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Smartphone showdown

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Microsoft used to rule the digital roost when it came to smartphones, its chunky Windows Mobile OS transforming everyday hunks of plastic into web-surfing, email-sending supremos. But then Apple came along, with its swish interface and flashy hardware it proved you could be pretty and productive, and left the big M's phones looking archaic. Now the MS machine has hit back, with a swish new operating system and a bevy of slick handsets, but can Microsoft Windows 7, launched today, put the hurt back on Apple's iOS-running iPhone 4? Stuff Magazine in the Middle East has had its hands on the WinPho 7 at the region’s leading gadget festival Gitex and Editor Tom Shambler tells all…

OPERATING SYSTEM

Windows Phone 7: Microsoft's mobile uses six 'hubs' that pull content from applications and the web. You get 'People', 'Pictures', 'Games', 'Music+Video', 'Marketplace' and 'Office'. In theory, this makes it easier to navigate and find your favourite content.

iPhone 4: The much-loved iPhone lets you organize apps into folders, and gives you a simpler, more unified inbox. Apps sit on one of 11 homescreens, letting you easily flick and swipe your way round. Folders are nice, but it's a pity you can't customize their icons.

HARDWARE

Windows Phone 7:The likes of LG, Samsung and HTC are involved, and Microsoft keeps its partners in check with a minimum spec-sheet for all its phones. That means all Windows mobiles must pack a 5MP cam, speedy 1GHz chip, multi-touch screen and 8GB memory.

iPhone 4: The iPhone is a stunner, plain and simple, but what lies beneath its steel rim and reinforced glass chassis is even better. A 1GHz processor under the hood keeps navigation snappy, and the upgraded camera gives you crisp snaps and 720p HD video.

SCREEN

Windows Phone 7: Screen sizes vary (the just-launched HTC HD7 sports a 4.3in shiner, while LG's Optimus 7 packs a 3.8in display) but the big M has demanded all screens be at least WVGA 800x480 resolution. That's decent, but it's no iPhone 4 Retina Display.

iPhone 4: Apple has dubbed the iPhone 4's screen a 'Retina Display' as it packs more pixels than your baby blues can make out. Really - no matter how close you get. It's the highest resolution on any phone ever, and incredibly high in contrast.

INTERFACE

Windows Phone 7: The interface has been designed from the ground up, and the start screen is loaded with dynamic tiles that are updated in real time, so the weather tile shows you current conditions and games hub displays your Xbox Live Avatar. It's different, but it's good.

iPhone 4: Sliding your way through the iPhone's app-happy homescreens is a wonderfully simple and intuitive experience, but it's annoying that all the folders look the same at first glace. The tiny app thumbnails are too small to be recognisable.

MEDIA

Windows Phone 7: Every Windows 7 Phone will pack the same media smarts as Microsoft's Zune player. That means you can play and purchase music from Zune Marketplace, as well as play videos and podcasts. It has Zune Pass subscriptions too, letting you download unlimited tunes.

iPhone 4: Apple's iTunes Store needs no introduction, with over 13million tracks available to buy, download and play direct from your mobile, not to mention thousands of movies and podcasts. The on-screen iPod controls are seamless, as is Apple's playback quality.

GAMING

Windows Phone 7: Microsoft brought its big gaming guns to Windows Phone 7, with Xbox Live integration at its core. You can interact with your avatar and gamerscore, message Xbox Live friends and play multiplayer games (turn-based only at launch, sadly).

iPhone 4: The iPhone Game Center is more or less a clone of Xbox Live, letting you invite friends to multiplayer games, earn achievements and view online leaderboards. Gaming quality is superb, with titles like Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies now App Store must-haves.

APPS

Windows Phone 7: To be fair, Windows Phone 7 launched ten minutes ago so doesn't have the reach or the gargantuan number of apps as Apple does. But what it does have is top-notch Word, Excel and Powerpoint skills. Handy for the office, but spreadsheets are hardly exciting.

iPhone 4: From social networking to banking, gardening to iFarting, Apple has more apps than you can shake a stick shaking iPhone app at. The App Store is bursting with over 250,000 applications, all ready to download direct to your phone.

THE VERDICT -- The iPhone 4 holds on to its smartphone crown for now, thanks to its blistering screen, abundant apps and quality media capabilities. But Windows Phone 7 has yet to mature, and give it some time, some apps and a few more devices, and it may kill the king yet.

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