A Windows Phone Worth Buying? It's a Mobile Miracle!

We live in a miraculous age, thanks largely to technology. Consider these examples from today's news.

Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, are on the verge of uncovering the elusive Higgs Boson, aka the God Particle -- the thing that gives objects mass (even moreso around the holidays).

Researchers in Stuttgart, Germany, have created a working "steam" engine only a few micrometers thick -- or roughly one-tenth the thickness of a human hair. However, they say it sputters a bit, thanks to the vagaries of quantum effects. I know the feeling.

Amateur astronomers have discovered a mysterious cylindrical shape orbiting Mercury -- clearly signs of a cloaked alien spacecraft -- and even captured a video of it as it was exposed by a solar flare. (NASA scientists claim the shape is merely an artifact of how these images were recorded, but we know better.)

Still, all of these things pale in comparison to a revelation I recently experienced: Microsoft may have made a phone I actually like.

I'll give you a moment to compose yourselves before I go on.

Yes, it's true. For the last two weeks, I've been been playing around with an HTC Radar 4G running "Mango" (aka Windows Phone 7.5), and I have to say that -- despite every molecule of my being screaming in protest -- I am favorably impressed.

Hardware-wise, the Radar is lightning fast and feathery in the hand; by comparison, the iPhone 4 feels bricklike and unresponsive. (The Apple fanboy whine festival will begin in three, two... ) It runs for a few days on a charge, unlike my last Android phone, which ran for a few hours.

As for the software, the Metro interface is exceedingly nimble and easily customized; I love how it shows me how many new emails, calls, and messages I've gotten at a glance. I like how my calendar is on the home page and it shows me my next appointment automatically. I like how I can flip through the status updates and tweets from my peeps without having to load a separate, often buggy, application.

Yes, there are even apps, a few hundred thousand less than the Android Market or iTunes Store, but still. I got Netflix, Yelp, Angry Birds, and Foursquare, but sadly, no Pandora Radio. There are even flatulence and breast apps, saints be praised.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Windows phone without some kind of glitch. In this instance, I could not get the Radar to sync with Gmail or Google Calendar. I spent 45 minutes on the line with T-Mobile customer support trying to suss out why (error code 80070057 for those similarly afflicted), before I finally Googled an answer: It seems Mango can't stomach the way Google Contacts deals with dates, particularly birthdays with only the last two digits of the year shown. If there's a contact with dates listed in some format other than MM DD YYYY, Windows Phone throws up its hands and says, "I cannot work with such amateurs." Or something like that.

Yes, the Windows Phone suffers from the Y2K problem or some variant thereof. Is that great in a totally perverse way or what?

(The solution: Fix all the dates in your Google address book, or simply export them to a file, delete them, and then sync. U.K.-based geek Martyn Walker offers more details on the solution on his personal blog.)

The caveat, and it's a big one: I've used the Radar for only two weeks -- well within the honeymoon period for any device, let alone one with "Windows" in the name. I've experienced the same with Windows PCs more than a few times, too: zippy quick for the first two months, then gradually grinding to a halt.

I also loved my Motorola Cliq phone at first, before I grew to hate it with a vengeance. It was slow to the point of catatonia and unable to run more than four hours in standby without recharging. The touchscreen responded to about one out of every three taps on average, and you never knew which one would take. It had an obnoxious Blur social interface I could not turn off. I had to click through six screens just to read a new text message. I could not search my contacts list at all, ever. It didn't have the horsepower to run anything higher than Android 1.6, which meant that 90 percent of apps in the Android Market were invisible to it. All in all, it was a total nightmare.

When that phone got stolen last week from my gym locker, I had to smile. Some other fool will now get to suffer.

After that experience, any phone would seem great. But I've also been using an iPhone 4 lately, and I say this with all seriousness and some incredulity: Apple, watch your back. Microsoft may have finally figured it out. The battle for the mobile market just got interesting again.

Assuming, of course, you believe in miracles.

Am I off my rocker, or is "Mango" really that good? Share your thoughts below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "A Windows phone worth buying? It's a mobile miracle," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

This story, "A Windows Phone Worth Buying? It's a Mobile Miracle!" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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