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

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Inconsistency

The trouble is in those qualifiers in that last sentence. Overall, Windows Phone feels inconsistent to a certain extent. When done well, like the People Tile or Xbox Live Tile, the animation adds another dimension which is exciting and lively. However, many of the third party apps don't take advantage of Live Tiles nearly as well and use bland graphics that don't change much. This is likely something that will change as developers put more time and effort into the platform, but it's not helping anything right now when the platform needs to gain traction in the market.

One thing that any new user has to keep in mind is that the name Windows Phone 7.5 is a very misleading name, because this is really only the second version of this system. Microsoft did a complete reboot from Windows Mobile 6 to Windows Phone 7, so it's not surprising that certain features that would seem basic don't exist. Other features are there, but either don't work the same way consistently, or are triggered in strange ways. For example, there is universal copy/paste in Windows Phone, but selecting a word will only be triggered if you do something of a medium-length tap. A quick tap won't work, which seems reasonable, but if you hold too long on a word it also won't trigger, so you have to find the right timing in order to get the feature to work. Then, once you have highlighted something, using the end-points to change the highlighted phrase doesn't always register accurately. 

Similarly, while the Metro UI is generally intuitive, there are still too many times where the option you may want or some explanation of what is happening may be lacking. This is apparent right from the first time you boot up your new Windows Phone device. When you first login to your Windows Live account, the device will automatically install the base apps, so you are guaranteed to have the newest version of each right away. This is a great idea, but unless you've ready the manual or quick start guide that comes with your device (and let's face it, no one ever reads those things), you won't actually know that this is happening. All you'll see is that the phone is taking a disturbingly long time to sign in for the first time, which may lead you to think that something has gone wrong, especially if you aren't on WiFi and have to wait for slower mobile data to get everything installed. Additionally, just like how Google has been pushing the Holo theme in Ice Cream Sandwich as a way to uncover important features of an app that may be buried in menu items, Microsoft could do with bringing forward some features out of menu lists.

It's also very nice that almost all apps can be uninstalled right away. The only apps that are baked in and can't be uninstalled are the core apps from Microsoft like Phone, People (aka contacts), Messaging, Office, etc. Any manufacturer or carrier additions can be uninstalled. So, if you don't want T-Mobile TV, HTC Watch or HTC Hub, they can be easily uninstalled. Of course, not everything can be uninstalled, and even worse, some features you may expect just don't exist yet, and if they do, they can be somewhat inconsistent. 

Missing features 

A potentially large sticking point for an Android user moving to Windows Phone is with text input. There is voice command available for search and performing certain actions, and it works pretty well, but there is no dictation option, nor are there alternative keyboards (a mainstay for the Android user), so unless you'll have to get comfortable with touch typing very quickly. The stock keyboard on Windows Phone is quite good, although with most devices like the Radar, it would be best to make landscape orientation your default for typing, because otherwise it is a bit cramped. It seems likely that dictation is coming, but definitely the biggest switch from Android to WP is in giving up gesture keyboards, and that doesn't seem to be on the Windows Phone update roadmap. Even so, text input works well with the virtual keyboard, although autocorrect doesn't work consistently. While we've found autocorrect to work well in the Email app, it doesn't always do its job in the Messaging app.

One small, but important missing, or at least hidden feature is with the battery meter. There is the icon battery meter in the top right as you'd expect, but getting more information on the battery is buried far too deeply. There is no option for changing the system bar icon to a percentage readout, or timer of estimated battery life remaining, and no option for a Live Tile with this info. The only way to get it is to drill into the settings and the Battery Saver settings. Given the way we kill devices, battery life is something that's always a trouble, this is very disappointing. There are apps to give you this kind of info if you are willing to developer unlock your Windows Phone, but that shouldn't be a requirement. 

The last major issue we found right away was in the limitation of background processes on 3G. There are obviously size limits for app downloads on mobile connections, as would be expected, but those limits aren't extended to things like podcasts. Rather, downloading a podcast over mobile data cannot be done through the Marketplace at all. There are 3rd party options for downloading podcasts, but if you're on mobile it can't be done in the background, meaning you have to plan your downloads to when you won't need to use your phone. A big addition of Windows Phone 7.5 was in allowing apps to run in the background, but we found that this was not reliable when you need an Internet connection, like for an IM app, and more often than not apps would lose connection when exited. 

Conclusion

Obviously, there are nits that can be picked, especially when making as big a shift as the move from Android to Windows Phone. Android is in its 7th major version, while Windows Phone is on its 2nd, so there are bound to be features that Android has that WP doesn't. Not having as robust of a Share menu will likely turn off some users, but we can't fault Windows Phone for things like that, because for all we know, that could be a feature that is coming later on, and it isn't something that will make or break the user experience. It's simply something to get used to like transitioning into using Bing and Bing Maps more often. 

Our initial impression is that Windows Phone definitely has the potential to become the third pillar of the mobile ecosystem, but it does have some growing to do. The system is incredibly well designed, and has many of the features one may want like Internet sharing (depending on your device), a unified Inbox, a quality Marketplace, and more. And, those are going to be some of the topics we hit in the next installment of this series. Today was all about overall impressions and usability. Next time we'll dive into the apps and the big question of transferring from a Google-centric life to a Microsoft-centric life. 

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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: 17303; 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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