Ya, I know that I work for Microsoft and am not supposed to admit to ever owning an iPhone, let alone liking it.

What’s more, I know working for Microsoft and being complementary about a Microsoft product (in this case Windows Phone 7) will have fans of “other” products coming out of the trees to call me a “shill”.

Fair enough. But I just calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.

I never set out to own an iPhone.

I was an AT&T customer because I live in the boondocks of New England and needed the AT&T Microcell technology. (There is NO actual Cell Service at my house.)

When my Windows Mobile / HTC phone died, Windows Phone 7 was still several months from it’s release date and I needed a phone. The ONLY phone my local AT&T store had in stock that could connect to my Microsoft Exchange server was an iPhone so I just sorted “ended up with one”.

I confess that the iPhone 4 (the first and only iPhone I’ve ever used) changed the way that I communicate with people and changed the way that I use the World Wide Web.

I liked it.

Then, Windows Phone 7 released.

I knew I would get one for two reasons.

  1. I want to be a team player and therefore needed to develop some hands on expertise with the new Microsoft Phone Platform.
  2. I want to develop some Phone Applications and while I have a Mac xCode and Objective-C just don’t “do it” for me.

So, I waited until the designated date and time and  went to visit my friends down at the AT&T mobile store.

Mind you I still had 2 1/2 YEARS on my contract.

I first selected the LG Quantum. I thought I wanted the slide-out keyboard but after using it for a day I realized that the recessed Shift/Alt keys killed whatever increase in typing speed that I gained from the physical keyboard so I returned it and got the Samsung Focus.

The Focus is a fine device it is lighter than the iPhone but feels well built. (Though at first the lack of weight feels a bit strange.)

The iPhone, especially in my bumper case, feels a bit like a small brick. The Focus is contoured, thinner and more elegant (also in a bumper case).

That makes it nicer to hold on to and more comfortable for longer conversations. There is also no signal degradation no matter how I hold the phone when talking.

Lets compare some of the standard features.

  • SCREEN – The screen is BEAUTIFUL. It’s brighter that the iPhone and the iPhone screen is pretty darn good.
  • POWER – Battery life is exceptional. I easily get a complete busy day of use from the Focus with a single charge. (Whereas my iPhone generally requires a little boost during the day.)
  • TYPING – I find the iPhone a little easier to type on because there is a bit more space in between the keys of the on-screen keyboard. My mangled old boxer’s hands are a bit clumsy. On the other hand, the Focus / WP7 correction and auto suggest feature seems more accurate than the iPhone equivalent so my over-all typing performance turns out to be about the same.
  • SIGNAL RECEPTION – The iPhone 4 has been a disappointment when it comes to reception. In my house and office I have MicroCell units so signal strength is not an issue, but else ware it matters a lot and tower distribution in the hills of New England can be sketchy.  The iPhone 4 has the poorest reception of any phone I’ve had in New England. The WP7 Focus is quite the opposite. Reception is as good as tower proximity will allow.
  • USER INTERFACE – There are a lot of differences and for me, neither has emerged as my clear preference yet.
    • The “Home Page” dynamic defaults of the WP7  are VERY useful and the UI performance is very snappy (perhaps a little more so than the iPhone)
    • I prefer the iPhones hardware “wake up” button. On the WP7 focus the power switch also serves as the wake-up.
    • The WP7 Focus’ Hardware Buttons are great. One touch “Back”, “Search” and “Start” buttons are very convenient.
    • The WP7 Focus has a “One Touch” camera button. I didn’t think it was a big deal when I first got the phone but I find myself using it all the time.
  • Storage – see below.
  • Applications -  see below.

About Storage…..

The WP7 Focus is available with only one memory configuration. 8 Gigabytes.

My iPhone 4 came with 32 Gigabytes (though it was more expensive).

However, the WP7 Focus contains a MicroSD slot.

The MicroSD slot in a Windows Phone 7 device works a little differently than you might expect. YOu don’t pop cards in and out like you would with a camera. When you insert a MicroSD card in a Windows Phone 7 device you need to reset the device and format the card for WP7 use.

This means two things. First BACKUP YOUR PHONE BEFORE YOU INSERT THE CARD.

Second, once formatted the card is not a removable storage device. It integrates with the on-board memory (think of it as a tiny RAID setup.)

This makes it fast, but permanent. Once installed and formatted you don’t access the card as a separate device, it just becomes part of the phone’s memory and if you ever want to remove the card you have to reset the phone and reform the card for use in standard SD consuming devices.

At the time of this writing there are NO MicroSD cards that are approved for use on Windows 7 Phones.

But, since I like to live on “the edge” I picked up a ScanDisk 32 Gigabyte card, installed it in my phone, reset the device and formatted the card for Windows Phone 7’s use and POOF. Now I have a 40 Gigabyte phone and have had no issues what-so-ever since installing the MicroSD card (even though it is NOT Recommended.) 

APPLICATIONS !!!!!!!

As you might expect, the Windows Phone 7 device comes with Microsoft Office Applications. Setup and use is SIMPLE. A pleasant surprise was the inclusion of Microsoft OneNote by default. Also, the application store is filling up with free applications from Microsoft. I have Twitter, Facebook, eBook, etc, etc applications on the WP7 focus and the default business applications are AWESOME.

But….  There’s a BUT !

Some of the stuff I have on the iPhone and I WANT on the Focus is not available yet.

  • Amazon Kindle !!  Man I miss it. Amazon has announced the Kindle Application for Windows Phone 7 but has not announced a release date.
  • TweetDeck – There are several good Twitter client already available for the Windows Phone 7 but no TweetDeck yet. (It’s my favorite)
  • Evernote – I’m sure it will be here soon. But it’s a must for me.

Those are really the big ones. There are a few niche applications that I haven’t found replacements for yet like a Boxing Round Timer.

BUT….  Applications are the holy grail of Windows Phone 7.

The development tools are free and the development technologies are Microsoft Silverlight and XNA (same as the XBox)

The application store has great new apps every day and I’m already building some of the applications that I want for myself.

I’ve been with Microsoft for 10 years and (except for the xBox guys) we’ve had several poor starts in markets that are consumer focused.

It’s great to see that we (Microsoft) has scored a big hit with v1 of Windows Phone 7.

I’m loving mine and once the few apps above are available I won’t miss my iPhone at all.

Plus, I personally find the development model amazing and I’
m excited about the applications that I’m building.

The first is an interval timer for athletes :)

Do you know of a great new Windows Phone 7 application.

Comment here !

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