Why I'm wary of switching to Windows Phone 8

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| Published: October 15, 2012

I've said at least 100 times before that Windows Phone shows great promise. Windows Phone 8 is just a few short weeks ahead, and I'm getting quite excited for what it has in store and what Nokia and Microsoft have come together to produce. (HTC and Microsoft have paired to create some rather svelte devices, too.)

The Windows Phone 8 update brings a bevy of new features, such as a refined home screen and support for various hardware improvements: SD cards, NFC, multi-core architecture and 720p display resolution. There is also an updated camera application, the ability to screen capture and tiny refinements throughout the entire operating system.

In short, this update is Windows Phone's coming of age, a transition from adolescence into adulthood. Windows Phone is beginning its journey into maturity, refinement and being a well-oiled machine. It will also be stepping form the shadows to duke it out with BlackBerry 10 over the currently unoccupied third ecosystem position. But as the launch of the Lumia 920 and other Windows Phone 8 devices nears, I can't help but remember the reasons I have never been able to stay with Windows Phone in the past. And I can't help but wonder whether the changes in Windows Phone 8 will answer some of the outlying issues I and many others have with the platform.

Below are a few reasons I have my doubts about Windows Phone 8.

 

Application and game support, investments

There is no doubt Microsoft has done a lot to nurture and grow the Windows Phone [Marketplace] Store. In just under two years, developers have created over 100,000 applications for Windows Phone. For contrast, BlackBerry has been around for ages and developers have been making apps for BlackBerry for the better part of a decade. Research In Motion launched BlackBerry App World in April 2009. As of May this year, there were just 99,500 applications in App World, most of which are specifically for the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.

Still, while 100,000 applications is nothing to scoff at, that's only about half of what both Android and iOS had at their two-year marks. According to Wikipedia, App Store had over 225,000 at 23 months and Play Store (then Android Market) had 200,000 apps at 26 months.

The typical counterargument, however is, "There are 100,000 applications. That should be more than enough." In theory, that may be true. But in practice, it's easy to find that only a fraction of those 100,000 apps are quality apps worth downloading. Not to mention, I have come to love many applications on Android and iOS, such as: Snapseed or Picsay Pro, Pocket, Zite, Instagram, Chrome, Reeder or Reader HD, Google Voice, iA Writer and Epistle, Google Drive, Bitly, iDisplay and many more (which I touched on here).

Sure, I can find some alternatives or third-party remakes of some of the current apps I use. But that's a lot of digging (which I'm willing to do) that will likely result in me having to do without some of my favorite apps and services. Not to mention, I've spent upwards of $400 (possibly much more) on applications for both iOS and Android. I will be essentially starting fresh with Windows Phone.

 

Google Apps accessibility

Speaking of apps and services, I have explained in the past that I am heavily invested in Google Apps. I have six or more Gmail accounts and four Google Apps accounts for various reasons. For much of the work I do, I depend on Google services, such as Drive, Talk, Voice, Gmail, Contacts, Calendar and Reader.

There are certainly third-party apps for Google Voice, Talk and Reader. And Gmail, Contacts and Calendar sync can be setup almost effortlessly. I can even access Drive through the mobile browser, if need be. But the experience is greatly hindered, along with some functionality.

Luckily, I will always have an Android device with me wherever I go. I can rely on a second device to get the job done. But it would be nice to be able to access all of these services and applications from Windows Phone, too. In short, however, it means I will never be able to use Windows Phone as a primary platform.

 

Application resume times

On issue I have had since my first round with Windows Phone were applications resume times. Unlike iOS or Android which load the last application instantaneously after unlocking the device, if you let your Windows Phone device time out and unlock it a few minutes later, Windows Phone opens to a "Resuming…" splash page that sometimes takes up to 10 seconds (or more) to load an application.

The premise was that they were improved in the latest update, Mango. After some hands-on time with Mango on an HD7 and then with the Nokia Lumia 900, I learned that this hadn't really been addressed as I had hoped.

Also, because of the way Windows Phone handles multitasking (or task switching, really), applications that require staying open in the background don't always work as intended. Instant messaging applications, for example, may still be in the background, but they pause and notifications stop altogether until you open the application back up. And unlike other platforms, if you switch back and forth between apps while carrying on an instant messaging conversation, on Windows Phone, the application will sometimes "resume" every time you switch back to the app, meaning you have to wait for the application to resume before opening the conversation back up.

None of this is exactly a deal-breaker, but over time, things like this really begin to pick away at my nerves. Here's to hoping multi-core architecture can assist in task switching/multitasking.

 

Notifications

Lastly, a low point of Windows Phone has always been its notification system. In contrast from BlackBerry, Android and iOS, which all have a centralized location for unattended notifications, Windows Phone notifies users once of incoming notifications before they become scattered across the home screen on live tiles.

The only way to tell if you have missed a notification is to check the home screen. However, if you do not have a tile placed for the particular application you received a notification for, you will have to happen upon the notification within the app itself.

On a brighter note, Microsoft has added the ability for third-party applications to display notifications on the lock screen. But that still doesn't address the need for a single, centralized location for incoming and missed notifications.

 

I'm still looking forward to Windows Phone 8 and the Lumia 920. But I am very wary of Windows Phone and the improvements Microsoft has made. It has added some much-needed capabilities and features to the OS, but I'm afraid it may have missed some of the finer details. I fear we may have to wait until the next update for some of those and that I will find myself in the same boat as last time.

What say you, folks? Are you excited about Windows Phone 8 and the respective hardware? Or, like me, do you still have your reservations about Windows Phone? If so, what are they?