[bold]USA Today: Windows Phone 7 "Mango" is the best phone experience that you've never tried.[/bold]
When buying a new smartphone â or adding one to a holiday gift list â there's just one question: iPhone or Android?
(Friends don't let friends buy BlackBerrys.)
But what if someone out there was doing it better than iPhone and Android?
If there's a company coming close, it's Microsoft, with its Windows line of smartphones.
I've been using the HTC Radar 4G on T-Mobile for a week, which runs the new Windows Phone operating system 7.5.
The updated OS â dubbed Mango â is a welcome upgrade to an already fantastic user experience.
It's the best phone experience that you've never tried.
Where Apple and Android have settled on home screens of small square app icons, Windows has created a vertical column of interactive tiles that display information â unread e-mails, missed calls, weather, etc.
With an easy wipe to the left, you've got all the other options and settings you'd ever want to access.
This vertical organization is echoed in other Windows phone apps. In e-mail, you can swipe left for columns of unread e-mail, starred messages and urgent ones. It's so instantly intuitive that it makes jumping from app to app a breeze. It just works.
[bold]Knows the score[/bold]
The Windows phone platform also boasts the best integration of Microsoft Office programs such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Documents can be stored online and shared using Microsoft's SkyDrive service.
The big knock to the platform, though, is the limited number of apps. But that number is growing, and many of the biggies are there.
Netflix works great. So does Twitter and Facebook. One notable hole, though: no Pandora.
But the app ecosystem now has more than 40,000 titles, according to a study last week by fan site All About Windows Phone, and is rising fast.
Windows Phone 7.5 also includes a voice-controlled assistant, very similar to Apple's much-hyped Siri feature in the iPhone 4S.
It's not quite as powerful as Siri, which can also unravel a user's intent.
You can ask Siri, for example: "Will I need an umbrella tomorrow?"
The Microsoft TellMe service fumbles that request, sending you to a Web search for the phrase.
TellMe does do several things that Siri can't yet, though. You can tell the service to open an app. You can also ask for the most recent professional sports scores. Siri can't do either of those things.
[bold]A better way[/bold]
The Windows Phone platform is a total joy to use.
It makes me wish that iOS and Android hadn't settled on such similar navigation systems.
We should all feel a bit cheated. There are better ways to operate a smartphone.
And, for the first time in a while, Microsoft knows something its competitors do not.