2 Months with Windows Phone
In March of this year, I took the plunge with Windows Phone by upgrading to a HTC 8X from my HTC Sensation. I was tempted to jump aboard the Windows Phone ship 2 years ago but I felt that the platform wasn’t mature enough yet. Now I think WP has grown up a lot since then and I didn’t want to wait another two years before trying it. Android had frustrated me with its lag and lack of updates whereas iOS had bored me with its interface that remains unchanged from 6 years ago. I have experience of the other two major platforms, with Android I had a Nexus 7 and a HTC Sensation and with iOS I had an iPad 1 and an iPod Touch (and I still own a Mac if that counts!) I’m going to talk about what I love about Windows Phone and what I don’t like about it. I will also post my 8X thoughts as well if there is anyone interested in purchasing it.
No lag. I have suffered from no slowdown at all since switching. It is a fluid experience, and a fluid experience is an enjoyable experience. His thing flies, despite the hardware being outdated (compared to Android). It is just crazily fast. I reckon in most cases, my phone is faster than high end Androids. I have only had 2 force closes, both being the Twitter app so might not be a WP error. People moan about the animations but in reality they haven’t really bothered me yet.
Xbox Music. First things first, I am an avid music listener. Where I can understand the hate for Xbox Music on Windows 8/RT as I have a Surface, I don’t understand it on WP. I decided to invest in an xbox music pass and it could be one of the best purchases I have ever made. 9 quid a month for unlimited streaming and downloads across all my devices? It’s fantastic. My music collection is at about 400ish songs on my phone atm and it is still smooth. However, I’m stuck on making playlists so if anyone can help
Metro/Modern UI. I am in love with the Metro/Modern/Anything else you want to call it design. In my opinion, it is more visually appealing than the cluster of ugly widgets on Android (I had zero on both my devices as I hated them) or the static grid of icons that is iOS. I love it because it’s different as well as refreshing. Apps look gorgeous in the modern design if done right.
Keyboard. The keyboard on WP is probably the best I have ever used. It just feels so nice to type on and makes me want to type more than on any other keyboard I have used. I adore the sound it makes when you tap of the keys. So what, it doesn’t matter if the smallest things please me!
Dedicated camera button. I think most smartphones should have this. So much quicker and easier to launch the camera app. On the subject of the camera, Lenses is a great feature. Only gripe is, pictures taken by tapping the screen come out better than ones taken by the button? Just me?
Bing button. The Bing Search button seems to get a lot of hate but I really like it. From anywhere in the OS I can jump into Bing and search the web. Local Scout is excellent as well as Music and Vision replacing two apps for me, Soundhound and Scan (one of my favourite Android apps). However, we don’t seem to get all the functionality here in the UK which is a shame.
Nokia Drive and Maps. These apps are brilliant and in some cases, better than Googles. Couldn’t live without them.
SkyDrive and Office integration. The ability to take a photo with my phone and open up on my computer immediately is fantastic. The ability to edit documents on the go is also a joy.
Unified inbox. Don’t know if this feature was available on Android but if it was, it wasn’t easy to find. Its great having all my email in one section. Love it. On the other hand, I believe I don’t get email notifications? I mean, I don’t get an alert and a banner saying I have a new email. I can only see on my lockscreen on the email live tile. Help.
Orientation lock. We just need this, nothing else said.
Whats App. My god, that app is awful. I used to use it all the time on Android and now I try avoid it as much as I can. They need to get the update out quick. It is battery draining and half the time, when you go into the app, you get stuck on the splash screen. Rubbish.
Apps. Not a big a problem for me as it is for some people but still a problem nonetheless. 98% of the apps I had on my Sensation are on Windows Phone but what about when a new app makes it big? All my friends at the moment are going on about Snapchat and I just feel like I’m missing out a little. However, there are some really nice apps like the new Twitter app and Metrotube.
Albums in the Picture Hub. Why can’t we create albums?! Come on Microsoft!!
Messaging Hub. Microsoft has a really good idea here but it’s just half baked. So you can switch between Facebook Chat and SMS…ok nice but what about other chat services? Skype? Whats App? Viber? How good would it be if other apps could tap into the messaging hub for a unified experience? Microsoft had such a big opportunity here and they failed to grasp it with both hands.
People Hub. Whilst its nice, it’s just not as good as using the Twitter or Facebook app. Lacks a lot of functionality for me. What I do like is the Me tile and this is where I believe Microsoft should put notifications. Just my two cents.
Podcasts, Videos and FM Radio. Can we have them back please Microsoft? Why would you remove them? If anyone has any podcast app alternatives, I would be greatly pleased.
Task Switcher. Offers nothing else except switching tasks. Why can’t we close apps from in here? Or quickly access settings? Just something. Tell me. Microsoft needs to greatly improve their speech assistant so it is can compete with Siri and Google Now.
T9 dialing. This is probably the biggest thing I miss from Android. Now if I want to call someone, instead of typing their name in the Phone App, I have to go into People, find them in my contacts, click on them and then click phone. Too many steps just to call someone.
Landscape keyboard. So pointless, with so much screen wasted. Don’t like that at all. I thought the benefit of landscape keyboard was a more spacious typing experience. Looks the same size on WP in landscape or portrait.
Hardware is a mixed bag. Looks gorgeous and feels amazing in the hand. Many people have been intrigued by the beautiful hardware. However, all the corners on mine have gone black and the soft touch O2 for a replacement.
Battery life is also a mixed bag but more on the positive side. It lasts me the whole day during the week and slightly less at the weekend (because I use it more). On my 3rd day of owning it, it lasted me from 7AM to 1AM which is 18 hours of moderate usage with 20% left. Tried to run it down but got too tired. Have been unable to replicate that since but it’s still better than my Sensation and that had an extended battery. Twice though, it has depleted from 100% to 10% in 5 hours without me using it. One was just under a month ago, the other was last Thursday. So battery life is good but has its flaws.
Beats Audio is more than just a gimmick and actually offers a fantastic listening experience. Very pleased with it.
Camera. I wanted the 920 for its camera but it was out of my price range so it was between the 820 and 8X. I opted for the 8X. The camera is better than I thought it would be. I am no photo expert, but I have taken some pretty decent photos with it which I’m surprised with. In some cases, I have taken better shots than a friend’s i5. FFC is also nice for those lovely selfies we all love to take.
These are my thoughts on WP so far. I believe it needs to push out updates quicker to catch the competition. If not, then it should fear being left behind. For now though, I love it and will be seeing out my contract with it. Question is whether I will want to stay in 2 years. I hope I do because Microsoft has something good here and should build on that to stay relevant. If MS solves the issues that WP faces, brings it quality apps and gets the phones in peoples hands then it should become a solid 3rd place option. Congrats to all who managed to read this all!