Switching from Android to Windows Phone Part 2: Oddities and Stock Apps

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

It may be hard to believe for our readers who tend to be more on the passionate side of the mobile user spectrum, but there are quite a few people out there who buy smartphones, but never even bother to download apps for that phone. They live life in the stock apps, and at most may download a game or two. Even more advanced users will spend quite a bit of time in many stock apps. Windows Phone has some pretty solid stock apps, but there are some small issues here and there which tend to show the relative immaturity of the platform.  

One thing that is odd right from the start is in the Phone app, where for some reason, Microsoft decided not to use the paneled Metro UI, and opted for simple buttons to get where you need to go. We expected the Phone app to be set up in Windows Phone like it is in Ice Cream Sandwich, where you can swipe between recent calls, the dialer, and the contact list, but that's not what you get. No matter what, the WP Phone app will open to the recent calls list, and you need to use the icons to get to either the dialer or your contacts (which actually will bounce you out of the Phone app and into the People app). Also, an annoying habit is that the dialer will clear any time you exit the app. So, if you start dialing a number or have a number dialed, but have to jump out for any reason, that number is going to disappear on you if you don't save it first. Luckily, there is a save button available, and it's nice to see that it's labeled with the actual word "save". 

That's one of the toughest things to get used to with WP is that everything is navigating by icons, which can be tough to get used to. You can always pull up the labels if you need, and for the most part the icons are intuitive, but sometimes the drive for consistency can be a bit jarring. For example, throughout all apps - stock or 3rd party - a plus sign will be everywhere, but it's contextual as to what "new" item it will create. In the People app, the plus sign will let you create a new group or contact (for either your Windows Live contacts or Gmail). In the Calendar, it will let you make a new event (again for Live or Google). In the Mailbox, it will create a new message. All of these are pretty straightforward and intuitive, but in some 3rd party apps, it's not always so clear what the plus sign will do. For example, in GoVoice (a Google Voice app) the plus sign brings up a hybrid dialer/message compose box. Microsoft knows how it wants things to be unified, but developers can have trouble making things clear. 

It's clear that Microsoft focused on certain apps over others, and the top of the list is the People app. The People app in Windows Phone is exactly what Google wished the People app in ICS could be, except for one thing: WP's version actually works. Google left it up to Facebook, Twitter, and others to hook into the People app, which gives it a lot of flexibility, but it also means that the content won't be there unless providers hook in, which they haven't yet. In Windows Phone, if you sign in to Windows Live, Google, Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn, all of the content and information from the various services (minus Google+) will be pulled into the People app or to any Live Tiles you set for contacts. When adding or editing contacts you can add to or edit Gmail contacts as well as any Windows Live contacts you may have. The People app even does a pretty good job of linking together the same contact from various services, unless of course the person has set their name very differently, then you may want to link them manually. 

As we said in part one of this, Live Tiles are a great feature, but their usage can be sporadic. The People app uses Live Tiles to their fullest potential. You can pin Tiles for individual contacts or groups and the Tile will cycle through names, pictures and social updates, which is a great way to get info quickly and in with an interesting visual flare. The trouble, as we mentioned is that Live Tiles aren't everywhere you'd expect. As we've mentioned before, there is no way to pin individual settings from the Settings app, which is annoying simply because it seems like a wasted opportunity for something that would have been pretty easy to implement. 

The Mail and Calendar apps for Windows Phone don't really need much time devoted to them. Both are perfectly serviceable, and do what you'd expect. Mail is laid out in a way that's very easy to read and can link multiple inboxes into a unified view. You can add major webmail accounts like Gmail, Yahoo! and of course Windows Live in addition to POP/IMAP accounts. The big upgrade over Android here is the Exchange support, which should be no surprise since this is a Microsoft system. Exchange e-mail has always been a bit wonky on Android, but it works quite well with WP. The Calendar app is also nothing special, but nothing bad. It works as it should, and has the added bonus of having a built-in To-Do option for things that don't require a full calendar entry, which is definitely a nice touch. 

The star of the communications apps though is the Messaging app, because not only is it the standard SMS/MMS client that you expect and need on a phone, but it benefits greatly from the partnership of Microsoft and Facebook. Part 3 of this series will delve more into using various Google services on WP, but one major switch that will make your life a lot easier is in switching from GChat to either Windows Live, which not many of your friends may use, or Facebook, which almost everyone has. The WP Messaging app has an option to sign in to Facebook, which will allow any Facebook chats or messages to be pushed directly to your Messaging app, and you can even see your FB buddy list as well. One odd thing is that the Messaging app does allow for group messaging, but it has to be turned on in the settings, and isn't on by default. 

Probably the biggest negative that we found in our switch from Android to Windows Phone is in the web browser. Android has a whole mess of amazing browsers to choose from, even if you don't like the stock browser. There's Dolphin, Opera, Firefox, and even Chrome if you've got Android 4.0. However, on Windows Phone there is Internet Explorer, and that's about it. Yes, there are a couple alternatives in the Marketplace, but they only add some cosmetic enhancements to the browsing experience. You'll still be faced with the same absolutely terrible HTML5 support. Sure, IE works well enough for general browsing, but HTML5 has added so much functionality to mobile browsing recently, that to lose out on that is a pretty huge problem. As we've seen IE10 in Windows Phone 8 is going to seriously beef up the HTML5 support, but for WP7, it's rough going. And, aside from the HTML5 support, we found that IE on WP7 gets overwhelmed pretty easily, and will crash or simply stop loading images if you're checking out an image heavy site. 

But, we want to end on a high note so lastly, there is Microsoft Office. Office has been the star of Microsoft's software arsenal for about 20 years now, and it gets some very nice treatment with Windows Phone. The Segoe font makes documents crisp and incredibly easy to read, and documents can be pulled from a number of sources. You can load files from SkyDrive, Office 365, or SharePoint, not to mention docs you have on your device itself. It doesn't allow real-time collaboration like Google Docs, but it has plenty of other features that set it well ahead. With Office, you can not only create and edit docs, but there are doc and Excel templates to choose from when creating, and you add or read comments or notes on docs and PowerPoints. Excel is also far better than Google Docs spreadsheets, which we always found very annoying to control. Excel, however, is very easy to navigate, select cells to edit, and even tap and drag to select blocks of cells. OneNote is also likely the best notes app for Windows Phone. Any doc can be pinned to the start screen, allowing for easy access as well. The move from Google Docs/Drive may be a daunting task for some, but Office/SkyDrive works extremely well with Windows Phone, so it should prove worthwhile after the initial migration.

We say lastly, for Microsoft Office, because the other stock app that we left out is the XBox Live app, which we felt should be included in Part 3 of the series, because XBox Live is the game hub for the system, and in Part 3 we plan to talk about the games and general app Marketplace ecosystem of Windows Phone, and any 3rd party apps that may make your transition easier. Keep it tuned for that!



5. eman99

Posts: 410; Member since: Aug 03, 2010

with a login name like that, totally

18. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

If you want to reply to a comment, you need to click the reply button on that comment. Don't just type in the standard reply box, because that's for new comments.

78. shy2papa

Posts: 336; Member since: Jan 23, 2010

I rather switch back to Symbian than WP7 if i had no choice

7. Joshing4fun

Posts: 1249; Member since: Aug 13, 2010

I agree the browser could use some work but it works pretty good for me.

9. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

Good write up Michael. Looking forward to part 3. Honestly though, im surprised you didnt break up XBL into both 2 and 3. The app itself and its functionality as a stock app for pt2 and the actual game/app selection for pt3. But hey, writers choice.. lol. :)

12. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I considered that, but I like to keep things together and whole rather than split it up.

13. Gcombs

Posts: 136; Member since: Aug 22, 2011

I've found WP to be great Os. If your totally into customization and apps than no it's not for you but your missing out on a very fluid Os. Very easy to use, social networks are intergrated well into the Os and your not fumbling through all the bloatware that Android has. WP is a clean Os and I will be going back to WP once W8 comes to Verizon. I'm not feeling this Droid Razr.

27. KingShango

Posts: 89; Member since: May 16, 2012

Thanks for the solid article. My contract is up this summer and I'm thinking about switching up. I like android (currently 2.3) but don't think its anything special. Looking forward to part 3. PS - Does anyone know where to find a similar deep comparision between Android and iOS thats somewhat unbiased.

30. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I'd say definitely check out Android 4.0, because it is a huge change from 2.3. I don't know that you'd want to go to WP in the summer since WP8 is coming in the fall, but maybe you could stretch your upgrade a bit.

35. KingShango

Posts: 89; Member since: May 16, 2012

Thanks for the heads up. I planned on waiting until after all the upcoming conferences were over to see where all the OS's were heading. I'd be pissed to get Lumia 900 and not have it upgrade in fall.

34. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

I don't know if you saw this, so: Android Vs iOS The Truth about Apple and Google's OS Part 1:http://youtu.be/NMiY1kSTHZw Part 2:http://youtu.be/Ayx4XsBaJBI Part 3:http://youtu.be/fsGQ_xts_Gw Part 4:http://youtu.be/jlPKVWv1WxU Part 5:http://youtu.be/q5A4k1bDV0s **BONUS FAQ Video**http://youtu.be/vJRoGfvztaw P.S. I don't know if author of those videos was biased or not, but he is talking about the facts.

37. demarmj

Posts: 17; Member since: May 03, 2012

One of my favorite arguments is when he compares how difficult it is to find the back button! rofl :-P

39. KingShango

Posts: 89; Member since: May 16, 2012

Thanks for the videos. Definitely worth watching.

33. demarmj

Posts: 17; Member since: May 03, 2012

How about a fresh new comment? : I just came from the Aria to the Nokia Lumia 900...I agree with just about everything in this article....love the UI and how third party apps follow that UI system...it's seen the best on the FB and Twitter apps. Nokia Maps has worked great so far...although I never used too many "labs" settings on my aria. I love the web browser simply because i was coming from a 3.2 inch screen with htc flash light...so even if it has limited html 5 technology, i'm just happy that it's smooth. I laughed about the search button issue because i've caught myself doing that many times. Multitasking satisfies me; it's just something you have to get used to on WP7. Lastly, the one things that's frustrating is not necessarily Open Source...but the fact that there are some limited applications that could use some WP open source and my main example is the battery...there's no application that indicates battery percentage so you have to go to settings, find battery etc etc it becomes very tedious. I'm assuming there's no app because the phone doesn't display that information openly...Besides that...i have to say that I'm really enjoying WP 7 much better than Android 2.3 or even 4.0 that I had running on my aria...just imho. Great article.

52. networkdood

Posts: 6330; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

I had the Aria in June of 2010 - it is a mid-level phone - not very good with ICS 4.0.x.

67. demarmj

Posts: 17; Member since: May 03, 2012

I actually thought 4.0 worked great on it. Incredibly smooth for a 600 mhz processor. A shame the actual phone itself never got past 2.2. Great little phone though.

84. profperez1

Posts: 76; Member since: May 08, 2012

Help me out here. I would get the Lumia in Sept----but I have heard very little good things about AT&T. I live in SoCal and it is rated a distant 3rd. http://www.cellreception.com/coverage/ca/los-angeles/page1.html I'm fearful I will love the phone but have carrier problems. I can't find ANY positive articles "AT&T the best mobile carrier". Only negative news. So I feel this would be am emotional response to get a nice phone----but then be unhappy.

90. demarmj

Posts: 17; Member since: May 03, 2012

In general, At&t has a bad rep for call quality, customer service, and network availability...i've used it on the East Coast and Midwest. The network is awful in the city of Chicago, but it's good enough to get me through daily tasks. In the suburbs, it works like any other network. If the reception gets you 2 to 3 bars in your area then you should be fine.

96. profperez1

Posts: 76; Member since: May 08, 2012

Thanks for the 411---thinking about it

40. ZEUS.the.thunder.god unregistered

good article Michael. nice, informative and fair. looking forward to next part of the series. as an android lover i cant think of switching but its always nice to know something different. its good that WP7 is doing good from the begining. it will actually help android/google to do even better because competition is always good for tech and innovation. again very nice read.

55. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011


49. lzsbleach

Posts: 155; Member since: May 20, 2012

Im paying very close attention to windows and I like wat I see but I feel Android is more superior and is still growing fast, but I would take a cheap windows phone over a low or mid-range Android phone any day.

56. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I'm very interested to see not only what the software looks like for WP8, but the hardware as well. I'd love to play with a multi-core, HD screen, WP device.

50. ron1niro

Posts: 54; Member since: Mar 28, 2012

Very nice article. Doesn't overpraise the platform, nor does it underestimate it, only talks about the facts in an unbiased way. We should have more of these articles that can actually answer some questions and help an ordinary user make a choice. I just wish the fanboy madness could stop.

54. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

The madness will never stop, because fanboys are inherently irrational and closed-minded. It just amazes me that we have the Internet, which can be the greatest tool for discussion and sharing of knowledge, and it's ruined by people who can't do something as simple as respect someone else's opinion. It's not like these people are saying "I believe that murder is awesome." They're just saying "I prefer platform x over platform y." Just makes me depressed sometimes.

57. Mxyzptlk unregistered

I agree with some of your points. I just think you're overreacting a tad bit. People are going to be close-minded regardless what OS it is. You have to accept the bad with the good.

60. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

and this coming from you? Miz. lol

63. Mxyzptlk unregistered

You are mistaken.


Posts: 535; Member since: Mar 28, 2012

Is that really u saying....

68. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Sorry, but I absolutely refuse to believe that people can't at least respect that a differing opinion, especially when that opinion has absolutely zero bearing on their life. But of course that's the problem with fanboys and trolls. They are so damn egomaniacal and insecure as to think that their world is threatened by someone thinking differently. Only the Internet and politics allow for BS like that, and it's completely ridiculous.

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

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.