Windows Phone 7, Day 8: Ringtones, Screenshots, and Other Pet Peeves

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30 Days With Windows Phone 7: Day 8

[Author's Note:I stand corrected. The article has been updated to reflect the fact that Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" does allow custom ringtones to be created.]

Having used Windows Phone 7 in my 30 Days With Windows Phone 7 series for an entire week now--first with NoDo running on the HTC HD7S, and now with Mango running on a Samsung Focus--I can say that I am mostly impressed so far. But, I am also building a short, but growing list of things that annoy and frustrate me about Microsoft's mobile OS.

So far on my list are custom ringtones, capturing screenshots, and syncing contacts. Let's examine these three pet peeves:

It can't all be wine and roses. There are some things that bug me about Windows Phone 7.
Custom Ringtones

When I hear a phone ring, I want to be able to tell instantly whether it is mine, or the guy behind me in line, or the lady walking past me in the parking lot. I want my ring to be unique and distinctive. With Windows Phone 7, though, I can't create custom ringtones--or so I thought.

I used to save snippets of MP3s as ringtones with Windows Mobile, and I was pissed off when I switched to the iPhone and found out I couldn't do that anymore. I actually bought software just to enable me to use my vast library of MP3s to create ringtones for my iPhone.

With this Samsung Focus I have about 40 ringtones to choose from, but they all sound like some sort of cheesy 80's Casio synthesizer, and none of them are all that unique. By the time I got done testing them out I could barely tell them apart. Why can't I just make my own ringtones from MP3s like I used to with Windows Mobile?

Well, Windows Phone 7 may not be able to use custom ringtones, but Microsoft has fixed that with Windows Phone 7.5. With Mango, the ringtone must be less than 39 seconds, a file size smaller than 1MB, saved in either MP3 or WMA format, and not copy-protected (meaning no DRM guarding it). I downloaded a free MP3 editor, opened up the m4a song file, clipped the 39-second segment I wanted, and saved it as a new MP3 version. Once you have a song file that meets the criteria, you just have to edit its settings from within the Zune software to change its assigned Genre to "ringtone" and then it shows up as a ringtone on the Mango device.

It is not as simple as I recall it being on Windows Mobile, but then I haven't touched Windows Mobile in years so my memory of the process may be romanticized to some extent. I seem to recall being able to simply choose any song on the smartphone and assign it as a ringtone. But, it isn't too difficult and I definitely appreciate being wrong about the lack of custom ringtones with Mango.

Capture Screenshots

I understand that this may not come up very often for average users. I mean, how often do you feel the need to take a picture of what is on your smartphone screen?

But, as a tech writer I need to capture screenshots from my smartphone on a regular basis to use as images for articles I am working on. I can also see some limited purpose for average users as well--perhaps to capture a screen with a new high score on a game to post to Facebook or Twitter.

With my iPhone, I can just hold the power button and the home button simultaneously, and voila! One iPhone screenshot captured. With Windows Phone 7 I have to set the smartphone down, then get my iPhone and take a picture of the screen.

Sync Contacts

I use Microsoft Outlook for my email, contacts, and calendar. My iPhone has synced up with my contacts and calendar in Outlook just fine for years. So, why is it that the mobile OS from Microsoft is incapable of syncing with Microsoft's own software?

Actually, I think I know the answer. I believe it has to do with wireless syncing over the air. My iPhone relies on being physically connected to my PC (at least until iOS 5 gets here) so it can sync that information between the PC and the iPhone. Windows Phone 7, though, is capable of updating and syncing without connecting to my PC--which means it needs the data it is syncing with to be available in the cloud somewhere.

Understanding the logic doesn't make it less annoying, though. In order to make sure that my Windows Phone 7 contacts and calendar are accurate and current, I had to jump through some hoops to make sure my Windows Live account stays synced with Outlook. Then Windows Phone 7 syncs with Windows Live and I'm all set.

The end result is functional, but it seems like a convoluted means of getting information I already have sitting here in my PC, and it means I have one more thing to set up and maintain in order to make sure it all stays in sync.

Read the last "30 Days" series: 30 Days With Google+

Day 7: Tie Messaging Together With Threads

Day 9: It's All About "Me"

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