I have been a fairly passionate supporter of the WP7 platform since it launched October 2010 for a couple of reasons. It’s different, and it’s fast.

I’ve read a stories about high consumer returns rates due to the UX (User Experience) being not what they wanted, which makes me think there might be a lack of understanding about the OS (operating system) and given the first 2nd Gen handsets were released last week that I thought I’d try help out with some simple tips for getting the most out of Windows Phone quickly.

Start fresh.

You have to forget about your other smartphone experiences and try and start fresh. Look at it with fresh eyes, have a clear head and give yourself a good honest week with your new phone.

Windows Phone is entirely different from anything Windows Mobile before it, and definitely unique from its major counterparts in Android and iOS – ultra competitive smartphone territory. From the minute you turn it on and see those Live Tiles to understanding the People Hub or how it brings to life Social networking, it is like nothing else on the market. It’s a bit different.

So there are a few things I think you need to know straight up, and these things will help many people adjust to this new UX, one that I found changed my view and helped me get around some of those key differences.

Shortcuts

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Shortcuts rule on Windows Phone. They open up the simplicity of access and will help you realise just how fast and responsive it is. This shortcut shows you what screens lay underneath your active screen (dormant, in waiting, on hold, standby however you look at it) which is commonly referred to as fast switching*.

To see and select an active app at anytime from an active screen, press and hold the Back arrow button for a few seconds.

Many people don’t know this, and it is extremely handy if you take a look at the way Windows Phone handles multitasking.

Let’s say you are playing a game. And for whatever reason you need to navigate away to let’s say check email; Windows Phone pauses the game and allows you to do your business. When you’re ready to pick that game back up, press and hold the back arrow for a few seconds.

The display shows what applications are open, you simply tap to select. The game will automatically pick up exactly where you stopped to get that email out. This is called Fast Application switching in Windows Phone and it makes the OS feel smart, fast and fun to use.

The next one is about music, which is a key component of owning a smartphone today. Here’s the kicker; if you are a Mac user ensconced in iTunes land then Windows Phone Connector software is freely available to download and synchronises beautifully with WP7. So don’t let that deter you from tyring this mobile OS. Windows Phone Connector features a very clean UX which is simple and allows you to sync music, movies, TV shows, podcasts and pictures from your iTunes library.
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Music

But importantly another shortcut many people miss, and one that makes WP7 really fast to do stuff that is important to you – accessing music quickly. I want instant on music right at my fingertips and here’s how you go about it with Windows Phone.

To continue a paused song, press the unlock key once and voila.  From your unlock screen, without unlocking, is the last song you played and the rewind, pause and fast forward keys ready to resume playback.

If you haven’t used the Zune player for let’s say two hours or so, then the mini player may not be visible, but from this screen if you press either Volume Up or Volume Down it appears along with the Vibrate or Ring function.

Photography

And lastly in my top tips for new WP7 users is how seriously quickly you can take a photo on your device.

Most devices require you to unlock, enter passcode or press a button before swiping around to find your camera app and take that spur of the moment happy snap, but not on Windows Phone.

Press and hold the dedicated camera key and within a few seconds the camera will fire up and you can simply press that button one more time to take a happy snap. Or you can tap the screen to auto-focus and take a pic. Either way, it’s fast.

Start fresh

New users of the OS would really benefit from taking a fresh approach to the OS. Pretend you’ve never used a smartphone before. If you pick up a Windows Phone handset and click a few live tiles expecting everything to instantly come to life, you may be disappointed. I urge you to get a Windows Live ID organised before you start as this brings many features to life.

Other features

Also, spend the little time it takes to create Groups out of your contacts, the time invested is minimal and the payoff is huge.  It’s really a key part of making the phone a fast sophisticated way to manage different streams of people with different interests on your phone.

Try it out!

If you are still not convinced, why not try it out on your iPhone or Android device for yourself. You simply type http://aka.ms/wpdemo into the browser on your phone and try it out!

For more top tips on using Windows Phone 7 check out some of the related links below or watch some of these great videos from CES 2012 or even better, be the first to find out when the new Nokia Lumia 800 is available by registering your interest with us here.

Related links

*Editors note: Amended from multitasking to fast switching with thanks to WP Down Under our Windows Phone guru.