The first 48 hours with my new Windows Phone

A week and a half ago, I activated my Windows Phone with my AT&T cell number. I was playing around with the HTC Titan on WiFi for a little bit on Thursday night after the Windows Phone event, but I wasn’t able to really try out some of the features without cell service.  After transferring my number over to a full size SIM card (the iPhone 4 uses a micro SIM), I was ready to rock and roll with it. I spent the weekend running around DC and Baltimore visiting friends, shooting photos, and otherwise avoiding the huge pile of clean laundry to fold in our room.  Here are some of my first impressions.

It really is “all about people”.

One of the cool things about the Windows Phone is the level of social integration. After linking my Windows Live ID to the phone, I entered my Facebook, Linked In, and Google ID as well. My address book automatically populated with all of my contacts from all four networks and merged their information into one contact listing per person.  This feature makes it much easier than iOS to get one person’s social media information into a contact automatically.

However, it uses all of your social media contacts. Friends with a bunch of people on Twitter? Follow a bar on Facebook? Yup, they are all in your address book. For people who have very active social media accounts, this could cause address book overload. Not to mention I still need to manually enter phone numbers for most of my friends since they don’t post that online.

The interface is smooth and fluid.

One of the first things that piqued my interest in Windows Phone was the OS interface. It really is unlike anything currently out there.  The phone has a vertical set of “tiles”, that form a long list of apps you can scroll through on the home screen. Some of these tiles (most from Microsoft/HTC) can actually update with information live. Coming from iOS, which nothing can be live updating on the home screen, save for the calendar app, the tiles are a very cool feature.

Not only is the user interface simple to understand and navigate (especially compared to Windows Mobile), it moves very smoothly on the HTC Titan. Coming from a single core iPhone 4, this surprises me a little since the single core processor in the Titan needs to update all of those live tiles. Windows Phone also offers an apps list for all the apps on the device, regardless if they are pinned to the home screen or not. This is great when you have an app you use rarely enough to keep it on the phone, but not enough to warrant putting in on the home screen.

Size makes a difference.

I would be remiss if I failed to mention the screen/form factor of this phone. Clocking in at 4.7” inches, the Titan dwarfs the 3.5” inch iPhone screen. Surprisingly, the thickness of the Titan is very close to what the iPhone 4 offers- it’s almost too close to tell which one is thicker.  The screen is almost too big for me to easily operate with one hand (and I have long fingers).  The resolution and pixel density on the Titan is lower than the iPhone but for most tasks it’s hard to tell. However, small text ultimately shows the weakness of an 800×400 Super LCD display as it’s also impossible to read without making the text larger.

However, I am really beginning to dig the extra screen real estate. While some could argue that it’s a small tablet, watching videos and using apps on this device is a dream. Most of the apps (HTC/Microsoft and 3rd party) do a great job taking advantage of the larger screen. Combine this with the 4 way navigation that Windows Phone offers, and you will see that the larger screen makes it ultimately easier to use the device.

Battery life….

It’s too early to tell. However, it does have a removable battery so mid day battery swaps are a possibility unlike the iPhone. Since this was an unreleased phone (at the time I won it) in the US, I don’t know what a spare battery will cost so that could change my opinion on the matter. [UPDATE: my Microsoft contact Ben just corrected me on this part: “BTW, the Titan you got was released at the time you won it – you have the unlocked version.  The ATT version was announced, but not available, during the Baltimore event.“]

Media is surprisingly easy to transfer, but space is an issue.

One of my biggest concerns (aside from losing access to some iOS exclusive apps) was the ability to pull my media over to the Titan. My iTunes library has grown for the better part of a decade and I like to have my music with me.  Much to my surprise, there is a Windows Phone syncing application from Microsoft on the Mac App Store. It functions and looks very similar to iTunes and will copy photos from iPhoto/Aperture and any non-DRM’ed content from your library.  Provided your content is in the right format (which most of my content happens to be) all you do is select what playlists you want and click sync. Photos are optimized (compressed) for the device and it seems they are compressed to a smaller size than using iTunes. Like an iDevice, the process is fairly effortless and it’s a big win to be able to integrate with my music library.

But, while it’s super easy to get 95% of my library on the device, the problem is where to put it. The Titan only has 12.63GB of available space. Period. Coming from a 32GB iPhone, this was a shocking specification to see on the device. Most of my movies clock in at around 1-2GB apiece so managing what content you want on the device becomes a huge issue. I think this will become an important decision point for me in the future – is the space available on the device comparable to the iPhone 4? (not to mention I may have won it twice)

As I play with the Titan in the coming months, I will be updating you with the trials and tribulations that I experience.  Have any questions/suggestion/comments for me? Let me know in the comments!

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