Windows Phone 7 OS review: From scratch

GSMArena team, 08 October 2010.
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Marketplace reborn

The Marketplace is still in its early stages but it’s already much better than what Windows Mobile 6 got. It has three sections – applications, games and music.

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The Windows Phone 7 Marketplace

The Application section starts with a featured app, then it’s on to the categories (including all and free), followed by the top apps, a list of new ones and a longer list of featured apps. There are not that many apps right now, but possible reasons are that either the available apps are limited regionally or there are not much of them before the official WP7 launch.

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The applications section of the Marketplace

The Games section is divided into Xbox Live, Top, New, Free and finally, Categories which has the games sorted into genres.

Big downloads (anything north of 40MB) need a Wi-Fi connection to work. Alternatively, you can download those jumbo apps using the desktop Zune software.

The Music section is actually the Zune Marketplace. Its structure is similar to the Application section. First, a featured artist of the week, three more featured artists, then a list of new releases, top albums and genres.

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The Zune Marketplace

Genres themselves are separated into sections too – new releases and top artists/albums/songs/playlists. For each song, you get to listen to a 30 second preview.

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You get a 30 second preview for each song

Search is available for the Marketplace but right now it pulls together search results from all sections – so, songs get mixed in with the apps and games. It's annoying that it does so, but not a major problem that you can't solve with a better search term.

The biggest problem with the new Marketplace is the shortage of apps. This is the most common problem when a new OS launches an app store. The number of apps and games will grow but the question is how fast. Of course, this is nothing a little developers challenge with a nice cash prize can’t sort.

The number of available apps grew when WP7 launched - the devs have been holding back until the launch it seems. Retail apps will be available starting October 21.

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Searching for apps finds songs too • Installing an app from the Marketplace

Anyway, each app will be listed with a short description, a rating and user reviews, and a few screenshots. If the app can use something that can potentially breach your privacy (e.g. location information) the Marketplace will let you know. It’s not as comprehensive as the Android Market (which lists just about everything the app can use) but on the upside it only warns you about the important things.

A quick video tour of the Windows Phone 7 Marketplace:

Bing Maps taking you from A to B without a hassle

Bing Maps is Microsoft’s answer to Google Maps. And it offers some of the same functionality with an even simpler interface, but there are some things missing.

You can view either the regular map or switch to aerial view, which brings up the satellite imagery. Unfortunately, the cool Bird’s eye view isn’t available in the mobile version.

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The new Bing Maps is very simple to use

The three softkeys available are for directions, my location and search (again, why a software key when there’s a perfectly good hardware one?).

The extended menu has options to clear the map of any markers you’ve placed, toggling aerial view and accessing the rest of the settings.

Browsing the map is easy and relatively fast. Zooming is done by pinching and for a bit of eye candy, when new tiles are loaded they fade in smoothly instead of just popping.

A press and hold places the marker on a specific location – tap the marker and you get About (a map screenshot and the address, which you can send over a message or email) and Nearby, which shows nearby POI with a rating and basic info (like a phone and a web site).

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Browsing around London with Bing Maps • About • What’s nearby?

You also get Directions, step-by-step instructions to get you to your destination by either driving or walking.

Now for what’s missing – there’s no Navigate from here option, which could have been quite useful. For example, you’re going to the theater, but want to check how far away the restaurant you’re going to afterwards is from the theater.

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Getting directions

You can still do that, but you can’t pick it from the map – you have to use the search to find that location. Another thing – you can’t add more than one destinations when planning the route (Google Maps can’t do that either though).

Unfortunately, there was no trace of voice guided navigation either, even though Windows Mobile 6.x can do it. We’ll wait for the official announcement though, it could be just that our test Windows Phone 7 unit didn’t have the latest Maps application installed.

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