Windows Phone was launched in the second half of 2010, and has come a long way since then. The operating system is starting to finally get some phones that are worth getting excited about and the amount of developers publishing apps to its Marketplace is on the rise. But, is the operating system good enough to make the switch over from iOS or Android? I think that depends largely on what you want and expect from an OS, but here is our take on it:
What I’d wish were different on Windows Phone:
App Selection: I have a lot of people I know in the industry, and just about all of them agree with me on this point: there just aren’t enough apps on the Window Phone Marketplace to compete with Android’s Google Play Store and iOS’ App Store. Sure, there are several thousands of apps available at the time of writing, but how many of those are the apps you want or need?
Now don’t get me wrong. The Marketplace has most of the apps that I want and need. But the problem is the few apps that it doesn’t. For example, I use the Mint.com app to manage my finances. It is available on both iOS and Android, but not on Windows Phone. Are there alternatives? Yeah, but why do I have to settle for something else?
But other than that, and a solid Google Analytics app, the Windows Phone Marketplace has just about all the apps I need. The problem for me is, those two apps are the ones I use most often. But this may not be the case for you. In fact, it could be just the opposite. Either way, I predict that by the end of 2012, or beginning of 2013 this won’t be that big of an issue anymore.
App Functionality: Windows Phone is probably the easiest to use mobile operating system there is. This is a large contrast to what Windows Mobile was. But the problem is with its ease of use comes a cost: functionality. One example I like to use is that I can’t even adjust the snooze time intervals on my alarm. Yes, there may be an app for that. But this example seems to be prevalent system wide.
Can’t Turn Off Auto-Rotate: Continuing on that last note, you can’t go into the settings and disable auto-rotate. The auto-rotate on Windows Phone is great. I’d even say that the screen rotates the fastest on Windows Phone. But sometimes I like to lay in bed a read an article or e-mail. It’s pretty tough to do that when the screen keeps flipping over.
No Universal Search: Yes, there is a search button on every Windows Phone out there. Yet, out of all those search buttons on all those phones, none of them do what I want them to do: search my whole phone for whatever I am looking for. Instead, they go to Bing (not that I’m complaining, I love how Bing works on Windows Phone).
No Notification Bar: Android had it first. iOS borrowed it from Android and has it too. Yet, it’s nowhere to be found on Windows Phone. Yes, you have live tiles and they work great. But due to the fact that there isn’t a notification bar, or just a bar in general, at the top of the screen means it’s hard for me to know what my battery life is. I have to go to the home screen and tap the top of the screen to see my battery status, reception, etc.
What Windows Phone brings to the table:
Try Apps Out: While the Marketplace isn’t Windows Phone’s strong suit, having the option to basically try out any app is a big perk. Want to see if you like a certain game before you buy it (and commit to the sometimes long download times)? No problem. Just try out the demo first. Want to see what the user interface will look like on a certain app? Try it out and see for yourself. I love this feature, and I think it helps lower the return rates developers ultimately see.
Live Tiles: I mentioned it earlier, and I’ll say it again. The live tiles on Windows Phone are really nice. It’s just cool to be able to see a tile have a whole bunch of little pictures of your Facebook friends on them. Or to see your Xbox Live avatar jumping around its own icon. Or just seeing a random picture from your gallery on the picture tile. In a way, live tiles are like widgets on Android. But you fit them all into one scrolling screen.
Picture Gallery: I just love the way the picture gallery is displayed. It makes everything look nice. Scrolling through your pictures is a breeze, and you have great cool options like viewing pictures based off of date instead of albums. For example, you can choose to view all your pictures that were taken in the month of February in 2008. When using the camera, just swipe to the left and go straight to your gallery. No hoops to jump through. But that’s not it. The picture gallery is integrated with your Facebook, which brings me to my next point.
Facebook and Twitter Integration: When I first got my Windows Phone, I downloaded a Facebook app. Looking back, I have no idea why. You honestly don’t need it and are probably better off without it. Using the built in integration of Facebook and Twitter means that you get to what you’re trying to do with each service easier and faster than ever before.
Just sync up your Facebook with the OS itself, and watch your Facebook friends link with your phone book. Click on the “People” tab and see a combination of your friends Facebook and Twitter status updates. Tap on the “Me” card and have the option to post a status, check in, etc. Click on a friends profile and send a message or write on their wall.
Microsoft Office and Xbox Live: Just in case you didn’t know, Microsoft is the company behind Windows Phone. And that means you get better access and functionality out of Microsoft Office and Xbox Live. Creating a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document is a cinch, and checking up on your friends on Xbox Live while on the go is just awesome.
Beautiful User Interface: While the Windows Phone OS is simple and easy to use, it is also nice to look at. Everything from the live tiles to the settings and apps keep a consistent beautiful “metro” theme.
Speed: I’ve talked about it before in other articles, and I’ll say it again here. Windows Phone is a speed demon. Everything from booting up to launching apps seems to be faster on Windows Phone than it is on iOS or Windows Phone. Now, I talk about phones being fast often when doing reviews, because they are (at least in that period of time). But here, I’m talking about the OS. A single core 1 GHz single core Windows Phone boots up and opens apps quicker than a 1.5 GHz dual-core Android could. Just imagine what will happen when Microsoft starts supporting dual-cores!
And what my take on it is:
Overall, I have to say that Windows Phone is officially something to consider when buying your next smartphone. With that said, it really depends on the kind of person you are. If you like having a lot of apps and have fun downloading them, Windows Phone might not be for you (yet). But if apps aren’t your biggest concern (or the apps you need are already in the Marketplace), Windows Phone may just be a viable option for you. I know that as soon as a few of the apps I want to see in the Marketplace get published, I’ll make the switch.