Switching from Android to Windows Phone Part 1: initial impressions and missing features

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Switching from Android to Windows Phone Part 1: initial impressions and missing features
**Reminder: this is not intended to be a review of Windows Phone. This is intended as something of a running diary showing the process of an Android user getting to know and use Windows Phone.**

Making a change or choosing a new mobile platform can be a big step. Our mobile devices are more and more important in our daily lives, so the choice we make for our hardware and software dictates a lot of how we interact on a daily basis. iOS has become more closely tied with Twitter, not to mention its integration with iCloud and other Apple devices/products. Android, not surprisingly, is closely integrated with Google's products like Google+, Docs, Gmail, Maps, etc. Windows Phone is integrated with Micrsoft's Windows Live, and Bing, but also with Facebook to a larger degree. Often, we let the software we use dictate the platform we choose. However, in an effort to understand all aspects of the mobile ecosystem, it can be a useful test to try something new and give it a real workout, and not rely on just a short time or a platform's design philosophy to form an opinion. 

Windows Phone is not yet exactly a major player given that it has yet to pass 2% of the market share in America, but it has made a bit of a push in some regions like Norway and France. As we talked about recently, the Windows Phone ecosystem is in a tenuous position right now. It hasn't built much traction with consumers, and frustration with carriers and manufacturers could be dangerous if Microsoft and Nokia's partnership leads to manufacturers abandoning the platform rather than upping their game to compete with Nokia. Still, Microsoft has deep pockets, Nokia makes quality handsets, and the Windows Phone platform is designed extremely well, even if it can feel incomplete for someone moving over from Android, especially Android 4.0.

With that in mind, it's time to venture into the relative newcomer of Windows Phone. This is the next step in a 4 year journey through the mobile ecosystem which began with the iPhone 3G, moved to the Nexus One, then the Galaxy Nexus and an iPad 2. Sprinkle in regular use of a BlackBerry, and that covers most of the major players in the US smartphone market. So, Windows Phone was the obvious next choice. We'll get into the transition more deeply, but the overall impression from the first weekend of the switch is that Windows Phone has a lot of potential, but still feels a work in progress. 

For this experiement, which should last for the next 6 weeks or so, we are switching from a Galaxy Nexus, which we have been using since December, to an HTC Radar 4G. We would have loved to use a Nokia Lumia 900, since it is the best WP device available, but the lack of T-Mobile support killed that idea. Still, aside from hardware design, screen size, camera quality, battery life, and maybe some specific apps, there shouldn't be too much difference between Windows Phone devices. It's not like the Android ecosystem where there are dozens of factors to be aware of when choosing a device. With Android, you have to understand the CPU specs, screen size, screen resolution, manufacturer, OS version, type of custom UI, radio type, camera quality, plans for OS update and more. With Windows Phone many of those choices don't exist, and that's exactly how Microsoft wants it right now. 

Initial impressions on design

Obviously, the first thing you'd notice with a switch from the Galaxy Nexus or many other high end Android phones released in the past few months is the screen. The Radar screen is almost an inch smaller (3.7" compared to 4.6") and the resolution is much lower as well (480x800 compared to 720x1280). Because Microsoft has kept pretty tight control over what hardware can be used with Windows Phone, there hasn't been a lot of variation until just recently where there has been the introduction of 4"+ screens. This is a conscious effort by Microsoft in order to assure compatibility and consistent performance, so we obviously can't fault HTC for the screen, and really it was only an issue in specific situations like text on a web page while zoomed out. 

Despite the screen difference, Windows Phone looks lovely. The UI is striking and iconic, and it features all of the subtle little touches that Google didn't understand were important until it hired Matias Duarte. The small touches are what make the system feel more mature than it actually is, like the WP lockscreen bouncing up to let you know how to unlock the device, or the way list items squeeze together when you hit the bottom of the list, or how the all of the Tiles flip away leaving just the item you selected before launching, or even the rolling text animation when the voice command is figuring out what you've asked. Windows Phone is also designed to be minimalist, so the screen never feels crowded. The system bar at the top will hide everything except for the clock when entering an app, and a quick swipe will bring up other icons like data connection, WiFi, Bluetooth icons, etc.

As Google learned from Matias Duarte and his work on Android 4.0 and the Holo theme, consistent gestures and continuity in UI from system to apps are important. But, Microsoft obviously already knew this because the Metro UI is built on the left-to-right swiping through pages, and the UI is consistent even within apps. Similarly, Google needed Matias Duarte to come in, explain the need for quality typography, and lead the project which created the Roboto font for Android 4.0, but the entire Metro UI in Windows Phone is driven by the typography, specifically the Segoe WP font. This means that even though Windows Phone devices are all WVGA resolution, text is almost always crisp and easy to read. The icons for Windows Phone are simple and bold, which can be a very welcome sight compared to Android or iOS where app icons are becoming increasingly complex or cartoony. The overall simplicity of WP icons helps to add a sense of cohesion that can be lacking in Android. So, not just the apps, but the WP icons also feel like they are all part of the same whole because of the design. 

Windows Phone is most definitely a design oriented platform, which can be quite a nice transition for users coming from Android 2.x. It certainly doesn't look like anything else on the market, and that's a very good thing. We've never been much of a fan of iOS's static grid of icons. Android got a lot better with Ice Cream Sandwich, but there was a reason why HTC and Samsung felt the need to make Android look prettier in the days of 2.x. When done right, Live Tiles can be delightful, and the Metro UI is easy to navigate for the most part. 

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216 Comments

1. android_hitman unregistered

honestly i wouldn't do that :) i have too many paid apps on android and i can't live without my widgets...

20. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

that was a big concern. I've definitely invested quite a lot in Android, but so far it's pretty nice. and, as i've said, Live Tiles do the same job as many widgets, so it's not that big a transition.

24. CharlieAtInfinity

Posts: 253; Member since: Apr 10, 2012

Windows = no freedom and no customizability + have to stick to Zune I will never ever shift from Android to windows Too many features are missing in Windows Phone but can always shift from Windows to Android :)

29. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

if your not heavily invested in one platform or another, and are not a crazed power user like some of us, there is no reason not to give it a try. Its a great OS. I rather like it, but its just missing too much that ive grown accustomed to. I dont subscribe to the pay to have less philosophy of other fruity ecosystems, so for me at least, its a hard move. But again, the OS itself is great.

38. CharlieAtInfinity

Posts: 253; Member since: Apr 10, 2012

I already have Samsung Omnia 7 along with other Androids and yes i agree the OS is great and has lot of potential, but sadly too many limitations.. i had more liking toward WM 6.5 then Windows Phone 7

50. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

I agree with you, but: "I will never ever shift from Android to windows" Never say never! :)

51. jubbing

Posts: 150; Member since: Aug 20, 2008

What's wrong with Zune? Every Windows Phone at least has one central software like iTunes. With Android, each manufacturer has different software to install (unless you just want to use it as a hard drive).

118. tedkord

Posts: 17198; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

There's the problem. I had iTunes on my pc for my daughters iPod nano, and it was awful. It gummed up the whole computer. I don't want to have to go through some central program to do anything on my phone.

107. profperez1

Posts: 76; Member since: May 08, 2012

The foundation of any good phone is the OS. I have had many Android phones and after 4+ months they slow down. My understanding is that is the nature of the beast. So my advice is invest in an OS that will work for you long term. I'm going to spend $30,000 on mobile technology in the next 40 years----so who cares about the $100 in APPS I spent in Android Marketplace! I thought hard about going back to Blackberry---they will have a nice phone in 6-12 months. But the company lacks vision and the financial power to make change.

188. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

That's the nature of the beast with android. All my iPhones are buttery smooth regardless how long I've had them. Windows or iOS is the way to go

190. wassup

Posts: 565; Member since: Jun 23, 2011

umm, firstly, iOS crashes more than Android. Secondly, I'm using an international SII,and trust me, it's just as buttery smooth as the day I bought it, even with 50+ apps, sorry, your theory is incorrect

199. neutralguy

Posts: 1152; Member since: Apr 30, 2012

never say never. WP just started with smartphones. Just like iOS and Android, when they started, it has a lot of improvements to do. As the phonearena said, it has lots of potentials.

209. Non_Sequitur

Posts: 1111; Member since: Mar 16, 2012

Yeah, you're right. There isn't even a Youtube app. WTF Microsoft.

210. joe73112

Posts: 3; Member since: May 27, 2012

hunh? I have had wp7 since last summer and have had and use the YouTube app. you might actually want to touch a wp7 phone and find out for yourself!

213. Non_Sequitur

Posts: 1111; Member since: Mar 16, 2012

A little late to reply, aren't we?

215. joe73112

Posts: 3; Member since: May 27, 2012

just saw this article

217. krayziehustler

Posts: 1; Member since: May 30, 2012

There are many YouTube apps in the market.

76. bigdawg23

Posts: 467; Member since: May 25, 2011

I just moved to a Vivid and considered the Lumia 900. First draw back for me is the available apps either free or what I have paid for. Second is customization. Third is a feature Apple or Windows doesn't have easily.... CALL BLOCKING. You shouldn't have to jail break your phone to block calls. Fourth is as the review stated "unreliable background running apps". A coworker mentioned that to me and I was shock in that an app is not naturally available in the background on any mobile device.

212. profperez1

Posts: 76; Member since: May 08, 2012

I went into the AT&T store on 5/26---they said it was the best seller in the store. Wow---things change fast in mobile!

2. TROLL.ISAHA

Posts: 535; Member since: Mar 28, 2012

Its to RESTRICTED! Freedom vs enclosure....

13. jackhammeR

Posts: 1548; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

bring back robin hood. uu..horrifying, it's so restricted...can't live with it (mouth, gun...bang!)

70. APPLE_R0YALLY

Posts: 73; Member since: May 08, 2012

We shall give Windows a Try@$ee....™

187. quesoesgrande

Posts: 217; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

iOS is jusr as closed. Whats the big deal?

3. jubbing

Posts: 150; Member since: Aug 20, 2008

That might be because unlike Windows Phone's keyboard, Android ones generally are poor and unresponsive. Find me one Android keyboard thats as responsive as the iPhone's keyboard. I'm currently using a Galaxy Note, and the standard keyboard sucks, and Swype is awesome but isn't as responsive. The HTC One X's keyboard is slightly better, but generally you can't type as fast on it. As for the battery meter, it literally takes 3 seconds to go into it. Settings is generally useful to pin the the start screen -> click settings -> click battery saver, and presto. In Android (asuming its a widget), if its not pinned to your 1st screen you swipe down the menu bar -> click the app then you get to it. It's not that different.

5. bobfreking55

Posts: 866; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

stock ICS keyboard

6. cybervlad81

Posts: 89; Member since: Apr 04, 2011

I may be holding the apple wrong, I have a horrible time typing on the iOS keyboard, though I will admit I only use my iPhone when it is required for my job. Android keyboard works better for me, just using the stock Nexus keyboard, though I use voice quite often because I am lazy. Can't wait to get my hands on a WP device, though. Don't plan on using one as a daily driver, just want to play with it, but who knows, I could like it.

33. -box-

Posts: 3991; Member since: Jan 04, 2012

I've tried the iOS keyboard. It's the worst I've ever used, even compared to some cheap touchscreen phones I've tried

43. android_sucks

Posts: 111; Member since: Jul 28, 2011

Which iOS device? First gen ipod touch?

202. mrochester unregistered

I'm totally the opposite. I've found Android keyboards to be the worst, followed by the WP7 keyboard, with the iOS topping the lot. I recently purchased a Lumia 710 and I was getting incredibly frustrated at the keyboard for not auto-correcting obvious errors and for doing a pretty bad job at working out what I was trying to type. It also surprised me just how useful iOS's "Suggest" feature is as it was painful to live without it on WP7! Another odd thing with WP7 was when I was repeatedly pressing the delete key, even though I was tapping repeatedly in the same place, it would sometimes stop deleting and start typings lots of Ms instead! This necessitated yet more deleting!

14. Raymond_htc

Posts: 430; Member since: Apr 06, 2012

I can type fast on a small keyboard in my wildfire S. it depends on how big ur fingers are, really.

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