I finally have a fully operational Windows Phone, following its arrival on Friday. The delay is not the fault of the phone, I hasten to say, it's due to unfortunate timing and mistakes made by the provider. I won't dwell on those.
The Windows Phone is supposed to have a pretty standard user experience regardless of whose hardware you've acquired, but in case you're interested what I'm typing in to at the moment is an HTC 7 Trophy, with 8GB of RAM. Memory is one of the key distinguishing factors between the phones on the market, although there are others. For work it was more important to get a phone promptly than get a memory monster, so we passed up the chance to wait for an LG Optimus 7 with 16GB. The HTC phone is physically prettier, quite like an iPhone.
Sitting on a bus bombing through the Fife countryside as I am, the feature I'm most conscious of is the onscreen keyboard, the only means of text input. I've heard it compares well with the iPhone, and a juddery bus is a pretty fierce test, but I do feel fat fingered even when not stretching its capabilities. What I really want right now is a stylus (which is easier to steer with the point held on the page than stabbing at keys that respond when you get near them), and what I want in a more stable environment is a Bluetooth keyboard; unfortunately neither are supported, as I discovered when I tried with my old keyboard.
It's true I'm not a typical user. I have a dumb phone myself, and wouldn't have that if I hadn't been given it. What I want is a PDA, but since most/all PDAs are phones these days, I'd better get used to it! ;-)
There's a lot to like, though. The touch is nice and responsive, and it will be interesting to see how the marketplace develops. Office is a handy thing to have a mobile version of, and at no extra cost (unlike the extra software I had to invest in for my Palms). Although I'm not really a gamer, the Xbox Live integration is a nice touch.
Standard stuff like mail was fairly easy to set up, apart from connecting to Exchange through Outlook Web Access secured by a self-signed certificate. The only way to get the root certificate onto the machine is to set up some other e-mail account on the device, mail the certificate to yourself, and install it from the e-mail message . Personally I'm a fan of paying for certificates for applications like this, but grrr! That was annoying. Once set up, each e-mail account has its own tile on the start screen, and they are accessed separately.
I wasn't quite expecting that, because other updates from the Internet are all collected into one place, under the People tile. Well, the ones that are supported, anyway - Windows Live and Facebook. If you use some other social media, like LiveJournal or Twitter you're out of luck - for now at least - and will need to use the browser or a dedicated app. I understand why it's not possible to support all the many and varied options out there, but not sure why something that's basically a social newsreader can't accept an RSS feed...
Browsing the Internet is quite cool (dumb phone owner, remember!), and the pinch zoom does make it possible to browse pages that would otherwise be a non-starter. Kudos to Apple for leading the way on that one - but having used it in anger, it's now quite clear that it's a sticking plaster. If you're developing a web site, and you want people to access it from mobile devices, do them a favour and design for mobile: don't just trust the browser to take care of it for you. It may work, but it'll be needlessly painful.
Bing maps with the built-in GPS are quite fun - not sure there's much to add to that, but there you go.
I guess the key question has to be, would I get one with my own money? Well, I've been waiting a long time for a device that I would be satisfied with as a worthwhile upgrade from my venerable Palm Vx. I've always said it has to be a convergence device, at least to the extent that it will replace not one, but two of the devices I carry around with me. The Windows Phone doesn't quite do everything my Palm can; most notably it's missing a database solution like HanDBase, though that's surely just a matter of time. It's the first time, though, that I've played with a device where I think "This might be the one". It's got decent potential as a PDA; it's a phone; it's got a camera that's comparable to the one I was using up until last year; it doesn't have the capacity to carry my music collection, but then neither does anything else except the high end iPods; finally, it's actually pleasurable to use.
Rather a powerful point in its favour is that it's part of the Microsoft ecosystem and will work with my other devices with a minimum of hassle; and I have the option of developing for it without having to buy a Mac, although I'm a bit disappointed it would cost me $99 p.a. just to be able install an app directly onto my own machine. Admittedly, that would also allow me to distribute it through the Marketplace, and earn megabucks (ahem), and do likewise for the Xbox, but still.
So the answer is maybe, but a more definite maybe than any previous device. May be interesting to see what emerges over the next few months.