Two years ago I wrote a post on why I switched from Windows Phone to Android. I spent a month using Windows Phone switching from a Samsung Galaxy Note to a HTC 8X and by the end of month I had switched back as Windows Phone didn’t cut it for me. Well two years later I have made the reverse switch going from a Nexus 5 running Android to a Lumia 1520 running Windows Phone 8.1.
I thought it would interesting to look back what put me off Windows Phone at the time and why two years later I switched back. At the time I liked the hardware of HTC’s 8X but it was the phone OS and apps that put me off.
My first issue with Windows Phone 8 was the lack of notification, back in 2012 I said:
I do like the live tiles and being able to see at a glance how many new emails and updates I have but Windows Phone 8 misses a notification centre. I often hear the phone raising notification but by the time I pick up the phone the notification has gone and I can’t tell what the notification was, so I have to open up apps to find out where it came from. I would much rather have Android’s pull down notifications system.
This was probably my biggest problems with Windows Phone and with Windows Phone 8.1 Microsoft introduced Action Center which is a pull down notification list, it also has system shortcuts like WiFi and Bluetooth toggle buttons that you can customise. Microsoft implemented it very much like Android (which is a good thing) and is pretty much what I asked for. You don’t miss any notification and I really wish Window 8.1 had the same feature.
When I tried using Windows Phone last time I found that many of the apps I need were not available for Window Phone and this was a bit of a deal breaker. The first one was that there was no decent turn by turn navigation apps, on Android I use apps not just for directions but also for checking traffic on the way home from work and at the time Windows Phone’s map app was very basic. Since then Nokia Drive+ has been released for all Windows Phones (at the time it was just for Nokia devices) and Nokia’s Drive+ is a very competent navigation app, it also includes traffic notifications with a My Commute feature. There is Nokia Transit app for public transport and I also use an app called GMaps+ that adds Google’s traffic to the Windows Phone maps. Also released since my post is CoPilot Live a turn by turn app with traffic routing. So for navigation you are not short of options.
At the time I found there was very poor support for podcasts (outside of the US) and now we have 3rd party apps like BringCast and the Windows Phone Podcast app which I have found to work very well. Back in 2012 I wrote about other apps I missed like BBC iPlayer (now available), Flipboard (still waiting), Dropbox (available), ITV Player (available), Sky Player (still waiting), Sonos (still waiting), VLC (coming soon). Of the ones that are missing it is only the Sonos and Sky Player apps that I have to reach for my iPad.
As a heavy user of Google Services I found the lack of support for Google Now, Google Plus and Google Music a problem. Two years later I don’t use Google Plus anymore, there is a 3rd party app for Google Music called CloudMusik (but I have switched to Xbox Music anyway) and Google Now has been replaced by Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant. Regarding Google Now I said:
I am also a big fan of Google Now, getting the travel notification and alerts and there is no equivalent on other platforms.
Now I actually prefer Cortana over Google Now, the automatic web alerts are not on Cortana yet but it is better to interact with and I think it is going to get better over time. As for Google’s mail, contacts and calendar they work fine with Windows Phone and I don’t have any issues using them.
My comment about the quality of 3rd party apps was:
Many of the 3rd party apps that are on Windows Phone are inferior to the Android equivalent, Foursquare, Twitter, and Evernote all work better on Android than they do on Windows Phone
I still think that is an issue but it’s not as bad as it was, apps still get updated for Windows Phone after Android and iOS but the quality of apps has got better and some especially Microsoft’s own apps work better on Windows Phone.
Windows Phone 8.1
There is something about Windows Phone 8.1 that makes it feel better to use than Android, maybe it’s because I have become a bit jaded with Android but Windows Phone feels fresher and more modern. The start screen with live tiles is a much better system than widgets and icons in my option and Notification Centre makes it easy to see what is going on.
The Nokia effect
I think another reason it has been easy to switch is the Nokia effect. The extra apps that Nokia adds to the phone make a difference, I love the Nokia Camera app on the Lumia 1520. The 1520 has a great camera and the app makes good use of it, the 1520 has sensorcore that tracks your movement and can be used with Bing Health app/service. Also I really like the hardware design of Nokia’s phones, the 1520 is well made, solid and feels great in the hand and I prefer using it to my Nexus 5. I hope as Nokia becomes Microsoft the quality of the phones remains high.
So two years ago I said Windows Phone wasn’t for me and now I am back on Windows Phone and enjoying the experience. It’s hard to quantify why I prefer it to Android and why I prefer it so much more than I did two years ago but the two years have made a difference. I have also seen many of my family pickup Windows Phone some because of the price and others because of the OS and I think it’s time to see the rise of Windows Phone, I just hope Microsoft can keep developing it and they don’t get cold feet and kill the OS.
Ian Dixon is a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional), founder of TheDigitalLifestyle.com tech site and producer of the weekly The Digital Lifestyle Show podcast. Ian has been writing and talking about Windows for over 10 years and has over 20 years in IT as an IT Manager. Ian has thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook and over 4 million views on his YouTube channel.