Cortana on Windows Phone

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.

Moving on

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.


2 thoughts on “Why after two years away I switched back to Windows Phone from Android”
  1. You make WIndows Phone sound tempting.

    I switched to Android after trying Windows Phone 7.5 for about a year (and using IOS before that and Windows Mobile for a number of years prior to IOS). It was my great experience with the Nexus 7 that made me willing to try Android on my phone.
    I think WP is more elegant OS and part of me wants to try it again, but at this point our family has 3 Android phones and a couple of Nexus 7s and it just isn’t compelling enough to make me move away from Android.

  2. Of all the reasons you’ve stated, only a few things would attract me to Windows phone.

    Although I agree that Microsoft’s gui seems fresher, there are plenty of 3rd party launchers that drastically change the look of Android, even one that makes it look like a Windows 8 phone (type Launcher 8 or Metro UI in the play store).

    Nokia effect
    It’s really telling that it’s Nokia’s industrial design and apps have done more Windows Phone, then Microsoft themselves. And I have no doubt that had Nokia had entered the Android world, they would have ruled the roost. Stephen Elop’s decision to align solely to Windows Phone was deeply suspicious given his connections with Microsoft. History has shown that this decision has led to the demise of Nokia.

    Reasons that don’t attract me to Windows Phone

    Microsoft effect
    Call me jaded, but Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia doesn’t fill me with hope. Anyone remembers what happened to Palm when they were bought out by HP?

    Microsoft also have a habit of wildly veering from one business model to another, and when they do, they leave customers high and dry. Two of their greatest innovations (Windows Media Center and Windows Home Server) have been abandoned, just because they weren’t marketed well enough.

    Remember the Kin? $1 billion later, it was killed off less than 2 months after launch? I don’t know what was worse, the decision to launch such a device (3 years after the iPhone had launched), the business model, or how quickly they abandoned it. Similarly Microsoft saw to apply their business model to the internet, that access to it should be via proprietary

    The internal politics of Microsoft have led to bad decisions. Allard was hugely instrumental in making the Xbox360 such a success. He then went on to start on the Kin project (which got pulled from him, changing the direction of that project), and then the Courier project (killed off in favour of Sinofsky’s Windows 8 tablet). End result, he left the company. When you have a company that doesn’t embrace innovation, because it threatens their existing business model, you end up with half-baked products that don’t end up being a critical success.

    OMG, writing this has really depressed me, it wasn’t my intention to come down so hard on MS. Although I continue to depend on MS for me livelihood, I am in principle system and OS agnostic.

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