Android to Win7: Day 2

I didn’t get much use out of the phone today, so it both gained and lost points. I actually spent a large portion of the day at the DMV, which had fairly lousy signal, and since I have next to nothing installed so far, there wasn’t a lot I could do that didn’t want a connection. Also, as you’ll see further down, battery life curbed my activities.

The puzzle of the back-buttonless browser seems to be solved: since the browser’s “…” menu has a Forward option, I figured there had to be a way to go back. Sometimes the phone’s hardware Back button, the one I said was alt-tab, may take you to the previous page.

Where it catches you out is in the lack of consistency or feedback. There is no visual cue as to when it will leave the browser vs go back a page. So far I’ve learned it will leave the browser if:

– You happen to be at the top of current session/tab’s history,
– The page is still loading,
– Part of the page, including hidden iframes, are still loading or running javascript,
– If an image on the page failed to load, including hidden images,

Last night I decided to try the WiFi, something I expected to be a hassle. Instead, it was a breeze: Enable WiFi, select my network, type the passphrase, connected. Over my 5Mb cable connection, the phone absolutely zinged. By comparison, the Droid original showed no significant change in speed when browsing/downloading over 3G or WiFi.

Every cloud with a silver lining is a cloud tho: Now I know how damn fast this phone can go, but I’m stuck with Verizon’s 3G :)

My position on the Windows Phone app store is unchanged: it’s a cess pool. Thanks to my Android phone, I was able to discover Poynt but so far only 2 of the 16 apps I’ve installed were discovered via the Marketplace. Infact, I wrote a little crawler to search the entire marketplace for me, and it couldn’t find Fandango, Facebook, Poynt, Qype, Where, Yelp in the listings.

As I said, I spent a bunch of time at the DMV today. The phone had a hard time getting signal there. This really seemed to bother it, and it got pretty hot in my pocket.

When I started checking the phone, I noticed the Turn by Turn navigation was still running – infact, despite having reached my desination, it was still trying to guide me to the exact endpoint from about where the DMV building had killed signal.

I tried to tell the app to stop navigating, but each attempt was thwarted by the app re-trying to update the position — by the time the “stop navigating” dialog had finished animating, it’d already lost focus so it would get yanked away before I could tap Yes.

I spent several minutes trying to work around this, e.g. going back to the phone’s Start page and relaunching the app, but all that did was take me back into it. Wheee! And I could find no way to kill an app whatsoever.

Now, by default, the phone doesn’t show you your battery levels or signal strength. You have to tap the top of the phone to see them. And I was rather shocked to find my phone was down to just a few pixels of battery – especially given it had a good 15+ hour charge over night, and I’d turned off various things like WiFi etc.

Removing the battery did, finally, kill the Turn by Turn app, and after the phone came back it cooled down (although it periodically got warm enough to draw my attention to it’s presence in my pocket), and the battery stopped bleeding away.

I find the Windows 7 Phone interface is growing on me little by little, slowed largely by odd quirks like: single-line input boxes that present an “Enter” key on their virtual keyboard, which apparently does nothing; apps like the WordPress App where the username/password box are hidden behind the virtual keyboard, and the login page isn’t big enough to invoke scrolling. It took me a little while to figure out that you have to tap on part of the empty page on the screen to unselect your current input and then you can click on the password box or submit box. Ugh.

The absence of a task manager continues to be a major problem for me getting to like this phone. Find a few too many instances where UI elements are used inconsistently – such as the back button.

How the phone handles orientation is also irking me, because just when you settle into thinking “ok, I’ll just hold the phone the one way” suddenly an app asserts a specific orientation on you (e.g. the camera mode wants to be held in landscape rather than portrait).

The screen lock, start menu and app list – the top of the operating system shell, only do portrait. If you go into settings, the top level “list of settings” will handle landscape, but whether it will stay in landscape depends on which setting you tap.

The market place is also portrait only. While I like the presentation, this becomes bothersome as you descend to lists of products within categories as the portrait layout tends to clip the names of apps. It seems a perfect point at which you might want to flip to landscape, but no, the phone won’t have it.

I suspect this landscape-aversion is due to the fact that virtual keyboards tend to get messy in landscape mode, unless you use up a lot of the screen space. I’d be fine with that, just let me decide when I need to hold the phone this way or that.

Day 2 Conclusion: Right now I’m leaning towards thinking I’ll trade this phone in for a Droid 3 before my 14 days are up.

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