Thoughts On Windows Phone Mango On The HTC HD7

HTC_HD7_from_T-MobileWhen Nokia announced that it was going to partner with Microsoft and start using Windows Phone as the smartphone platform of choice (at least in the U.S.), I was floored, but I also knew that if Nokia was so confident in this platform, then I needed to get a Windows Phone device and start checking it out.

I promptly picked up an HTC HD7 on T-Mobile, and tried to use it as my primary phone. Coming from Android (and even Symbian), Windows Phone initially seems almost like a dumbphone OS. In ‘NoDo’, the release that was available at the time, there was no multitasking to speak of, approximately 4 apps worth downloading, and a completely new way to look at the phone’s homescreen.

Not long after, Microsoft announced that the next version of Windows Phone (and likely the first version that Nokia would be using) would be called ‘Mango’, and it has over 500 new features and a host of bug fixes. That’s not a small update, and I was immediately intrigued. Fortunately, HTC is well-known in the ‘hacker’ space (it’s not *really* hacking, but that’s what they call it. It’s more like…..tinkering), and they tend to release phones that are easily tinkered with. The HD7 is no exception.

There have, at this time, been three ‘Mango’ releases – two betas, for developers who are building applications, and one ‘RTM’, which is the version that’s been released to the manufacturers (hence the acronym). RTM is essentially final shipping status, for all intents and purposes. I’ve now been running Mango (in one form or another) for a few months, and I find myself coming back to the HD7 quite frequently, for a few reasons:

1. Windows Phone is freakin gorgeous. It’s easily one of the most aesthetically pleasing mobile operating systems out there, rivaling HP’s webOS in beauty. This is interesting because it’s really not very graphical, instead relying on beautiful typefaces and interesting fonts to really make itself stand out. It’s incredible, and it kind of sneaks up on you.

2. It syncs with nearly everything out of the box, and it does so really well. I really only need four accounts on my mobile device – Google, Exchange (for work), Facebook, and Twitter. Everything else is icing. Windows Phone handles all of these like a champ – especially the Exchange and Google support – it’s top notch, and more importantly, can sync both of them at the same time (Symbian cannot do this – not even in the upcoming Anna release). Repeat after me: I SHOULD NOT NEED TO CONNECT MY SMARTPHONE TO MY COMPUTER IN ORDER TO USE IT.

3. The Live Tiles are pretty sweet – so the main idea with the live tiles of Windows Phone is that you unlock your screen and can quickly glance at your phone to see all the important details. It even puts your next calendar appointment on the lockscreen, so you may not even need to unlock it. It’s brilliant and really works well – assuming the apps have a ‘live’ tile. Most don’t, and that’s a big problem. My only complaint here would be the ability to disable the calendar on the lockscreen, or have different settings for weekend/work week. It’s depressing on a Saturday to turn the display on and be reminded I have a big meeting on Monday morning.

4. The System-wide speech features are awesome. Speech-to-text, being able to talk to your phone and have it do things, works brilliantly. Text-to-speech, having your phone read stuff to you, is also great. If you get a Mango handset, connect a Bluetooth headset and have someone give you a call or send you an SMS. It’s just plain awesome, and most importantly – easy to use.

So, what still sucks in Mango?

1. Notifications – my HD7 has a small (super tiny) LED that flashes when I have a notification, but that’s it. Sure, I can have the phone vibrate and make noise, but to my knowledge, notifications are not allowed to wake the screen – that’s REALLY annoying. Notifications can wake the screen, and appear at the top of the screen (they’re called ‘toast’ notifications), but there’s no persistent indication (other than the live tiles) that there was a notification. If my phone was in my pocket, I’d totally miss them.

2. Customisations – you can change the ‘wallpaper’, but that’s only the photo that shows on the lockscreen. Your actual phone’s background can only be two colors – white or black. That’s it. You can, thankfully, change the colors of the live tiles and most app icons (depending on how the developer set it up). Unfortunately, you’re stuck with about 8 preset colors, and they’re the most drab versions of those colors that you could possibly have imagined. I was hoping that Mango would bring forth a way to choose *any* color (either via a color wheel or even better, letting me use the phone’s camera to ‘scan’ a color). Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I can ‘hack’ my phone and tweak some registry settings, but it’s surprisingly difficult to unlock your phone to allow this, and the registry *definitely* isn’t the kind of place you should be poking around. Not having custom accent colors is most certainly a missed opportunity in Mango.

3. Twitter notifications – The official Mango release includes Twitter support baked right into the ‘People’ hub (basically the contacts app). Like HTC’s Sense UI Twitter integration, it’s great if you follow less than ~100 people. I follow 500+, and it’s a nightmare to deal with. Plus, it doesn’t notify you of new mentions or direct messages, which means it’s basically useless. There is a ‘Me’ live tile that I had previously removed (seems superficial to have a ‘Me’ tile) that DOES indeed notify you of new @mentions, DMs, and even Facebook notifications (if you have that service activated, too) The official Twitter app also doesn’t support notifications, nor does it have a live tile (though I’m told by the dev team that they’re working on that). Seesmic has a Windows Phone app, and it also doesn’t support notifications or live tiles. I was able to purchase an app, Rowi, that supports both. but for a phone that has Twitter baked right in to not offer notifications and force the user to pay for an app that does just seems messed up.

4. Windows Phone Marketplace – it sucked before, and while the search is improved (it now separates out music from apps), it still sucks. Mainly because it doesn’t tell you if you already have an app installed when you’re browsing. So, if you’re perusing the top free apps, they just all say ‘Free’ – none say ‘Installed’ or ‘You’ve Already Got This One’ or anything. With Mango RTM, they’ve fixed this once you click on the app title to see the app’s main page, but that’s still 2 clicks (one to see it, one to back out). It’s also just not fun to browse.

5. Xbox Live – it’s a start, but none of the games that I bought for my Xbox came with a ‘mobile’ sub-game, and I still can’t really do anything with my avatar on it. Essentially, it’s a gaming-centric messaging service. Yes, you can purchase games for the phone through it, and yes, they have achievements, but as I’ve mentioned before, it would be so epic if I could work on my golf swing on the way to a buddy’s house, where my player on the Xbox would reflect the improvements.

6. Internet Explorer still kinda sucks. Then again, it’s Internet Explorer, so you kind of expect it to. For clarification on this, it sucks mainly because most sites that are ‘optimised’ for mobile have two versions: one optimised for large touchscreens like those on Android and iOS, and one that’s optimised for dumbphones. The WP Internet Explorer build on Mango RTM seems to be recognized as the latter – in fact, I cannot get the iOS-friendly version of Google Reader to show up no matter what URL I point it to. Obviously this isn’t an Internet Explorer issue, but it directly affects the user experience, and negatively.

That being said, the browser is incredibly smooth, relatively quick, and has most of the features you would expect to see (including tabs).

At this point, honestly, it’s a hard choice between the HD7 with Mango and my trusty T-Mobile G2, which has HTC’s Sense 3.0 user interface. The G2 is infinitely more powerful – especially with a hardware keyboard, but the HD7 is just a pleasure to use. The HD7 is also faster, smoother, and gets better battery life.

The thing is, if I could put Mango on my Nokia N8, I’d probably forget about the G2 and the HD7 within a week. In any case, if you think Windows Phone is a DOA platform with no hope, you’ve obviously not used Mango, and let’s face it, you probably won’t. But you’re missing out. Just remember how lame iOS was on the first iPhone…..

UPDATE: updated a few items above on 8/16 thanks to my helpful commenters, and to add clarification.

Published by rcadden

Just a dude with a phone.

25 thoughts on “Thoughts On Windows Phone Mango On The HTC HD7

  1. I wasn’t able to install the RTM yet (thanks for the link btw), but I have the beta version installed and I’m very surprised and annoyed to see that they still haven’t added batch operations to the texting app. Is that fixed in the RTM? It’s also funny that we’re both coming from a Nokia and Android backgound. haha

  2. I bought my daughter a real expensive
    phone for her birthday. A friend told me about
    htc phone cases .
    I’m so glad I bought one, she dropped the
    phone like ten times in the first week.
    The phone case is so durable; the phone
    is still perfect and works like new.

  3. Does the browser suck because it is patterned on IE or because the version of Mango RTM that you have is using the IE mobile based off IE 7?  The newest update of Mango is to have IE9 mobile of which I have heard good things. 

    PPK on the current state of mobile browsers (from the web dev perspective, not the user perspective): http://www.quirksmode.org/mobile/browsers.html

    And then wikipedia is reporting on when IE9 will come to Mango in this WP roadmap list: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_Phone_version_history

    1. To be completely honest, it probably sucks because it’s Internet Explorer and I’ve hated that product for so long that some of the hate has carried over. 🙂

      1. Reviews by bloggers known for making the most of other OS’s are pretty important right now in the Windows Phone world. So I think it would be upstanding of you to clarify your position on the “suckage” of IE9 in Mango. You already sort of joked that you might just hate the idea of Internet Explorer. With that in mind, can you address what you really have a problem with?

        I have a galaxy tab and the Android browser renders no better than IE Mango (but it crashes more.) My complains about IE9 mobile are only that it doesn’t include a form filler. That would be really useful on mobile.

      2. You should give it more of a chance rather than hating it “because it’s Internet Explorer.” Have you tried Internet Explorer 9 on Windows? In my opinion, Microsoft really stepped up and created the best browser. Not only is it now competitive in terms of what it can render (developers will no longer have to worry about coding an Internet Explorer-specific stylesheet when Internet Explorer 8- usage dies down), but the features are great. The ability to pin websites to the taskbar, and see notifications from those websites as overlays on the taskbar icon is my favourite feature of Internet Explorer 9, and something I missed greatly when I decided to give Chrome another try.

    2. @rcadden:disqus Surprisingly , i quite liked the browser on Mango. Coming from the N8 it is a massive improvement and in my own experience seems to be equivalent to the one on the N950. 

  4. Regarding twitter, you can filter out twitter contacts by going to People Hub-Settings-Filter my contact list (only show people visible from my contact list).

    Lastly the Me tile alerts you of @ mentions.

  5. been using WP7 for about 2 months, with every mango version ready, and the NoDo stuff before. there are still some issues, like the multitasking that needs the support from the developer (like rowi, that still restarts every time i jump in it while multitasking), or your stated Marketplace issues. i also quite miss predictive dialing, a feature i loved in Symbian.

    However, what i find absolutely genious is the “Me” Tile. It is PERFECT if you’re on the road and quickly check what happened at Twitter and Facebook. Reply only to those mentions, done. With the twitter integration in Mango, the Me Tile has become absolutely awesome. 

    I think the browser is actually quite alright, i especially the double tap to zoom into a specific website area, including text reflow. big win for me. so far, i didn’t run into any trouble with the browser. 

    Now bring on the Hardware Nokia!

  6. Me tile does get updated for twitter mentions (re: #3 what’s missing), but not for DM’s and native RT’s.

    Also, I’m not sure which part of IE “sucks”. I think it is fantastic and in a lot of cases, faster than mobile safari on my iPad. I believe in the beta, they have an issue with the user agent being passed as mobile IE7 (not sure if the latest beta refresh has fixed that or not), but browsing has been pretty darn good.

  7. Windows Phone Mango does notify one when they receive a Twitter mention; the notification is displayed in the Me tile and in the Notifications section of the Me hub. Unfortunately, this could be improved by them displaying a toast notification at the top of the screen when these types of notification are received rather than just displaying them on the tile and in the hub (it could be an option for those who don’t wish to receive toast notifications, and they could allow us to choose which type of notification we receive as a toast for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn). As an improvement, I’d also like them to send us a notification when we receive a Twitter direct message and an offline Facebook message; they could integrate these types of message into the Messaging hub like they currently do with texts, Facebook Chat messages, and Windows Live Messenger messages.

    I just thought I’d point out that Mango does include notifications for Twitter mentions though; it’s just not implemented in the way I’d prefer.

  8. Thanks for the great comments everyone. I’ve updated the article to reflect the ‘Me’ tile (I had previously removed it because it seemed very shallow to have a ‘Me’ tile, and before it didn’t really serve much function) but I’ve added it back and confirmed it does offer notifications. On that note, it’s also not immediately obvious how to re-add it (it’s probably the only one where you need to dig into the app in order to get the live tile). 

    Also updated the browser section with more clarification.

    1. I tried nearly every iteration of that URL that I could and always ended up on the text-only mobile version, frustratingly enough. I’ll try clearing any memories I can and doing it again. I actually ended up finding a free Greader app that works surprisingly well.

      1. Awesome. Which GReader app did you find? I’ve yet to find an app that’s better than the web reader.

        Btw, can you unblock me from twitter? I’m better now, promise.

  9. I’m on an HD7 NoDo and I can adjust IE in Settings|Swipe -> Application Settings|Internet Explorer.  Radio buttons allow me to designate “desktop version” as my preference over “mobile version.”

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