The reactions I have gotten over the past weekend from testing the new Windows Phone that I won were somewhat surprising. Most of my close friends were shocked, as a diehard Apple user, I was even entertaining the idea of switching away from my iPhone 4. However, I’ve always been curious of Microsoft’s foray into mobile space, especially since my past experiences basically drove me to adopt the iPhone 3G years ago. Confused? Let’s go back to 2007.
Around the time I graduated from Ithaca College in early 2007, I was looking to upgrade my “dumb phone” to something more functional/professional. Ryan came with me when I went to the Verizon store to find something better. Since a full keyboard was on my list of must-haves, it narrowed my options quite a bit. I passed on the BlackBerry since I thought (probably incorrectly) that it wouldn’t be as functional as something else like Windows Mobile. I ended up deciding on the Motorola Q which was running Windows Mobile 5.0 Smartphone Edition. The Q had a keyboard, my email, and it looked a bit more professional (since I was soon heading into interviews). Little did I know that by not doing my research, I was doomed to hate the phone.
Picture (my old Q) via Ryan Cantwell
The user experience was horrible. The phone was buggy, slow, and difficult to use. Getting Gmail on that device was an exercise in patience. Even trying to map myself to a new place was near impossible – especially during a time crunch. Within six months of buying the phone, I was so frustrated that I wanted to give it up and from there swore off another Windows Mobile phone. After getting an old phone off of Ryan’s parents, I was back to where I started in fall of 2007. I really began to miss my keyboard.
Two important things happened in the fall of 2007 that shaped my mobile phone path for years to come. First, the iPhone was released in the summer of 2007 on AT&T. Second, Apple hired me for holiday sales in fall 2007. While I had to eventually quit, what happened there was a great moment of serendipity. I was trained, by Apple themselves, on how to use the iPhone (now iOS) platform. Coming from my disastrous Windows Mobile experience, this showed me exactly what I was really looking for in a phone.
My brief stint at Apple also showed me how the company was building a tight-knit ecosystem and it was a good time to really get on board. I had used iTunes for years, and owned an iPod (of some sort) since 2004. I loved the simple interface that allowed me to get music, and because of that, my music library size exploded while in college. I wanted to have a device that could play my music/videos and hopefully let me leave my iPod at home sometimes. The iPhone would let me do that.
I didn’t end up getting an iPhone till Christmas of 2008. Even though I loved the user interface, the initial price of the iPhone effectively priced me out of the market until the 3G came along. My parents got me a gift card and I went to the AT&T store to sign over service and pick up a white iPhone 3G. After plugging in into my aging laptop, I was up and running on the iOS platform. Not much had changed on the platform since the year I worked at Apple (except for the App Store) so it was like welcoming an old friend.
Over the next couple of years I threw myself head first into the Apple ecosystem. In the process I convinced all of my family and some of my friends to convert to iPhone as well. As the App Store exploded, I purchased a ton of apps to get the experience I wanted out of the device. I quickly became, without realizing it at the time, a power user of the iOS platform.
By the time the iPhone 4 came along in the summer of 2010, it was added to the stable of Apple products I used. The recent update to iOS 4 had effectively crippled my 3G to a point where it was barely usable and since there was no (safe) way to downgrade back to 3.2, I was forced to upgrade to continue my iOS experience. Not that I was complaining too much, as the iPhone 4 was quite an upgrade hardware wise from the 3G.
As the years passed, I knew it would be tougher and tougher to extract myself from the Apple/iOS ecosystem (which is the point). With the advent of Windows Phone and Android OS, I would stop by phones in Best Buy just to play around with interfaces and form factors. While Android was an evolutionary step from iOS (no surprise considering its origins), Windows Phone seemed totally different. I was curious but never really thought I would get to try the OS anywhere outside of a store.
Fast forward to last week when I attended a Windows Phone launch event at Pratt St Alehouse. I (surprisingly) won an unlocked, unreleased (in the US) HTC Titan. It’s not everyday that someone shoves a brand new phone in my hand and tells me to basically go nuts. Actually, it’s never happened. So, I decided to take the plunge and see how adopting a new phone operating system would go and document my trials and tribulations. Plus, this hands on product review helps me pretend that I’m really an Engadget editor .
I am going to share my experiences of the Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) and the HTC Titan handset over the next couple of months. There is no safety net for me, as my fiancé Jules is now using my iPhone 4, and is refusing to give it up. Have any questions/tips/tricks/comments for my adventure? Let me know in the comments!