Windows Phone 7 has officially launched and T3 spent some hands-on time with LG’s debut WP7 handset, the Optimus 7.
Does WP7 mark a regeneration for Windows handsets and provide a serious rival to Android and Apple IOS4? First impressions are promising…
The LG-E900 itself is quite innocuous. Light in the hand, yet solid with a metal back, it’s a svelte 11.5mm. Volume controls are on one side, the other includes a dedicated camera shutter (which activates the 5MP camera from sleep mode) and micro USB port.
In common with all WP7 handsets, on the front of the phone are three buttons. Back; the Windows button you press to return to the start screen; and the magnifying glass that launches Bing search. Our only gripe with the build is the Windows button, which doesn’t feel solid when you press it.
LG Optimus 7: WP7 interface
Microsoft has totally overhauled the interface. It’s unmistakably Windows, but far slicker than we’ve ever seen it before and totally unrecognisable from previous incarnations of Windows Phone.
Choose from a white or black background and a range of colours to use for ‘hubs,’ which are basically tiles that populate the start screen and are displayed in a list you scroll through vertically.
The phone comes with six hubs: People, Games, Pictures, Music and Video, Market Place and Office. The front screen is fully customisable, you can access the full list of menu options by tapping the right arrow, press on a feature and select ‘pin to start’ to add it to the Start screen as a hub.
You can also add internet shortcuts and individual contacts to the main screen from within the applications. It doesn’t offer the flexibility of Android; for example you can have the ‘Settings’ on the front, but not a shortcut to access WiFi.
Move the hubs and shortcuts around by holding the tile icon down and dragging it up and down the screen, positioning it at the top and bottom of the list.
LG Optimus 7: WP7 hubs
These hubs aren’t just shortcuts to launching an application; they’re interactive, with a host of information within easy reach. For example, instead of opening Open Office and having to delve through menus to open a document, just flick the screen right to access Documents and flick again to access SharePoint. And unlike some phones where you have to scroll back through screens, the screens are on a loop.
Whether you’re using Office or listening to music, it’s just a lot quicker to use and developers can expand them further.
LG Optimus 7: WP7 Browser and Multimedia
The default browser is Internet Explorer. Over WiFi T3.com loads in around 26 seconds and BBC.co.uk in 17 seconds, which is respectable. Tap icons at the bottom too: Add as favourite, access favourites and Add a new tab, which lets you swap quickly between browser windows.
The 3.7 inch screen responds well, with full multitouch support including pinch to zoom, while a double tap realigns the text.
To watch YouTube videos you need to download the video player from Zune Marketplace, which isn’t available in this region yet, so we weren’t able to access that. We also couldn't access one of the highlights of WP7, Games, which links through to Xbox Live.
Hold down the Windows button to launch voice activation, ‘launch calendar,’ and ‘open messages’ work effectively.
LG Optimus 7: WP7 Email and Social Networking
In the past setting up push email on Windows phones hasn’t been as easy as it should. Microsoft has made some drastic changes, so it’s easier to set up a range of email accounts including: Windows Live, Outlook, Facebook, AOL, Sky, Yahoo Mail and Google, just by entering your email address and password.
In common with other smartphones, messages appear as conversations. We had no problems typing messages using the keyboard and text prediction works well.
Synch with Facebook and an icon (or tile) appears automatically on the Start screen, contacts sync automatically on the People hub, which is constantly updated with faces of your friend. Instead of using a dedicated Facebook app, Microsoft uses its own skin and it works well. Clicking through you can see contact information, a profile picture and the option to write on wall. A swipe to the right and you can see your news feed.
Link profiles of contacts to view all information on the same screen and create shortcuts that appear on the Start screen.
LG Optimus 7: WP7 verdict
First impressions of WP7 are very promising. The interface is intuitive, quick and feels totally fresh and it’s nice to use something that feels also significantly different to the other operating systems. We weren’t able to try all the features, but with Xbox Live integration and to an extent Zune for music (depending on the price), WP7 has a serious chance of rivaling the Apple Store and it’s hardware/music/gaming offering.
In terms of hardware, the LG Optimus 7 is very pleasing to use, the 1GHz processor ensures it never feels slow and the touchscreen is fast and responsive. With the exception of the Windows button, build quality is pretty good too. We’ll bring you a full review as soon as possible.