Over on ZDNet, Ed Bott recently wrote that he wanted to love the Droid X, but he didn't. Well, I didn't want to, but I do.
I've been a Windows Mobile user since the earliest incarnations of the operating system, back when it was called Pocket PC, Phone Edition. And unlike many people, I always liked WinMo. Maybe it was because I have semi-long fingernails that can substitute for a stylus on the resistive touchscreens. Maybe it was because I love Windows and didn't mind having a miniature version of it on my handheld. And I liked each successive version of WinMo a little better -- right up through v.6.5 on my Samsung Omnia II.
But Windows Mobile is no more. Microsoft started over from scratch, designing a new phone OS it calls Windows Phone 7. It has an impressive user interface, but its v1 lacks some of the things I loved about WinMo, and those missing features are deal breakers for me. So when I started looking for my next smart phone, after doing a lot of research and some testing, I came to an easy conclusion: For me, at this point in time, all roads lead to Droid. Here are 10 reasons I'm leaving WinMo and getting a Droid X.
Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.
1: Oh so touchable
Unlike my old Windows Mobile OS, Android is made to be touched. Its touch screen is responsive and quick, and now if the nail on my index finger should break off, I can still use my phone without resorting to a stylus. The icons are plenty big for touch screen operation, but smaller than the tiles on the new Windows Phone 7, which means more will fit on a home screen.
Sure, the iPhone and Windows Phone 7 have good touchscreens, too. But they don't have some of the other things I want (listed below) and at this time, I can't get either of them without leaving Verizon, which would cost hundreds to get out of the contract.
2: Removable storage
As a Windows Mobile user, I took removable storage for granted. I've always been able to add space by inserting an SD card or a microSD card into my phone's flash memory slot. I was a bit annoyed by the newest phones that required me to pop the back off to swap out the card, but I didn't even realize how good I had it. What Microsoft giveth, Microsoft can taketh away -- and in the first version of Windows Phone 7, it has taken away support for removable storage. Unfortunately, that made me (and others) take away our business and give it to a Droid. The Droid X, for example, supports up to a 32 GB microSD in addition to the built-in 8 GB of internal memory.
[Update: At the official unveiling of Windows Phone 7 in New York on October 11, we discovered that some of the phones do, in fact, support removable microSD cards -- sort of. The cards can physically be removed, but Microsoft warns you not to remove it or replace it with another card or your phone will stop functioning properly. This is because the phone sees the card and the internal storage as one combined storage system. See more details here.]
Back in the good old days, we WinMo users pitied the poor iPhone folks because our OS would multitask and theirs wouldn't. Now the iPhone 4 finally has multitasking -- and Windows Phone 7 doesn't. Sometimes, you really need to be able to run applications in the background. The Droid also multitasks, without the other drawbacks of the iPhone.
4: On display
When the HTC Touch HD running Windows Mobile 6.x came out, its 3.8-inch screen seemed huge. But now, several Android devices have bested it in that department. The Droid X and HTC EVO both have 4.3-inch screens, and the Dell Streak boasts a gargantuan 5-inch display. The HTC HD7 running Windows Phone 7 will reportedly have a 4.3- inch display. But if you want the biggest possible screen right now, Android is the way to go. This is especially true if you're locked into Verizon or Sprint as your carrier, since they aren't expected to get Windows Phone 7 devices until sometime in 2011.
5: Turn-by-turn navigation
Most modern smart phones have GPS functionality, but based on what I've seen, the Droids are the only ones that give you free turn-by-turn navigation that rivals that of a dedicated GPS device. I can't even get Google Maps to work properly on my Omnia II, much less Google Navigation. I can pay $9.99 per month for Verizon's navigation service, but I don't need it often enough to make that worthwhile. There are turn-by-turn navigation apps available for the iPhone, but they're expensive. The extra large screen on the Droid X also enhances the navigation experience.
6: Flexibility and customization
Most Windows Mobile fans I know enjoy customizing their operating system. One reason we stuck with WinMo instead of following the Apple Pied Piper was that we didn't like the fact that all iPhones are basically alike. Sure, you could install your own apps and do some limited customization, but you couldn't really change the UI (without jailbreaking), and you didn't get choices of different interface overlays from different phone vendors (since Apple is the only vendor that makes them).
It's sounding as if Windows Phone 7 is going to be similar to the iPhone in that respect. You'll still have more choice than with the iPhone, with different hardware configurations from different vendors (so long as they stick with Microsoft's prescribed specs). But so far, whether those vendors can install custom interface overlays is still up in the air.
The Droid, on the other hand, offers options such as Motorola's MotoBlur or HTC's SenseUI -- the kinds of choices that we had with Windows Mobile -- and users can change almost every aspect of the interface.
Steve Jobs' attitude toward Adobe Flash is well known, and it's doubtful the iPhone will ever support it. Many were surprised to hear that Windows Phone 7 won't be supporting it at launch, either, although there are rumors of secret talks between Microsoft and Adobe that have sparked hopes that Flash will eventually be a part of WP7. But for now, if you want Flash support, your best bet is to get a Droid.
Many Windows Mobile users save money and aggravation by using programs like WMWifiRouter to set up their phones as wireless hotspots to connect their laptops (or iPads) to the Internet when away from home. And many who had been looking forward to a Windows Phone 7 device were surprised and disappointed to learn that it won't support Wi-Fi tethering.
The iPhone 4 finally added tethering support in this version, but there's a huge catch: You have to give up your unlimited data plan and go with the Data Pro plan, which limits you to 2 GB per month. And you pay $20 additional for the tethering option. Verizon and Sprint charge a monthly fee for Wi-Fi hotspot functionality on their Android devices, too (you can install free tethering apps on "rooted" phones), but at least tethering is possible.
9: Google integration
Let's face it: Even loyal Windows users are turning to Google more and more, for search, for Web apps, for maps, for Gmail. You can access all of these on other phones, but since Android is a Google product, it's naturally more fully integrated with Google's services.
10: It's all about the network
For many people, the device itself doesn't matter as much as the carrier that supports it, as I discussed in my recent article on smart phone selection criteria. If you're tied by contract to Verizon or Sprint -- or if you just prefer one of those networks because it gives you better reception in your area -- the iPhone is currently not an option for you. Now we know that Windows Phone 7 will be available only on GSM networks this year, so if you want a high-end smart phone on a CDMA network, and you want it now, the Droid is your only choice.
If you're a Windows Mobile user in the market for a new smart phone, you could stick with WinMo; some models are still available from major carriers. But it's old technology, and you can be pretty sure there won't be any major updates or much new software developed for that platform. The logical upgrade would seem, at first glance, to be Windows Phone 7, but Microsoft still has a lot of catching up to do. If you want the most advanced smart phone capabilities without waiting around for several months, there are many good reasons to consider a Droid.
Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 additional books on subjects such as the Windows 2000 and Windows 2003 MCSE exams, CompTIA Security+ exam, and TruSecure's ICSA certification.