My son’s desire for an iPhone reached an almost belligerent state of desperation this year. He was so determined to get one that he winnowed his wish list down to this single item so I would not be distracted by socks or video games when shopping for him. My husband and I had decided to relent and get him one. I wasn’t buying the “all the other kids have one” argument (though a lot do). But I was hoping that Cole would find an app to help him keep track of school assignments. Then a funny thing happened.

Microsoft’s PR department asked me if I would like to try out a new Windows 7.5 (code-named Mango) phone. I said yes out of a sense of professional obligation. I had given up -- years ago -- on seeing a Windows mobile operating system that I would want to live with.  I’d been hearing good things about the new Windows mobile but wasn’t really buying in. A box arrived containing a Samsung Focus Flash. And within a few days I found myself so dependent on it that I forgot where my own phone was. One day, I left it on the counter in the kitchen. And my son picked it up and played with it.

Later, he took me aside for a serious conversation. “I don’t want an iPhone,” he said. “I want one like that ….” He pointed to the Focus Flash in my hand. But he looked troubled – breaking with his friends was giving him pause. I assured him that he should get what he wanted not what other kids wanted. He nodded, scratched out the one item on his wish list, wrote in “phone like yours,” and handed it to me, grinning.

Why do we like it? The phone itself is slim, pocket-able, has a bright responsive touch-screen, and runs at 4G speed. But it’s really the Windows Mango operating system that hooked us. You can customize the “live tiles” on the opening screen to show you – at a glance – what is most important to you. For me, that’s how many emails I got since I last looked; if my kids, friends, or editors said anything via Facebook, Twitter, or in an email to me; what’s on my to-do list; and what’s next on my schedule. For him, it’s who messaged him on Xbox Live, quick access to Angry Birds, and what his peeps are saying on Facebook. This phone is also inexpensive. Typically it’s $49 at or in AT&T stores with a 2-year plan. (But it’s on special at the moment for $.99) And ATT offers a $15 4G data plan, which is fine for us since the phone uses our Wi-Fi network when it can so a little data is all we need.

The downside? The app marketplace is a bit scant compared to that of Apple or Android. I suspect it will catch up eventually. But if there is something you must have, check out the offerings at the Windows phone app market before you commit. My son doesn’t mind this as much as I do (Skype? Audible? Where are you?) because Xbox Live is right there on his phone and that’s the game marketplace he likes.

Obviously, I’m pleased. Not only did talking Cole out of an iPhone (however unintentionally) save me money, it made it easier for me to reach him -- in ways I didn’t expect. Cole is an avid gamer so he spends too much time with his head inside his Xbox – ignoring his phone, a loudly ringing home phone, or the sound of his mother insisting it's time for bed. But the Focus Flash came with an xBox live app. So I discovered I can send messages right to that Xbox (the messages also go to his phone).  He doesn't mind this as much as I expected him to. In fact he seems to enjoy me making the effort to talk to him on his turf. And he deemed my Xbox Live avatar (she delivers these messages), “Very cool.” He still ignores me. But I know he got the message.

Not on ATT? You might like one of these other Windows Mobile phones:

T-Mobile: HTC Radar 4G, $99 after a $50 mail-in rebate

Verizon: HTC Trophy, $149.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and 2-year contract

Sprint: HTC Arrive, $99.99 after $50 mail-in rebate and 2-year contract