I have posted how much I like my Microsoft Surface but how about Microsoft’s latest phone operating system Windows Phone 8? When Windows Phone 7 was launched a couple of years ago I tried a HTC HD7, which I was rather underwhelmed with the hardware I did like the idea of Windows Phone. With the launch of Windows Phone 8 I hoped that Windows Phone had finally reached maturity and I thought I would give Windows Phone another try.
I picked up an unlocked HTC Windows Phone 8X and took the SIM card out of my Samsung Galaxy Note and put it in the 8X. I have to say the hardware is great, I love the design of the phone and the soft back but the hardware is only a part of the story and the operating system what makes the difference.
I love the concept of metro UI and the combined hubs, the people hub brings together Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn into one view, it’s one of my favourite features of Windows 8, if only it was as solid as the Windows Phone version .I do like the live tiles and being able to see at a glance how many new emails and updates I have but WP8 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.
The biggest problem for me is the app ecosystem, there is no turn by turn navigation app like Google Navigation (Nokia has Nokia Drive on their devices but nothing on the 8x) and the 3rd party apps are pretty weak and on the expensive side, the demo navigation apps I have tried didn’t match up to CoPilot Live the app I use on Android and used on iOS in the past, I did reach out to the developers and asked them if they had plans for a Windows Phone version but they said they had nothing planned at the moment. Podcast apps are also an issue, BringCast beta works ok but currently it’s not as elegant solution as BeyondPod on Android which automatically pulls down my podcasts overnight.
Other apps that are missing on Windows Phone are things like BBC iPlayer, Flipboard, Dropbox, ITV Player, Sky Player, Sonos, VLC and more. I am sure the apps will be developed over time if there is a big enough demand for Windows Phone but they are not here now. My other issue is that I am invested into the Google ecosystem, I use Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Now, Google Plus and Google Music and Android works better if you’re using these services (as do Apple services if you use iOS). Google Calendar and Gmail work with Windows Phone at the moment but Google are discontinuing support of Exchange Active Sync from next month so for the best email/calendar/contacts integration with Windows Phone Outlook.com is probably the best option. I am also a big fan of Google Now, getting the travel notification and alerts and there is no equivalent on other platforms.
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 don’t think it’s because Android’s SDK is better than Windows Phone it just seems the developers haven’t spent the same amount of time on the WP apps. Due to Windows Phone having a smaller install base it doesn’t get as many of the smaller apps on the platform that while aren’t critical are useful. I use Fing for scanning wireless networks and Ihave my banking app, I missed them on Windows Phone and I am sure there other people would have the same problems.
So overall Windows Phone isn’t the right phone OS for me, I use too many Google services for me not to use Android. I don’t use an iPhone for the same reason; if you’re using Microsoft services then Windows Phone would be ideal but I felt the 8X was to much of a compromise to use full time. I know some of what I have said contradicts what in my Surface post (like the missing Dropbox and Sky Go apps) but for some reason I can live with the limitations on the Surface but can’t with a phone.