Aaron Brethorst

Round peg in a square hole, rabid generalist.

Windows Phone 7 Series Looks Beautiful and Unusable

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The name is terrible. Would Windows 7 Phone have been so bad? Really? The fact that the videographer talking with Gian Wilson from Microsoft can’t pronounce the OS’ name doesn’t bode well for anyone else. Everyone I know who is not a consummate techie—and even some who are—call the Apple iPod touch an iTouch, because iPod touch is just too damned hard to say. Windows Phone 7 Series is an order of magnitude worse.

The lock screen is totally illegible. Undoubtedly, part of the problem is the camera that’s being used for the interview, coupled with the phone’s glossy screen, but there simply isn’t enough contrast in the lock screen’s background image and the white text to make this work. At least for Barcelona, the MED group responsible for setting up their demo phones should have used a background image with darker colors. From a feature perspective, the text should have a drop shadow or something to ensure that the bajillions of photos that look just like this will work with (ahem) Windows Phone 7 Series.

Also, unlocking the phone isn’t particularly intuitive. iPhone: press the power button, swipe the thing that says ‘SWIPE ME.’ Affordances are great, baby! Windows Phone 7 Series: slide the image up. Wuh?

Start Screen

“Here’s the story/of a lovely lady!” First thought: wow, that looks like the Brady Bunch title screen. Second thought, this looks pretty good. A heck of a lot better than the one from Windows Mobile 6.5. Why are the content margins so wacky? There’s a huge gutter on the right side and a teeny tiny one on the left side.

Animations on the Start Screen

Super slow. The swooping tiles effect is super pretty, but looks like it takes forever to complete. Just launch my damned app already. For a phone that’s supposedly about getting out of your way and letting you live your life, I think it places too much emphasis on whiz-bang-for-the-sake-of-whiz-bangerry effects.

Xbox Live/Games

I really like the fonts used across the interface. I’m not really fond of the Zune’ish ‘let text run off the screen’ thing. Seriously, guys, please tell me that the word “Games” getting clipped on the right side of the screen is an honest to god bug, and not someone’s idea of cleverness. The gutter issue mentioned above shows up here, again. Another issue I noticed is that the word “Games” doesn’t move off screen when Gian starts scrolling down. Yes, I know I’m in the Games app. Why do I need to keep staring at a reminder in 80pt Segoe when all I want to do is look at my games?

Finally, why does the app’s icon call this Xbox Live, while the app itself is referred to as Games? This should be consistent. Not to mention that, yes, I still know exactly what I clicked on when I left the Start Screen.

Navigation within the Xbox Live/Games app

Oh my god! You can change screens on both the X and Y axes. That’s totally undiscoverable! Where the heck are the affordances? Why couldn’t you just put a tab bar at the bottom of the screen like Apple? Also, on the Spotlight screen, the word ‘Games’ is now clipped on the letter ‘G.’ Maybe this is supposed to somehow tell you where you are in the app. “Hey, I’ll look at which letter in the title is clipped, and then slide my finger in the opposite direction in order to see more stuff!” Yeah, that’s intuitive.

Notifications in the Xbox Live/Games app

Pertinent notifications related to my use of apps really should not require multiple swipes into an undiscoverable piece of UI in order to find. That’s just braindead.

People Hub

OK, they’re doing the freaky clipped title thing again. I’m getting the feeling that this is intentional. And it’s utterly terrifying. Also, why does that first guy’s picture take 2-3 seconds to slide up? Why do I want his picture to slide up? Don’t I just want to see his picture? Finally, maybe it’s a result of the video quality, but the contrast between text and background color on this screen looks incredibly low again (i.e. stuff looks like it’s hard to read).

What’s New page in People

In order to see what your friends are doing, I counted the following gestures: - One click to access the People Hub. - One swipe past Recents to access All Contacts. - One swipe past All Contacts to access What’s New.

The amount of work you have to do to reach seemingly undiscoverable pieces of content is remarkable.

The ‘Pictur’ Hub

This clipped text thing is obnoxious. Text contrast is awful again. Seriously, guys: drop shadows. I can’t quite tell, but it doesn’t look like the Pictures Hub offers that cool (and useful) scrolling inertia feature you’ll see on the iPhone. That’s the thing where it keeps scrolling, but at a slower rate after you swipe.

Finally…

I find it extremely curious that we never saw the actual phone calling experience, given that the name of the OS includes the word ‘Phone’.

Windows Phone 7 Series looks beautiful. The typography is fantastic. The screen looks vibrant. It looks like a great step forward from Windows Mobile 6.5. But… It feels like a group of really top-notch developers and designers sat down in a room and said ‘what sort of awesome stuff can we do that looks really cool, never mind the usability?’

OK, I’m being unfair. But, the fact of the matter is that I’d have significant concerns about my own ability to easily use the device, never you mind how my 66 year old mother would deal with it.

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