Switching from Android to Windows Phone Part 3: apps Marketplace, Xbox Live, and Google services
Of course, if you’re coming over from Android, there’s a fair chance that you’ve been living a pretty Googley lifestyle. Your Gmail account won’t be an issue, as WP will pull your contacts, calendar, etc, so there is no reason to need a separate Google Calendar app. The mail app also works well enough for Gmail, although one annoyance is that it only syncs your inbox, so if you have filters set up that skip messages past your inbox, the WP mail app won’t get those. And, messages with extra labels (like bulk or notifications) will be removed from your inbox when deleted, but may still be left unread in those folders in your Gmail. Still, it’s not a big enough issue that you should have to consider changing your e-mail address, which many people dread doing.
As far as other Google products, it’s a bit hit or miss as you go, because the only official Google app is Search. You can use the mobile websites for various products, but because IE is so terrible, that isn’t always a good option. There are a number of 3rd party options for apps, but the trouble there is that you have to put your trust in the developer to not steal your Google credentials, because all will ask you to put in your login without options for oauth. It may have just been a bad coincidence, but our Google account was compromised for the first time ever while doing this Windows Phone experiment.
As we said, the only official Google app is Search, and it’s not a great app, but it’s also not terrible. The Bing Search app can be annoying at times because it returns so few results, and results may not be all that relevant to what you want, so the Google Search app is pretty handy to have regardless.
If you’re big into Google Docs/Drive though, Windows Phone may be trouble for you. There are a couple Google Docs apps available, but neither allows for editing docs, only viewing. However, as we mentioned last time, the Office suite for Windows Phone is one of the shining stars of the platform, and migrating your files from Google Docs/Drive to Microsoft’s SkyDrive is probably one of the easiest transfers you could make, especially now with the new Google Drive apps for Mac and Windows.
One big trouble is with Google Talk. There are a number of instant messaging apps that will allow you to use Google Talk, like Palringo or IM+, but because of the limitations on background processes you may find it difficult to have the clients stay logged in when in the background, so you won’t have that constant connection. As we mentioned before, Facebook chat and Windows Live chat are integrated into the Messaging app, so it may be best to just switch services, because Google Talk can be a bit annoying.
There is absolutely no way to access Google Music on Windows Phone. No apps and the website is far too advanced for IE’s HTML5 deficiencies. So, if you’re deep into Google Music, you’ll be in the terrible position of having to either download your entire collection (which can be done without limit, but may not be feasible), downloading on the albums you want (which has a 2 download limit via Google Music), re-purchase your music (a terrible option), or giving up your collection and just using Spotify (not a bad way to go.)
There is no Google+ app, but the website works well enough. There is also no option for Google Books, but the Amazon Kindle app is pretty nice. The Google Books website is at least functional in IE, but by no means ideal.
If Bing Maps doesn’t do it for you, there is actually a pretty solid Google Maps app, simply called gMaps. It includes all of the goodies that Bing doesn’t have like public transit directions, a weather, or public transport layer, and partial Latitude integration. Partial in that you can update your location, and check friends’ locations, but you can’t check in at places. And, really, Latitude and public transport directions are really the only reasons to use gMaps over Bing Maps, because as good as gMaps is, there is a lot missing. Places have to be searched, and you can’t just tap a place you see, and there’s no Street View.
Lastly, and maybe the biggest is Google Voice. Google Voice is a great service, and one of the killer apps for Android. You certainly won’t get the same integration on Windows Phone, and using your Google Voice number as your primary for making calls is possible, but not ideal. The best app we’ve found is GoVoice, which will allow you to make calls, and send and receive texts. Making calls is easy enough, although there’s no call history, so it can become cumbersome to have to go into your contacts constantly to make calls. The best option may be to only use your Voice number for international calls. Unfortunately, setting up push notifications for texts is also pretty annoying, so it may be best to set up SMS forwarding in Google Voice. This way, your SMS messages will be sent to your phone in the stock Messaging app, and you can reply right from there and it will be routed through Google Voice.
Overall, there are plenty of apps in in the Windows Phone Marketplace to keep you going, and the games can be exceptional, especially considering the hardware limitations of Windows Phone devices. Most of the major apps that you might want exist or have an unofficial options that will get you what you need. And, of course, the Marketplace is growing quickly.
Remaining a Google user when switching to Windows Phone is certainly possible, and if the platform continues to grow, it’s likely that we’ll see more and more Google products make it to the Marketplace, but right now it can be a struggle. Gmail and calendar are easy enough to integrate; YouTube, Maps, and Reader have quality alternatives, but other products like Voice, Talk, Music or Docs don’t have great alternatives, and may be best to leave behind in favor of other services.