My new Windows Phone 7

I finally got into it and bought a Windows Phone 7!

The device is an HTC Surround.  I’m sure you’ve read plenty of reviews, so here’s just a list of pros and cons of the new OS.

To give some context, I’m not a huge gadget consumer.  My previous similar device was an iPod Touch first generation.  My previous phone dated from 2003 and was just a phone (oh, it could also SMS!).

HTC 7 Surround™ - First the pros.

What strikes in the first minutes using the phone was how crystal clear the text is.  The letters are crisp and the text reads itself without tiring the eyes.  I use my phone to read a lot (e.g. during public transport commute) and it is a very enjoyable experience on that device.  I don’t know if it’s some funky fonts, Silverlight or just the screen resolution, but compare to the first iPod touch (I hear the iPhone 4 has an incredible screen which I haven’t experimented), it is way sharper.

The People Hub, or contact management, is also very well done.  It’s super easy to merge your Windows Live & Facebook contacts and link them together (e.g. is the same contact than «John Smith» on Facebook).  You can add information on those contacts, for instance their phone number if they’re not sharing them on Windows Live already, or a different photo.

Image: Zune Marketplace

The management of photos & videos is also efficient.  You can see your albums on Windows Live & Facebook and the photos / videos you’ve taken with you phone or that you’ve synked on it.  Very intuitive, very quick.


The entire Metro interface is quite cool, easy to navigate, intuitive and efficient.  You get proficient very quickly.  You can customize your phone to put the hubs you’re using the most where you want.  You can even have a contact as a first class shortcut on the landing page.

The Zune software is way better than iTunes.  iTunes always felt like a Macintosh virtual machine running on my poor Windows box.  Zune doesn’t.  It starts quickly, sync quickly, in the background and when there’s nothing to sync, it doesn’t go through a lengthy cycle in order to sync nothing.  It has a sexy WPF UI which is quite easy to use.  The only caveat is that while Zune is online, you can’t listen to movies or music.  This is a little annoying if you’re only recharging your device.  The workaround is simple though:  shut down Zune, keep the phone connected and you’re good.

The Marketplace surprised me.  2 months after the launch, there’s already a lot of applications.  The ratio of crap applications is way lower than on Apple app-store.  The fact that Silverlight is the API probably help a lot.  The next version should include a better search since they are basically victim of their own success!

Now the cons, or the point I would like to see improved:

You’ve heard it elsewhere, but it is quite annoying:  there is no Cut & Paste!  It will be fixed in the next version of the OS in a couple of weeks, so…  next!

One of the inconvenience of this phone, it might be unique to the HTC Surround, I don’t know, is the battery.  Gee!  You watch 60 minutes of videos and half your battery is gone!  It’s hard to pass the day without plugging it!  I find myself deactivating the Wi-Fi all the time in the hope of gaining some minutes of electricity independence.

Something I miss from my iPod Touch is the easy access to the media player when the phone is locked.  On iPod, you can double-click the main button and the play / pause / forward / backward buttons appear on the screen.  No such luxury on the Windows Phone 7 yet.  You do have a mini media player appearing once you unlock the phone but it stays there only for a limited time.

The next negative point isn’t about the Windows Phone 7 OS per se, but the PDF Reader provided as an extra.  In one sentence:  it sucks!  It’s basically way too sensitive to finger motion which makes it shaky and extremely annoying.  It doesn’t suffer from comparison though, since it also sucked on the iPod.  Apparently the developers at Adobe have extremely good finger control or an extreme resistance to motion sickness.

There are no way to synchronise my PC’s favourite to my phone.

The handling of mail is also sub part.  I’m using Yahoo as my main private email provider and the integration is so-so.  Yes, I can read and send email, but the process of receiving email is byzantine at best.  On my iPod Touch, I could simply go to a mail folder and press refresh ; within few seconds the device was downloading the new messages.  With Windows Phone 7, you have to subscribe to mail folders in order to ‘sync’ them.  Now the sync process takes forever, as in above 10 seconds.  Totally unacceptable.  If I’m in my inbox, I don’t want the device to sync all my folders, I just want to see if I have new mails!

Now this is not the only thing bad about emails on my phone.  On the landing page of the phone, you can see how many new emails you have on the email hub icon.  Well…  that is until you open the hub.  Then, even if you don’t look at any of the new mails, your count drops to zero on the main screen.  And…  I just discovered it this morning:  when you delete a message, it doesn’t go in the special trash folder, it goes in a ‘deleted items’ mail folder that the phone just created for you!  That’s just fantastic!  So now you have a way to know if you deleted you mails from your phone or from elsewhere and those that were deleted from your phone are never deleted, they are just moved to a folder you never created!  A big round of applause for that feature!


Anyhow, despite those little annoyances, the Windows Phone 7 is a very nice device to use.  I’m looking forward for the next refresh of the OS to enjoy the real potential of the phone.  So far, extremely great device to read with and great for keeping in touch with my contacts and listen / watch multi-media.

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