I’m on my second Windows 7 Phone, not because I had a huge problem with the first one, but only because the new one has a real keyboard and I’m still not a fan of phones that use screen keyboards.
One thing I noticed though, is that the longer I used the phone the more I enjoyed it. I think this points to a problem with those of us reviewing phones, be they iPhones, Blackberries, or Android phones.
It is really hard to assess something different in a few hours, simply because what tends to irritate you the most is what you cannot do with the new phone. Over time, though, if you keep it long enough, you discover things that are cool. But of course, this takes a while.
So, with Microsoft reporting they are shipping around a million phones a month to stores, let’s explore my experiences living with Windows Phone 7 and the differences between the HTC HD7 and Dell Venue.
I’m a Windows Phone User
Unlike most reviewers, I didn’t approach this phone while using a Blackberry, Android Phone, or iPhone.
I’ve been using a Windows Mobile 6.1 HTC phone with a keyboard for several years. I didn’t move to 6.5 because the 6.5 phone I got didn’t have a keyboard and, as noted above, I don’t like phones that don’t have keyboards.
This means I was living in the equivalent of the dark ages with regard to phone technology and was more likely to see the advantages than the disadvantages with the new phone.
It was hard to avoid the, “oh crap this is really cool” first impression. So, to be perfectly clear, I was really psyched to love the phone.
The first phone I picked up was the HTC HD7, which boasts has an impressive screen but no keyboard.
I was immediately impressed with its weight and realized that if someone attempted to rob me I could likely hit them in the head with this phone and knock them out. In truth, the extra weight gave the phone a richer feel than the typical cost-reduced Android phone that has been common of late.
One thing I immediately loved was the kick stand and selection of free HTC applications. But my favorite was “flashlight” – which turned on the LED lights on the phone and allowed you to use it as a flashlight. I’ll get to why this is important in a bit.
This phone was great for watching movies and TV and several times while waiting for my wife I brought up a movie and started watching it (mostly working through one of my favorites “Forbidden Planet”).
Still, the main problem was the phone didn’t have a keyboard and I’m a T-Mobile customer – effectively leaving me with only one other choice.
The Dell VenuePro solved my keyboard problem and I had become an expert on setting up Windows Phone 7 phones (more on this later as well).
The configuration is similar to the Blackberry, which was my very first smartphone, in that the keyboard works in portrait mode making it easier to one hand the phone.
This is a personal preference because landscape phones are more natural for typing but difficult to use one handed and I’ve found I like to hold on to things when I’m typing at times.
This phone also had a nice rich weight and felt very well built. The design is a bit edgier than the HD7 which fits my style nicely and the speakers gave out a stronger sound.
However, I missed the kickstand and the custom HTC applications. I also quickly discovered there were a huge number of flashlight applications in the Windows Phone 7 store none of which fired up the LED and all of which turned the phone’s screen white.
OK for reading a menu but good luck finding your way around in the dark.
I’d grown fond of these two things and now missed them. Nevertheless, as I used the phone I grew to appreciate the keyboard more and more and this has become my favorite phone of the two.
It took a couple of days though to appreciate the positive differences and my hope is that eventually Dell will supply a flashlight application.
Windows Phone 7 Lessons Learned
First lesson is that online forums generally offer good advice on how to configure and manage the phone. In addition, there are help lines in the stores that sell them; so make sure your phone is fully configured when you leave.
See if you can find a sales person who is using the phone, there are a number of cool tricks like hitting the three little dots on the bottom right in some menus to enable advanced features or tapping on the far left to open up check boxes – for example, if you want to delete a bunch of mail without reading it.
Setting up Outlook requires the same information that older Microsoft phone’s required – it is just vastly quicker to do. Still, it is probably worthwhile to look up the information first and have it handy so the retailer can configure the WP7 device for you.
If you run into a problem where applications aren’t installing or updating properly easiest path is to just hard reset the phone and reconfigure it. It takes about 30 minutes to fully configure the phone and get it syncing once you’ve learned how to do it.
Clearly, this is significantly faster than calling into support and waiting for them to look stuff up only to generally, eventually, tell you to hard reset the phone. Still, I went a little ape shit with applications at first and this was obviously a quick way to clean them out.
I recommend you set up a MSN, Xbox Live, and Zune account before configuring your phone because it will cut down what you have to enter into the phone.
Also make sure you set up Wi-Fi sync with Zune particularly if you buy the monthly music subscription.
That way, you won’t have to tether it to get new music on the phone and larger applications will install without tethering as well. The carriers are apparently limiting the size of 3G downloads somewhat.
Wrapping Up: Loving the Phone
For most folks I’d still recommend waiting until the first update comes out for this phone and some of the rough edges are smoothed out. Also, the next hardware revision should have technologies like Nvidia’s new dual core Tegra 2.
This is a phone that will get better with more aggressive multi-tasking and will likely come with the newer versions in a few months, which should also include the first 4G versions.
Next year is 4G phones, the birth of the Superphone, and outdoor viewable displays it should make for an interesting year. Until then, I’ll certainly be enjoying my new Dell VenuePro a lot.
Meanwhile, my wife has the HD7 because we don’t have the same needs and revel in being able to have a choice.
The final lesson I learned though was I needed to be on these phones for several days before I got comfortable enough to enjoy them. If you aren’t willing to do that you might be better off staying with something you know.
Rob Enderle is one of the last Inquiry Analysts. Inquiry Analysts are paid to stay up to date on current events and identify trends and either explain the trends or make suggestions, tactical and strategic, on how to best take advantage of them. Currently, he provides his services to most of the major technology and media companies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.