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Spillikins #121. Sweet Mango for Windows Phone 7

Contents:

  1. Windows Phone 7.1: Tastes Mango
  2. Nokia E7 is a Hard Nut to Crack
  3. Google Attacked by PayPal : Another Legal War Plus Samsung and Apple
  4. Symbian Belle Update

Windows Phone 7.1: Tastes Mango

I won't exaggerate if I say that the Windows Phone 7 update called Mango has become the main event of the past week. There have been rumors that the update would receive 7.5 index but it was duly named 7.1 because despite Microsoft claiming 500 new features have been added to the OS the update still cannot be considered an actual intermediate OS version. I want to comment on this phenomenon of giving tasty names to operating systems: Microsoft is now using names of fruits while Google is naming Android version after sweets and, of course, Apple speaks for itself. We might call this phone market period "edible".

The announcement of Windows Phone 7.1 Mango coming this fall has caused quite a a stir among Windows Phone fans. The expectations are sky high though most of the downsides of the first OS version will be still there Ц WP 7.1 is just what the original release should have looked like with a pinch of some nice and quite complicated features. But as far as the basic interface issues are concerned the problems will remain unsolved. For example, I am a regular WP7 user and I also use Android, iOS and other platforms and I am used to seeing the system tray all the time Ц it contains crucial info about the reception quality, Wi-Fi indication and many other important stuff. On all the other platforms you this information is always in front of you while in WP7 you have to pull the screen down to see it and after a while it really gets on your nerves.

Another example that questions the logic of WP7 developers: all the programs are organized similarly to the early Android design Ц all apps are in a single list in alphabetical order. The idea was that the user will create desktop shortcuts to the most frequently used apps while the common list will display all the applications. But the practice shows that people prefer the app menu to the desktops so all manufacturers designed the main menu where the applications are displayed on several screens. You can see this design, for example, in LG and Sony Ericsson phones.

The main screen in WP7 is organized in tiles unlike to the Android desktop. But even in the first OS version it displayed way too much information and you always had to scroll through it and the more apps you install the less handy it gets. The common list occupies a lot of space and you either have to scroll through a giant list or type in the name of the app you need.

Taking into consideration how fast the number of applications grows in the Marketplace a question arises Ц does the company really think this is a logical and convenient interface? When you have just a handful of applications installed the tile menu works fine but as the number of tiles grows the menu just turns into a mess.

In regard to the mobile OS interfaces Microsoft has always been a few years behind the market. Just remember the Windows Mobile interface in all of its revisions that even HTC Sense couldn't hide. The idea to create a light airy interface in WP7 is nice but it does not take into account that the system needs to develop. This OS did not lay ground for future evolution milestones and I am quite sure that in WP8 we will see a completely revised interface or otherwise the OS will be getting far behind the competition in terms of ergonomics and ease of use which is already happening. Microsoft perfectly understands the flaws of the interface and among 500 new features the update brings a lot fix the interface Ц good job, Microsoft.

There is another issue I find interesting Ц the procedure of the update to WP 7.1 Ц it will be free and will become available in early fall (September in most countries). There are no hardware limitations i.e. all WP smartphones can receive the update Ц this is a huge plus for unification Microsoft is carrying out for the platform. But we know that in the past even tiniest updates have caused critical failures of handsets. So this update will be a test for Microsoft for big scale software reliability. This might have a serious impact on the company's image as a mobile OS developer.

I find funny the optimism of WP7 fans who believe that by fall 2011 the other mobile platforms will not receive serious updates like, for example, iOS 5.x or another Android version. Such speculations are naive and, unfortunately, WP 7.1 is already loses the competition to the existing platforms. In summer 2010 the Microsoft's vice-president Terry Myerson who is in charge of WP7 development said that it would take up to five years to create a perfect OS while the first version is just a first step towards such a system. This is an adequate assessment of what the company is doing and on what schedule.

I have only positive impressions from mango Ц this is the right direction of development for Microsoft. The company has a strategy and follows it. However, the rate of the update is confusingly slow. Just compare to how much Apple and Google have done in the same period of time. But it is pointless to compare the functionality of the systems Ц they all had very different starting conditions Ц we should rather assess the volume of work carried out (new code, services and features).

In a few days I will publish my first impressions of Mango which I have been testing for some time now. As compared to WP7 the performance has not changed which is a plus. The contacts can now be arranged into messaging groups Ц a very handy feature. I really like the SkyDrive service Ц you get 25GB of space on the servers and it immediately backs up all of your documents so you can later access them from any device. Also, the mobile MS Office is probably the best portable office app there is today.

The big one Ц multitasking now works properly which brings the OS to another level making it suitable for everyday use. Before, you couldn't let's say listen to music and jog with a pace counter working in the background. I am pleasantly astonished by Internet Explorer 9 except it still cannot work with Flash websites and you will need to install a special app from the Marketplace to watch YouTube. The browser is speedy and quite stable and has almost no problems (however, it screws formatting of some pages, but let's give it a slack and remember that this might not be the final version of the browser). Later this week I will review all the new fetures in depth but for now let's just have a look at this video about the OS's new features.

Instead of conclusion I want to repeat my central idea Ц WP 7.1 is a step in the right direction. So far WP is losing the competition and the question is Ц how fast can MS catch up? I think that five years would be the right guess.

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Nokia E7 is a Hard Nut to Crack

We have touched upon Nokia E7 several times in Spillikins, because it is a flagship model for Nokia in 2011 and the company underlined its importance as well. Nokia E7 has appalling sales and even the decrease in the price could not help the Finnish manufacturer.

I had no time to review Nokia E7. It was not worth trying, while writing obituaries is not pleasant anyway. For some time I carried the phone in my bag fully charged, but without the SIM card. At the end of last week a couple of my phones were down and I had to use the first model at hand. This way I stumbled upon my Nokia E7. It cannot offer rich features or high operation speed. After Samsung Galaxy S2 it was a pure torture for me. The pace of Nokia E7 was appropriate for the previous century. Those were the days when we were quite happy with such a speed. Nevertheless standards come and go very quickly.

The model irritates me. I have no nostalgic feelings to put up with defects. Even more interesting was the experiment when I asked my friends and relatives to open the handset. Without tips no one could succeed. I showed an open model, then turned away and closed it down. People could not open it freely. This fact emphasizes the questionable ergonomics. You cannot open Nokia E7 with one hand and even with both hands it is tricky. Watch the video to understand the reasons for these tribulations. It is not reasonable to try too hard to make a tightly assembled phone, but Nokia was so scared to repeat the experience of N97, where two halves were quite free moving and the material faded away within 6 months. The task was to come up with a solid body, which was achieved at the expense of ergonomics.


Good designers always keep in mind the most inexperienced users making sure these people could open and use the gadget without any help. Unfortunately, Nokia designers were either unaware of the rule or just failed to accomplish the task.

I will not hurry to write a review, because I do not want to say negative things all the time. The sales of the model are so low that not many will suffer after buying the handset.

Additional reading:

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Google Attacked by PayPal : Another Legal War Plus Samsung and Apple

Google has just unveiled its payment project Wallet as it become involved in a legal dispute. NFC payment system featuring Android must become a key Google service. It will be supported both by the Internet giant and several financial institutions. The ground will be also contested by other companies including PayPal owned by eBay.

PayPal believes that Google got an illegal access to their own payment system to devise their structure. The company resorted to the legal procedure by filing a 28 page complaint mentioning two former PayPal employees one of whom has been working for Google since January. They are blamed for breaking a labor agreement and disclosing confidential information to the third party and showing disloyalty to a former employer.

To my mind we have a simple patent war when one company is trying to hamper the entrance of its rival into the lucrative market with high growth potential. The above-mentioned document gives no facts about the disclosed information allegedly received by Google. There are only general ideas. I have several reports on the NFC market and I am sure PayPal or Google share the opinion. The only beneficiary of the issue is the lawyers involved as Google is likely to win, while PayPal can only delay the coming of its rival to this market.

The stupidity of patent wars was clearly revealed by Samsung during its conflicts with Apple regarding the copying of Apple iPhone and iPad in the Galaxy lineup. During the proceedings Apple required Samsung to show the prototypes of models under development (Galaxy Tab of the new generation). The feedback of Samsung lawyers was ironic. In response they asked the court to make Apple disclose them prototypes of Apple iPad3 and Apple iPhone 5 to make sure that Samsung does not copy these products. This example shows that patent wars are far from every day life and do not matter much.

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Symbian Belle Update

This summer we will get a Symbian^3 update codenamed Anna. It will be used in Nokia Oro showed last week. I am not going to repeat, but it is a clumsy and expensive phone, which will gather moss on the shelves as nobody needs the it.

We also saw first Belle screenshots. It will follow Anna to be superseded by Christina. Do not expect numerous updates, because Symbian has been buried by Nokia after the speech of Stephen Elop in February, but the company is still trying to rejuvenate it a bit. Nokia tries to create the illusion of active developments, but in fact we have here merely PR2.0 split into several releases Ц Anna, Belle, etc. Until 2014 Symbian will have to be kept alive, because the manufacturer promised to sell 150 million Symbian devices. It will be an uphill struggle, so all measures will be used. In an interview to the official Nokia Conversation China blog the head of Nokia remarked that Symbian will be supported until 2016, which means the sales have to be finished in 2014. The sales targets are also known. Nokia hoped to reach the milestone a year before the deadline, but the performance must have been not encouraging to say the least. At the end of the year Symbian will get a hardware boost (1 GHz processors and more memory), but there will be no new hardware upgrades in the future. The speed of operation will not be improved dramatically, especially taking into account the advent of dual core processors coupled with Android OS. It's a pity, but Symbian is dead, which was openly announced by Nokia some time ago.

In Belle the Options menu (screen text) was ditched and the majority of actions will get icons. This smart move smells like 2007-2008. Some icons and the status line were reworked. The pictures were taken from here.

Do you want to talk about this? Please, go to our Forum and let your opinion to be known to the author and everybody else.

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Related links

Spillikins #118. Samsung becomes Number 1in Europe Ц Nokia falls behind

Spillikins #119. Skype is Going on Sale Ц Last Days of Freedom

Spillikins #120. The Future of Supermarket Shopping

Eldar Murtazin (eldar@mobile-review.com)
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Translated by Maxim Antonenko (maxantonenko@ukr.net), Robert Mugattarov (mugattarov@gmail.com)

Published — 01 June 2011

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com

 

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