When I go about my life with a smartphone in my pocket, I already have the usual routine of how I use it. Some surfing, calls, occasional SMS, e-mail, checking Twitter and Facebook updates, and that’s about it. Even when testing a new smartphone for review for a few days, doesn’t give you a full sense pros and cons of the device, especially if it’s running on a completely new or significantly updated platform.
To figure out pros and cons of the new platform and device in a short time, I usually take it on a business trip abroad and try to use it as my main mobile device for everything I do. Which is what I did with LG Optimus 7 when I wanted to see how robust and useable the new Windows Phone 7 OS is. Here are my impressions about how Windows Phone 7 LG Optimus 7 smartphone performed on the road.
Preparing to the trip
While preparing to travel, I want to make sure that I’ll have the access to all my trip related e-mails that are stored on Gmail servers, my Google calendar where my schedule is stored and I have to load enough podcasts and films so I don’t get bored on the road.
Windows Phone 7 e-mail client and syncing with Gmail Google Apps account on LG Optimus 7 worked like a charm. All I needed to do was select Google Mail option for e-mail, enter an address and password and it was done.
One note of caution though. When setting up syncing, you have an option to download e-mails to your phone from the last 3,7 days, 2 weeks, last month or all of them. If the message you are looking for falls outside of selected period – you won’t be able to find it on your phone. So make sure you either resend the important e-mails to yourself, or use more of that 16 Gig of storage for more e-mail.
Google Calendar syncing is also a breeze on LG Optimus 7. You just select “Sync calendars” box when you are setting up Gmail account (it’s not selected by default), and you are good to go. All you appointments and meetings from the calendars on that account are sync’d, with pushed notifications available on a “Calendar” live tile.
Travel entertainment. To manage you media on Windows Phone 7 device you have to install Zune software on you PC. After that is done, synchronizing your media between the phone and PC is as simple as plugging your new LG Optimus 7 to your PC via USB port. Transferring music files and podcasts works very fast. With movies, since all my films were stored in Xvid/AVI format – Zune decided to render those files into some other format that the media player on Optimus 7 can play. On an underpowered (by today’s standards) 4 year desktop of mine that took some time and translated into about an hour for every hour of movie playback. More modern multicore machines of today should handle the rendering process much faster.
On the road
When traveling, my smartphone needs to handle following things well – e-mail communications to keep in touch with my team, good Twitter client to keep up with what’s happening around and in wider world, good mapping app to find things in a strange city, camera to take quick snapshots of interesting things, media player to keep me entertained on the road and, of course, good battery to last me through the day.
Entertainment on the road. I already mentioned that uploading several hours of movies from my PC to LG Optimus 7 was very easy, if a bit time consuming. On the other hand, the movie file conversion that is responsible for the time it takes to get films onto Optimus 7 might actually be worth it.
The movies on the phone take up over almost full screen, with only very narrow black lines at the top and bottom. 3.8″display was also big enough to watch few movies on a plane.
I already mentioned how much I liked the Windows Phone 7 e-mail client on my Optimus 7. One thing I was worried about before trying it out – was my ability to share links to interesting news items with UV team, while I’m on the road. With the the lack of multitasking and copy/paste in Windows Phone 7 OS, I was afraid that it would be problematic to send out news alerts to UV writers.
Well, the lack of multitasking and copy&paste turned out to be a non-issue for me. Whenever I noticed an interesting news item in my Twitter stream, I went to the linked item in the browser, and from there all I needed to do is select “Share via e-mail”option, enter our internal mailing list address, and the message was on the way. Then I’ll press a “Back”button on Optimus 7 a few times, and I’m back to where I left off in my Twitter app. In the end, the whole process was so easy, that I ended up sending out more news alerts on the road then ever before.
Talking about staying connected to my social networks, due to it’s integration with People hub, I started using Facebook a lot more. I’ve had a Facebook account for several years now, but I had very little use for it until recently. But now, with my friends Facebook updates just a tap away on my phone’s Homescreen, I check my Facebook news stream at least a couple of times a day. And I even started posting status updates and Wall comments once or twice a week.
Still, Twitter remains my main social comms tool, so I really needed a good client app for, for me to be happy with LG’s Windows Phone 7 handsets. I tried several of the available apps, but the official Twitter client for Windows Phone 7 worked best for me. There were a few things that I didn’t like about it. My main beef was the lack of any active notification about Replies and DMs when you are in your main Timeline. If you do not proactively check “Mentions”or “Messages” tabs, those messages can sit there unnoticed for days. Still, overall it worked great both for keeping up with Twitter updates, and sending out either plain text or illustrated tweets too (taking a pic from Twitter client, uploading it to TwitPic and posting a link into tweet was automatic enough).
Mapping&Navigation part is where Microsoft has still a lot of work to do, compared to similar functionality available both on Android and Nokia phones. The thing I missed most on Windows Phone 7 was the ability to save pointers on the map for later use. The lack of syncing between PC and phone apps also didn’t help. And Bing local search leaves a lot to be desired, compared to what you get with Google maps. Still, the basic maps app worked pretty well, with necessary local maps all there. And as for Google Local Search results, LG found a way to give you access to them too on Optimus 7. In LG’s ScanSearch Augmented Reality app, Google Local Search is the default data source, and when you need to find some interesting stuff near you , it works pretty well. I’ve shared my experience with LG Optimus 7’s Scan Search here.
Battery life. On a normal day’s use I could easily get through the day on a single charge with my Optimus 7. When on the road – it’s not that simple. Two of the most energy consuming things in a smartphone is it’s display and wireless connection, especially for data transfer. And these are the things I tend to use most when I’m traveling. Watching a movie obviously requires for the display to be on all the time, I also do a lot more then usual browsing and tweeting on my phone, as well as taking a lot of pics and uploading them to the cloud. All these things tend to eat through the available power pretty quick. Still, even on an intensive use, I managed to get 6-8 hours of battery life from my Optimus 7, which is much better then what I usually got from my average Android handset.
It doesn’t last me through the day yet. Then again, I wonder if it ever will. Batteries seems to be the Achilles heel of nowaday smartphones, and clever power management gimmicks can only do so much to stretch the 1500 mAh capacity current battery makers seem to be stuck on for several years now.
Overall, after using LG Optimus 7 as my main travel device, I was pretty impressed by how well it all went. Especially having in mind that it runs on a first generation of a totally new Windows Phone 7 OS.
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