Windows Phone 7 Series - hands-on!

Windows Phone 7 Series has been the talk of the show here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. We grabbed some facetime with one of the very first prototypes running it just now, and seeing it in the flesh, we can see why. Forget what you know about Windows Mobile 6: it’s not been swept under the rug in the new look Windows Phone 7 Series, it’s been dumped entirely.

We got some sense of how Windows Phone 7 Series looks and feels at Microsoft’s press conference on Monday, but we’ve seen the beginnings of it in operation in the flesh now, and it’s more than a bit promising.

Instead of the awful translation of desktop Windows to mobile we’ve grown used to in Windows Mobile 6.x, we’ve got an achingly minimalist approach based on the Zune HD’s layout. The fonts are clean and big, with lovely pictures adorning the background of hubs, and even changing on a regularly basis – the Bing search background will change every day, for instance.

The menu screen is based around a column of live tiles you can move around, with messages, calls, email and hubs forming the focus at the top. The email inbox on Windows Phone 7 Series didn’t seem to offer anything sensational, but the People Hub is by far one of the best looking ways we’ve seen mobile software pull together social networking live data together.

You can see what people are saying on Facebook as you go to call them, or swipe right to all their recent shared online activity. But our absolute favourite element was on the People tile itself, where a small 9×9 grid of your recent contacts’ online profile pics constantly re-arranges itself.

We also got a chance to see how Xbox LIVE and Zune look in Windows Phone 7 Series. The former is a smart marriage between the Zune design and Xbox LIVE, and you can see your avatar, and send requests to others to play games – which ones those might be is still unclear however. The Zune layout meanwhile tightly mirrors the Zune HD, with a vertical column of text options leading to tiles of media.

The hardware we were shown Windows Phone 7 Series running on wasn’t exactly sensational – it resembled an Acer Liquid more than anything, and the screen’s colour quality was poor – but the new look OS still shone through. And Microsoft has already published some of its standard specs for the system already, so you can expect plenty of horsepower in finished products.

Windows Phone 7 Series unveiled!

But Windows Phone 7 Series still has an awful lot to prove. We know so little about it at the moment (We still don’t know how deep integration with Xbox LIVE goes), and throughout the demo, we didn’t get a clear sense of the hierarchy of menus and hubs. We didn’t think at any point “Ah, we’re in this hub, so we can swipe this way to get here and that way to get back” – it still seemed a mystery to us.

But hey, between now and Christmas, Microsoft has plenty of time to finetune the UI and explain how it works in much more depth. Right now though, we know that the message has at last got through to Microsoft, and it’s starting to make a smartphone OS that’s so clever, it doesn’t appear it at all.

Check out Windows Phone 7 Series in the flesh, and stay tuned for video shortly!

Out 2010 | £TBC | Microsoft

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