So, Microsoft had a big Windows Phone 7 event this week in NYC, announcing several actual phones, with the internet exploding in a wave of first takes, reviews, and opinions of the new platform. To add something a little new though, here’s my take as to how Windows Phone 7 might play out for teenagers.
I actually had a chance to play with a Windows Phone 7 prototype back in the summer, so this is more then just speculation here. From an overall sense, I really like the OS. It's very clean, focused, and a refreshing actual innovation for cellphones in terms of interface and visual style. And more importantly for teens, it carries over many of the more appealing, teenage focused features of the KIN, adding to them a smartphone structure that is far more finished and full featured then the limited KIN.
The Zune application remains a strong point - the Zune HD has some great software, and putting the entire thing onto a great phone is an excellent idea. Add to that the Zune Pass, accessed through a cellular network, letting you listen to the full Zune catalog from anywhere, along with simple syncing with a computer, and the net result of a full-featured, internet-connected, unlimited music MP3 player is a huge selling point for teenagers, especially those that listen to music regularly.
Also big for teenagers is the integration of Xbox Live. You simply sign in with your existing Xbox Live account, and can play against your same friends list, earn Gamerpoints and Achievements, and everything else you love about Live on your Xbox. The bridging of the products is a great idea and a further factor to help draw in high school and college gamers. And the games themselves look pretty good - looking to have roughly the same level of high-quality 3D games as on the iPhone.
Social integration has also been highlighted in Windows Phone 7 - the "contacts" section as you know it is a People application, syncing Facebook, Windows Live, and other contacts straight to the phone, as well as the socially connected camera, with Facebook and Windows Live integration and backup. These features, as they had been on the KIN, are a great and most importantly, simple bridge between their social networks and phones.
So - for teenagers, at least featurewise, Windows Phone 7 has some serious potential to succeed. Almost all the features that appealed from the KIN have been carried over, refined, and improved - and are based in one of the most enjoyable and simple phone OS's I've used. Anyone who was interested at some ideas of the KIN, or is looking for a change from the rows of icons mentality of the iPhone should definitely consider Windows Phone 7.
Ultimately, however, for teenagers, things come down to a more practical sense. These are smartphones, not featurephones. They don't come free or for $50 with a 2 year plan - they’ve all been announced to cost in the roughly $200 range, plus data plans - which can be $25-$30 a month. And as seen with the KIN, that doesn't really work so well with teens (unless their parents are paying the phone bills). And while the devices are genuinely interesting, and incredibly cool to use, cost is still a huge factor for teens who, for the most part, don't have jobs and can usually get by with the core features of a "comes free with plan" phone.
That being said, the new direction of Windows Phone 7 is still a huge step in the right direction, and the integration on an OS level of both media, gaming, and the ever important social networking is a major appeal to teens, and a great recognition as to how my current generation and those going forward are heading towards use of the increasing inaptly named cell "phone".