Hardware, Software, Technology

How-to: Understand Windows Phone 7x


Noki Lumia 900 running Windows Phone 7.5My Android phone developed a fault, so I borrowed a Nokia Lumia phone over the weekend. This is a Windows Phone (trademark, copyright, patented to the eyeballs, Microsoft 2010).

As we all know, Windows Phone is NOT Windows Mobile 5, 6 or 7, or Windows CE, which were mostly taken up by corporate customers and which were utterly hateful. Microsoft’s iPhone-killer and answer to the Android challenge, Windows Phone 7 with the now infamous Metro tiled interface launched early and lacked obvious features such as copy, paste, and wireless tethering.

Despite good reviews for the rest of it, Windows Phone 7 didn’t sell in massive numbers…

Windows Phone 7.5 arrived late in 2011, and, despite the fact that all the first generation devices can be updated to Windows Phone 7.5, most are not. Despite the fact that all the major handset manufacturers are producing models running Windows Phone 7.5, it’s hardly set the world on fire.

Having learned from the mess that Windows Mobile fell into, Microsoft has tightly licensed Windows Phone 7x, so that any device to be sold running Windows Phone 7.5 (nick-named ‘Tango’) has to meet a minimum device specifications:

  • Capacitive, 4-point multi-touch screen with WVGA (480×800) resolution.
  • ARM v7 “Cortex/Scorpion” processor – Snapdragon QSD8X50, MSM7X30, and MSM8X55.
  • DirectX9 rendering-capable GPU 256MB of RAM with at least 8GB of Flash memory.
  • Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor and Assisted GPS.
  • FM radio tuner.
  • Six dedicated hardware buttons: Back, Start, Search across the front, a 2-stage camera (launch and take photos) and volume buttons on the side and a power/sleep hardware button usually found on the side (the top edge on Nokia phones).

The hardware buttons are not all hardware or buttons: there are three “soft keys” on the front of a Windows Phone 7 device:

  • Back – sends the user back a screen; when held displays the task-switcher.
  • Start – takes you back to the Start screen from any other view or app.
  • Search – opens the mandatory Bing search tool.

The three hardware buttons on the side.

  • Power button – switches the screen on or off with a quick press; shuts down the phone when held.
  • Volume up and down rocker.
  • The dual-function camera button either launches the camera app, or, when in camera mode, is the shutter button used to take pictures.

The close specification and tight license means that Microsoft has solid control over the platform, copying Apple’s model and avoiding the fragmentation of Android, where the manufacturers were able to modify and ‘skin’ the Android operating system with a variety of more or less awful customisations and manufacturers’ ‘crapware’ – excuse me, but that’s the common term for the software layered on top of Android.

The usual suspects all make Windows Phone models which are now being more heavily subsidised and promoted, so you should be able to get your hands on, for example;

  • Samsung’s Focus, Focus S, Omnia 7, Omnia W
  • LG’s Quantum, Optimus 7
  • HTC’s Trophy, Mozart, HD7, HD7S, Titan, Titan II
  • Nokia’s Lumia 710, Lumia 800, Lumia 900

You can also find PC makers in the smartphone market;

  • Dell with the Venue Pro
  • Acer making the Allegro
  • ZTE releasing Tania

Windows Phone 7x has a very distinctive and smart user interface. Instead of iPhone icons or Android widgets and short cuts, Windows Phone 7 has the Live Tiles interface formerly know as Metro – now Modern UI.

Modern/Metro is based around larger tiled icons than iOS or Android. They are larger so that anyone can use them regardless of fat fingers and thumbs, but also large enough to display some dynamic information on the tile itself. Windows Phone 7x has no need for status bars or notification areas, everything is displayed and updated in the relevant tile; Weather tile, phone tile, calendar tile.
You can drag tiles around the screen into any arrangement on the Start screen – although this will only display in portrait orientation.

Windows Phone 7x User Interface
It’s for use on a smart phone with a touch screen. The gesture support is not unfamiliar to iPhone and Android users:

  • tap, for launching applications.
  • tap and hold gesture for tasks such as opening a context menu or moving a tile.
  • Multi-finger tapping is available for using the keyboard and keypad.
  • Swipe – left to right and right to left to access additional screens within applications you use.
  • Pinch to zoom – also a familiar thumb and finger gesture for zooming web pages and photos.

Visual cues that you will see on-screen include Ellipses (“…”); these indicate a hidden menu. Tap or drag these dots to view the  available options for that app.

The keyboard appears overlaid on any web-page or app when text input is required. The main keyboard comes up in the default language, showing lower case characters with the shift key switching to upper case and the “&123” button switching to numbers and symbols.

Depending on the app context, the keyboard can show short cut keys such as “.com” for web addresses – tap and hold this to choose other common top level domains such as .net or .org.

Windows Phone 7x also has predictive text. It is just as bad as the predictive text on iOS and Android.

We haven’t yet looked at Hubs, Social Media, Search Speech recognition (it’s not Siri), SkyDrive and other Cloud services, Microsoft Office Mobile (yes, really, an Office compatible suite on a 4-inch touch screen), gaming or the Microsoft Store. More on that next time.

Oh yes, depending on your carrier, you may find it also makes phone calls. More or less. AJS

Image credit: Nokia Lumia 900 Smartphone courtesy of Nokia.

Related: Windows 8 apps now called Windows Store Apps

About Allan J. Smithie

Allan J. Smithie is a journalist and commentator based in Dubai.

Discussion

4 thoughts on “How-to: Understand Windows Phone 7x

  1. I am not very excellent with English but I like this as a read.

    Posted by Koelle | October 26, 2012, 4:16 am
  2. great website. have bookmarked. thanks.

    Posted by Kat-Cat | October 27, 2012, 1:56 pm
  3. what i really like about the Nokia Lumia is the high resolution screen, it is really great.:

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    http://www.healthmedicinelab.com/symptoms-of-gallstones/

    Posted by Aileen Slovak | January 20, 2013, 1:34 pm

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