Windows Phone 7 ? The Very Basics

With every official announcement from Microsoft, network carriers and device manufacturers and every unofficial leak on the tech blogs, anticipation for the new Windows Phone 7has been growing.

As with any product that has yet to be released though, there are conflicting stubs and snippets of information out on the web mixed up with the latest information from direct sources. If you’re confused by it all, read on for a summary of all the basics on the latest Windows operating system ahead of its release.

What is it?

The Windows Phone 7 series is Microsoft’s latest smartphone operating system. It offers an alternative to Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS 4. Previews of the operating system show that WP7 is a total departure from Windows Mobile previously. Microsoft is determined to present a mobile OS more user friendly than Windows Mobile in a grab to take some of the smartphone pie from major players Android and iPhone.

Windows Phone 7isn’t actually a handset – it is an operating system that will run on devices made be other manufacturers such as Samsung or HTC.

When is it coming out?

In the UK handsets with the WP7 operating system are due to debut October 21st, with some handsets arriving later.

What Windows Phone 7 devices will be available?

Microsoft gave its handset manufacturers strict hardware directives so we can expect the forthcoming Windows Phones to offer a similar experience with consistent specs of an excellent level. This will no doubt shift the battle away from WP7 handsets to rival operating systems outside the Microsoft offering.

HTC is offering several handsets, some of which are exclusive to particular operators. Look out for the HTC 7 Pro, HTC 7 Trophy, HTC Mozart, HTC Surround. Observers are expecting the HTC HD7 to be the big daddy of the HTC phones with its massive 4.3-inch screen.

Dell has the Venue Pro, with carriers in the UK as yet unconfirmed.

LG is offering the Quantum and Optimus.

Following from the strength of the Galaxy series, Samsung’s Omnia 7 looks like a strong competitor.

If you’d like a phone with a keyboard, you might want to wait for the LG Panther with its slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

What makes the WP7 different?

There is nothing on the market quite like the WP7 interface. Pretty much any phone in the last decade, including iPhone, Symbian and Android, has been built around a grid-like interface that opens up in a series of menus and panels. Microsoft has adopted a different style – something it calls Panoramic Tiles.

If you’ve ever used the Zune HD music player you’ll be familiar with these. Whereas on most phones you scroll between a series of panels that fit your screen, Panoramic Tiles give the illusion that you are looking at a page wider or taller than the screen real estate. You can view more of the page that seems to be off-screen by swishing your finger around to reveal more information.

Additionally the phone has been split into key ‘hubs’: Pictures, People, Browsing, Games, Music, Marketplace and Office. These bring together in one area all features related to that hub. For example the People hub offers your contacts in a series of tiles – all your popular contacts smiling from their photos. These tiles are updated live with Facebook status updates, tweets, emails, SMSs and call information, whilst also acting as a central address book.

All of this is certainly enough to make users sit up and notice Microsoft. Palm demonstrated that in the smartphone world it is incredibly difficult to recover credibility after falling on your face straight out the gate. Luckily, Windows Phone 7 demonstrated last month at the Barcelona Mobile Conference that it has taken the challenge seriously and has delivered a truly interesting alternative.

Pandora Devine is a freelance tech journalist and has been following the developments to Windows Phone 7 for over a year. She wrote this article originally on behalf of Orange UK.

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