Nokia's great Windows Phone hope: Beauty without brawn

The poor fit of Microsoft's 'Mango' OS to business needs is no surprise, but the Lumia 900 flagship device's weak hardware is

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Email, calendars, contacts, and social networking
Windows Phone 7.5 can connect to Exchange, IMAP, POP, and Gmail accounts; make and synchronize appointments; and manage contacts. For Exchange access, "Mango" supports push synchronization, and for both Exchange and IMAP, it preserves your Exchange and IMAP folder hierarchy for mail. But the lack of meaningful EAS policy support in Windows Phone means you likely won't be able to access your corporate email, as any company concerned with even basic security will impose EAS policies beyond the few that "Mango" supports, as I detail later in this review.

Be aware that "Mango" imposes the EAS policies it does support, so you may find yourself -- as I did -- with a smartphone that requires a password lock even though it can't access your email. (A password lock is a good thing, but if you can't access your corporate data, it's not as useful.) I wish Windows Phone would give me the option of rolling back the imposed policies if all are not met; currently, all rules must be met to access the corporate data the policies are intended to protect.

Email. Although "Mango" displays nice, big text for your messages' From addresses, it suffers from the use of tiny, thin, gray fonts in the message itself, so it's very hard to read. There are no controls over text size -- it's clearly designed for the eyes of teenagers and 20-somethings.

I like Windows Phone's way of handling message groups such as unread and flagged messages: Just swipe to the right to see lists of unread messages; repeat to see flagged messages. "Mango" also implements a color highlight on the subject of unread messages in the All message list, but the Unread list is simpler to use. Windows Phone normally provides a separate tile on its Start screen for each email account, but you can use its linking feature to get a unified inbox both in the mail client and on the Start screen. If you look carefully at the tiny To text, you can see which account the message was intended.

Unfortunately, "Mango" doesn't handle mail folders well. When viewing your mail list in Windows Phone, you have to press the More button (the ... icon) to get the Folders menu, which you then use to see messages in a specific folder. The good news is that Windows Phone 7.5 supports message threading, which you (counterintuitively) have to set up in the Settings app's Applications section, under Messaging, not in the mail client. Selecting multiple messages in Windows Phone 7.5 is easy -- once you realize you need to tap the left side of the screen to open the selection bubbles.

Windows Phone 7 isn't so savvy about opening attachments. It can open Office documents in its mobile versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, though PowerPoint is strangely restricted to version 2007 and later (.pptx) files. It also can open Zip files, unlike the iPhone. But to open PDFs, you'll need a separate PDF viewer, such as the free Adobe Reader. Also, Windows Phone doesn't automatically download attachments, which saves on cellular data consumption. You must tap an attachment to download it, then tap it again to open.

You can easily search for mail, as well as reply to, forward, delete, and select multiple messages, though you can't select or deselect all messages.

Composing messages is straightforward in Windows Phone, though it doesn't support rich text formatting as iOS 5 does. However, "Mango" looks up names as you enter them, drawing on your address book and previous email history to speed data entry.

Calendars. Windows Phone 7.5 lets you view and update your calendars, as well as sync to Exchange and Google calendars. You can also send invites to other users, and any .ics invitation attachments received show up in your calendar automatically.

Windows Phone 7's day and agenda views are pretty, but the tiny colored text for your appointments is very hard to read on the black background. The month view is all but useless; the supertiny text for each appointment in each date is easily overlooked. What will help is to change the device's display setting to use the Light background; that gets rid of the hard-to-read light-text-on-black background in many apps such as the calendar and uses a more traditional, more readable, paperlike color-on-white display.

Contacts. "Mango" has a capable contacts app, called People. One blemish is its unintuitive way to quickly jump to sections of your contacts list: Tap the # icon button near the top to get a list of letters that you then tap to jump to. It's not slick, but it works.

Windows Phone doesn't offer a Favorites feature for contacts, but it does let you "pin" an individual to the Start screen for easy access, such as to click an email address or phone number to initiate a message or call. That can quickly clutter your Start screen, though, making it overly long to scroll through. Windows Phone 7.5 lets you create groups of contacts, as well as link contact cards to create virtual groups. For example, if you have separate entries for a couple, you can link their cards so that each person's contact information appears in both of their cards.

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