Samsung Omnia W: Mango Season

The new phone’s been generating a lot of questions and comments in the office. People have been coming up randomly to meet me – not to brief me on a campaign, or to say hello, but to play with the phone. And let’s be frank. There’s only one thing they’re interested in – the Windows 7.5 Mango operating system.

So let’s get down to Mango, shall we?

As I’d mentioned earlier, Microsoft designed the WP7 OS on the basis of a simple truth – we spend too much time on our phones. iOS and Android are designed to make your phone experience immersive and, truth be told, addictive. That approach has worked. I can’t count the number of hours I’ve spent playing Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, and flicking through Google Reader or Pulse. Microsoft, on the other hand, believes that there are better things to do with your time, as depicted in the (superb) ad below.

At the heart of the OS are the Live Tiles on the Start screen. Live Tiles serve two purposes – they are the entry points into various apps and Hubs, as well as notifiers for those apps and Hubs. Hubs are essentially meeting points for various functions. For example, the People Hub combines Contacts and Contact Groups with their Social Network updates.

I’m not going to delve into a tutorial about the system. For that, I’d refer you to

There are three things this does:

1. From a usability perspective, it gives you one-click access to your favourite apps. As do iOS and Android, honestly. But what Mango does better is that at one glance, you can tell how many missed calls, messages, emails, etc. you have. Your People Tile flashes photos of the folks on Facebook and Twitter who have most recently posted updates – which means that in one glance, you can decide whether it is worth diving into People Hub, Facebook or Twitter.

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2. From a user perspective, the system looks vastly different from iOS, Android and even BB, which are essentially icon-driven. The Tiles are large, with large, clipart-style icons on them, giving the OS an extremely inviting and friendly look. Again, refer to

for a demo.

3. It’s not extremely customisable. Sure, you can change the Lock Screen wallpaper and rearrange your Tiles. But that’s pretty much it.

The next thing you’ll note about the OS is the multi-platform integration. You can set up your Gmail account (or Yahoo or Exchange or other) in moments. It’ll even sync your Google Contacts and Calendar for you. Another few moments and you’ll have your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn set up. These three will then be integrated into your People Tile and Me Tile. Giving you one-click access to post to and check the latest updates from your favourite social networks, really easily.

The ease of setting up your phone rivals – and perhaps outdoes – iOS.

That covers Live Tiles. Now let’s talk about what happens when you click on a Live Tile to enter a Hub or app. The other Tiles swing away, leaving the Tile you pressed in place. This Tile then swings away to reveal the contents of the Hub. Within the Hub itself, you can access different functions by scrolling horizontally, and access the content of each function by scrolling vertically. The fonts used are large and clean, and give you a feeling of classiness without demanding too much involvement. Rather breathtaking, actually.

The overall experience is sexy and ultra-smooth. Mango is designed to run smoothly across a multitude of hardware – in fact, every current WP7 phone will be capable of running WP8 when it releases this year. This means the OS is in fact extremely light – despite the beautiful looks and animations.

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Here’s what happened with me.

When I first got the phone, I played with it for hours. I explored it. Downloaded apps from Marketplace (to be covered in another post). Ooh-ed and aah-ed over the effects. Fiddled with some settings (again, very simple to use). Changed colour schemes, went all OCD, then settled on one. Noticed some cute little Easter eggs – when an SMS can’t be sent, the smiley on the Messages Tile becomes sad; and when a new SMS arrives, it winks at you.

And at no point did I feel like I was deriving any entertainment from the phone, or anything at all that would keep me from returning back to the real world.

Clearly, Microsoft has succeeded in its mission. My wife and I were discussing whether a less immersive OS was a step up or a step down – and we can’t come to a satisfactory conclusion. Look – this system does everything I need it to do, from work to play. But I just can’t get addicted to it. I

want to spend time on my phone. And it’s driving me crazy!

It’s a beautiful OS, and I really want to get my hands on it. But the pleasure centre in my brain, the part that controls addiction, is holding me back!

These days, I feel like I don’t know what to do with my hands. Earlier, I used to play with my phone (Android). Change wallpapers. Pull down the notification bar (one extra swipe compared to WP7). Scroll screens. Randomly open an app. And I’d get yelled at by the wife for being obsessed.

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This phone, this OS, will save me the yelling.

Worth it.

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