Throwback: Samsung “Taylor” Windows Phone Prototype

Posted on December 22, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows Phones with 23 Comments

Throwback: Samsung "Taylor" Windows Phone Prototype

In mid-2010, I was one of the lucky few to get a prototype Windows phone, the Samsung Taylor. Over six years later, it still works fine. And today, it represents an interesting slice of time in the life of Microsoft’s now-failed but wonderful mobile platform.

As I recall it, the Taylor was one of two hardware prototypes that Microsoft carted around in early 2010 as it showed off Windows Phone 7 Series, as this platform was first called. Also, there were basically two sets of each, as the software had to be specially—ahem—tailored (I’m here all week, folks) to support the video-out capabilities needed for public demonstrations. So some had the production builds on them, and some were compiled for demo purposes.

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My first hands-on moment with Taylor—and that other Windows phone device, whose name now escapes me, plus of course the Windows Phone OS—came in May 2010, when I visited the Microsoft campus. I was led into a dark basement room in a secret location and was able to spend two days documenting every screen in the system—with photos and via an incredible set of notes—which I used as the basis to start writing the book that became Windows Phone 7 Secrets.

But I waited two months until I had a phone of my own. Finally, in mid-July, I received a Samsung Taylor from Microsoft, which I could use for my writings about Windows phone, in the book, and on the web. It helped me complete Windows Phone Secrets—which I did in late July, literally the day before my family left for our home swap—and I used the phone internationally on that trip, in Germany and France.

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Microsoft warned me at the time that the device I’d received did not represent shipping hardware, though the underlying software was near-complete. I didn’t care. I was in love.

Here’s how I described it at the time.

When Microsoft finally presented me with a Windows Phone prototype that I could take home and use out in the real world, they were curiously embarrassed by the device, which I was told repeatedly didn’t represent “ship quality” hardware, and wasn’t indicative of the thin, light, and gorgeous hardware that’s really going to sell to consumers. They shouldn’t be so down on it. The prototype is fine.

The developer device is a Samsung Taylor SGH-i707, and it comes with all the hardware one would expect given the Windows Phone 7 required specifications.

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Interestingly, Microsoft was also apologetic about the device’s screen, which displays at the lower of the two possible Windows Phone 7 resolutions, 480 x 320 (HVGA) instead of 800 x 480 (WVGA). Then you turn the thing on and just laugh out loud—I told you there’d be moments like this—because the display is simply gorgeous. In fact, it’s largely identical to the excellent Zune HD screen, featuring the same resolution and the same superior OLED quality. (The Samsung screen is much bigger than the Zune HD screen, however.) Colors appear to jump off of this screen, and the blacks are so black, they almost appear infinite. Did I mention this was a gorgeous screen? Oh yes. It is.

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As a non-ship-level device, there are ports and plastic covers, and holes all over this device. There’s a huge 5-megapixel camera that sticks out of the back by a tiny amount, another embarrassment to Microsoft. (Hey, it takes great high-resolution photos and video.) The headphone jack and USB connection port both have awful plastic covers that are hard to pry off when you’ve just cut your fingernails. A similar cover appears over the mini-SD slot, though that’s no biggie since no Windows Phone 7 device will ship with such a memory port anyway. (Through a combination of internal and SD-based memory, the prototype sports about 8 GB of storage.)

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There are speakers on the top and bottom of the phone—take that iPhone, and every other Apple mobile product—and, if I’m not mistaken, microphones on both the top and bottom too. Oddly, there’s a front-facing camera that isn’t connected to anything.

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All of the required buttons are present, including Back, Start, and Search across the front, a dedicated power/sleep button on the side, volume up and down and, glory be to God, a camera button. This button is particularly genius, because it connects to a new software feature in Windows Phone that Microsoft calls “pocket to picture.” So even if you’ve locked your phone, you can tap this button and take a picture, almost instantaneously. There’s no fumbling with the device’s lock screen and passcode, and then finding and launching the camera app. You know, like you have to do on an iPhone. Oops, the moment already passed: The story of your life with iPhone.

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The system’s performance is generally amazing. It awakes instantly, of course, and navigation through the various phone UIs is fluid and fast. I have had some performance issues around media playback and Zune software syncing, but then maybe I shouldn’t have been trying to play a 720 x 480 DVD rip of “Avatar” in the first place. (Shocker: It plays.) I haven’t yet had a chance to test any full-screen XNA games, but from what I can see, this should be a decent game player.

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I [also] don’t have a firm handle on battery life, and of course we can’t judge Windows Phone on this prototype. In regular usage, the phone doesn’t last the day, basically, and I’ve been leaving it plugged in while writing for the most part. It does have a removable battery, naturally, and because it’s a GSM-type device, I was able to pull out my iPhone 3GS’s SIM and just make the switch. (Irony alert: My iPhone 3GS reports a stronger 3G signal in my house than does the Windows Phone device. I suspect Windows Phone is more accurate given that I’m in a dead zone. And this is after the software update.)

Overall, the prototype isn’t all that interesting aesthetically but then it’s not the car crash that Microsoft seems to believe it is either. Their over-the-top reaction to this device makes me believe that we’re going to see some pretty stunning hardware come this fall’s launch. I can’t wait to see what’s available then.

Looking at it today, the Samsung Taylor is small and stubby, with a very small screen by today’s standards. The little covers on the USB, headphone, and microSD ports remain ridiculous.

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The version of Windows Phone OS on there—6414.PPEscrow, a pre-release version—will never be updated. Microsoft offered to update it to the final shipping version of the OS, but I declined, and the device was subsequently never upgraded to “NoDo,” the first major upgrade. (The one that added Copy and Paste.) The firmware, amusingly, is revision number 1.0.0.0.

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The OS is familiar but dated. It features the empty space next to the Start tiles that bothered so many people and was later removed. Yahoo! Mail is prominently displayed on Start. The store is still called Marketplace, and the Music + Videos hub is still Zune. (As I recall, you had to sync this device with the Zune PC software, as you did with a Zune music player.)

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The Office hub is called Office 2010. 🙂

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Anyway, I love that this thing still works. And I still feel the pull of that year, when Windows Phone was still new, and special, and full of promise.

 

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Comments (23)

23 responses to “Throwback: Samsung “Taylor” Windows Phone Prototype”

  1. 5516

    Although I was a longtime Windows Mobile user, my one and only experience with Windows Phone was the Samsung Focus. Since then I've had many different flagship Android and iPhones (my current phone is the Galaxy S7), but the Focus remains my all time favorite phone. It was a great size, had a great display for its time, and a great interface. It was fun to use. If it wasn't for the "app gap" I would have stuck with Windows Phone.

  2. 1221

    Paul, you just brought a tear to my eye.  *raises glass* Here's to better & exciting times for Windows Phone.

  3. 131

    This will always be my favorite Samsung-built Windows (Mobile) phone:

    SCH-i760

  4. 538

    captobie Posted

    Although I was a longtime Windows Mobile user, my one and only experience with Windows Phone was the Samsung Focus. Since then I've had many different flagship Android and iPhones (my current phone is the Galaxy S7), but the Focus remains my all time favorite phone. It was a great size, had a great display for its time, and a great interface. It was fun to use. If it wasn't for the "app gap" I would have stuck with Windows Phone.

    Similar experience here. It was the Samsung Omnia W for me. The design and build quality was great - stylish, but understated, and the WP7 metro UI was beautiful. But as apps became more important in my day to day life I couldn't continue to justify using a phone that couldn't use most of them just because it was pretty. Still, one of my favourite phones I have ever owned. 

  5. 1475

    I still have my old LG Quantum (WP7 with hardware keyboard), as well as my old AT&T (Cingular HTC) Fuze (8925) and 8525. Man I loved old WM and WP. :)

  6. 296

    Oh Paul! I was literally just thinking of the WinPhone experiences I still miss, right before refreshing Feedly and seeing this. Integrated QR code reader, integrated music identification, useful autocorrect.

     

    Then as I clicked the home button, on my iPhone 6s+ and watched the animation struggle, I was reminded of a conversation I had with (a huge MSFT proponent) at work right after this was announced. I was hanging onto a horrific HTC Win Mobile 6.5 device, he had given up and moved to iPhone. He had seen the videos and was jumping on the train of folks complaining about the transition animations built into the OS to hide the underpowered hardware.  Never bothered my, but now 1 year into my first iOS phone this think performs worse than my ancient WinPhone devices.

     

    I also remember (bittersweetly - not a word) the experience of using the iPhone as a daily driver for the first time - god I miss Windows Phone - but why didn't I switch earlier - why did I punish myself for so long!

     

    Windows Phone we miss the unrealized  potential!

     

    #TheStruggleIsReal #EveryDay #NeverForget

    • 538

      RossNWirth Posted

       

      I also remember (bittersweetly - not a word) the experience of using the iPhone as a daily driver for the first time - god I miss Windows Phone - but why didn't I switch earlier - why did I punish myself for so long!

       

      Windows Phone we miss the unrealized  potential!

       

      #TheStruggleIsReal #EveryDay #NeverForget

      Very true, unfortunately. :(

  7. 9077

    When there was hope,

    when there was a Windows Phone future,

    when Microsoft could still change course..

    There they were, asleep.

  8. 2235

    It wasn't too long ago I booted up my Samsung Focus. It still works, and the hubs still have all the charm and intrigue they had when I first booted up the phone. I remember pulling it out at bars, bus, etc. and having people ask "What phone is THAT?!" with complete fascination. It had the dedicated camera button, a fluid UI, office and a lot of things no other platform had at the time. And, well. . . we know the rest. 

  9. 928

    I would be interesting to know what 'missing app' caused people to bail on Windows Phone.

  10. 3272

    Very cool Paul and thanks for sharing it with us. I love throwbacks especially for products we never got to see or use. The biggest thing I got out of this (other than a flashback of my excited anticipation of Windows Phone back then) was how much MS at the time, really cared about Windows Phone. Seeing you convey how they were embarrassed by things or made sure to point out how things weren't final shows how much they once cared. Cool article, thanks again.

     

  11. 5553

    Looks nice still.

  12. 538

    Great article Paul, I love things like these. 

    Looking at these images reminded me just how much I loved the WP7 Metro UI, when MS was all in on it. The panorama and pivot style layouts, big text with plenty of empty space. It was so stylish, and in my opinion, better than anything we have today. I totally understand why MS would move away from it - the uniqueness made it difficult for people to use if they were used to hamburger menus, and it added an extra barrier to devs who wanted to port apps over, but damn it was gorgeous. It takes looking back at pics like these to see just how far WM10 has moved away from WP7, with the small text, icons, and hamburger menus everywhere.  

  13. 9472

    I don't see anything wrong it with.  My Sony Xperia 2 tablet has those same covers on all it's ports and it's water resistant to three feet although I have no desire to test that feature but it's nice to know it's there just in case.  Also, it may be bulky but with the various body armor most people put on their phones like an Otterbox, the slimmest smartphone become just as bulky if not more so but I prefer that bulk to a damaged or destroyed phone.

    I never handled a Windows 7 phone before but it looks a lot like the 8/8.1 versions with the large easy to read print, tile layout, and so forth; I don't even know if Verizon carried them yet since that was and is my carrier still.

    My first smartphone was the Motorola RAZR only because it was on sale at Verizon for $99 on Mother's Day in 2012.  Unfortunately Verizon wasn't pushing Windows phones except to the back corner of the store so all you could see were every garden variety Android and iPhone.  When my contract was up in 2014 I upgraded to the Nokia Lumia Icon/929 without hesitation and still use it to this day without any of the problems I was having with the RAZR which was prone to auto-reboot and drop calls more often than it would work normally.

    The Verizon Counter Guy tried persuading me to go for an Android or iPhone but I had already done my homework and was steadfast on the Icon.  To my astonishment, the Verizon Counter Guy didn't know how to work the Icon very well and I had to walk him through some steps when setting up my phone even though I've never touched one until then; like I said earlier, I done my homework.  It almost got to the point where I wanted to tell him just ring it up and I'll finish setting it up myself later; it wouldn't be my first time setting up a phone.

     

  14. 5553

    Wouda coulda shoulda...Steve B?

  15. 9201

    This was when Microsoft had ambition and confidence to be different and unique mobile OS experience.  WP7 offered great hope for a different user centric experience. Developed CarrierOps on my HTC Mozart in Dec 2010, and astounded by getting over 10, 000 downloads on the first day.

    But Microsoft lost their confidence, primarily because they were late, and behind on the Apps count. So we now have WM10 lacking the charm of that early vision, and lack of motivation on Microsoft to be different. Sadly I gave up developing my games on Windows Phone in 2015, when it was obvious Microsoft was no longer interested in its own platform.

    Just loaded up  new L650 as my main phone.

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