One month in, Windows Phone continues to impress me

Sydney Myers
Teen Lifestyle Editor from  Dallas, TX
| September 12, 2011

So here we are. One month later. The honeymoon is over and I'm now facing the realities of switching from Android to Windows Phone 7. There have been some good times; there have been some bad times. In all, Windows Phone 7 is exactly what I expected - not perfect but certainly inspiring. I'm not going to say that Windows Phone is better than Android, but I'm also not going to say that it's worse than Android. It's a little more complicated than that.

The thing is, Windows Phone and Android are two different animals. Android is all about customization, widgets, toggles, apps, live wallpapers, UIs, rooting, and more. Android is the hyper-active hare, whereas Windows Phone is the steady but efficient tortoise. Windows Phone is all about simplicity. I know I can't do much to customize my Windows Phone device - that's kind of the point. Not everyone has time to do all of that. However, even without spending hours customizing my phone, it still looks beautiful. It's all about design. It's about the edges, the angles, the transitions, and the lines. Call me crazy, but this OS is so full of inspiring design elements that I'm shocked it came from Microsoft and not Apple.

So yes, looks matter to me. Why shouldn't it? After a month with Windows Phone, the visual appeal has not worn off.

On the other hand, I've run into some kinks, we'll say. As I mentioned in my initial article, Live Tiles in Windows Phone can be just as useful as widgets in Android. The notification system is also excellent. (I found out that the bar that appears at the top of the screen when a notification is received is called a Toast notification. Get it? 'Cause it pops up.) The only problem with Live Tiles and Toast is, well, they don't always work. Yes, I know this renders them virtually useless. Apparently, this is a known bug in the software and has been fixed in the Mango update. I can't attest to this since I'm not a registered developer and, therefore, do not yet have the Mango update.

I mentioned this in my original post, but I'll say it again. I miss multi-tasking. I can't tell you how many times I've been listening to Slacker Radio, pressed the Start button to go to some other app, and lost my music. After using Android for so long, it's a habit. You don't realize how much you use multi-tasking until you don't have it. Again, I have to point out that multi-tasking is coming in the Mango update so this problem is all but solved, but for my month-long trial period, it was an issue.

What wasn't an issue was the keyboard. Man, this thing is awesome. It could be attributed to the fact that my device has a 4.3-inch display, but I am in love with the Windows Phone keyboard and I love the clicking noise it makes when I press a key. (It's the little things that count.) I never got used to the stock Android keyboard on either Froyo or Gingerbread and installed numerous alternate keyboards until I found one I liked (SwiftKey). Right from the get-go, Windows Phone's keyboard has been excellent. I can type as fast as my fingers can go and I'll end up with few or no errors. The first few times I did a speed-typing test I was amazed. Now I'm so used to it, I don't know that I could go back to the Android keyboard. The word prediction and autocorrect functionalities are excellent.

I'll touch on app selection since I know that's important to a lot of people. I don't have the numbers, but it seems that more of the quality apps on Windows Phone are paid, whereas I know I can get them for free on Android. This is especially true with games. For example, Angry Birds is currently $2.99 in the Windows Phone Marketplace and it's no uncommon to see popular games priced at $4-6. Another example I came across is Twitter apps; most of the good ones are also paid. The Twitter app I'm using right now was $3.99 which is more than I ever though I'd pay for any app. The Marketplace has a 'try before you buy' feature, but it works differently than the one on Android. The app either has a trial period that runs out and renders the app unusable, or the developer will remove certain key features to make sure you don't forever keep the "free" version. For example, I downloaded a trial version of a paid Twitter app and the developer had removed the ability to send tweets. Still, it's a useful system, but the point is that you're going to be paying for more apps. That being said, the apps work well, there is a great selection, and I've never had to deal with not finding an app that's worth using.

There is one more problem that I want to talk about. It's a simple bug that I'm sure can be fixed. (In fact, it might be fixed in the, you guessed it, Mango update.) As far as I can tell, this problem only occurs when opening the Marketplace but what happens is I'll select the Marketplace app, the Loading page will show up, and then it will close and go back to my Start page without opening the Marketplace. I can try to open it over and over and it will never work. I generally wait a few hours or until the next day and it will magically work again. Powering the device off and back on hasn't helped and taking the battery out hasn't helped either. This is bothersome but at the same time manageable since I came from Android where every other app force closes from time to time.

Now, allow me to defend a few aspects of Windows Phone: Zune, Internet Explorer, Bing, updates, and the fact that it is made by Microsoft. My defenses can basically be summed up as, "Whatever negative things you've heard are probably not true." So yes, the phone uses Zune software. You can still import any song you already have into your library and purchase them from any other music store and send them to your phone. It doesn't have to be some special file type. After using the Zune software, I see nothing essentially wrong with it. After coming from Android where there's no default or built-in system for buying music, I'll take Zune any day. As for Bing, trust me, I used to make fun of it just like everyone else. After a month, I've had to put my pride aside and say that it's actually a pretty good search engine. Bing has far exceeded my expectations and, in my experience, Bing Maps has proven to be more accurate when tracking my location than Google Maps. (It's so accurate it's actually kind of creepy.)

Again, I made fun of Internet Explorer right along with everyone else in the tech industry. However, there aren't many browser options outside of IE on Windows Phone so I was forced to give it a shot. As far as browsing on a smartphone goes, it's great. Pages load quickly, I can have multiple windows open, and I've never had problems with lag or freezing. Pinch-to-zoom is also incredibly smooth and fast.

The two biggest arguments I've heard against Windows Phone are the fact that it's made by Microsoft and you will supposedly have to deal with so-called "slow" updates. Both of these are understandable concerns but also explainable. Yes, Microsoft does not have the best reputation in the mobile industry. In fact, I would venture to say that Windows Mobile gave Microsoft the worst reputation. However, like I said in the beginning, this is nothing like anything you've seen from Microsoft and it's certainly nothing like Windows Mobile. Trust me, I used Windows Mobile and it was a nightmare. As for software updates, no, a new one isn't released every two months like with Android. That may bother you and you have a right to feel that way. It doesn't bother me personally because it means I have less to worry about, I know that each update is full of fixes and has been tested properly, and Microsoft's system ensures that I'll get the update when it comes out, not a year later. Everyone has different preferences.

So the jury is in and I'm sticking with Windows Phone. Yes, I've been itching to get another phone, especially when I saw the Samsung Galaxy S II, but that's natural. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone a little and try out a new OS yourself. It doesn't have to be Windows Phone, though I would recommend trying it. Android fans, try iOS. You iOS fans, try Android or Windows Phone or webOS, even. If you truly want the best OS, then you'll try them all. I found that Windows Phone works best for me and my lifestyle. You may settle on another OS or maybe even decide that the one you're using right now is best for you. Still, it's worth it to look around and see what the world has to offer.