Make the switch to Windows Phone? – [opinion]

Android, Blackberry OS, iOS, Windows Phone – All current(ish) mobile operating systems and all with their own good points and foibles. I have never made any bones about the fact that I am an Android user. I have had a few Blackberry devices but moved on once the HTC Desire was launched and have stuck with the Android platform since then. I’ve used iOS in the form of the iPod Touch and I have to say that the Touch is a wonderful device, unmatched in the personal media player stakes. However, whilst iOS has its millions and millions of followers it simply isn’t for me.

HTC 8S in white with Windows Phone 8

Which leaves Windows Phone which, as I am sure everyone is aware, has recently been updated to version 8. I am ashamed to say that until now I had never had more than a fleeting play with Windows Phone. In the small amount of time that I had with the platform I found it to be quite good but I hadn’t spent long enough to form a proper opinion. Now though, thanks to the wonderful folks over at HTC that has changed. They very kindly sent over an HTC 8S for a few days.

The review of the 8S is being covered in a seperate article earlier today by our own James Pearce. So instead I’m going to detail some thoughts on the platform and how I got on over the time that I spent with it.

I have now seen a few different Windows Phone handsets, the Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 as well as the HTC 8X and 8S. My over riding impression is that they really do look good. They’re well made and attractive to look at. They’re different from the pack and in this case, different is good

So, having inserted my SIM and gone about the usual setup details that is the prerequisite for all smartphones nowadays, my first issue was how to get my contact and calendar details onto this new platform (those Liverpool fixtures are of great importance don’t you know!). I need not have worried for within the settings menu is an option to sync your Google account. Contacts, contact pictures and calendar entries are all synced up so you are ready to go. In fact the contact management is far and away the best I have seen on any platform bar none. The integration with Facebook and Twitter is exceptional, extremely impressive stuff.

So, my contacts are copied and in place, next for some ringtones. At this point I have to connect the device to my laptop whereby a sense of impending dread comes over me. Will it find the drivers? Will it connect properly? Once again my worries were groundless as the 8S connected flawlessly, even prompting me to download the Windows Phone software. After a painless experience it was time to start searching for the equivalent apps to those that I use on a daily basis. My preconception was that the Windows Phone app store is less than great, that you could not find anything of use and that its like a barren wasteland. Well, how wrong was I!? Whilst the breadth of apps may not be there (lets face it Android is now over 3 years old whilst iOS is over 5) there is a thriving marketplace for both free and paid for apps.

The big names are all there, Facebook, Skype, Twitter, YouTube, Angry Birds, Flixster and so on and on. Recently Google (well, Eric Schmidt) said that Google will not be developing for Windows Phone because it is not a big enough platform. I disagree. I’m sure he will be really upset to hear that! 🙂 The one app that I really missed was Google Music, which I can’t see being migrated any time soon.

On day to day use Windows Phone is slick and quite polished. Menus are easily navigated and finding what you want is easy. The combination of the HTC 8S and the OS make for an all round pleasant experience. The live tiles on the home screen are a good touch with the constantly evolving and updating information being easy on the eye. The fact that they are resizeable and moveable is also a nice touch. Generally the OS is a pleasure to use, is fairly self explanatory and good for both experienced smartphone users and newcomers alike.

There is however a but and for me it’s a deal breaker……..

The one question I would put to the Microsoft developers is “Where is the Va Va Voom?”, what makes Windows Phone 8 stand out and better than anything else on the market? Windows Phone 8 is a nice OS.  It’s pleasant to look at and pleasant to use.  It’s uncomplicated however in my opinion it is typical Microsoft.

I would even describe it as safe….

The smartphone world is a competitive one and with Android seemingly growing exponentially while iOS shows no signs of slowing down Windows Phone has a long hard climb.  The manufacturers appear to have done their part but it feels to me like Microsoft still have some way to go to match and surpass the other more established operating systems.

I no longer buy into the lack of apps argument and the substandard hardware description no longer applies, there is a lot to like about the latest offering but put quite simply it doesn’t have enough to pull me away from the latest that Android has to offer.