Until recently I owned an iPhone. I loved my iPhone. Alas, my phone bill was way too high, and with my wife and me expecting twins, I needed to find a way to cut costs. I went to a no contract provider called Metro PCS, and picked up the Nokia Lumia 521 Windows 8 Phone. I had toyed around with the idea of getting a windows phone for quite some time, and with switching providers, I thought it was a great chance to actually take the plunge. Let me be clear, I loved my iPhone. I don’t claim to say that Windows Phone 8 is better or worse than IOS, but it sure is different, and here are my experiences and thoughts.
In the store while picking up the phone, the store clerk asked me if I knew how to operate a Windows Phone, as it is very different than any other smartphone out there, and she was right. Right away the biggest difference is the “start screen”. This is would be what would be your main screens on Android or IOS. There are quite a few differences though. The screen scrolls up and down for starters, not side to side, like everything else. The biggest difference, and honestly one of the coolest features, are the live tiles.
Live tiles are, for lack of better explanation, icons for anything you want to put on your screen. What separates them from icons, are that they show you information without needing to launch the application, by flipping over, and over, and over again, depending on how much it needs to show you. Take my kindle live tile. I can pin whatever books I’m reading to my start screen so that it will open up to the individual book, rather than the book selection menu. The live tile switches between the book cover art, to a tile that lists the title, author, and how much progress I’ve made on the book. While this may not be the most useful live tile out there, it just goes to show exactly how useful in theory they can be. One great example of usefulness is the ability to “pin” an individual to my start screen. That’s right, my wife now gets her own live tile.
This tile will switch between her profile pictures that either I’ve selected for her, or what Facebook has for her, and many other things. If she tweets, it’ll show her most recent tweet. If she updates on Facebook, it’ll show that as well. New email? New Text? It shows me that too. All without needing to launch any of those apps. What’s more, if I select her tile, I see all her contact info, can write on her wall, message her, or write an email.
The live tiles seem to be an answer to the widgets Android use, but on a much more functional level, for basically everything you have installed on your phone.
Now that I’ve talked about the thing I like the most, let’s talk about the worst part of the Windows Phone experience. The application store is seriously lacking. In fact many of the apps out there are lacking, and it doesn’t seem to be getting better. While there is a lack of a lot of favorite apps, like a YouTube app for instance, apps that are there, are lacking serious content, compared to competitors devices. Instagram just got chat support on IOS and Android, but that feature is missing from the Windows Phone. In fact Windows phone JUST got Instagram, and it’s still in beta. Windows Phone 8 has been out for about a year now, and there’s no reason for it to be lacking.
With the smooth integration between your Surface tablet, PC and phone, the experience in all seems to be lacking quite a bit. Do I think that Windows Phone will ever fill the gap that Android and IOS have on top of it? In time maybe. But Microsoft will need to get developers to make apps for it. Comixology made an app for Windows 8, which shares the same Kernel as Windows Phone 8, yet there is no app for the phone. It would take a developer about 2 hours to make it workable on the phone. Why don’t they do it? Because the market share out there doesn’t show the demand for them to pay a developer 2 hours to work a few lines of code. Let that sink in for a second.
All in all, Windows Phone has a lot of great features that could hook someone, but they can’t follow though to keep the interest there, at least for me. Once the new shiny feeling of the start screen, live tiles, and fluidity of PC/phone sharing wore off, I was left wanting more. I was left wanting to return to my IOS or even Android that I had used years prior to that. It’s sad really, there is so much untapped potential.
Photo Credit: Michele Ficara Manganelli / Flickr