Windows Phone 7

The Beginning

Note: Dead links ahead in this 10 year old article

I have been drawn to the Windows Phone since I first stumbled across its minimalist Metro UI. However, having a work-provided iPhone 4 made any possible excuse for buying a new phone ludicrous.

Then one day, I discovered an LG Optimus 7 selling for under $200 with postage. Granted, the Optimus 7 is a 2010 model with a CPU speed of only 1GHz and a screen of only 3.7″. While I was not ready to spend $600 on a Nokia Lumia 800 or $450 on a Nokia Lumia 710, I'm a sucker for minimalist lines and hardware buttons; this one just had me. Glowing reviews helped.

With the order placed, my first task is to organise this new device into my digital ecosystem. Running Windows 7 PCs at work and home means the Zune software should sync my music and photos, while using the Google as my central storage for mail, contacts, and calendars should slot right into the phone's sync settings. Hurray for digital independence. Remember those days when we had to copy each contact from an old phone to a new phone?

The next step will be searching through the Windows Phone Marketplace to find suitable replacement applications that make my mobile life simpler. 90% of that would be Twitter, but I will first see what functionality the built-in Twitter integration will cover.

First Glance

The Optimus 7 has arrived. I love that devices come with at least some battery charge in them, waiting hours while a new device charged before you could even turn it on used to be so painful.

I hacked my SIM card down to microSIM size to fit into the iPhone 4, so I now need to find a normal SIM card to test calls and SMS, but email, web browsing, calendar and contacts all look so pretty already.

It feels great in the hand, nice weight ("Heavy is good, heavy is reliable" - Boris Yurinov). One criticism I had against the iPhone 4 is the sharp edge which would dig into my hand depending on how it was held, whereas the curved (metal) back on the Optimus 7 feels great.

Apply updates with the Zune software. No over-the-air updates yet, though I didn't check the software version before updating, there were 5 updates which took almost two hours. Thankfully no user-intervention was required between updates and the current version is now 7.10.8107.79.

Gmail is working, with all the usual caveats about using Gmail with IMAP (folders vs labels). Contacts sync wonderfully, even magically linking some with Twitter accounts. Syncing Google calendars is broken as Google only sync the main calendar, so I need to look into the workarounds.

First Impressions

After a few days of dedicated use, I still really enjoy using this phone. I ended up wiggling the microSIM into location, using a regular SIM to line up the metal contacts in the right area, and it hasn't slipped yet.

The handful of phone calls I have made had great sound quality, despite having only 1 bar of reception - my house has very poor reception with Virgin Mobile.

I am quite impressed with the Windows Phone keyboard. While not as fun as an Android Swype keyboard, it does a great job. The keyboard even includes word prediction, often suggesting the right words after only 2-3 letters. It would be remiss of me not mention the two-tone keyboard clicks; letters, numbers, and punctuation having one tone and function / control keys having another, another delightful detail.

To make this phone my own, I modified a screen saver to suit and pinned my Family and Friends contact groups to the top of the start screen, as well as a few favourite CDs to the bottom.

I had tried the multiple calendars workaround without any success. Suddenly, my calendar began to overflow with colourful, relatively speaking, events from all of my other Google calendars. The next morning I woke to find this tweet from @Gmail in my People Hub's What's New section. Perfect calendar syncing, thanks Google!

Battery Life

After a full charge, I left the phone unplugged overnight with a few brief calls, a dozen text messages and some light web browsing the next day.

I didn't notice the time, but with the battery at 20%, the phone started using battery saver mode, showing a heart in the battery icon. From this point, the battery icon does not disappear from the status bar like it normally does.

After 18 hours the battery gave its critical warning at 10%, with an estimated 2 hours of battery life remaining. It survived an entire night an work day without needing a recharge.

Two hours of standby, a short call and a few text messages later, after 20 hours, the battery is at 7% with an estimated 3 hours remaining.

Battery at 6% after 22 hours and another quick phone call.

After about 22 hours and 40 minutes, the phone shutdown with a pleasant "Goodbye".

With varying amounts of use I have had the battery last from a meagre 10 hours up to a surprising 3 days between recharging. Unsurprisingly, phone use is inversely proportional to battery life. Light text messaging, calendar updates and turning on battery saver (which disables push notifications and some other services) from the start will give you good batter life, while running 3D games (which look amazing) will suck the life out of the phone.