Windows Phone 7 Launch

Today I finally purchase a Windows Phone 7 device. I choose the Samsung Focus on an AT&T plan.

The Purchase

First – I took the day off work. That may sound a little extreme – and certainly wasn’t my original intention. The day off work was actually due to a culmination of things*.

I got to the store just a fraction after early opening time at 8am. I saw a line of people queued up at the counter and walked inside ready to join the end of the queue. Instead I was pounced on by about three sales staff. [The line of people turned out to be there to grab the free Katy Perry tickets as part of the launch event promotions.]

I was in the store for about 20 minutes and during that time I was the only customer purchasing a Windows Phone (or any phone for that matter). It wasn’t a small store in some out of the way town either – this was a fairly large store on Madison Ave, midtown Manhattan. There were no free Xbox 360s either, just some Katy Perry tickets which apparently anyone could grab – no purchase required. AT&T were selling the phone on its ludicrously priced plan – around $80 per month for 450 minutes and 2Gb data.

I asked the salesman to install a 32Gb micro SD card to boost the memory from 8Gb to 40Gb. He was helpful enough to insert the card for me, but not knowledgeable enough to know that this requires a phone reset.

The Hardware

The Samsung Focus is quite a nice piece of hardware. It’s very light and thin – which I like, and the 4 inch screen means that its quite a big device – in my opinion its too big. The finish is better than I was expecting given that its a predominantly plastic body. It isn’t as sexy (or effeminate) as an iPhone 4 – but its better looking that a lot of the other smartphone devices out there.

The super AMOLED screen lives up to the hype – it is very beautiful – especially the blacks which blend perfectly into the black frame.

Windows Phone Samsung Focus registered in Zune

What’s working

Exchange, Windows Live and POP accounts syncing and merging. The Calendar merging is great. I’m very fortunate in that I’m not really a calendar power user so I only have one calendar in exchange and one in Live that I really use a lot – the merging works well. Email setup was very easy – as easy as the Blackberry in fact. I’m still coming to terms with not having a unified Inbox – I’ll have to wait and see how that works out.

Games – not really my highest priority but the AT&T bundled Ilomilo was a real hit with the kids. I downloaded the Harvest demo and the graphics are certainly quite impressive.

Picked up some basic free apps (mostly from Microsoft) and even purchased a NYC subway application ($0.99) that looks promising (but haven’t really tried it out yet).

Bing map application works great on Wi-Fi but was too slow on 3G. That’s no different to the experience I’ve had with Google maps though on other phones – and says more about the network than the platform/app.

Once I got everything synced with my PC the Zune software worked nicely. I’ve been looking forward to streaming media on the go – in addition to just having my podcasts etc. synced wirelessly.

Marketplace client is much improved on the Windows Mobile 6.5 version. Browsing is now actually quite a pleasant experience. The only thing that I’d like to see is some way to launch an application from the store. It’s annoying that you can download and install a small app almost immediately – but in order to run it you have to exit out of the Marketplace back to the start screen and find the newly installed application in a long list. [Maybe I’ve missed something here?]

What’s not working

How do I view or upload to Smugmug? I’ve got 10Gb+ worth of photos sitting in Smugmug galleries. I linked my Live ID to Smugmug a few months back but haven’t been able to figure out how this achieves anything. I was hoping that it just meant the Live web-site and Messenger were just behind the times, but it doesn’t seem that Windows Phone makes any use of this association either. I’d love to know how this is supposed to work – I’m being optimistic and just hoping that I’ve missed some simple setting somewhere. I need access to my photos – please!

There were heaps of little things that didn’t work. Facebook integration gave me an “Oops” message with a “try again later”. At least three of the hyperlinks took me to a “Sorry can’t find that page” – these were Microsoft and AT&T links. Some things didn’t work how I expected because I spent the first hour or so playing with the phone in a coffee shop prior to connecting it to my computer. So when I signed into Zune using my Live ID (with Zune subscription) I couldn’t play any non-purchased music. I understand that the device has to be linked to my account but why can’t that be done from the phone itself?

The on-screen keyboard is horrible. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve never really used a finger based on-screen keyboard before, so I’m not suggesting its any worse than the competition. I’m forever hitting the wrong letter and the auto-correct only seems to be available in some scenarios – certainly not for users names and passwords which I did a lot of in the initial setup. I also couldn’t figure out how to position the cursor within a word – it would always either highlight the entire word or move just before or after. Makes me wish for a stylus – I could be much quicker and more accurate (and I find its also a lot more comfortable). Anyway – guess I got to move with the times {sigh}…

Development

At first I just connected my phone, fired up Visual Studio changed the deployment target to Windows Phone 7 Device and pressed F5. This generated a deployment error – something about developer unlock required. The embedded URL (which I had to manually retype into the browser) wasn’t much help…

Windows Phone App Hub Page Not Found

Doing a Bing search on the app hub didn’t get me anywhere either. I quickly resorted to googling for the answer and came across this blog post…

http://www.istartedsomething.com/20100611/windows-phone-7-developer-phone-unlock-detailed/

Windows Phone Developer Device Registratio
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Once that was done, I hit F5 again and hey presto Word Puzzle is deployed to my phone. Nice!

First Impressions

Based on what I saw of the “launch” I’m not sure how well the devices are selling, nor how effective the marketing has been. I keep reading posts about low supply due to high demand which I find hard to fathom. My main priority was to get a device that I could easily write applications for, that had a decent media player and could keep me connected via e-mail and popular social networks. From that perspective I think the phone’s going to suffice. It also means I can get rid of my company Blackberry which is a semi-functional (it does e-mail OK but that’s about it) and truly un-inspiring device.


* Those things that led to me taking a day off included:

  • Finding out my company adheres to a barbaric but seemingly fairly common policy of not allowing staff to rollover annual leave from one year to the next (As the Windows Phone 7 adverts would say – Really?).
  • Having worked so many hours in the last few months that my hourly wage is roughly on par with what I used to earn delivering pizzas when I was 18 (OK – slight exaggeration). The main cause of working all these hours of course is that the work has just been so awesome. Having just pumped out a kick-ass version 1 release the product owner decided we should each get a day off this iteration to ‘recharge’.
  • A bunch of odd-jobs that I’ve been putting aside finally needed some attention. Tedious stuff like buying new work clothes, getting a hair cut, landlord duties.