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

214. shanay

Posts: 4; Member since: May 28, 2012

Honestly I really prefer windows metro OS to android. It feels a lot more stable and the tiles are less annoying, CPU using and battery killing then those annoying glitchy widgets. To be honest customization shouldn't be a problem if you like the OS and windows phone definitely has the ability to be a serious competitor to iOS and android as soon as they get more apps.

208. Mittal

Posts: 494; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

Well i'm really glad this article has been brought up! ive been thinking a lot of trying the Windows OS after spending an year with my lovable Optimus 1 Android handest. But the extreme options of customisations have spoilt me and it seems the transition could almost be a demotion...frankly i have the same opinion about transitioning from Android to iOS. I'm greatly attracted towards Windows Phone OS's clean and classy looks, but i have a feeling that i will get bored with it very soon. Missing out on some very basic features like bluetooth file transfer, having a file manager, not having to load in media using dedicated softwares (iTunes, Zune) seems almost scary.... But what i'm glad about is this series u guys have started, really liked it and found it really helpful... Keep it up!

200. wp74ver

Posts: 62; Member since: May 10, 2012

Trust me ppl just hate on things they know r good just wait for windows phone 8 to be release they all gonna be like omg I'm stuck with this android s**t plus I don't know what u all talking about anything Microsoft does u all have a window PC and and Xbox why cuz I all know Microsoft does good s**t that's why they r siting on 58 billions cash .

201. KingKurogiii

Posts: 5713; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

just because they do gaming consoles and computers right doesn't necessarily mean that they're automatically going to be better at phones too. i do have a PC and an Xbox 360 which i like very much, i wish i also liked WP more so i could have that unified experience across all of my devices but alas i don't.

196. TROLL.ISAHA

Posts: 535; Member since: Mar 28, 2012

Windows apps are expensive than ios apps. Let alone its cheap On android, sometimes free..

193. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

I would love buy a Windows Phone NOKIA LUMINA 900. The only reason I won't buy it is their ZUNE LIKE UI. I used to have a ZUNE HD mp3 player. The only reason I don't like ZUNE any more is the vidoes takes too long to load in their juke box plus you can't drop or drag your song file on the playlist you have to send it to the play list you create. Since the ZUNE is similar to the WINDOWS PHONE I know how the UI works. But I'll pass for now. And stick with Android.

216. profperez1

Posts: 76; Member since: May 08, 2012

Not going to disagree---put the Zune pass is amazing! For $100 basically any song or album. Thats good money for me.

192. xtian1103

Posts: 364; Member since: Feb 11, 2012

“Developers will finally start focusing on Android first instead of iOS in the next half a year, Google chairman Eric Schmidt said in his presentation at the Le Web conference Dec, 2011 - - - 5 months and 5% of ics on android later...

191. iguano

Posts: 101; Member since: May 10, 2012

this article appear to me like if some super android fanboy user wrote it Not having as robust of a Share menu??? are you kidding me? wp phone HAVE a robust share menu and have A BETTER integration with the MOST USED social network comparing a device with 3.7 inch screen with other who have 4.7? are you serious? why you just compare a galaxy ace with titan 2 or nokia limia 900 and you gona see some diference in favor to wp dude... why you just go to ANY online vendor and see what think the people who are buying the phones... you are gona see 5 starts phones every where if the have wp on it. diferent history if you look the reviews of the android phones. i dont know who is paying this articles but it start to annoy me

184. sgman

Posts: 1; Member since: May 10, 2012

Just made the switch from a Galaxy Note (international version) to a Lumia 900. The big driver for me was the change in eco-system for my company. We are now using Office 365 and setting it up with the Windows Phone has been a breeze, as it ties in beautifully with the Office app. I was never a big gamer, so I'm not missing those types of apps. But I do miss the larger "mini-tablet" screen of the Note. The lower resolution of the fonts is noticeable, but everything else about it is solid. Snappy, responsive, great keyboard, great camera and great integration with Skydrive. The People app is excellent, as is the Messaging. I really like the integration with Facebook and bypassing international texts right from the same app. Great review, and I look forward to the next part.

186. KingKurogiii

Posts: 5713; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

a WP device sounds great for your needs. you should really be able to enjoy that. o:

180. KingKurogiii

Posts: 5713; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

i did a similar experiment a month or so ago involving me switching from a Droid Razr (2.3.6) to an HTC Trophy (7.5) and got some interesting results. the OS may be generally smooth, fluid and even pretty nice to use however being that the hardware is just not there yet things such as graphical animations and opening apps were pretty slow in comparison to phones like the Razr with beefier hardware. even running Spotify in the background was pretty intensive for the Trophy. i do like the good quality apps and the service integration into native apps and how you can uninstall nearly anything you don't want but that lacking app availability is a big downer on WP7.5 after coming from Android. it's a hard sell coming from something like the Razr ESPECIALLY after running ICS on it. ICS actually added some of the important things i liked in my time with WP7.5 to Android. now if the question is do i recommend it? yes and no. i would advise anyone looking into a smartphone for the first time to really check out the new high end crop of WP devices i.e. the Lumia 900 or the Titan II because WP does enough really well for people that haven't been exposed to loads of added functionality from third parties which leads me to why i wouldn't recommend WP and this is to all of you other Platform Veterans namely from the Android Side. there is just not enough App Availability on WP7.5 in my opinion to justify the trade off for the few things WP7.5 does better than Android 2.3-4.0, especially if you're already using ICS.

183. KingKurogiii

Posts: 5713; Member since: Oct 23, 2011

oh and while i was scrolling through the comments i was reminded of something else. you have access to more free things with Android than you do with WP. getting up a decent gaming collection on WP would be pretty pricey.

176. snowgator

Posts: 3630; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

I respect your opinions and your desire to do your job right, Mr. Heller. As one of the self appointed WP defenders, I am not even offended by part 1. I will look forward to part 2, and see how you wrap up the series before I attack like the fan boy I am. :-) Actually, so far it is all accurate. And you paid it some compliments. You might make this "fan boy rage" thingy harder than I thought.....

108. theruleslawyer

Posts: 108; Member since: Apr 23, 2012

I would say that windows phone was never designed for anyone who visits sites like this. It was designed for the other 99%

131. iWallE

Posts: 48; Member since: Oct 10, 2011

I thought the same, but the amount of positive comments on WP seems to be quite significant. The platform turns out to have more fans on PA than I expected.

147. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

Frustrated android users

159. I.P.H.O.N.E

Posts: 33; Member since: May 09, 2012

And U are brainwashed .

206. theruleslawyer

Posts: 108; Member since: Apr 23, 2012

Oh, I don't doubt that. Sometimes I look at WP and think it would be nice to have a phone that just works. Its fast and slick. iOS is looking tired compared to it and android. However its design and marketing is clearly towards the non-techie.

88. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

Sniggly, you know how TACO rolls....

93. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

rolls like a dozen trolls.

77. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

I've said it before I think windows is doing this right. They rebuild their OS from the ground up and have focused on the right things. They're a little light on features, but with their next update and the Nokia partnership I think they're set to take a chunk of androids marketshare. There's a lot of dissatisfied android users that will be switching.

80. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

Of course you couldn't go through a whole comment without passive aggressively bashing Android. I know this is just the Internet, but it's almost physically painful to read a mostly reasonable statement and then just see it completely derail at the end. I mean, really. There is no longer anything implicitly and/or glaringly dissatisfying about Android; if there's anything that dissatisfies customers anymore, it's that they happen to get a really crappy Android phone (which, unfortunately, exist) or they happen to get a defective high end Android phone, which then drops them into a pattern of getting crappy refurbished phones (something which has been a reality in the mobile warranty/insurance industry for years now). More often than not, when I've shown someone the advantages of Android (mainly through features and cost) they won't make the switch from an iPhone because either their peers have it or they've invested too much into the iPhone ecosystem. I'm willing to bet that if Google made a switch initiative which allowed for people moving from iOS to get any apps they paid for on iOS for free on Android, and also move their music/documents over to Android for free (and made it easy)

82. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

the rate of Android adoption from iOS would be much higher.

94. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

i dont know why or how u keep expecting more of him.

106. Sniggly

Posts: 7305; Member since: Dec 05, 2009

Because, hyperbole aside, Taco's not an idiot. At least he doesn't appear to be. His reading comprehension sucks (either that, or he's very good at misinterpreting/selective reading) but he's not an idiot.

113. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

lol, im going to have to respectfully disagree with that. :) 4 years of him nipping at my heels and watching him say the same things over and over and over again no matter how true or untrue they may be.. and a very glaring lack of reading comprehension that we have all seen over our times here, leads me to conclude the exact opposite.

168. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

What ever happened with that bet?

170. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

The bet was for who sold the most smartphones in Q1-2012. Samsung wins, he leaves the site, Apple wins, I leave the site. We all know Samsung won by a healthy margin, but just as I figured, he refuses to honor the bet and leave. It would be so peaceful if he did.. If only I had ban powers, I'd enforce the bet myself. :)

87. jimjam unregistered

I was dissatisfied.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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