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Good, Bad and Ugly: Windows Phones Tactile UX

Good, Bad and Ugly: Windows Phones Tactile UX

Windows Phones: Background

Two top professional bloggers who I like and respect, Hillel Fuld and Sarah Nadav have experienced radically different things with their Windows Phones (WP7.5 Mango).

Hillel wrote an outstanding guest post on Business Insider ostensibly going head-to-head with other industry experts like Robert Scoble about the potential for Windows Phone success; I agreed with a lot of what was written in this article. I also know that Hillel’s Mango experience was initially with a Samsung handset but later with the outstanding Nokia Lumia 800.

Sarah Nadav in her blog on the Jerusalem Post newspaper weighed in strongly disagreeing with Hillel based on her own experiences as a first time user of a Samsung WP7.5 Mango Phone.

Sarah kindly let me have a crack at her Windows Phone to see for myself. Here it is next to my current Windows Mobile 6.1 Smartphone:

Windows Phones - comparison

Warptesting the chassis

Straight off the bat I can say that I see what her trouble was with the phone.

  • Samsung in producing this phone made a large, stylish looking, shiny handset.
  • The trim of the phone is a silver colored plastic and the back is another plastic piece.
  • The back panel feels loose to the first touch and did in fact fall off multiple times as I was using the phone.
  • The data/ charger slot on top the phone has a sliding cover again made from this silver plastic.

When I compare the tactile experience of handling and operating this phone to my Toshiba Portege 810 or the Nokia Lumia 800 I find it falling far short of both. The feel is of several pieces of somewhat flimsy plastic that don’t quite fit together properly. I usually refrain from harsh observation but an acceptable hyperbole here is cheap. It felt like a knockoff or toy version of a real Smartphone.

I’m puzzled how the same company that makes the Galaxy series of Smartphones can have gone so off-track building this handset.

warptesting the os

Using the phone was a different matter altogether..

  • The OS is responsive even just changing from Portrait to Landscape was smooth.
  • The OS and its Metro UI are dare I say it sexy.
  • Getting used to the touch and slide can be tough and I assume this would especially be so for someone used to another Smartphone OS.
  • I dutifully tested the Windows Marketplace by installing Zune, trying Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and InstaCam (an unofficial Instagram app for WP7): Search and install was smooth and the apps I selected installed and were automatically added to the main menu (right-slide from Metro panes to access)
  • The phone seems to be locked for US use so I can’t comment on calls dropping. I’m prone to suspect the carrier more than the phone though.

So what’s the problem?

The Windows Phone Team needs to assume that a first time user needs some guidance with UI navigation:

Windows Phones - ms-office-clippy     Windows Phones - Ms Dewey

Clippy or Ms Dewey who do you want to help you around WP7?

Clippy courtesy of MSDN magazine and Ms Dewey thanks to Ms Dewey Facebook group

The problem is that here we have a new OS/ platform capable of great things but handset design compromises in the case of this model detract so drastically from the overall UX that it leaves the user with a poor taste in their mouth even before they get to switch on the phone.

Customers deserve a better UX but the OS deserves a chance to fully wow the users without the tactile experience undermining it from the get go. Game on Windows Phones.

Technorati Tags: ,Design Compromises,Clippy,Ms Dewey

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