Android to Win7: Day 1
My Verizon contract 2 year anniversary came up yesterday and my Droid (original) was ready for retirement. So, we went to the Verizon store and despite briefly toying with the idea of a Windows 7 phone, I was sold on the Droid 3 thanks to it’s delightful fold out keyboard.
So far it’s definitely a love-hate affair.
The very first issue we wan into is that we had been using my Droid for navigation. The Trophy seemed to leap into action taking over the role, but perhaps it sprained it’s ankle in the leap…
It comes with an app called “Maps”. If what you are looking for are maps of places, then it’s not bad. But if you think your phone has come with free navigation software, wrong.
At first our current location was tracked in real time, the maps were sort of fuzzy, clearly still loading, and seemed a bit slow, but it was time to ask for directions. North Richland Hills to Forth Worth.
Commence to fail.
For a start, the directions were from our location at the time I had started the app, 5 minutes earlier in the car park of the Verizon store, not our location when I input the destination, nor our location when I clicked the directions button.
Just to complete the fail, it stopped tracking our location at the same time. There was some sort of mechanism for updating the location by hand, but it periodically seemed to revert to start of route making it useless for in-car navigation :(
I’m guessing this abject failure is why it isn’t pinned to the start menu.
Clearly, I was going to need navigation software, since my Droid’s deactivation had rendered it more or less a brick (really? I can’t still use it as a GPS device? dangit)
The Marketplace is responsive, but oh-my-gosh is it full of crap. I thought the Android marketplace had junk in it, the Windows 7 marketplace has *#$@= in it. No, no, that’s understating. While we were in Fort Worth, I skimmed a book on Windows Phone programming that had an example of a binary clock. So, I’m unlikely to pay $1 to buy the 4-star rated version of that example app from the Win 7 marketplace.
It also seems to be full of “toolsets” which comprise a bunch of handy odds and ends (torch, spirit level) etc, all of which are included as examples in said programming book, and none of which require any of the permissions that the apps want (really? a spirit level needs to access my contacts list? In case it detects that I’ve fallen over? Or perhaps the torch can automatically scan what I shine it on and detect if I’ve stumbled on one of my friends at night? And perhaps the “quick note taker” needs cloud storage, explaining its need for full internet access?
Am I ranting? Well, the Windows 7 marketplace deserves it. There is so much crap it was really difficult to find the meat. I was trying to find something like Yelp or Where without doing a search, and after 50 odd “see more”s I was still looking at really annoying rubbish that nobody is ever going to want.
In short: If I hadn’t had my android phone as a point of reference, I would never have found a decent app to help me get around.
I do however like the Marketplace itself; the organization, at least as presented on the Trophy, is rather nice and very smooth.
But the content — full of either crap that costs a few dollars, or contenders with scary prices. ($39 for Garmin’s navigator).
I finally found a navigation tool called “Turn by Turn” for $4.99 of which I took the trial for a spin and was reasonably satisfied (until it started bleating about a 12 mile limit every 3s, making it virtually impossible to either select ‘buy’ or enter a new route).
The Windows 7 Phone interface… There’s a pleasant feel to it. There are some glaring “what were you thinking”s tho:
Scrolling lists hide their scroll bar until you are scrolling them. While it’s often obvious when a page has up/down extents, what’s less obvious is when you are at the top or bottom of a page, ’cause the scroll bar isn’t shown. Further, the lack of decoration around the lists themselves mean that the text has a whole number of lines to display in most cases. So there aren’t partially obscured lines at the top/bottom to instantly show you the content extends beyond the (undressed and therefore invisible) area; instead the list tends to look complete, if short. Minor but bothersome.
Final gripes, or rather things I’m set to research and figure out before deciding whether this phone is going back…
The phone’s “back” button is an Alt-Tab. It switches application. This takes some getting used to. There’s no task manager, and as you learn the Windows 7 unique modes of navigation, it will take you a while to remember “Oh, I can press Back to get to the application I was just in”, until you make the alt-tab connection mentally. Which is difficult because holding it down doesn’t bring up a list of running task…
(The lack of a task manager, fyi, is a gripe).
But the real gripe there is … there is no back button in the browser. If you accidentally touch the wrong part of the screen, if a web site decides to forward you somewhere, if you click the wrong result in Bing … Tough luck. Windows 7 phones only browse forwards!
Did I mention there was no task manager?
$39 for Garmin’s navigation software, what the heck? And the Verizon store didn’t have any accessories in-stock for the Windows phone. While the first rep we spoke to said he’d like the phone, these commission-based reps didn’t seem to have any interest in me once I expressed an interest in the Windows 7 phone.
If you use Windows on a PC, reducing the number of running applications is probably something you have to do regularly. The last thing I want is for my apps to interfere with my smartphone’s primary role as a phone (been there, droid that).
So, having fired up a good dozen apps, and cognizant that this was Windows, I was actually subjectively happy by the slightness of the decrease in performance — small but detectable. But the inability to see what was running and/or shutting any of it down was really annoying.
Windows 7 phone, so far:
- No scroll bars (unless you’re scrolling),
- No browser backsies,
- No task manager!