Windows Phone 7 Connector: syncing WP7 with your Mac

We previously reported the details of a tweet from Oded Ran, Microsoft's UK head of marketing for mobile service in the UK, which read: "Daily #WP7 ANNOUNCEMENT: I'm glad to confirm that Mac users would be able to Zune on their Macs to sync with #WP7. More details soon."

Of course this lead to plenty of speculation about Zune coming to the Mac. With iTunes such a central and integral part of Mac life, it seemed unlikely to us that a direct Zune client would appear. But reading the tweet again, it doesn’t say there will be a Zune client, it says “able to Zune on their Macs to sync with #WP7”.

Ambiguous language, a hurriedly typed tweet altered just before sending, or just plain craziness? We don’t know if there will be a Zune client in the future, but what Mac users will get is Windows Phone 7 Connector.

Imaginatively titled, it does what it says on the box – allows you to connect your WP7 handset to your Mac. We’ve had an early build of the software for a week and we expect to be available shortly, but we don't have a final date.

Windows Phone 7 connector can be set to automatically sync with your device on connection to your Mac. It gives you access to iTunes and iPhoto, so you can select content to transfer onto your device. As this can be automated, you can sync things like podcasts that download into iTunes, without having to go in and select which podcast to sync each time.

You can also browse your device which will let you delete content, but you can't drag stuff around or add content via this method.

Essentially syncing your music is a case of selecting what you want on your device – you can choose all music (if your device is big enough, or your collection is small), or you can choose from playlists, genre or artist, with the option to expand your artist option to pick albums.

It is all run on a check box system you have to pick the specific items, or everything, and away you go. Deselecting something that was previously synced will then remove the content from your phone. You cannot play DRM content, so if you have old school iTunes music you haven't updated, it will have to stay put. Even so, we found that DRM-free iTunes purchases did move across, but couldn't be played - only iTunes music taken from original CD worked.

The video syncing options are limited to those videos you have in iTunes, so if there is video content elsewhere on your Mac (like in your Movies folder), you’d have to move that to iTunes to be able to sync it. We had intermittent success, some videos moved across, but often they failed. Some appeared to be converted to the extent that the downscaling made them blocky. We'll put it down to early build gremlins.

Equally, photo syncing offers you what you have in iPhoto. When you connect your phone and sync it, a new folder of images is created in iPhoto where your content is dumped, including your videos.

We were looking at early build software, so we expect things to be a little rough around the edges. At the moment there doesn’t seem to be much control over what moves back and forth – it all looks like a one-way process of moving content to your device, rather than moving content to your Mac. 

When Microsoft told us about the software, they confirmed that you’d be able to buy Zune content on your Windows Phone 7 device, then sync this to your Mac, because it is DRM free. So far we’ve been unable to do this.

If nothing else, we’d like Windows Phone 7 Connector to give us access to the device memory to manually move this type of content, if a more elegant automated system can’t be found. This would also let you move other file types, like documents, so you don't have to continually send them to yourself via email.

Our quick verdict: must try harder, but we’ll wait for a final version of the software and wait to see what third-party solutions appear too.