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Windows Phone -- AT&T / HTC Pure (11/2009)
by Douglas Dixon
The HTC Pure for AT&T is one of the first smartphones based on the new Windows Mobile 6.5, now renamed Windows Phone. The Pure is a compact handheld design, with most of the front taken up by the 3.2-inch touchscreen display (att.com/htcpure).
The phone has nice features including a 5 megapixel auto-focus camera, FM radio, built-in Wi-Fi for faster web access, GPS, and haptic feedback (vibration) on button presses. It's priced from AT&T at $149 (with $50 mail-in-rebate and two-year agreement).
But the big news with the Pure is that it is one of the first phones built on the new Windows Phone platform, which is designed to extend the former Windows Mobile platform from business to consumers, with a stronger focus on touch usage and new services -- including the Windows Marketplace application store (www.windowsphone.com).
Microsoft describes Windows Mobile as historically designed for business, but has renamed this new release of Windows Mobile 6.5 as Windows Phone, and repositioned it to address the integration of work with lifestyle. The idea is to extend the familiarity and comfort of the Windows brand and the Windows experience to a phone platform.
Microsoft expects its phone carrier and manufacturing partners to release more than thirty new phones in more than twenty countries by the end of 2009. Since consumers have different preferences, Windows Phone is designed to run on a variety of phones, from touch screen with slide-out keyboards, to full-keyboard smartphones, to compact flip phones
Among the first Windows Phone handsets being released in North America are the HTC Pure and HTC Tilt 2 from AT&T, HTC Imagio from Verizon Wireless, and Samsung Intrepid from Sprint.
Windows Phone is intended to be more touch friendly, to get away from the stylus with a redesigned user interface, and to make it easier to get to your important applications by bringing them up to the front screen, instead of having them buried in menus.
And Windows Phone adds significant new services, including the My Phone online service to back up your phone's content and locate a missing phone, and the Windows Marketplace with downloadable applications.
The new Windows Marketplace for Mobile is intended to carry both business and fun applications, with the intent to have many apps in the range of free to $5 (http://marketplace.windowsphone.com).
The store launched with some 250 mobile applications (). All purchased applications will be certified by Microsoft to run on Windows phones, and backed by a simple return policy.
The new My Phone service is intended to relieve consumers from concerns about lost, stolen, or damaged phones (http://myphone.microsoft.com). You can back up your phone's data online for free, access and share your information online, and locate the current position of a missing phone (with more help from an added Premium service).
Once you set up the service, your phone will automatically sync with the Microsoft My Phone web site to back up all its contents (contacts, calendar, tasks, text messages, browser favorites, documents, plus media files -- photos, videos, and music). If your phone needs to be replaced, it's then an easy operation to restore your full set-up -- this works with any Windows 6+ phones.
Of course, once all your information is online, it then makes sense to access it there as well. So you can organize your contacts and appointments online to sync back to your phone, and search through old text messages. In addition, you can access all those photos you've taken on the phone, to share from the website or directly from the phone to social networking sites (Windows Live, Facebook, MySpace, and Flickr).
My Phone also will help you track down your phone if it's gone missing. Sign up for the Premium service (7-day access for $4.99 in the U.S.), and you can go online and force your phone to ring, even if it is set to vibrate or silent mode, so you can track it down if it's wedged behind the sofa cushions. Or if your phone is further away, you can locate its current position on an online map. For serious run-away phones, you can lock the phone remotely and post an “if found” message on the screen. And for a phone that is hopelessly lost, you can erase the phone completely to protect your personal data.
The new Windows Phone / Windows Mobile 6.5 interface is intended to be more touch-friendly, and allow direct access to your common operations.
The interface has two main screens: The Today / Home screen, which provides convenient access to common applications, and the Start screen, which organizes all the installed applications.
The bar across the top of the screen displays the Start menu icon, the current application, and phone status icons at the top right (connection, battery), with an additional Quick menu to access recent applications and system status.
On the AT&T / HTC Pure, you can access these screens by using the four physical buttons below the screen: Talk/Send (phone), Start, Back, and End (phone call). Press End to view the Today / Home screen, and press Start (as in the Windows Start menu) to access the Start screen. There's also a dedicated Zoom bar above the buttons: slide right to zoom in, or left to zoom out.
You can customize the Today / Home screen, and chose to use the TouchFLO 3D interface or the Windows Default interface (Start / Settings / Today).
The TouchFLO 3D interface provides a line of icons / tabs at the bottom of the screen, so you can scroll horizontally for instant access to your data (Contacts, Messages, Email, Calendar), online information (Internet, Stocks, Weather), media (Photos and Videos, Music Player), and other applications. The idea is to immediately display the current information directly in TouchFLO 3D, and then launch the associated application if needed for more detail.
The Windows Default interface is similar to the Microsoft Zune, with a text list of common functions that you can scroll up and down. The currently-selected item then is expanded in place for a mini-preview, or scroll left and right for common options.
The more traditional Start screen provides an alternate listing of all the application icons, with some organized in sub-folders (Tools, Settings). You can organize them by moving your favorites to the top.
Unfortunately, this finger-friendly Today / Home screen interface is still only skin deep on top of the underlying Windows Mobile platform. Launch an application like Messages or Outlook E-mail, or set options in a dialog box, and you're back to really needing a stylus to access the small menus and controls -- much less to hit the tiny "x" application close box at the top right of the screen.
My Phone: New free service with Premium options
Windows Marketplace for Mobile - New Apps