I am impressed so far with how Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" seems to bring a fresh, unique angle to a smartphone market that seems largely comprised of copycat devices trying to look and feel like the iPhone. However, as I explore the OS in this 30 Days With Windows Phone 7 series, I am also noting a number of ways that Windows Phone 7 has copied iOS as well--but not in a good way.
After its initial launch, Apple's iOS has gone through an evolution and maturation process. Apple has taken heat for missing features or capabilities like copy and paste, or multitasking, or the lack of SD memory card slots on the iPhone for expandable memory. Some of those issues have been addressed over time, and some remain issues that turn many people off when it comes to iOS and the iPhone.
Microsoft has tripped over the exact same stumbling blocks, though. Rather than learning from Apple's mistakes and addressing these issues proactively, it released Windows Phone 7 with essentially the exact same list of pitfalls and shortcomings as its Apple cousin.
Out of the gate, Windows Phone 7 lacked copy and paste, third-party multitasking, SD memory card slots, Wi-Fi hotspot tethering, Adobe Flash, and a variety of other capabilities that Microsoft knew users would expect. It is like the Windows Phone 7 developers were working in a basement sequestered away from following any tech news and completely oblivious to what rival mobile operating systems like iOS and Android were going through.
So, now Windows Phone 7 has copy and paste, and lets you do custom ringtones, and has some form of multitasking, and many of the other features and capabilities it should have had when it launched. There are still some notable exceptions like expandable memory and Adobe Flash--but maybe those will come in the next major update.
Since Windows Phone 7 launched, I have heard supporters claim that it is unfair to compare a "new" mobile OS against a more mature rival like iOS. It has come up again and again with tablets like the BlackBerry PlayBook or the HP TouchPad as well, and I have to say I have never understood this logic.
Microsoft had years to develop Windows Phone 7. It had the benefit of watching iOS, and Android, and BlackBerry, and even webOS, to see what works and what doesn't. It got to sit on the sidelines and read reviews to determine exactly what it is that people are looking for from a smartphone. Why then, are we supposed to expect that Microsoft would release a half-baked mobile OS missing key features, and give it the benefit of the doubt and an extra year to polish things up?
There were things I liked about Windows Phone 7 out of the gate, but overall I wasn't very impressed. With the launch of the "NoDo" update, WP7 got significantly better. With "Mango", it is finally a mobile OS worthy of going head to head with iOS and Android.
Users shouldn't have to buy smartphones or mobile platforms that are still knowingly under development, and vendors like Microsoft shouldn't expect users to support a half-baked platform, or pay for the privilege of beta testing it. When Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" devices hit the street, Windows Phone 7 will finally be what it should have been before Microsoft launched it in the first place.
As nice as the finished product seems to be shaping up, though, it would have been nice if Microsoft would have learned from Apple's mistakes instead of simply following in its footsteps in all the wrong ways.