Mobile Operating System Assessment: Windows Phone 7 Wish List
Windows Phone 7 is a very good mobile operating system overall, especially considering it's arguably a 1.0 version. Still, it has its share of shortcomings, so here's our wish list of seven things we'd like to see WP7 improve upon in the new year. (Note: We're not including copy-and-paste, since Microsoft says that's just 'round the corner.)
Improve email account and image handling
WP7's email client is great in many respects--particularly in how easily it lets you sort by unread or urgent messages and tag multiple messages to move or delete. But a conversation/threaded message would be welcome, as would be a universal inbox. At the very least, a better way to navigate between email accounts is sorely needed so you can avoid returning to the Start screen to switch accounts.
We're also dismayed to find that Windows Phone 7 continues its predecessor's practice of automatically blocking images embedded in HTML emails and requiring you to tap one of the placeholders in order to load the images. We certainly understand the security rationale for blocking such images by default, but you ought to be able to define trusted senders so you don't have to tap a placeholder to download images for virtually every new email you receive.
Certify microSD cards for upgrades
Throughout WP7's development, Microsoft made it a point that the phones would not allow storage expansion via microSD cards. That turned out to be not entirely true, because it turns out that most WP7 phones do have microSD card slots, and storage upgrades are technically possible after all.
Possible, but not at all easy, because reaching the slots (on all models but the Samsung Focus), requires a degree of phone disassembly (and thus voiding of your warranty). But even if you're intrepid enough to delve into your phone's delicate innards to install a larger microSD card, there's no guarantee the upgrade will work (even if you buy a brand-name card with a high speed class rating) due to wide variances in card performance, Microsoft is reportedly planning to publish a list of compatible cards cards; here's hoping it does so sooner rather than later.
Visual voice mail
How visual voice mail didn't make the feature list we do not know. You'd think it would be a de rigueur smartphone feature these days--even our non-touch screen, Windows Mobile 6.5-based T-Mobile Dash has it (albeit a crude version). But for some reason, WP7 phones makes you dial into voice mail and check your messages serially the same way you would if you had a $20 feature phone.
Expand content available for purchase over-the-air
WP7's Zune Marketplace makes it easy to purchase and download a song or album directly from your phone. But if you want to buy a movie, the latest episode of your favorite TV show, or even listen to a free podcast, you need to do it from the Zune software on a PC and then sync the content to your phone. That's a major hassle at best, and it's a showstopper if you're trying to grab something other than music to watch or listen to on the go.
More consistent sync capabilities
Speaking of synchronization, we're disappointed with the inconsistent way WP7 implements the feature vis-à-vis the cloud or a desktop PC. For example, it's nice to be able to synchronize a OneNote notebook with its Web-based counterpart via SkyDrive (even though it works only for text and not other data types, such as recorded audio clips), but you can't do the same thing with Word, Excel or PowerPoint documents.
Moreover, while the aforementioned PC-based Zune software syncs photos, music, and video, it doesn't deal with docs, and using old-style ActiveSync or the Windows Mobile Device Center isn't an option.
Finally, those using an Exchange account's Tasks feature as a To-do list will find it disappointing that this information isn't synched along with e-mail, calendar and contact data.
Phones with front-facing cameras
The iPhone 4 has one, and so do several Android phones including the HTC Evo 4G, Samsung Epic 4G, and T-Mobile myTouch 4G. But if you're searching for a front-facing camera on a Windows Phone 7 device, you may as well stop looking--none of the current batch of phones offers one.
Hopefully this oversight will be remedied by new devices in 2011. Front-facing cameras may still seem like something of a novelty, but they make videoconferencing via smartphone a reality, and we'll bet many WP7 buyers will find themselves wishing they had the capability long before those two-year service contracts are up.
More business-oriented, enterprise mobile apps in marketplace
As of this writing, there are 3,000 or so mobile apps available for download in the U.S. That's about 50 percent more than at the time of our WP7 review last month, and not too bad for a platform that isn't yet six weeks from launch.
Still, of the 16 app categories, the Business category remains the runt of the litter with a mere 71 apps to choose from. (By comparison, there are 78 navigation-related apps in the catalog.)