My Romance with Cultured Mango and the Affair with the Sneaky Mistress iOS
If it were not for my job....
I would still have in my pocket the plain flip phone that handled all my needs for so long. I think that the prices carriers charge in relation to what you get out of a smartphone (for the average consumer) is ridiculous so I never even bothered looking at one. As an IT technician though, my needs and uses for a smartphone were many and during Christmas of 2010 we as a company moved from the horrible HTC Tilt 2 running Windows Mobile 6.5 to an LG Quantum Windows 7 phone. For those not familiar with the relative jump in technology, the only comparison I can think of is this
Now that I leapt into the new millennia with WP7 I was amazed..... It was SO much better. I could browse the internet in real time! Pictures, video, apps that I didn't have to write myself, it was incredible. When Mango finally rolled out I was in heaven; multitasking, speed, email management, all of my complaints were fixed. I was in love...I took the phone everywhere with me, we shared many special moments that I'll never ever forget.
2 months ago however, company wide we switched to iPhone 4 devices since that's what most of our customers were using. Knowing that while most reviewers give WP7 it's due, iPhone and iOS is still king of the heap. After using it for a while I think some of the hype is just that; hype. Sure it was sexy and thin, but I liked my chunky monkey LG. Love isn't a beauty contest.
(For those that have forgotten the completely forgettable LG Quantum, here's a head to head comparison with the iPhone 4 )
The fight for my affection
First, let's start with the basic physical and usability of the phones. The Quantum is not a pretty device; it's extremely simple, chunky, and utilitarian with one of its stand out features being a slide out keyboard. However, after a solid year of use, multiple drops onto concrete and asphalt, and shoved into the same pocket as my keys the only wear and tear is a slightly worn back cover and a head phone jack that has been plugged and unplugged so many times the hole is larger than it should be and sometimes unplugs itself when being jostled around. (Don't take that analogy with the overall romance theme too far you perverts)
The iPhone 4 has a now legendary design though that is still astonishingly thin even 2 years after its release and it really does bring the iconic image of a Leica to mind...however, a Leica is never clad in camera armor because one bad drop will shatter it into a million pieces. Therefore, like many people, my iPhone is inside an Otterbox Defender case which makes this phone now even thicker and heavier than the Quantum which defeats the purpose. The other problem I have is the absence of a physical keyboard; like many have said, I just don't think that a virtual will ever replace a physical keyboard for me. I can type on the Quantum at near-netbook speeds and with very few errors. While I can type fast enough on the iPhone, I make plenty of mistakes and the auto-correct option is so out of left field at times I've had to leave mine off. Acronyms especially give me a hard time on iOS compared to WP7 and most of what I type are various acronyms related to my job. The iPhone is the nagging, mouthy broad to my demure, couth WP7 phone.
Also, neither of these camera's are really Leica quality either, but both do an excellent job. They compare favorably with both sporting 5mp sensors and I have no doubt the 4S is even better. For my purposes though, they're both equal; I've never been disappointed by either, but technically I would agree that the iPhone probably has the advantage.
Another area in which my complaint is purely hardware is that the earpiece is too low on the iPhone; it's extremely annoying that people who used to come in loud and clear now are muffled and distant. In my experience, I'm not the only one who's had a problem: two other people I know have had to return their iPhones because the earpieces basically shorted out and were non-functioning. While I could get an earpiece, and have in the past, I'm still mourning the loss of my Voyager Pro to the washing machine last year (and, no, I don't want to talk about it).
Messaging and Email, Contacts, and Calendar.....the lifeblood of the workday warrior. In this area, the iPhone is beaten by WP7 like a rented mule. The email client in iOS is antiquated and an absolute pain to use if you maintain more than 1 inbox. The ability for WP7 to manage multiple inboxes, and group them together, has been covered in-depth here on the Verge so I won't repeat what has already been said. My speed in finding email in WP7 is dramatically faster than iOS because all of my email is sorted in folders. Messaging has one flaw in that if you need to call the person who just texted you, you're forced to scroll the top of the screen in iOS. If that's the only text you have it's not a problem, but if this is part of many many conversations it can be frustrating. WP7 solves this by allowing you to click directly on the person's name and bring up their contact information so you can get in touch with them however you want. On the subject of Contacts, WP7 again reigns as king. Just to pull in my Gmail contacts I had to set up the account as an Exchange box in iOS whereas WP7 pulled them in automatically; not difficult and it was something I was aware of, but why couldn't they just build in this functionality? Facebook as well? Oh, right; Apple doesn't play well with others, and this lady is a tramp. WP7 also allows a quick jump feature to the letter you're needing or an auto search function (included in the dialer subscreen which I'll touch on in a minute). The Calendar features in both I found about equal....honestly, I don't know how you could screw up a calendar and neither of them surprised me by doing so. Both calendar programs are equal in usability and interface but I'd give a slight edge to WP7 because you can set a home tile to display your next appointment. Sheesh...with a partner like WP7, who needs a secretary?
Now, how these phones stack up in their phoning capability and ease comes down to how many contacts you have to access; if you only call 5-10 people on a regular basis, the favorite contacts in iOS will be perfectly sufficient and the homescreen tile groups in WP7 will be even better. However, if you're like me, and you have literally hundreds of people in your list that you need to reach, and all you know is a first or last name, iOS is just too much of a hassle to jump in and out of lists, tracking down names and scrolling to the search, no quick jump to letters, and gah......Enough of that. WP7's only shortcoming is the visual voice mail in iOS is excellent and I would be extremely annoyed to have to listen through a list of messages ever again.
Now for other Smart Phone functions.
The browsers I will declare equal except that iOS has the edge in having better mobile adapted sites for Safari; for some of the sites I visit, having a good mobile version actually is better than the full desktop experience.
Music....This one surprised me. I drive between 400 and 800 miles a week for my job so I spend a lot of time listening to podcasts and music off of my phone. This, which surprised me, is where WP7 makes its final stand in my review and clubs down iOS. Zune, that laughable failure of a product, has had its software reborn like the mighty phoenix and lays waste to all in its path (in a good way). I could easily navigate the software while driving, allowing swipes to skip songs and a quick jump to get to a podcast once a playlist finished. It never failed to automatically update my podcasts while connected to wifi, and allowed me to start a playlist from a certain song and it still be in shuffle mode. The Zune software itself on my PC was light, beautiful, and is still my default media player on my PC for all 60Gb of media I have. The device that started it all however has done nothing but disappoint me. Everything that I like about Zune on the phone and the desktop, iTunes does the exact opposite. The fact that the iTunes store and the music player are completely separate entities annoys me to no end; especially since I cannot get automatic updates to The Vergecast on my iPhone I am forced to download it manually which forces me to jump between 2 apps. Podcasts are buried in a menu, the ability to start from a certain song and still shuffle my mix is non-existent, and it's not easy to control while driving and avoiding psychopaths who can't drive in traffic...probably because they're trying to skip songs on their iPhone too. Another feature I miss in WP7 is that to bring up the media player all I had to do was press the volume button and I could pause, skip, and control it directly; I didn't have to swipe after hitting home twice on the main screen. Less movements...less time wasted...a phone to save me from my phone...I think I've heard this before.
Up to this point, I'm sure you're thinking "This is just a love song to WP7" and I would have to agree that I believe the WP7 phone to be far superior ; except, well, a smartphone isn't just a phone/multimedia device anymore. It needs more tricks, more pizazz, It's an app machine. And, that is the exact reason I don't think I'll ever be able to leave iOS.
Apps on WP7 are like being told you're getting a puppy for Christmas and receiving a copy of Nintendogs instead. While fun, and it simulating the real thing, you know it's just a facsimile for something that's supposed to be so much more fun. I rarely used apps on Windows Phone mostly because the basics were covered so well by the OS: Facebook, Twitter, and everything I've outlined above. Once I started downloading apps on the iPhone, my mind was blown...I could manage my entire blog from an app?! I actually wrote almost a tenth of this article from my iPhone while doing laundry. A lot of services that I used for work (Highrise, Harvest, Log Me In, KeePass to name a few) had apps on WP7 but were mere shadows of what had been done on iOS. Every 3rd Party app I used ran so much faster on iOS that my laptop started to be used less and less; some tasks, like finding a password, took so long on WP7 I would use my laptop instead now are done almost instantly by my iPhone.
Not to mention that every accessory known to man is made for the iPhone; you don't see a Windows Phone Boom Nuke. Finding a new case for your iPhone is only limited by the amount of time you have left on this earth to troll through Google looking at results.
After over 1800 words, I'm going to summarize something that anyone who's ever listened to the podcast is going to have heard before. Windows Phone 7 is an extremely good mobile OS; far better than the iPhone in my opinion and better than the Android 2.3 devices I've spent time with. I don't know why it has such a minuscule marketshare currently; it certainly deserves better. However, apps reign supreme in the house of Apple and no one is close to taking that crown away. I can't lie though; if I had my druthers I would use a Windows Phone device as my phone and buy an iTouch (with iPhone 4s Camera and specs) as a dedicated apps machine for a fun fling. I feel like WP7 has, honestly, leapfrogged Apple from a day to day usability and customization aspect (don't get me started with not being able to arrange icons, live widgets, colors and the like) but Apple still enraptures you by making you lust after it with everything you have.