Smoked by Windows Phone tips and hints
Okay, there's so much negativity on this ad campaign that people forgot to see the positive side of it. Basically you can bring any old smartphone (alas, not dumbphones) and get a brand new Windows Phone phone for free. No contract extension, no strings attached. Instead of looking at it with a negative mind, let's collect some hints and tips, shall we?
Here's the baseline. The contest is about showing how fast Windows Phone can do some pre-determined tasks compared to a competing smartphone. If you win, the prize is a new computer. If you lose, you can trade in your phone with a new Windows Phone. Due to carrier locking in the US, however, Microsoft only let you trade your phone with whatever WP phones available for your carrier.
This means if you are on AT&T, you have the widest choices as you can select the Samsung Focus S or the HTC Titan, two of the top line WP phone (most people that I see went for the Titan). Obviously it's not beneficial to go with any of the cheaper phones (like the Focus Flash).
If you are on T-Mobile, your choice would be the Nokia Lumia 710 or the HTC Radar. People seems to pick the Radar for obvious reason since my local Microsoft store (and another reader's here) were out of the Radar already. Even if you have to go with the Lumia 710, don't be discouraged (especially if you traded in with some cheapo/old smartphone). The Lumia 710's MSRP is $350 without contract, and it is quad-band HSDPA, including 850 and 1900 bands (compared to the Radar's dual-band HSDPA). So to me, the 710 is actually more valuable in this regard. (I got the 710 BTW).
If you're on Verizon, there's only 1 choice, the Trophy. On the bright side, it is a world phone, but only 2100 band for HSDPA (should be fine since that's the most common band used in Asia and Europe).
Another reader here mentioned that there's nothing for Sprint. Can't confirm/deny that as nobody was on Sprint when I was at the Microsoft Store.
So there you have it, your selections for a new WP phone for practically free. Clearly to get the most benefit, you don't want to trade in a recent smartphone that you can sell yourself for good amount of money. I saw a guy traded an iPhone 4S, which is silly (he said it's 4S, but could've been the 4) based on its market value.
Another trick is if you really want a WP phone and don't have a smartphone, you can always buy one of those cheap prepaid Android phones (eg. buy a cheap Android AT&T gophone and trade it in for the Focus S/Titan). If you don't mind entering a contract, you can always sign up with you carrier first for a contract with a free smartphone, and then trade up. (eg. sign up somewhere with AT&T for the free Optimus/3GS phone, and trade up to a Focus S/Titan). However, depending on the phone, it might not be beneficial as Microsoft already offers the Lumia 710 (T-Mobile) and HTC Trophy (Verizon) for free with contract.
Now, what if you want the computer? What if you want to win? Then you need to have some strategy. It's not impossible, but you have to know in advance what to expect. The scenarios presented during the challenge are clearly designed to benefit WP phones in general. However, if you have an Android phone, you can easily top them. If you have an iPhone, it's harder to win, depending on which challenges you got.
Before any challenge, they will tell you to reboot your phone (they will reboot theirs too), and connect to the store's wifi. Oh, another tip, disable any password/lock-screen gesture as you want to be able to unlock the phone quickly. My challenger used the Titan, so yeah, expect the MS employee to use the top of the line phone.
My challenge was to check movie showtimes at a local theater. Sounds easy, right? Well, I lost since the guy already had a Flixster app pinned to his start screen with the intended zip code of the theater. I used my Android phone and did a straight Google search for the theater's name on the google search widget. I lost by only 1 click (Google found the result, I just needed to click it). No biggie as I want a WP phone anyway. :D But how to win this without being too noticeable? You can win either with Android/iOS. All you need to do is put the app (Fandango, Flixster, imdb, whichever) on your first home screen (preset nearby zip codes if you can). Easy. You can arguably use Siri, but then you have to rely on Apple's backend and the voice recognition.
Another one that has been posted everywhere is the weather. This is easy if you have Android since you can just put widgets on your home screen, but impossible if you have an iPhone as there's no way to put widgets (unless you jailbreak).
Other challenges mentioned on Microsoft's own page is to post simultaneously to social networking sites. This is easy too. You can sign up in advance with services like ping.fm that can post to multiple social networks all at once. Most services will also allow you to post via email/SMS, so you can preset the email/number on your contacts. I'm sure there's also Android widget that will do it. A lot of ways to beat this. Same thing with the challenge of posting a picture to multiple sites (make sure you have the camera app on your first home screen).
Anybody else willing to share their experience? Oh, and before the fanboys cried foul, the contest has been running since the weekend. So it's not like it's brand new. With tech blogs already revealing at least one of the challenges, I don't see why people cannot know what they are. It's for fun, and people can get new WP phones anyway, so more exposure for WP, the better.