There are things we really love about Windows Phone 7, and there are things we hate. Read on to find out Senior Editor Bonnie Cha's top-five dislikes.
Bonnie ChaFormer Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
In general, Microsoft got a lot of things right with Windows Phone 7, and it now has a solid foundation on which to build its mobile platform. However, it's not all sunshine and roses. The operating system has its annoyances and is lacking in some areas. I certainly understand that Microsoft had to make some sacrifices to meet its launch deadline, but we're talking about some basic, fundamental features that would have put them more in step with the competition right out of the gate.
So as much I love Windows Phone 7, there are also things that sticks in my craw. As promised, here are the top-five things I'd like to see come to the platform in the next update. I didn't include a couple of the obvious ones--copy and paste and more apps--since they're coming, but they're important to be sure. That said, let's get on with the list.
It's great that I can listen to music via Zune, go work in another app, and still control the player from the status bar. It would be even better if I could also do that with Slacker, Last.fm, or some other app. (Last.fm is a part of CBS Interactive, which also publishes CNET.com.) For now, you have to keep these third-party apps open in order to use and interact with them--if you switch to another app, you're as good as done.
For now, part of Microsoft's solution to the multitasking problem is to allow developers to use its notification system to alert users to any updates even if the app isn't running, and to allow apps to save their place when another program is running in the foreground. OK, except the apps don't always save their place and they can be slow to load. And really, the fact that I can't even simply check my e-mail while listening to Slacker is pretty ridiculous in this day and age.
Early on, Microsoft's Charlie Kindel told ZDNet's Mary-Jo Foley the company would offer more multitasking support "as things like battery life, network utilization and application predictability improve for the Windows Phone platform" but Microsoft needs to remedy this as soon as possible. An app switcher like Android would also be great.
Lack of universal search
This goes back to the apps menu issue. I got some grief from readers during my technical preview of Windows Phone 7 when I said I wasn't sold on the layout of the Start screen and app menu list. The Start screen? I've moved on. The customization abilities let you add as many or as little tiles as you want. However, I still have issues with the long list view for apps.
It's not that I'm lazy and hate scrolling. I get it. It's part of how we use touch-screen smartphones. I'm just saying there are more-efficient ways to do things.
The Windows Phone 7 apps that I've seen have been very promising in quality, and the Marketplace is continuing to grow on a weekly basis. I've already downloaded at least a dozen apps to the Samsung Focus, and when you add those on top of the core apps, the list is already getting lengthy. Adding universal search would easily solve that problem, and also allow you to search for e-mail, contacts, music, and other content from anywhere on the phone.
As I noted in my previous post, contextual search works great, but why not extend those awesome search capabilities to the entire system?
Restricted landscape support
During the Windows Phone 7 launch event, I was checking out the LG Quantum. I slid open the keyboard and noticed the Start screen didn't switch from portrait mode to landscape mode, like most smartphone do. I thought it might have been a glitch, but no, it's a real thing. Landscape mode doesn't work in all situations.
It works for most of the things you'd want it to--messages, videos, and photos, the Web browser, and games. But it's a no go on maps, the music player, the Start screen.
Part of the reason Microsoft did this is because it said that user testing showed that customers were really rotating the phone only to type messages, but were otherwise using the phone in portrait mode. That may be the case but when you're launching with devices like the Quantum, the HTC Surround, and HTC HD7 that are begging to be used in landscape mode (the latter two have kickstands), wouldn't you want to optimize the system for that?
Dependency on Zune software
I'll take the Zune desktop client over Exchange ActiveSync any day, but I do wish it wasn't the only option for syncing music, video, podcasts, and photos to a Windows Phone 7 device. It'd be nice to be able to drag and drop files from your computer to your phone, but it's not recognized as a drive when connected and there's no USB mass storage mode.
Also, since the Zune software only syncs with the aforementioned content, if you have an Outlook account not connected via Exchange ActiveSync, you'll have to get Outlook Hotmail connector software to get your contacts and calendar into the cloud so they'll sync with your phone.
Limited social integration
As far as social networking goes, Windows Phone 7 really only fully integrates with Facebook for now. You can't merge your contacts from Twitter, Flickr, MySpace, and the like. There is an official Twitter app, but I think it needs a little fine-tuning as it takes too long to load and doesn't offer any notifications. I also can't upload photos to Twitter from the Picture Hub. In general, this may be fine for some people, but I use several of these services often for my work and personal life, so it's been a bit of a frustrating experience to not have easy access to them.
So there you have it, folks--a list of some of my top gripes with Windows Phone 7. Of course, there are a number of issues I didn't address, such as the lack of full turn-by-turn navigation, no tethering support, lack of a unified in-box, no custom ringtones, and others, but these are some of the bigger items I wanted to see addressed pretty quickly. Your needs might differ from mine though, so please share your thoughts with me in the comments section below.