My Windows Phone experiment – Part 2

My Windows Phone experiment   Part 2

A while back I set about doing something a bit rash, I decided I was going to use exclusively Windows Phone and Windows RT in my day to day life. The plan was to ditch Android for a while and really get a feel for Windows Phone and Windows RT. I knew it shouldn’t be too hard as I’ve been using Windows Phone for years now and I have a realistic grasp of what it’s capable of.

So what happened?

Well let me set the scene, we here at Coolsmartphone use quite a few Google services to keep in touch with each other. Herein lies the main problem, having used Android for so long I’m used to how seemless the Google services are. Although saying that I have tried and tested a hell of a lot of alternative apps. I’ve pretty much replicated each apart from some of the more in depth parts of Google Now.

Over the last few years I have been using a Windows Phone and an Android Phone in conjunction so I have a really good feel of how both OS’s work, I also went a bit mad and bought an iPhone last year. Using two phones has made me often wonder whether I could get by on just one OS.

I set about my experiment a few weeks ago with a Nokia Lumia 620, an HTC 8X and a Surface RT tablet on hand for when things got a little out of hand on the phones. A Nokia Lumia 820 also joined in the experiment for a fortnight as well. I also had a 4G EE Huawei MiFi as well for tethering on the fly.

So why the two phones?
Well I am one of those unfortunate people that got caught out by T-Mobile and their data limits changes. So my solution was to get a Giff Gaff SIM. So now every day I carry two phones around. Data wise in a month I use about 3GB in total so I have to have at least one unlimited download SIM around. Each phone for me has a specific purpose, normally laid out by the physical size of the device.

The smaller less powerful phone I use for SMS, Phone Calls and general usage and the larger more powerful phone I for my Emails, Twitter, Facebook, Web Browsing, obsessive RSS monitoring, taking pictures, IM, managing my Cloud Storage, listening to podcasts and some other stuff as well.

I love Windows Phone 8.

There I have said it. As I have said many times before the core functionality in my opinion is superior to other OS’s. A lot of you are probably going to spit your tea across the room or flip a table after reading that, but for me I find the core functions of Calling, Emailing, SMS, Contact Management and the Calendar second to none. I’m not sure whether it is just that I’m used to Windows Phone and appreciate it more now or whether Android and iOS just pale by comparison. The closest I came to Windows Phone functionality was with BlackBerry 10 on the Z10.

The Windows Phone app situation is often used by people to poohoo the whole Windows Phone ecosystem. I feel now Windows Phone is maturing and, slowly but surely big name app developers are moving over to the platform. Pretty much everything you’d want from an OS exists. Don’t say Instagram or I’ll scream. The third party developers are doing a great job in getting apps to work on Windows Phone as well, I’ve got a lot of music stored on Google Music and I was really pleasantly surprised to see how good Gooroovster was.

As weeks and months go by more and more big name apps are appearing, the main notable absence are Google and their range of apps, they’ve made apps for iOS, which is obviously down to user numbers. It does make me wonder if and when they’ll swallow their pride and make some more apps for Windows Phone. Microsoft/Nokia need to really look at the huge things that are missing though, maybe bribe some banks to bring the banking apps to the platform and whilst they’re at it they could bribe SKY as well. Regularly people cite the lack of Banking apps, SKY, iPlayer as keeping them from the platform.

So what apps did I come across to ease my woes at not being on Android?

NextGen Reader, Mehdoh, Weather Flow, SkyDrive, OneNote, Battery Level for WP8, Fuse, Gooroovster, Xbox Music, IM+, Photosynth, ProShot, Fotor and Wiztiles and of course most of the Nokia Collection of apps. The more I use Windows Phone the more I find useful and well designed apps. NextGen Reader or Mehdoh are prime examples. I couldn’t get through a day without them.

What did I do without Instagram?

I certainly didn’t post anything using the Nokia #2instawithlove app. For me the whole Instagram thing for Windows Phone is becoming almost desperate, every time I log into Instagram I wonder what the fuss is, maybe I just follow the wrong people. But I can easily live without out. Yes having it would be nice on my HTC 8X, but life goes on regardless.

What did I miss so much it hurt?

As I’ve mentioned before I use quite a few Google services alongside Microsoft services. The whole Google+ thing reared its head, various people and sites are experimenting with Google+ and I feel at times that I’m missing out, especially the mobile web version isn’t very nice. Again though, life is too short to mourn the lack of another social network.

WordPress is something I use everyday. I write articles and reviews on this here very site. WordPress for Windows Phone is awful, it is missing various essential features and I feel sorry for people who have no choice but to use it. The Android version is miles ahead in functionality. This problem really makes me reconsider using Windows Phone.

For me it is almost too big a compromise. How one app can ruin an entire OS is quite worrying.

So how did I get on with Windows RT?
Windows RT is getting better with time, the app situation is improving and Microsoft are regularly updating the core apps. Also being able to easily synchronise my Surface and my Windows Phone was handy, although SkyDrive does a better job in the Cloud of synchronising them.

What would I fix with Windows Phone?

Windows Phone still has a few annoying bugs and a few things that would really make it more pleasurable.

  • The music playing bug/feature amazingly still exists, whereby if you stop playing music the details remain on the lockscreen and the volume drop down.
  • The Store is limited to 20MB over cellular data with no option to override it.
  • The tiles on the front screen would be nicer if there was more sizes like 2×1, 4×1, 1×2 and also if they had an On/Off option like in Windows 8.
  • A universal search of some kind would be great, or a search button that searched within the currently active app.
  • A notification centre of some sort would also be nice.

None of these are life threatening to me, just omissions I feel that would make the OS better.

So what happens next?

I’m not sure where to go next. A while back I used a Nokia Lumia 920 and I really liked it, more than I currently like my HTC 8X and certainly more than my Nokia Lumia 620. I think a combo of a Lumia 920 and possibly a LG Nexus 4 is the way for me.

I certainly couldn’t not use Windows Phone, I’ve become accustomed to how easy adding contacts, Tweeting is, posting to Facebook is and generally doing phone stuff is. When I go back to Android I find myself side swiping stuff all of the time, yearning for a uniform design in my apps.

Using a huge variety of devices throughout a week I’ve been thinking about form factors. If a candy bar qwerty existed it would be great, if a slide out qwerty existed things would also be good and lastly if there was a 5″+ “Phablet” things would be amazing. All of these form factors are popular and would certainly sell, especially the larger phone, I’d love a Galaxy Note II running Windows Phone. The rumoured HTC Zenith would have been great which was meant to have been the HTC 8X’s bigger brother, but it was dropped as Windows Phone 8 can’t use a 1080p display. A smaller Microsoft Surface would be a nice companion device as well, about 7″ would be great.

So to conclude, I’d say Windows Phone 8 is miles better than Windows Phone 7 and if only the developers behind the WordPress app would make it usable in the real world I’d be on Windows Phone full time. Maybe I’ll send them an email. Hmmm…..

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  • weirdstuff

    Good article. I myself am just ending a contract with T-Mobile and find that I am going to say farewell to my beloved WP7 Samsung Omnia 7 (as I’m moving to GiffGaff, already have a Nexus 4 and won’t pay £6 + to unlock this phone that now, in April 2013, still doesn’t even have WP 7.8). Windows Phone 7.5 (7.10.7740.16) is the best smart phone I’ve had for contact management and the linking in of core systems to Twitter & Facebook. I can certainly see me going back, maybe when Windows Phone 9 comes around…?

  • Excellent article. I find Android painful now, with Windows Phone excelling at the things you mentioned.
    i can’t go back to Android now – I’ve tried & it drives me nuts!

  • Anonymous

    Good read. Really interesting to hear how Windows Mobile has come on – it’s good to know that MS can pull one out of the bag when they need to, if a bit late.

    I still have some reservations about the restrictiveness of the OS – think they’ve tried to go a bit Apple’ish on that, but other than that it seems that they’ve at least got the user interface stuff sorted out.

    Even still, I don’t ever see myself buying a Windows based phone. I do not like to support Microsoft in any way – they are a bad company. Until this turns around I’m not going to change my mind.

  • Anonymous

    funnily enough wp7 used the search key just like you want. it was context sensitive and searched within whatever app you were in unless you were on the home screen then it went to bing. they changed the behaviour with wp7.5 so that it just looks at bing…