Interview: Windows Phone 7 battery life, copy/paste, multitasking, and more

In an interview with senior director for Mobile Platform Services Product Management, Todd Brix, Neowin learned many things about the Windows Phone 7 Series platform and what we can expect as end-users. Videoing was not allowed, but here are some of the things that we've learned.

Customizing UI colors:

This was an interesting discussion. The short answer is that a user can decide if they want email to be shown with black text on a white background, or vice versa. From what Brix said, the reason Microsoft decided to use a lot of dark backgrounds is because they use less power, thereby increasing battery life. Black pixels don't emit light. This may have been a slip on his part, because it assumes that all Windows Phone 7 devices will have OLED screens. LED screens would still use power to display blacks, as the backlight is always on. It seems from his answer that Microsoft may push all WP7S device makers to use OLED. We'll see what happens as a final release gets closer.

Battery life:
The development models that are being used differ. Depending which build it's running, or if it's been optimized for performance or for power saving, results will vary. But, Microsoft will not release the OS until the phone can make it through a full day on a single charge.

Copy and paste:
It's not available in current builds, and developers are being told that it's not available; however, this is what Todd had to say:
"I don't think we've talked about the different models are for copy paste on Windows Phone 7." Brix then goes on to say that there's something that Microsoft calls, "delighters." These are things that users want in the platform and can be announced any time between now and release. When pressed to ask if his official answer was "no comment," he responded that "we have a bunch of things we’ll be talking about later," and Microsoft doesn't want to just throw things out there that aren't ready to show to the public. The end-all is that copy/paste could very well be part of Windows Phone 7 in the future, but as of now, it's not part of the code. Later in the day, Nilay Patel of Engadget asked Brix, specifically, if copy and paste is one of the "delighters" and he told him "no." Everyone is hearing something different. Just don't expect it come launch.

GPS turn-by-turn navigation:
There will not be any Bing Maps Navigation or anything of the sort. WP7S, as an OS, will not ship with any sort of navigation application. However, phone manufactures can bundle them in and use Microsoft APIs to tie it into the phone's system. He notes that a lot of companies are interested creating such apps for the platform.

Third-party app multitasking:
You can receive calls while you're running a third party app. You can even play a game while you're talking on the phone. The OS allows one third-party app to run at any given time. Built in apps, like web, email, and phone, all run in the background at the same time without a problem, regardless of what else else is running. When you close an application, it suspends the state and closes it to save battery. If you then re-open it, you can pick up where you left off. It's a very solid mid ground between true multitasking, and no multitasking. They call it "smart multitasking;" it seems very sensible. Notifications can still work for apps that are in a suspended state.

OTA updates:
Brix wouldn't say if OS updates would be released over-the-air, but he did say that there will be some sort of update mechanism for getting security releases, and other updates to the user. Other sources told Engadget that there will be OTA updates, but which types of updates will utilize that sort of delivery service remains to be seen.

Mobile IE version:
Sadly, this won't be any form of IE9, which is starting to look like a real competitior in the browser wars. For the mobile browser, the team started with IE7 and made some enhancements as they neared the release of IE8. So it's somewhere in between the two.

Syncing documents with Skydrive:

He didn't have a specific answer, but other representatives mentioned that it will happen, but due to the accelerated timeframe for WP7S, it's not currently part of the OS, and won't be available at launch. However, SharePoint integration is there front and center for businesses to take advantage of.

Wireless sync for all media content:
When a user enters his home's wireless network, the phone and PC will automatically begin talking and syncing back and forth. This will allow the phone and PC to always be up to date and in sync with each other. The phone does not have to be plugged into a power source for this to occur.

Windows Mobile losing market share:
When asked if he thinks it's too late for Microsoft to re-capture all the market share lost to other OSes, especially in the business sector (to RIM), he responded that "who's ahead now, is going to be very different, we think, from who's going to be ahead in three years. Who was ahead three years ago, is different from who's ahead now." He said that Microsoft thinks the mobile market is still in its "early days" and that Windows Phone 7 will be "highly competitive." The smartphone market is still growing at an insane pace, and Microsoft plans to be a big part of that. He predicts that "the next three years are going to define the next ten years in the smartphone market."

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Oh and ... I have NEVER used cut and paste on my iPod Touch when I create messages (I use it a TON for Facebook and twitter etc) ... so I really don't think I'm too worried about it

Eh. Of all the things on that list, the only real bummer is copy/paste. Then again, I have copy/paste on my T-Mobile Dash (with a winMobile 6.5 ROM) which I have used exactly zero times.

I'm disappointed about some of the details coming down regarding WinPho7. But in the spirit of fairness, I try to think about it based on my habits from using Android (considered by many WinPho7 critics to be the ideal MS should be striving to match) every day.

Copy/paste... ok. I do use it. Not every day, but often enough that I notice it. Almost entirely in texting though, and I rarely select the text. It's more like I'll long press a message to copy it to another message (it just feels cleaner than forwarding, but that's mostly mental), and to copy URLs to a text message (by far my most common use of c/p). If WP7 lets you long press a link and have an option to "Send to SMS recipient," I'll probably be all set and not feel the need for c/p.

App store lock-down... Ok, when I had WM6, I did a LOT of cab installs. But then again, there was no app store back then, and most apps I installed were basic stuff that would have no trouble being accepted on an app store. Also, there will probably be ways to install apps via cable (ie., Garmin), unofficially if not officially (don't look at me like that, any of you who are downloading non-appstore apps for Android have probably unlocked your phone anyway, so don't act like you're somehow opposed to working a backdoor). Various tweaks with WM6 required sketchy steps anyway (unlocking certain features, setting up tethering), so the same people who did that shouldn't mind just using a different sketchy method.

Those two issues aside, I'm good with everything else I've heard so far. The IE disappointment will be easy to get over: the nerds don't even use Android's stock browser, after all (talk about disappointing). Most of all, I just want to get one in my hands and play with it already so I can form a real opinion. It's so frustrating knowing I'm just gonna have demos and Q&As for another...what, six months? Eight?

From what I can gather from these interviews my next phone will be Android. I'm a power user and I can deal with a less streamlined system if it brings more functionality.

This platform is dead for me before it's even released. Everything I disliked about the iPhone crammed into WM7. Granted, most consumers probably won't care, but a lot the things they won't allow affects me.

The thing is though, im not bothered about no copy and paste as the WP7S devices are made in such a way that copy and paste isn't that relevant. The UI has been made in such a way that you shouldn't need to copy a phone number into the phone page, you can click on things and it will happen.

meh seems pretty dull like they've not learned much from past winmos poor experience or competitors for that matter.

I guess as much as they want to talk like this is a huge refresh and it's good and great, it's not. It's just stepping in windows vistas footsteps and microsoft are acting oblivious to it, jokes on them I guess.

". LED screens would still use power to display blacks, as the backlight is always on." Don't you mean LCD in that sentance?

I really hoped Win 7 to be more.... They had plenty of time to get feedback from people and to learn from the shortcomings that iPhone's OS had... Instead they give us a new GUI with same or less options that we can find in Android and iPhone OS....

bguy_1986 said,
I wonder how many true business men/women will like the text being cut of the screen. Seems unprofessional to me...

What you call 'unprofessional', Microsoft call design.
That is the way it is supposed to look. The text clipping is a 'visual indicator' that there is more content if you swipe the screen to view the next 'page' of the 'hub'.

I, for one like the new navigation paradigm. A lot more intuitive than the winMo of old.
Useability tests have shown this design is more successful than all their alternative designs.

As a 'business man', I'm looking forward to the day when I can carry one of these with me.

Edited by deadonthefloor, Mar 17 2010, 2:54pm : incomplete thought.

bguy_1986 said,
I wonder how many true business men/women will like the text being cut of the screen. Seems unprofessional to me...

"True" businessmen? Wow. Well, about the same numbers as 'true' students who like not having stylus input on an iPad.

/seriously, "true"? i thought the only snobs in the business world were the ones NOT doing any work

Microsoft will not release the OS until it makes it through a full day charge? Where what are they at now? 4-5 hours? What's a full day? 8?

My phone now makes it through a full day if I use it for just calls. However if I play movies, listen to music, and surf for half the day, it's dead by half a day. I accept that. I think cell phone companies should continue to come up with better batteries that can handle what we have now and WM7 will be just fine.

I'd like to know what the conditions for this will be:

"Battery life:
The development models that are being used differ. Depending which build it's running, or if it's been optimized for performance or for power saving, results will vary. But, Microsoft will not release the OS until the phone can make it through a full day on a single charge."

Wireless sync for all media content. So I'm assuming you can link it up to your wireless router and not suck up your data plan?
It'd be nice if it could browse the internet this way too.

mikefarinha said,
Wireless sync for all media content. So I'm assuming you can link it up to your wireless router and not suck up your data plan?
It'd be nice if it could browse the internet this way too.

you probably can, if it's based off the ZuneHD as much as it seems, you just plug it in the computer, shutoff the zune software and you can surf the web on a zune, I assume the same would be true for the phones,

mikefarinha said,
Wireless sync for all media content. So I'm assuming you can link it up to your wireless router and not suck up your data plan?
It'd be nice if it could browse the internet this way too.

I'm sure you probably can. I can do that with my WinMo 6.1 phone... Using Wi-Fi...

mikefarinha said,
Wireless sync for all media content. So I'm assuming you can link it up to your wireless router and not suck up your data plan?
It'd be nice if it could browse the internet this way too.
I guess I wasn't completely clear, and I apologize for that. The wireless sync is ONLY available when you're on your home network via Wi-Fi. No 3G syncing for media from what I was told.

ghostwind said,

Would you care to elaborate why?

Sure many of the things that people complained about in the iPhone early on is not in this OS, copy and paste, limited or no multi-tasking, no turn by turn, locked app store. Add in longtime negatives of WinMo like OS updates via cell vendors (MAYBE), IE browser and I can see why anyone would want to wait for v2.

rrode74 said,

Sure many of the things that people complained about in the iPhone early on is not in this OS, copy and paste, limited or no multi-tasking, no turn by turn, locked app store. Add in longtime negatives of WinMo like OS updates via cell vendors (MAYBE), IE browser and I can see why anyone would want to wait for v2.


Um, updates will be handled by MS, NOT the vendors.

TCLN Ryster said,

Of course not. He/She'd have to think of some logical reasons then.

here are a couple of logical reasons:
1) the new OS is mostly being built from ground up. there will be a lot of issues in the first gen. so, I will wait the second gen. for the new os to mature
2) the 4th gen iphone os will be released this year
3) my iphone contract is on for one more year, and I don't see any compelling features in WM7 to make the switch. Does wm7 add any new features that I don't have on iphone? No.

Edited by zagor, Mar 17 2010, 3:28pm :

rrode74 said,

Sure many of the things that people complained about in the iPhone early on is not in this OS, copy and paste, limited or no multi-tasking, no turn by turn, locked app store. Add in longtime negatives of WinMo like OS updates via cell vendors (MAYBE), IE browser and I can see why anyone would want to wait for v2.


+1

xiphi said,

Um, updates will be handled by MS, NOT the vendors.

You know this how? Traditionally, since MS does not make the hardware, going from WinMo 5.0 to 6.0 or from 6.0 to 6.1/6.5 (on hardware that can support the upgrade) has been totally up to Sprint, Verizon, or ATT. They would prefer you pay for a new phone, before your upgrade time is up and extend your contract, instead of offering you a OS update for free or for very little cost.

Since the iPhone OS and Hardware is owned by Apple they do allow upgrades of the OS (hardware permitting) for free or for little cost.

rrode74 said,
You know this how?

I believe xiphi is making an assumption based on some early information that was leaked about the new 7 series OS development. One of the key engineering goals of the redesign was to enable microsoft to upgrade the OS independent of Hardware vendors and network carriers.

I think xiphi is correct in his assumption. It would go a long way to explain the hardware requirements for the platform.

Edited by deadonthefloor, Mar 17 2010, 5:03pm :

Sounds like a very promising platform. I look forward to a device which utilises WM7 to it's full capabilities through powerful hardware.

emzino said,
Sounds like a very promising platform. I look forward to a device which utilises WM7 to it's full capabilities through powerful hardware.

Indeed. Me too.

emzino said,
Sounds like a very promising platform. I look forward to a device which utilises WM7 to it's full capabilities through powerful hardware.
"Promising"? That's what you see?

Here's what is said:
* "a user can decide if they want email to be shown with black text on a white background, or vice versa". That's all that was mentioned for customizing UI colors. No "promise" there.
* " [is] copy and paste is one of the 'delighters' and he told him 'no.' Just don't expect it come launch.". Only "promise" there is to not expect it.
* "There will not be any Bing Maps Navigation or anything of the sort." Can't get much more of an opposite to "promise" there. That pretty much clearly says "no"
* "Sadly, this won't be any form of IE9". I guess that the fact it isn't based on IE 5.5 is to be considered a blessing?
* Skydrive "won't be available at launch". Very clearly a "no", but this one really does have promise, as "other representatives mentioned that it will happen". So Brix said it won't be there at launch, but other sources said it would be there some time. Yes! A first good "promise"!
* "When a user enters his home's wireless network, the phone and PC will automatically begin talking and syncing back and forth" And another good promise of delivery of a great feature.

I count two.

Edited by markjensen, Mar 17 2010, 11:18am :