Dialing as such has taken a background role – the phone application shows you the call history, with shortcuts to voice mail, dialer and phonebook. The dialer itself is as simple as it gets – a phone keypad with a Call and a Save button. The lack of smart dialing is an unexpected nasty surprise. It was Windows Mobile that first spoiled us with the immensely helpful addition to the dialer.
Voice dialing is available as an alternative and works fairly well, even with unusual names (e.g. "Mandark"). It did take us a few attempts before we got to call "Dexter Morgan" instead of "Dexter" though (they are two separate contacts). However, we still would have liked to have smart dialing - you can't always use voice dialing.
An interesting option is the International prefix assistant – it comes in handy for dialing while abroad or calling someone outside the country. Windows Phone 7 comes with some ringtones preloaded, but you can get new one only through the Marketplace (possibly at some price).
A quick note – status indicators like signal strength are hidden by default (except the clock) but you can bring them up with a quick tap on the verytop of the screen.
Finding contacts is the phonebook’s job. Actually, it’s not a phonebook, it’s the People hub. The first screen shows you a list of all your contacts, with a search shortcut (odd choice given the hardware search button) and an add contact button.
Contacts are ordered alphabetically, indexed with blue squares with a letter. You can tap any one of those letters boxes and the screen shows you the whole alphabet highlighting the letters actually in use. You can tap a letter to scroll to that part of the list.
Contacts can be sorted by either first name or last, they can be displayed as “First Last” or “Last, First” (the two settings are separate), you can include or exclude Facebook friends and add several accounts to sync with.
Swiping to the side shows only new events from all contacts. Another swipe shows the recently called contacts. Instead of keeping a list of favorites, you simply pin a contact to the homescreen.
Viewing a contact’s profile shows the contact photo. Below that there are actions – “call mobile”, “text mobile”, “write on wall”, “view website” and so on. Below each actions, in smaller type and grey or blue letters, are the target for the action (e.g. phone number, email, site URL) and where that info came from (Google, Facebook, etc.).
The soft keys let you pin a contact, link two (or more) contacts from the various services and edit. Swiping to the side brings out the “What’s new ”panel”, which shows the latest updates and events just from that contact.
When editing a contact, you can add multiple phone numbers and email addresses of different types (home, work, etc), a custom ringtone, a note or a variety of different fields (like birthday, website, office location and so on).
Messaging is handled in threads – there are speech bubbles for each text or multimedia message. Adding a recipient is easy (just type the first few letters of the contacts name and pick from the list) and you can add multiple contacts using the + button next to the recipient field.
You can attach a photo to turn the message into an MMS – either an existing photo or you can snap a new one. You can add only one though and you can only attach photos (not videos) and the photos get downscaled before sending, so you can't email full resolution shots.
The email app is pretty good. It easily found the settings for our Gmail and Hotmail test accounts. Each inbox is separate and you can pin it to the homescreen. There’s no aggregated inbox view however.
You can opt to display all, unread or flagged messages – by sideways sweeps. You can browse all folders for the email account and batch operations are easy – a tap on the left side of the screen selects the message, so you can move it, mark it as (un)read or flag it.
We tried emailing a photo from the camera, but the email app downscaled it before sending - so, emailing full resolution shots is no go.
The keyboard is a traditional virtual QWERTY with not too many surprises. It can suggest words as you type and correct spelling and also auto-capitalize letters after a full stop.
The typing experience however depends on the phone and its screen so we’ll have to review that on a case by case basis. At least, there are no problems on the software side.
It’s curious that the keyboard color changes according to the dominant color of the current screen. So it’s white in the email or office app, but black elsewhere (like in the Messaging).