I'm not totally convinced by WM7 although it is original and has some unique features. What gets me is the general design and UI of the whole new 'Windows Live' theme. It wastes space unnecessarily and makes performing straightforward tasks just that little bit harder than it really needs to be.
I won't argue that WP7 has room for improvement (and some catching up to do), however I don't really agree with the last part of Mike's sentence, "makes performing straightforward tasks just that little bit harder than it really needs to be". I've been using WP7 for a little over a week and there are lots of little things that make life easier. I thought it was worth sharing some of these here for others that haven't been able to play with a real device at length.
This isn't intended to be an iPhone vs Windows Phone 7 post. Nor is it intended to give an unbiased comparison of the two. It will focus solely on some of the nice features that Windows Phone 7 has to save you time.
Calendar Appointments on the Lock Screen and Home Screen
This a killer feature for me. My upcoming appointments are shown on both the lock screen and on the calendar tile on the home screen. If you think about how many times you see these screens in a day compared to how many times you open your calendar app, I'm sure you can appreciate the usefulness. I really wish my iPad did this, but with Apple's app-centric approach, I'm not sure we'll ever see this sort of functionality.
Use the Camera without Unlocking the Phone
In Windows Phone 7, there's an option that allows you to long-press the camera button to launch the camera app, even when the phone is locked. This makes it much easier to pull out your phone and snap a picture without having to enter your pin and find and launch the camera app.
Voice Commands without Unlocking the Phone
Another time-saver is being able to hold the Windows key and instruct the phone to call people without unlocking the device. Again, this is optional, since it allows calling without entering your PIN.
Pin Contacts to the Home Screen
Another huge time-saver. If you're like me, 90% of your calls and texts are to the same person. Windows Phone 7 allows you to pin a contact to the home screen. With a single tap on their tile you land at a screen with options to call, text and email this contact. It even includes the ability to write on their Facebook wall or see their latest Facebook status (Facebook is very well integrated, should you choose to enable it).
Email Count on the Lock Screen
This is something very minor, but for some reason it's missing from iOS. In addition to showing missed calls and text notifications on the lock screen, Windows Phone 7 also shows a count of emails. I find this pretty useful because I'm not always near my iPad so when I do pick it up, I have to unlock it to see if I have any new email.
Hardware Search Button
I didn't think this would be all that useful but it's actually turned out to be a nice addition. By having a dedicated search button, you don't have to navigate around an app to get to the search box. When you're not in an app, it launches Bing - not my preferred search engine, but the app works very well on the phone.
While there is certainly room for improvement in Windows Phone 7, I have to argue that on the whole it makes a lot of tasks a lot easier than other smartphones. I think the next 6-12 months are going to be very interesting. How Microsoft responds to initial user feedback will play a huge part in the success of the platform. It will also be interesting to see how the competition responds to Microsoft finally launching a serious consumer smartphone. With three huge players in the smartphone market I can't wait to see what each comes up with to try and get ahead of the competition!