an excellent platform. In fact, it’s so excellent I don’t see myself moving away from it for a long time. But what features are you the most excited about in Mango? I’d love to hear your opinion, so please tell me in the comments and thank you so much for reading!