I didn’t think I was going to get a chance to try Windows Phone 8 until next week. I’d just seen an email from the T-Mobile PR team advising me that my test unit of the Nokia Lumia 810 would be delayed because of the horrible weather in the Northeast.
But then a package arrived unexpectedly at my office Nov 9. And when I opened it there it was, a slightly battered black box containing the 810, along with the usual press materials.
I opened the box to reveal a black rectangle slightly larger in size than the Apple iPhone 5 and sporting a 4.3 inch screen. It was a little thicker and heavier than the iPhone 5, and almost exactly the same size as the Nokia 900 that debuted in the spring. When I turned it on I saw the familiar tiled screen of the Windows Phone operating system. The home screen color scheme boots up in something called T-Mobile Magenta, which is in a word, horrifying.
Your first task when you take this or any Windows Phone 8 out of the box is to make sure it’s charged. Normally I do this while reading through the documentation. Unfortunately, there isn’t much documentation beyond telling you what’s going to happen with the automatic set up. But since it’s automatic, there’s not much you can learn.
As it turned out, the phone was already mostly charged, so I went through the setup program which mainly involves telling the phone your Microsoft ID and then agreeing to all of those statements nobody but lawyers ever read.
Finally, I had my hands on Windows Phone 8. Surprise! It’s not that different from Windows Phone 7.5. When Windows Phone 7.8 arrives in a few days, the two operating system editions will be almost identical.
But the real question I had was whether Windows Phone 8 is intuitive enough that users will find it a reasonable alternative to an iPhone or Android device. The answer to that is that it’s very intuitive, although it probably helps if you’re not a die-hard icon fan. Windows Phone 8 doesn’t really use icons in the same way that the iPhone or Android phones use icons. Instead, you have those tiles.
It is, of course, the tiles that define Windows 8 in all of its iterations. They look the same as the tiles that appear on the Start Screen of Windows 8 on a computer, whether it’s an Ultrabook or a completely immobile HP Professional Workstation. It’s the same interface you see on Microsoft’s Surface tablet. On the phone it’s smaller of course, and it’s as easy to use as it is on a tablet.