Dell Venue Pro - Software

For more details on Windows Phone 7, read Anand and Brian’s epic 32-page review. I wasn’t part of that review, but my thoughts mirror theirs. Windows Phone 7 is probably the most beautiful mobile OS on the market currently. Microsoft has very carefully crafted the UX for WP7, and the work they’ve done is evident in every UI action and animation. It’s a really impressive first effort, and a strong base for the platform to build on.

There were a few pretty big questions facing the platform when we last touched on it in a review, such as slow app loading, poor browsing performance from IE8, copy/paste, and multitasking. Copy/paste has been demoed in various stages even prior to WP7’s retail launch, while the loading time issue is being fixed by streamlining the memory management and changing how applications are loaded into memory. These fixes, along with CDMA support, will be included in an update slated to release in the coming weeks.

At Mobile World Congress last month, Microsoft announced a few more updates. IE8 Mobile and its notoriously slow JavaScript performance (not to mention the utter lack of HTML5 support) are being dumped for a mobile version of IE9, which is based around the same rendering engine as the PC version of IE9. It will have GPU hardware acceleration as well as HTML5 support, which extends to the video tag, using the same H.264 codec as the desktop IE9. Plans for 3rd party multitasking support have also finally been detailed, with a fast-app switching scheme similar to the iOS implementation. The app-switching interface looks suspiciously like the card system in webOS, but that’s not such a bad thing considering that webOS has the best multitasking interface in the smartphone world at present. In addition to that, twitter support is added (finally) as well as better cloud synchronization. There wasn’t really a timeframe attached to these updates, but when released, they’ll go a long way towards making WP7 truly feature competitive with iOS and Android.

The only other real issue with the platform at current is the app catalogue in Windows Phone Marketplace - for a 4-month old platform, it’s downright impressive, but there’s still a lot of important apps missing. IM clients, for one, are still pretty sparse, as well as banking apps and other utilities. We’ve seen some pretty impressive applications released on Marketplace, especially Facebook and Netflix, as well as the Xbox Live implementation. As mobile gaming is beginning to play a more important role in the smartphone world, Xbox integration will be an integral part of WP7’s future. Microsoft has the money and developers to make Marketplace competitive with the iOS App Store and Android Market, especially now that Nokia is on board with the platform as both a hardware and software partner, but it’ll take some time.

The Venue Pro comes with T-Mobile’s standard software package, with T-Mobile Family Room, T-Mobile TV, TeleNav GPS, Newsroom, and Personal Finance. I didn’t end up using any of them much, but they’re pretty easy to uninstall. That’s one of the great things about WP7, there’s only so much a carrier can do to bloat the phone’s OS install. Beyond those few apps, it’s a pretty standard implementation of Windows Phone 7. Dell’s choice to go with portrait QWERTY makes sense, since Windows Phone 7 doesn’t have a whole lot of landscape support in the OS, other than the browser and text messaging apps. I don’t think I used landscape mode on the Venue Pro more than once during the month I had it.

One minor annoyance, though, is that you can’t slide the phone open to answer an incoming call. After getting used to that as the default behavior on any portrait sliding phone (dumbphone or otherwise), it takes a bit to get used to sliding the screen up and realizing that you haven’t answered the call yet. Same goes for closing the phone and hanging up. Whether this is because the feature isn’t in the Windows Phone API or because Dell just didn’t want to code it is an open question, but it’s a scenario unique to this one device, so I wouldn’t be surprised if WP7 didn’t support it.

Dell Venue Pro - Keyboard and Screen Dell Venue Pro - Camera and Video
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  • tipoo - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    The code names were cooler than the final names. Thunder, Lightning, Flash, and Smoke sounded awesome.
  • VivekGowri - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    I completely agree with that, hence the title. How awesome would it be to carry a phone called the Lightning? Woulda gone well with the HTC Thunderbolt too.
  • aegisofrime - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    For some reason those codenames reminded me of Warcraft 3
  • therealnickdanger - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    So awesome. :)
  • zipz0p - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Yes! This is exactly what I was thinking - I actually happened to be playing the soundtrack myself as I was reading it, totally coincidentally. Good work Vivek!
  • magicrog - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    I don't care what the phone is called - I have an iphone and to be honest the signal pick up is worse then when I had my nokia 6310 and battery life is awful.

    If it has a great name - lets hope the phone lives up to it.
  • FATCamaro - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    Lousy speed, lousy camera, lousy battery life, lousy screen compared to Android devices and iphone. Yet the author thinks this could be a winner. Amazing!
  • Flunk - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    He says the screen is very good and most people don't care at all about the camera. If they did they wouldn't be using a phone because all phone cameras are worthless.

    IE really is a big problem but at least they're trying to fix it.

    On another topic, there are no IM clients for Windows Phone 7 because sockets support hasn't been released yet so it's not possible to write IM clients unless you're tunneling through a HTTP connection which is far from ideal.
  • VivekGowri - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    The screen is good - it's a little bit dimmer than the Focus and Nexus one, but it's not a bad screen at all. Battery life on the AMOLED devices really depends on how much white is being displayed on the screen - that makes a huge difference in how much power the displays consume, and in our battery life test, that puts AMOLED devices at an inherent disadvantage compared to LCD screens.

    Also, as much as I hate to say it, when I said winner, I meant relative to other WP7 devices. Which lowers the bar for a successful device significantly.

    Microsoft really needs to fast track their updates and get the second generation devices out as soon as possible. The faster they can gain back ground on Apple and Google, the faster they get some meaningful marketshare. Nokia will help with that, but MS shouldn't be depending on them, they need to get some success with the rest of the partners too.
  • NoSoMo - Monday, March 14, 2011 - link

    I have to say, you guys could have done much better on the pics....I've come to expect so much more from ya.....

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