Switching from Android to Windows Phone Part 3: apps Marketplace, Xbox Live, and Google services

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Switching from Android to Windows Phone Part 3: apps Marketplace, Xbox Live, and Google services
The idea of switching from Android to Windows Phone may not be one that many people would consider, but it’s an idea that we thought would be good to explore. We’ve already covered our initial impressions of Windows Phone from the perspective of a long time Android user, and the features that may be missing. Then we also covered the stock apps and Bing experience that you’ll come across in a switch to Windows Phone, and now it’s time to get into what many advanced users see as the make or break part of a mobile ecosystem: the 3rd party apps and app store. And, in keeping with the spirit of users possibly switching from Android, we’ll also get into how you can transfer or access certain Google services that you may not want to leave behind. 

General impressions

As has been the standard caveat when talking about Windows Phone, the platform was a complete reboot for Microsoft, so the OS is really just about a year and a half old, and only on its second major version, despite the fact that it’s called Windows Phone 7.5. So, with that in mind, it’s actually pretty impressive that the Marketplace has already cruised past 90,000 apps (according to certain statistics). 

Of course, compared to iOS and Android, 90k apps isn’t all that impressive, but it’s enough to cover most of the options you’ll be looking for. And, for most users, that’s all that’s necessary. Most people don’t buy technology on potential, they buy on sufficiency. The Windows Phone Marketplace may not have as many apps as the competition, but it’s growing and it has a sufficient supply as is. 

There are a couple interesting things about the Marketplace that we want to touch on before we dive in. First, you’ll notice that apps in the Marketplace tend to be a bit more costly than their analogues on iOS or Android. There’s a chance that this is simply because the Windows Phone ecosystem isn’t as large and developers can’t make up the difference in volume like they can on other platforms, but in general things do seem a bit more pricey. However, every paid app and game comes with a “try” option, which is pretty great. For apps, there will usually be some disabled features in the trial version, but you’re free to use the trial as long as you’d like, and it cuts down on clutter in the Marketplace because you don’t have two versions of each app. 

There is a website for the Marketplace where you can find apps, and push the installation to your device. This is a bit odd at first though because there’s no notification on the device to let you know that the process has worked, which can be annoying. Another annoyance is that links to the Marketplace while browsing in mobile IE don’t launch the Marketplace, but rather just open the Marketplace webpage, which is not optimized for mobile use. 

The Marketplace

The Marketplace itself is your one-stop shop for content on Windows Phone. The notable omissions are that there is no video store, nor is there a book store. It does have apps, games (obviously,) as well as music and podcasts. The music section of the Marketplace has a solid selection of tunes at around $8.99 to $12.99, but the inclusion of podcasts in the Marketplace is big, because Google has notoriously not given much time to podcasts. The Google Listen app, which is Google’s official podcast app, has no curated podcast market, no support for video, and notoriously went without an update for over a year. Sure, there are good podcasting apps available for Android, but Google has certainly not been podcast friendly. 

On the other hand, Microsoft has a podcast section in the Marketplace and you can find and subscribe to podcasts quickly and easily. Podcasts will be automatically downloaded to your device as per your settings, but unfortunately this only works on WiFi, not on mobile data, regardless of how big a file it is (NBA Today is 7MB, but even that can’t be downloaded on mobile via the Marketplace!) If your favorite podcasts happen to come out while you’re away from WiFi, you’ll have to rely on a 3rd party app like BringCast to download via mobile, although because of system limitations, this can’t always be done in the background and may have to be your foreground process, forcing you to watch as the download happens. 

As we’ve said, there is a growing number of official apps for popular software in the Marketplace, like Skype, Spotify, Netflix, etc. But, sometimes you’ll have to test out unofficial apps for the apps you want. For example, there’s no official Pocket app, but we’ve found that MetroPaper is a solid alternative. Sometimes there will be an official app, like the NBA GameTime app, but it will be pretty bad, so you’ll need to find a better alternative, like NBA Scores. However, all sections of the Marketplace have various panels like: featured, new, top, and categories, as well as a pretty solid search function, so finding things you need and discovering new content is pretty easy. 

Xbox Live

The shining star of the Marketplace is the games section and Xbox Live app. We left this out of our last piece talking about the stock apps because it is so tightly integrated with the Marketplace, it seemed more at home here. 

If you have an Xbox console, you likely have an Xbox Live account, and when you sign in, all of your info, contacts, achievements, and even your avatar come with you to your mobile phone, and your avatar will always be poking its head out on the Live Tile for the Xbox Live app. It’s a very nice touch. Of course, if you don’t have an account, you can create one, but be careful because the gamertag you pick will be permanent. Xbox Live allows one free change of your gamertag, but the only way to change it is via the Xbox console. It’s not possible to change it on your phone or on the website. 

The Xbox Live app is pretty nice. It allows for messaging your contacts, although adding contacts can be difficult because you have to know the gamertags you’re looking for, it can’t just scan your contacts for e-mail addresses. Once you have some contacts, you can also send and receive game requests for multiplayer games. 

The app is also essentially your gaming hub on Windows Phone. The games you download won’t be listed in the app list next to your start screen. Instead, games are all listed in the Xbox Live app, and split into Xbox Live games and other games. And, you’ll notice pretty quickly that there is a pretty big gap between Xbox Live games and other games, both in quality and price. 

There are some good “other” games available in the Marketplace, but the best games are almost always Xbox Live titles, and they do come at a premium. Most of the paid Xbox Live games will run you between $3-$5. There is the “try” option of course, so you can see what you like before buying. Trials usually just give access to a short portion of the game and achievements can’t be earned unless you purchase. While the price may be high, as we said the quality is as well, and there are some impressive names in the Marketplace, like Sid Meier’s Pirates, Splinter Cell Conviction, Let’s Golf 2, and Kinectimals (for those of you with kids, of course.) Of course, not all of the quality games will cost a lot. Favorites like Angry Birds or Burn the Rope are just $1, and our favorite, Max & The Magic Marker is also just $1. 

If you don’t mind investing a bit of cash, the games available for Windows Phone are as good as you’ll find on any mobile platform, and Microsoft is continuing to invest heavily. 



28. robinhood9421

Posts: 3; Member since: May 25, 2012

hey frnds... need a bit help.how many apps and GAMES are actually free in the market place and xbox live?i am thinkin of buyin lumia 710.are there any cons???????

22. snowgator

Posts: 3630; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

M.H.- I want to thank you. A very honest three-part series as seen from a man who preferred his Android experience (and probably bumped right back to his Google powered cell phone as soon as he could switch his card from the Radar he was using). This could have very easily been a hatchet job. Instead, you laid out what a satisfied Android user could expect from Windows Phone right now. WP has a ton to offer- and a lot to improve on. Yes, IE is a limiting experience right now. Yes, you will lose some app selection, especially local apps in your city/ communities, that are exclusively iOS or Android right now. There are some specialized tools that are not available, and the experience is the same from one device to the next. But WP is doing it right. They are focusing on the social aspects of mobile, making it easy to update in this day and age of media. They are focusing on performance, what their OS does it does seamless. They are focusing on support. And they are long term in the ecosystem- unifying all your user aspects. Right now, A droid lovers may not have reason to really switch. There are just too few advantages over Google. There a number of things they do a little better, a few things they do as well, and a bunch it is still lacking. But, anyone not happy with Android, iOS, or BBOS should consider it. It is a fantastic experience.

23. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

I really liked my time with WP7, and I would certainly recommend the system to others. In a lot of ways, I like it better than iOS, even though it lacks the maturity or the app ecosystem. I'm definitely interested in revisiting the platform after the WP8 update and the hardware bump. That said, I am definitely itching to get back to Android. Although, I will definitely miss the People app from WP7. I've been away from Android for a month, but I'll assume that the ICS People app still doesn't actually get any info from 3rd party services.

30. samiazza

Posts: 8; Member since: Jan 15, 2012

Unfortunately yes, ICS people app still missing that feature

12. Bluesky02

Posts: 1439; Member since: Dec 05, 2011

I would give it 6.5/10. And this is one of the reason we should wait for the 3rd major version of windows phone which is Apollo - Windows Phone 8. However, not a bad OS for a second major version.

10. PhansMuneeb

Posts: 371; Member since: Jan 28, 2012

Well done PA, great reviews and yes the lowest price for xbox live games has been reduced to $1. Waiting for wp8.........!

8. jtech

Posts: 101; Member since: Jul 14, 2011

Windows Phone a 8.5 and android a 6.9

2. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

OK, So... on a 1 - 10 scale, how would you rate WP7 from your experiences? 1 being horrible, 5 being so/so (equal good and bad), and of course 10 being super awesome.

3. demarmj

Posts: 17; Member since: May 03, 2012

6.5-7...it's solid...it's not flawed...it won't breakdown...but in no way does it have the functionality or apps as seen on android and ios...however...that doesn't make it horrible, just needs to mature a little bit like all early platforms...I would say a little better than so/so imho.

4. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

For me personally, I'd probably give WP7 about a 7 or so, iOS would get a 6.5 or so, Android 4.x is around an 8.5, Android 2.3 is a 7.5, and BB is a 3. Of course, if I rank on a scale of 1-10 based on how likely I'd be to suggest a platform to someone not so tech savvy, iOS and WP7 would probably be ahead of Android, and BB would still be dead last by far.

6. 09wbd03516

Posts: 140; Member since: May 30, 2012

micheal, why do you rate BB so horrible? Could you explain??

7. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Admittedly, I haven't used the Torch or any touchscreen BB, but I just think the system is a relic. I hate the hardware. Apps are expensive and not that good. And, the system offers little of value. BBM seems to be the only useful thing that RIM has. Basically, the smartphone world has evolved, and left BB behind in my opinion. It's a shame too, because BB used to be ahead of the curve.

14. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

your not missing anything with the torch/bold touch. when using it, im so used to not having a touch screen, the only time the touch screen actually became useful was for P2Z in a browser. Touch is an afterthought on that platform, and is treated like such. Though, you forgot about RIM's bread and butter, BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) email. Thats where they make their money. And its pretty much the only reason they are still alive as a company. not so tech savy? hmm.. id probably rank WP7, ICS, iOS, BB. ICS is so easy and has so many "how to's" at start up, you could be Forrest Gump and still figure it out with ease.

9. RamyRamz69

Posts: 390; Member since: Dec 12, 2011

No Symbian rating? Bro Y U Racist? :P

26. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

About tech saavy.... My kids mother is very non techy. She browses the web, listens to music, use the Youtube app, plays games, texts, makes calls, takes pics, uses Netflix, use turn by turn navigation. If thats considered tech saavy.....lol. Android can be as simple as any other phone. The kicker? Me and her were lost when she got her iPhone 4. We both got lost with that one button setup and how to navigate the Settings area. She thought you needed to get a Bluetooth app to use Bluetooth. I had to go online to find where Bluetooth settings were. We were both used to it being in Wireless and Network Settings...on Win MO and Android. She also made the decison she doesnt like ICS...she keeps declining the update on her Nexus S. She tried it before. . Guess which phone was harder for her to use GPS on....lol. I really dont think Android is a complicated as some of us make it out to be....and iOS isnt as easy as some of us make it out to be... Simple or complicated depends on how we use our phones. What we are used to.

5. 09wbd03516

Posts: 140; Member since: May 30, 2012

I would rate, AFTER the wp8 released...

11. denied911

Posts: 361; Member since: May 31, 2012

8-9 if you are blonde girl with no brain 6 if you are older person with need of bigger font 4,5 average user who like to set whole long mp3 to ringtone and like to do with files whatever he pleases 2- if you average poweruser, customization root but no rom swapping 1- if you are poweruser and like to customize roms and do everythink

13. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

well for ur last 2 rating are for nerds who are never satisfied with what they have

15. denied911

Posts: 361; Member since: May 31, 2012

on and BTW for advanced business solutions it is like 1,5 I am very satified with Android and i am in 2 rating

16. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

ok this comment is general for all articles of WP i ever seen ......................................>The thing is android has made people big time braggers of how much customized phone they have while everyone know its the feature of android they still dont shutup telling that and they goes to articles that is mostly not releated to android at all and start their stupid comment war of customization and what the point of visting other articles "just to bash" secondly they will start more stupid specification bragging war which in current timeline is not even utilized correctly for example i can run a developer suit etc.. on dual core PC makes sence and what is android utilizing it for "games songs,maps,tiny softwares"is that it.tell me that when u have some real appication ruinng on the dual/quad core, so my Conclusion is Android guys are mostly retards with nothing left to do in their life but to bash others which is actually a mentle level of 10 years old kid

18. denied911

Posts: 361; Member since: May 31, 2012

@haseebzahid you suck man, even Symbian has descent customization options, sometimes bigger than android for example in menu you can put whatever app or settings wherewer you want

24. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

my point exatly i know all that stuff u guys dont have to tell it over and over again thats the whole point of my post u noobs tell the same old story that everyone know while i never said it is good or bad i was pointing at the cutomers who always brag about it technology is good no matter where it is coming from u guys need to get a life and stop bragging

25. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

I love WP due the fact it has given totally different OS with new ways to think off since the Android/IOS/Symbian they all look quite similar. WP gives us ready to use System for not scewing it up so i can use moblie to optimum performance like ANDROID which stats "we are too lazy to FIX or optimize all android phones for the OS so do it ur self and dont bother us this is open system" yeah right this is the customization u are talking about except most expensive Android phone u always have to work for ur phone to be optimized lame workaround arguments. although the OS is fine from other espects. this costimzation is nothing if u are uncertain will it work after scewing up or customizing

27. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

Same can be said of some fans of ANY mobile OS. WP7 fans scream smooth scrolling, Live Tiles. iOS fans scream copying, stability, quality of apps. They both scream simplicity. Which isnt as clear cut really. See my post about about that. The fanboys dont speak for all users...no matter which mobile OS. So what are iOS fans of WP7 fans that bash others? Have a name for them? Dual core on phones is about better multi tasking, taxing the battery less doing more. I see you are lumping all Android users and all Android phones as one. All Android isers arent fanboys and all Android phones arent created equal. WP7 phones will be getting there soon. MS, Nokia decided to put less ram in low end phones. That might cause issues later on. I dont have to optimize my RAZR...for my wants n needs. It does what I want when I want pretty good. My Droid X1 and Droid 1 were good to. DX1 startedd rebooting when listening to the FM Radio as months went by. And...no mobile OS is perfect. I can pull up troubleshooting forums for iOS and WP7....

29. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

woah. im #1, and ive been beyond satisfied with my SGS1. Its time to upgrade it though. :)

17. haseebzahid

Posts: 1853; Member since: Feb 22, 2012

can u replace ur contract sim for catagory 1,2 huuh

19. Penny

Posts: 1880; Member since: Feb 04, 2011

denied911, You are a phone power user. Congrats. I am a computer power user. As in real, powerful, productive systems we call desktops, of which I build my own with the latest and greatest components. Some of us REAL power users don't like to waste our time on PSEUDO power devices such as phones. So, since you went down this road, I'd rate Windows Phone at 7.5 because it has lots of useful features and integration that save me time. You prove nothing by assigning a low rating based on your individual opinion, especially because the very premise of your individual opinion -- that Windows Phone cannot be unlocked and customized -- is false to begin with.

20. denied911

Posts: 361; Member since: May 31, 2012

I also build my own PCs and not only mine but I like to have freedom and everything in my way so congrats for your statement.

21. snowgator

Posts: 3630; Member since: Jan 19, 2011

Okay, Gator to the rescue: WP- As MS rebrands itself, tries to find an audience and tries to get manufacturers and developers onboard I am curious how anyone could have done this launch better, with the possible exception of their promotions in the first year. They have supported their devices, vastly improved their product from Win Mo and their original WP7 releases. They have worked fairly hard to get cross-platform support (a huge work in progress), apps in place (well over 100,000 by end of Summer, I am sure), and carrier support (okay, they ain't done real well in that one). For an end user, the product is fantastic. There are some shortfalls: Some of the advantages of Win Mo surprisingly are still MIA. Bing services are good, but do seem to come up short to Google services. Hardware options such as physical keyboards, different style body types and support from case and holster manufacturers are near non-existent. And the tile/list screen tend to get a little hard to navigate when you have a large amount of apps/shortcuts/tools. I am a very satisfied, every day WP user. As such, I give it a solid 8.0 on the "remixfa scale". Android- ICS is an easy to use, polished, and fun system. Accepting that 1) most users do not root, mess with, or change a whole bunch about their phone and that 2) we accept UI's will add some layers of steps to it, I give it a solid 9, willing to go .5 up or down depending on the UI experiences. On Gingerbread- Android is fairly uniformed, but the grid lists are still tedious and the UI's from most manufacturers really made devices drrrraaaag...... Especially those from HTC, LG, and Sony Eriksson. I will give a solid 8.0 on most sets, 8.5 on devices that got it right (like GS2 and non-Motoblur offerings.) iOS- Hey, it is what it is. You download those things from the App Store to make it yours, and you take advantage of the "iTunes" integration. I am not super-impressed with the tools involved (Heaven help you if you need spell check, Siri is so overrated) and there are so many other phones with cameras just as good. And, really, people have NO choices as to what type of body style they get. But it is supported, and it is mostly lag free. I give it a 7.5. You really get the ecosystem with iOS, not so much else. BB07? Hard to use, dull, unimaginative, and spotty support. If you are in need of security, it is STILL light years ahead, and the hardware is mostly good. It lags much less on this Gen of devices than last. I am done giving them an edge with BBM. All other OS's are on par with it, a d work across all other messaging. 4.5 on the "remixfa scale". No experience with Symbian. I will give it a 7.0 simply because it is a cool name and I like hepresearch.

1. demarmj

Posts: 17; Member since: May 03, 2012

I have mixed feelings about this...You're right that there are quite a bit of apps that are around 3-5 dollars. There are a few apps that I wish were on there like Zynga games (words with friends etc)...most apps I used on android have solid alternatives...again I wish there was a battery shortcut app...what's nice to read is that Microsoft is doing all it can to pay companies to develop solid apps while getting its user's opinions in some countries. Only time will tell, again I remember in the early days of android when the number of apps was a problem, and in just a short period of time, they were surpassing everyone, so i'm excited to see what the future has to offer (can't be worse than BB that's for sure :-P )

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