05/19/2011, 10:41 PM
I've sent this little editorial to P|C to see if they want to publish it to the front page. If they do, this post will likely be hastily deleted. However, I'll put it up here just in case.
And with that, enjoy.
The Angel's Pilgrimage
A journey through the mobile world in an attempt to improve webOS.
First off, allow me to explain what “The Angel's Pilgrimage” is all about. As an avid webOS fan, and constant critic of just about every single thing ever, I've decided to go on a journey, of sorts. A journey through different mobile OS's and different styles of hardware, in an attempt to provide feedback in a manner which will be constructive to the efforts of developers of and for webOS. To do this, I will be making extensive use of Craigslist, and, perhaps, PhoneStop of Fresno, to trade one smartphone out for another whenever I feel I have enough data to move on. That, or I have simply gotten bored of the platform. In either case, a full review will be written for each device, covering which aspects are superior to webOS, which aspects are inferior to webOS, and how webOS and accompanying devices could benefit from such materials.
So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce the first device that I have encountered, the Samsung Focus, running Windows Phone 7, which I traded my GSM Palm PrPrPr$275$; $2$ $for$.
Make and Model: Samsung Focus i917
OS: Windows Phone 7, build 7.0.7390.0, “NoDo”
Form Factor: Candybar/Slate
With that out of the way, I'm going to go ahead and break this phone down in detail, explaining each aspect and comparing it with current webOS device hardware and software.
Battery: Oh I'd better get this out of the way first. Before this even begins, I'd like to say that this is definitely one of the weak points of the Focus, or, at least, my Focus. Charging this thing has always been a nightmare. First off, the MicroUSB cable that I received from the guy wasn't very good, so I turned to my old Palm Pre Plus's MicroUSB cable, which, thankfully, was in perfect working order. Even so, the devices charges painfully slowly, something that will frustrate most who are fresh off of the webOS train, whom are used to forgetting they own a phone for an hour and come back to it fully charged on their Touchstone. However, this is counterbalanced by the Focus having a surprisingly good battery life. I'm able to get through a solid day no problem, and as long as I recharge it every night, I'm good to go. However. Should you come home and forget to charge your device before you sleep, if that battery drops to zero, you're in for a massive scare. On webOS devices, when you plug it in or place it on the Touchstone with zero battery, a small “Battery Charging” image pops up to indicate that it's working. No such image on here. The screen stays blank, and two or three times, I was downright terrified that I had broken the device beyond repair for whatever reason. However, at roughly five percent charge, the Samsung logo shows up for a second, then shows a “Battery Charging” image, which then stays up until roughly ten percent charge, at which point the device will properly boot. This can take upwards of thirty minutes. Definitely something you want to avoid at all costs.
Casing: The housing of the device, that is, the actual device you feel and touch, is pretty good, actually. It has a plastic back, and while this isn't as grip-tastic as the Touchstone back panel, the device isn't going to slip out from beneath your fingers either. Then again, that could be due to oil and grease dripping from my fingers and sticking to the phone, but I digress. It's solid and sexy, the tapered lower back and the aluminum ring around the sides of the phone give it a look of serious attention to detail. The back panel is a little bit iffy, though. The entire back of the phone is actually the battery door, and to open it, you (or I, for that matter), slip your fingernail in the little groove on the bottom of the phone and slide it around until the entire thing pops off, much like the PrPrPr$275$; $series$ $of$ $devices$. $Underneath$, $you$'$ll$ $find$ $the$ substantial battery housing, the SIM slot and the MicroSD card slot (more on that later). It all looks very straightforward, nothing really of interest back there.
Around The Sides: Starting from the top-left and moving clockwise, we have the MicroUSB port, which has a handy-dandy slider to cover it from contaminants, the 3.5mm headphone jack, just slightly offset from the centre, the Standby/Power key, which is completely on the right-side, as opposed to the Veer, which can't quite seem to make up its mind as to whether it's on top or on the side, the dedicated two-stage camera button, and the volume rocker on the left-hand side.
Software Experience: The first thing you notice about the Focus and its Windows Phone 7 OS, is that it boots really, really quickly, especially when you're fresh off the train from webOS land. First, the Samsung logo pops up for a few seconds, then the “AT&T World Phone” in bright orange, then the Windows Phone 7 loading screen, and in a few more seconds, you're there. In fact, I just rebooted it, and the time it took from touching the Power button to arriving at the Start menu was twenty-three seconds. Let's see webOS beat that time! Now, upon first launch, you're sent to a series of welcoming prompts, asking for various tidbits of information, most importantly, your Windows Live ID. Your Windows Live ID is basically the Windows Phone 7 equivalent of your Palm Profile, and it will tie you to each and every Windows Phone 7 device you use, allowing downloads of already-purchased apps, et cetera. You won't be allowed to access many of the functions of Windows Phone 7 without one, so it's best to enter it in the first time. If you don't, you can always enter it in later, and if you don't have one, it allows you to make one right there on the phone, which is handy.
Now, there is one small piece of information that I have forgotten to put in beforehand, and that's mainly because I've gotten used to it by now, but I'd like to let you know. When you pick this thing up and turn it on, the first thing you will think will be 'Wow, this thing is really big!'. The display is packing nearly an extra full inch over the PrPrPr$275$; $series$, $and$ $almost$ $an$ $inch$ $and$ $a$ $half$ $over$ $the$ $Pixi$ $and$ $Veer$ $series$'. $This$ $relatively$ $humongous$ $840x400$ $Super$ $AMOLED$ $display$ $will$ $draw$ $you$ $in$ $and$ $make$ $you$ $never$ $want$ $to$ $go$ $back$. $When$ $you$ $first$ $hit$ $the$ $Start$ $menu$, $your$ $eyes$ $are$ $assaulted$ $with$ $a$ $rather$ $striking$ $blue$, $orange$ $and$ $green$ $on$ $black$ $set$ $of$ $default$ $Tiles$, $one$ $of$ $which$ $is$ $Live$, $one$ $of$ $which$ $is$ $double$-$sized$, $one$ $of$ $which$ $is$ $Xbox$ $Live$, $presumably$ $in$ $an$ $attempt$ $to$ $show$ $what$ $Live$ $Tiles$ $are$ $capable$ $of$. $This$ $is$, $in$ $essence$, $your$ $home$ $screen$, $though$ $it$'$s$ $basically$ $on$ $massive$ $app$ $launcher$. $The$ $huge$ $drawback$ $over$ $the$ $webOS$ $Launcher$ $is$, $however$, $that$ $there$ $are$ $only$ $two$ $pages$, $one$ $page$ $being$ $your$ $Start$ $menu$, $with$ $your$ $Live$ $Tiles$, $and$ $the$ $other$ $page$, $which$ $is$ $simply$ $a$ $scrolling$ $list$ $of$ $every$ $single$ $app$ $and$ $function$ $currently$ $present$ $on$ $the$ $device$, $and$ $when$ $you$ $have$ $a$ $lot$ $of$ $apps$, $it$ $can$ $get$ $quite$ $populated$. $Luckily$, $all$ $of$ $the$ $games$ $are$ $listed$ $in$ $the$ $Xbox$ $Live$ $section$, $but$ $this$ $is$ $still$ $an$ $issue$ $that$ $needs$ $addressing$.
As for specific functions of the phone, I'd like to bring up the Marketplace first. You won't notice it unless you look it up, but Windows Phone 7 has roughly two and a half times as many apps as webOS does, all of which are easily searchable via the Search button on the bottom-right of the device. While this doesn't even touch Just Type, it's still quite handy, and you'll find that the Search button does turn out to be for more than just opening up Bing. There's also the “People Hub”, which is the closest Windows Phone 7 comes to a contacts list, and while it's handy as a social networking hub, or, that is to say, Facebook hub, the list of contacts feels cramped and claustrophobic and I really just don't like it, even though it functions perfectly well. There's also the issue of YouTube, which, while it's certainly possible to watch YouTube videos, you'll need to download both of the YouTube apps from the Marketplace to access full YouTube functionality. The first one, the official one, is really more of a plugin for watching links to YouTube videos. Actually opening the app simply takes you to the mobile YouTube website. Then there's the second one, which allows you to log in, watch your favorites, browse your subscriptions, and do generally anything you'd do on the desktop webste.
Quirks, Oddities, And Short Notes:
- Native first-party Netflix, YouTube and Kindle apps!
- For a phone so tightly integrated into Windows Live, they don't have native Messenger support.
- Notifications are better than in iOS, but not much better.
- Two-stage camera button. Autofocus heaven.
- BING MAPS!
- Designing your perfect Start menu is tougher than it sounds.
- No easy way to take screenshots
In Summary: The basic gist is that the Samsung Focus has great hardware potential for webOS, and a few software points that webOS could take to really improve its experience, namely booting time, more active app icons (think Govnah), Bing Maps integration and first-party apps, as well as an autofocus camera with two-stage camera key, larger form-factor and improved battery technology.
TL;DR: Things webOS could take away from the Samsung Focus:
- Boot time
- Active icons
- Bing Maps
- First-party apps
- Autofocus camera, two-stage camera key
- Larger form-factor
- Better battery
Until next time, this has been Thomas-Moffitt Stage, so long~