In-Depth

Windows Phone 7 vs. iPhone: Microsoft Closes the Quality Gap

In the battle between Microsoft's underdog smartphone and the Apple juggernaut, the result is far from a knockout. Even iPhone lovers have to agree.

Let's state it right up front, so there's no confusion: The iPhone is fantastic. The iPhone 4 rocks like a combination of U2 and Led Zeppelin. Add to that the 325,000-plus apps available, and it's a lethal combination.

Windows Phone 7

Does that mean that there's no reason to consider a Windows Phone 7 device? Absolutely not. With this phone, Microsoft has thrown out the "me too" development philosophy of which it's often accused, and given potential customers a clear choice.

To start with, Redmond created a much different UI, forgoing the "tile" motif used by the iPhone and Android. Instead, it uses a brilliant hub motif, grouping functionality by category. It means that you can get to your stuff easier and more quickly. The UI feels less boxed in and more free-flowing.

The Windows Phone 7 OS is also quite responsive to touch input, rivaling the quickness of the iPhone. And the integration with things like Office and other business apps can't be replicated on other platforms.

iPhone

Still, the iOS is significantly more polished than Windows Phone 7. That's to be expected, as the iOS is on its fourth iteration. For a first try, however, Windows Phone 7 is remarkably stable and functional. It's not the iOS yet -- but remember, there was no cut-and-paste in the first version. (Note to Microsoft developers: Get more things displaying in landscape mode soon -- and make this a priority.)

Another significant advantage of Windows Phone 7 offerings is that, by and large, they're much cheaper than the iPhone -- even free. That can make a difference if you're buying them for a whole department.

On the whole, most people probably wouldn't ditch their iPhone for one of these contenders yet. But when their commitment period is up, Microsoft has given them an alternative to strongly consider. That's always a good thing.

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