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Windows Phone 7 Series: Graphically speaking

 

What was your first reaction when you first laid eyes on Windows Phone 7 Series? I have to admit my first reaction was not unlike the response I give my wife when she asks what I think of her new dress, haircut, or when she experiments with a new recipe; cautiously positive. At first look, the Start Page lacked a certain zip or pizazz that I have grown accustomed to with Windows Phones. 

Often is the case that as you learn more you learn about something, your first impression changes. While the graphics of Windows Phone 7 Series felt like a step backwards, the more I learned about Hubs and the consistency Microsoft would strive to maintain the more Windows Phone 7 Series grew on me.

Still, while it may sound superficial, I wish Windows Phone 7 Series had a little more "pop" to it.  It reminded me of the generic Today Screen of Windows Mobile of yesterday, that while functional lacked pizazz.  What might help Windows Phone 7 Series's first impression is a Start Screen that is as graphically pleasing as it is functional.

I've gotten spoiled with graphical impact HTC's Manila/Touchflo screens offer and MaxManila really adds a flair (along with more functionality) to the Windows Phone experience.  Windows Phones have a developed a tradition for customization to allow owners have their phones reflect their individuality.  Hopefully that will carry over with WP7S's features.

Microsoft in their Mobile World Congress presentation stated they want to focus on the end user experience.  Isn't the ability to customize the appearance of your phone part of that experience?  Or will functionality win over aesthetics and the lack of customization become a non-issue? 

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Comments

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says:

i know what you mean. we're a little ways off from any releases to the market. chances are good this interface will evolve further in both good and bad ways. :-)

says:

Microsoft should have licensed Manila/Touchflo from HTC and evolved it into the hubs idea.

That WP7S home screen is seriously a step backward from HTC's Manila/Touchflo.

mvierling says:

I've said this before, but the new Windows Phone 7 interface is absolutely horrible. The writer stated that it grows on you. Well, you know what? The IPhone interface didn't have to grow on you. The Android interface didn't have to grow on you. You put this phone along side an IPhone or Android phone and no one is going to pick it up. Microsoft has had 3 years to develop this new OS and this is what they have to show for it? Pathetic!

says:

Your comments are assuming everyone thinks like you. this is completly subjective as i would pick WM7 before any android or iphone.

says:

i am right there with you man. read how this post described WP7s, 95% of consumers are going to stop right after the first paragraph and thats where they are going to leave there thought of WP7s(oh that looks boring). there will not be any room for "growing on you", thats definately not how this market goes. people are superficial and there is no way around that. thats why the iphone does so well!! this is so obvious to me i cant believe how anyone else cant see it.

and why does this matter? because the less popular a OS the less support your going to have for it. same reason why WM is losing its a support AND MARKET SHARE. unless microsoft changes something, this is not going to go well...


P.S. the interface looks like someone zoomed into one of those 8 bit video games from the past! the video games where the little colorful aliens come down and you gotta shoot them. HAHAHA!!!

says:

I totally agree with mvierling. While functionality might be great in WP7, the UI is horrible and initially that will cause a lot of people to pass it up for other devices. It blows my mind that WP7 was in development for 3+ yrs and this is what MS came up with and it was still unfinished for the demo?! What the hell were these thousand employees doing this whole time??? I really wish MS would realize functionality can be combined with beauty and hopefully they will realize it soon than later. I really hope WP7 does great but I dont see it beating the competition anytime soon.

says:

i'm sure we will be able to customize the hues on it add a different kind of background, change sizes of the hubs...these will be a registry hack away. What you might not be able to change is the concept which is to have everything linked together, if you do't have a social networking life like facebook or twitter then you probably wont really enjoy this phone, and there is where we can't fix the problem. If thats the case then you might as well get a dumbphone.

says:

You are totally missing the point of the start screen, and a single static image doesn't do it justice. There's a reason why it's called LIVE TILES; think of them like mini-TouchFLOs; these squares are meant to be animated and in motion, and they will be constantly updated with live information from the web.

Just go look at Belfiore's keynote again and you'll know what I'm talking about. And, as you said, wait for MIX where I think we'll see more live tiles in motion (no pun); I'm guessing we'll see a nice animated weather tile demoed.

Gameboy70 says:

I'm pretty mixed on it. I'll probably switch Android in a few weeks, depending on what's announced for Sprint at CTIA, and I don't see WP7S motivating me to return to the Microsoft fold. The headers that continue past the screen almost seem like metonyms for an unfinished interface, which is what the Metro UI feels like to me.

None other than Edward Tufte weighed in on WP7S with some brilliant comments that articulate my feelings than I can:

The WP7S interface has an extra sequence/layer added by big-button opening screens for the new ways of organizing stuff. Compared to the IPhone, most of the WP7S organizing screens have considerably lower content resolution, which violates flatness and leads to hierarchical stacking and temporal sequencing of screens. In day-to-day use, maybe the panorama screens will solve the stacking/sequencing problem, or maybe they will just clutter up the flow of information. Of course Microsoft's customers are already familiar with deep layerings and complex hierarchies.

The panorama sequence appears to be an interface for an interface, a distancing from the core activities of users, who just want to get on with what they want to do. My view is to let the user's eyes do more on a screen-image rich with opportunities rather than having to move through a sequence of thin decorative screens in order to find the desired action. The way to reduce clutter is not to thin down and sprawl out the content; instead fix the design. Clutter and confusion are not attributes of information, they are failures of design.

CeluGeek says:

It's funny you guys keep mentioning WP7's UI focus more on functionality than on looks, because I think it's the opposite. Basically, Microsoft is repeating the same mistake with WP7 they made with WM 6.5. They are trying to make something look cool, they fail at that attempt and they are screwing up functionality in the process.

To this date, I still find WM 6.1 more efficient and more functional than WM 6.5. Those pointless animations on WP7 do little more than mask how slow the OS can really be.

says:

I actually think the tiles look good, and the fact that they reflect updated information give them a subtle live feel. However, that said, I'm tired of vendors thinking that the only thing people do on their phones is social networking, listening to music and viewing pictures. While WP7 is probably the direction MS had to go to compete, it seems like it caters to consumers at the expense of business users. One of the biggest things I care about is speed in terms of both performance and navigation. Unfortunately, that's something that I think has been lost in those whole touch screen craze. Speed is one of the main reasons I switched from WinMo to Blackberry--I got tired of seeing the spinning wheel for no reason when just scrolling through my inbox. And while it may not have the cool-factor of touch screens, nothing beats the trackball/trackpad in terms of speedy navigation. I'll take that speed and efficiency over flashy animations and touch gestures any day.

Regarding Android, I've yet to find a compelling reason why an average user would want an Android phone instead of an iPhone unless they can't (or don't want to) go with AT&T. Unless you just want the best Google integration possible, what's the reason? I'm not an Apple fan, but thinking about the average user, I just don't see a compelling reason. Like most HTC phones, the Nexus One is a good-looking phone, but am I the only one that thinks the Droid is ugly, particularly with the keypad and weird control pad out? Plus, the Android interface reminds of Linux desktop environments...something about it just feels "slapped on" top of a CLI. Given the way WP7 is shaping up, I'll be even more hard-pressed to find a reason to go with Android...at least it was justifiable before given the criticism and uncertainty around WinMo. With Palm becoming more irrelevant by the day, I think that, unless there's some big changes or an exclusive killer app for Android, WP7 will be the iPhone and BB alternative.

Gameboy70 says:

Regarding Android, I've yet to find a compelling reason why an average user would want an Android phone instead of an iPhone unless they can't (or don't want to) go with AT&T. Unless you just want the best Google integration possible, what's the reason?

Not everyone's interested in walled gardens. Tethering is reason enough to forgo the iPhone for the N1. Whether or not that's of interest to the "average" user is up for you to decide. But in my case, full Google integration is the main draw. Google services, from Gmail to Google Reader to Google Goggles, are becoming more robust every day. Until whatever replaces ActiveSync/WMDC can support more the 2 PCs (e.g. laptop, home desktop and work desktop), I want nothing to do with Outlook.

says:

Yeah, I really was focusing on the average user. Trust me, you're preaching to the choir about walled gardens and what-not. But Apple's device is easy-to-use, looks good, and--like it or not--is the bar by which all phones are being measured. And not to mention all the hype and fanfare over the apps, and games and what-not. Now, I totally get why you and me might not get an iPhone, but I just don't see a "killer app" that would really win over someone who was inclined towards an iPhone. The Google integration is good, but are most people that hardcore about it? Is it *that* much better that it people are willing to give up the easy-to-use UI and 1 cajillion apps and games for it?

That said, excluding the iPhone, I still don't see a compelling reason to go with Android over, say, WinMo. I could somewhat understand until about 3 weeks ago as WinMo was either the subject of ridicule or just largely written off. But from a functionality standpoint, I'm not seeing a big differentiator or gotta-have-it application that just has no close equal on other platforms. And with how Windows Phone 7 is shaping up, it just begs the question even more. Android, like other Google-supported projects, is the beneficiary of hype and a benefit-of-the-doubt mentality from industry analysts. I don't think the platform itself has done anything to warrant this advantage, but unfortunately, that's just how it is these days with Apple and Google...

gregorypleau says:

Frankly my take on WP7s is that is just what I want the phone to do. I want it to convey relevant information to me, preferably on the home screen.

I want to hit the end key, and be taken to a page that tells me what I want to know at a glance. Things like RSS feeds I can drill down a menu or two for.

Things like messages, social network updates, weather - timely information that will change 5 minutes from now - I want that on a 'glance' screen.

The holy grail for me, that I'm interested in - is how Microsoft is going to keep those 70 some odd feeds of data current on the phone without nuking the battery before lunch time.

I have looked at Android and iPhone. Neither give quite that glance-able, relevant information that WP7s promises. Yes they all tell me if I have voicemail, e-mail or SMS, and sometimes weather.

Things like Facebook -- try Facebook on a Blackberry, then on a Windows Phone and you'll see why I run that over on my Blackberry. But I want more - I want to know about a status update but I want it to go away if that information is getting stale. Yes, my contact tweeted they are at a certain pub --- if that was 4 hours ago it's not actionable information.

So I'm going to wait and see how the great WP7s experiment plays out. If it is heading the direction I believe it is, where the OS is far more than just a skin on the device homepage, you can bet I'll be picking up a WP7s device when my hardware credit kicks in around mid 2011.

Gameboy70 says:

You might want to take a look at Slidescreen for Android. If that doesn't give you enough information on the home screen, I don't know what will.

says:

The system should be operating like this for a long time though. May not graphically speaking, but, as is the case in the post, must be of such a system years ago.