Samsung Focus With Windows Phone 7 Review: Make Room For Microsoft

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Keyboard

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The onscreen keyboard is basically the look and feel of Android’s onscreen keyboard, with the polish and speed of the iPhone’s. Letters pop up to reveal themselves under your fingers immediately as you type them, and you get a row of suggested words that you can tap in order to move things along.

No complaints here, though it’d be nice to have a Swype-like option someday. You have to perform extra clicks to access numbers and certain punctuation like you do on the iPhone, which some people won’t like.

Marketplace Apps

Marketplace Hub

I can’t comment too definitively on the app store, called Marketplace, yet because the phone hasn’t officially launched. I can tell you that there are around 600 apps so far and the ones I’ve downloaded have worked well.

There aren’t as many free apps as you’d find in the Android Market or even the iPhone, though many of the Windows Phone 7 apps have a trial mode that lets you use the app for a certain amount of time or use it with limited features. That cuts down on a lot of the clutter, which is nice.

Some big name apps found on the iPhone and Android have already made it to the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace; OpenTable, Shazam, Slacker, eBay, Seesmic, FourSquare, Twitter, Yelp, and Facebook, to name a few.

Games Hub

Games have been steadily trickling in and include several Microsoft-developed titles, a handful from EA, and the requisite Solitaire and Sodoku-type games. I’ve tried a handful and they all run well, similar to iPhone games. The EA games like Sims 3 and Monopoly almost seem to be direct ports from the iPhone platform.

There are some noticeably-missing titles, specifically sports apps like ESPN’s ScoreCenter, but having seen what’s already available, I’m not too worried about there being a shortage of quality apps for download once everything’s up and running. It’s still really early.

Media

MusicVideosHub

Sigh. This is the most disappointing part about Windows Phone 7.

You can download music to your phone for between 99 cents and $1.29 per song, which is fine, or you can stream unlimited tracks with a $15 per month Zune Pass, which is kind of cool. You’re also able to keep 10 songs per month with the Zune Pass even if you cancel your subscription.

The problem is that music files are the only things you can directly download to your phone. Podcasts, videos, movies, and TV shows must first be downloaded to a computer and then synched from the Zune software to your phone—even if you’re on a Wi-Fi network.

That’s not good at all, especially if you’re travelling. Microsoft needs to open this up as soon as possible if it wants to sell media to people. I can glom on to the free Wi-Fi network at the Boston airport and download TV episodes directly to my iPhone before I get on a flight and I just assumed I’d be able to the same with Windows Phone 7. I only open iTunes on my computer a few times a year—there’s no reason I need to spend any time with the Zune software either. Everything should be done directly through the phone.

This may actually be a deal-breaker for some people. I don’t understand what Microsoft is thinking here at all.

Overall

As I said earlier, the margin of error for Windows Phone 7 is pretty small given how long it’s taken Microsoft to get its mobile act together. Fortunately, the company’s new platform shines in just about every major area. The overall interface is refreshing, thoughtful, and extremely slick, which makes using the phone a definite pleasure.

While the apps still need to get rounded out and the web browser still needs YouTube integration (and certainly wouldn’t hurt from Flash support), just about everything else works together pretty flawlessly.

The fact that you can’t directly download anything but music files is an enormous black mark on an otherwise dynamite showing. I really hope Microsoft listens to the hoards of Windows Phone 7 owners that will undoubtedly complain about the omission.

All in all, though, Windows Phone 7 is a massively impressive project to come out of Microsoft—and it needed a massively impressive project to salvage what’s left of its mobile interests. The company has put out a mobile platform that’s not only good enough to compete with iPhone and Android, but could be good enough to quickly make up some serious ground.

In fact, this is the first phone I’ve ever reviewed where I turned off my iPhone and still haven’t turned it back on. That’s huge.

More on Techland:

Two Minute Video: Can Windows Phone 7 Split the Difference?

Windows Phone 7 Predictions (Spoiler: It Won’t Fail)

Windows Phone 7 Ushers In Zune Support For Macs

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