Firstly, I agree that the UI looks absolutely beautiful for properly bringing together Social Media info, Games, Music, and Photos. Even Jesus Diaz, one of the big pro-iPhone fans on Gizmodo is saying that “Microsoft Has Out-Appled Apple” and I agree 100%.
They do a really good job of pulling in info from multiple disparate sources and putting them together nicely on their “hubs” this very idea is basically what many people think the future of computing will entail; instead of separate apps for each outlet it can all come together in one place.
And it looks so advanced compared to iPhone with good reason. iPhone is still the basic app menu homescreen it has been for the last 3 years; Windows Mobile has always been derided because it seems sold compared to iPhone. Now Microsoft has leap fogged Apple and makes iPhone look like it is, an interface design that is nearly a third of a decade old.
And here is my first problem with Windows Phone 7 (WP7), I didn’t like how restrictive iPhone was. When it’s apps came out it got better but it’s still what Apple wants you to do and nothing else. WP7 is starting to look like the exact same thing. Microsoft’s integration of Social Media, Games, and Photos is damn near perfect; however I shun social media, never use my phone for games (I don’t even have an xbox 360 and no live account), and I think photos taken from phones are a waste where a real camera should have been used.
The only thing in Microsoft’s hubs I’d really use is Zune. And when I tried Zune out on my computer I hated it; it’s the last thing I want to be FORCED to sync music through. It’s as bad as iTunes but with a different look.
And a lot of the nasty rumors that I think are no-gos for a phone for me are now official are pretty much a given.
No custom skinning by third party manufacturers (HTC Sense, Toshiba 3D, TAT Home).
Apps only come through Windows Marketplace.
No Backward Compatibility for old programs.
Possibly no stylus support.
Possibly no keyboard.
Possibly no COPY AND PASTE!
Yes, TechCrunch hinted at limited to no C&P. Although that’s not certain at all.
My gripes with the phone are the same as my iPhone gripes. For all the slick, pretty, shock and awe interface stuff at the end of the day I want functionality. Unfortunately all the WP7 functionality seems to be focused on helping you waste time on social media, or waste time playing games, or waste time staring at pictures (I’m single with no kids, I understand this sentiment changes with children).
I came from PDAs, for me my phone is a computer in my pocket, a resource I can look up important data, keep my life in order with PIM applications, track when I’ve spent too much time on a subject and need to move on, translate info or languages I don’t know, remotely connect to server resources I don’t have direct access to, etc. Just about every use I’m going to have for my smartphone are things that don’t exist on the WP7 phone as it stands. They’re going to need to create a lot of apps to be able to keep up with the functionality of my Windows Mobile 6.5 phone.
So ironically it looks like I may be transitioning to Android in the near future to have a phone that is diverse as the Windows Phone I have now. However it’s too early to tell on anything, so many amazing things are happening in the handheld device space this year that all we can do is wait.
The only current phone up for play is the Nexus One that looks like a killer Android device. The HTC HD2 isn’t released yet but may be the pinnacle of what Windows Mobile reached before moving to WP7. Dell is creating a smartphone-tablet transitional with the Mini 5 that looks incredibly tempting if I can justify carrying around something that big. Windows Phone 7 Series deivces will be dropping by fall. And by time all players are onstage Apple with have the iPhone 4G shipping.
The future looks bright but difficult if you’re shopping for a new toy but undecided like me.
Rumors of HTCs future lineup are coming out. I don’t like any of them.
I’m pretty much married to the slide out landscape keyboard. The last 3 phones I’ve ahd all have the same form factor (right now I have an HTC Touch Pro).
The only one that fits this model is the “Tera” which doesn’t have any significant upgrades and actually downgrades the screen the a WQVGA from the VGA screen I have now. Other than the 3.5″ audio jack I can’t see any improvement and only downgrades.
If the rumors don’t improve I may be ditching the physical keyboard and moving to the “Photon” but that’s not much improved over the Touch Diamond 2. Or maybe move to the Android powered “Bravo” although the size makes it seem like a mini tablet and I don’t like the idea of carrying that in my pocket.
Engadget mostly posted a concise version of the NYT article, both the NYT and Gizmodo basically come down on the Japanese cell market, the main reason they don’t like the phones: too many features…
Before I expand on this, I’m really shortening what they said, and there is a lot of logic behind the idea that you can make a device too complex; so much so that it is less useable than a more simple device. Sony suffered this problem in the PDA market 6-7 years ago when they made amazing devices that were so chock-full of features people had a hard time learning how to use all of them.
The reason behind this is that collectively the Japanese are gadget fiends; they love tons of buttons that have all kinds of extra features. Compare a US automobile to a Japanese import; there are buttons all over the place for added features. Me and a friend were comparing my ’93 Pathfinder to his ’90 Blazer and he loved all the cool switches that turned on a “Power Mode” for the fuel injection, or the “Auto” setting on the AC. The Blazer had a steering wheel, pedals, stick-shift and almost no electronics. So you have to realize that Japanese tech culture loves to sink neck deep into features that confuse and disorient Americans that just want something simple and just gets the job done.
Back to the phones, the NYT is pretty fair looking at the business of the Japanese cellphone market and how they don’t have any teeth outside the Japanese market (where they are also suffering economic woes like everybody else)
But John Herrman of Gizmodo is basically reading the NYT article and using its limited explanation of Japanese cellphones as a reason to kick around anything not iPhone related (and commenter’s aren’t letting him get away with it). Here’s a shortened quote to give you the gist:
an assortment of barriers…are keeping them from leaving the island. But for the first time in recent history, this is a good thing. Japanese cellphones, as they are, sound absolutely fucking terrible.
Sound absolutely terrible. My advice to John, don’t knock it till you tried it. When I was in Japan I got to see, use, and have demonstrated to me by a native user (the tech loving guys mentioned above) all the amazing things a smartphone can do. Let’s break it down point/counter-point to John.
“Over-the-air mobile TV is interesting, but can—and will—be replaced by internet-based video services”
This is a bad thing. Streaming is exploding the data rate usage on cell networks; as a WAN tech I can expertly say this is very bad, WAN tech and wireless in particular are dry up really quick when you get more people on the network as anybody at SXSW can attest. Don’t believe me? Japanese are already fighting this demon on their cell networks (further proof they are ahead of us in smartphone tech). Besides I’d love it if my phone picked up HDTV broadcasts the way it does FM radio.
”and cellphone payment systems, though great, are by no means impossible here—in fact, they’re on their way.”
They’re always “on their way” but they have it NOW, and have had it for the past 3-4 years. “Osaifu-Keitai” is one of my favorite features on Japanese phones and I can’t wait till we have the same thing here. I’ve seen a lot of “express pay” terminals around and putting a chip compatible with our local credit cards would be cake. The tech is there, American business just isn’t taking advantage.
”Scanning the article for other futuristic features I’d like, I come up dry: Barcode scanning? Any phone with a decent camera and an appropriate app can do that.”
True, this is more of a failure of businesses to use 2D barcodes to enrich and connect print and digital media. This is the holy grail of marketing and all it needs is an official standard on the phones to excite businesses into using it. I don’t see how anybody in tech can’t see the amazing benefits of being able to seamlessly connect print, broadcast, and digital media (I think this shows that John is just a little ignorant on the subject).
Waterproofing and solar power? For most these are gimmicks. Facial recognition unlocking? Please, no.
Ok, I agree with John here. You can go too far.
Let me rephrase that. It’s good to go too far with amazing features like this so long as you have a cheaper model for people who aren’t super gadget hounds. I might want waterproofing, solar power, and facial recognition, but it should be a limited edition of the phone so I have an option to go without for cheaper.
The NYT article and especially John Herrman’s interpretation of it remind me of when I was explaining all the amazing features of my smartphone to people 3 years ago. When I told them that my phone could check email, surf the net, watch youtube, IM friends, or connect to my computer their response was the same as Johns, “Why would I need all those features that I can do with other devices?”
2 years later the same people were raving to me how great their iPhone was and in my head I was screaming, “I was telling you this exact same thing 2 years ago!!!”
Japanese cell phones are the same situation. In two years (hopefully) Americans will be bragging how their phones can watch HDTV, pay for gas at the local 7-11, or scan a code in a magazine to jump to an online video related to the article; and John will be raving about how it’s so great the Apple invented the technology to make it happen.
Edit to Add:
Sorry, reading through that it seems I’m really coming down on John, I think he just hasn’t experience these features firsthand and would be a convert in a second the minute he saw how it all comes together (but shame on him for assuming the NYT knew what they were talking about when it comes to tech!).
It’s understandable due to how little these great ideas are moving across the Pacific. The answer to the NYT article about why Japanese phone tech hasn’t caught on here is that it’s the service providers are holding us back. All these features are provided by the Japanese phone carriers as added features, it requires additional work on their end to provide the service, agreement across the industry to have standards that all phones can use, and it needs to be done in an affordable way. All three of those things are impossible over here.
Our phone carriers drag their feet increasing data bandwidth, let alone increasing features; we still think MMS and video recording are great new features, the Japanese phones have dual cameras to work as true video phones! And just try getting the main carriers to agree on any standardization for barcode scanning or wireless purchases. And if they charge a $20-$50 premium to tether the same data plan, how much extra will they charge for HDTV tuners, barcode scanning, and phone payment systems?
I still think it would be great to have my phone double as a Credit or wallet. I bought a Suica card just so I could tap-on, tap-off the subways, and buy drinks out of the vending machine without carrying change while I was in Japan on vacation.
At $20 is was a small convenience charge.