Windows

10 reasons for Windows Mobile users to switch to Droid

If you're looking for advanced smart phone capabilities and you don't want to wait months to get them, Deb Shinder suggests you consider a Droid.

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.]

3: Multitasking

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.

7: Flash

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.

8: Tethering

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.

Summary

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.

About

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 add...

30 comments
jfreedle2
jfreedle2

I already have everything except Google integration, and that is not a good thing. You could not pay me enough to downgrade from a Windows Phone to any Android based phone.

keith.w.redmond
keith.w.redmond

I totally agree, I've used Sprint phones with no oeprating system to speak of to the Windows sytem to the Palm system and now I have the HTC EVO 4G and the Android system is by far more user friendly and versitile then all the other systems I have used.

khlongfellow
khlongfellow

What are the steps to syncing a Droid with Outlook? I use Tasks extensively (100's of tasks), and I haven't found any information on how to sync this feature. I've heard it syncs if you're on a server but not from an individual computer. I find VZNavigator taking up too much resources to be useable on a Imagio. Google Maps works much better, so I dropped VZ Navigator after a month.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Musty be a slow news day if TechRep has to resort to top 10 stuff. Zzzzzz.

jdev1
jdev1

I note that you removed my previous added comment that XDA developers Artemis ROM v37 is better than any of your points of view here

spawnywhippet
spawnywhippet

This blog is totally US-centric. To the other 90% of the world, many of those issues do not exist outside of the US, like CDMA networks, tethering on iPhones, being locked to specific carriers. Would be good if you focussed more on generic technical details rather than market-specific issues.

Justin James
Justin James

Here are some of the major pain points I've found using a number of Android devices: 1. My Droid 1 "eats" photos. Let me tell you what a kick in the crotch it is to take a picture of your kid having a great time at the State Fair, see that the picture was taken, get home... and it's not on the phone! But some of the other pictures were?!?! 2. Stability. Sometimes my Droid 1 will randomly reboot itself. 3. Reliability: a few weeks ago, my phone was acting like I was on a call (including the "on call" icon being on), but the call timer wasn't going and "end call" would change it. Oh, and it was unresponsive to the power button too. 4. Shoddy Exchange integration. I hate that when I delete an email on the phone, it goes to "Deleted Items" as *unread*. Very frustrating to get back to the desk and have to review D.I. to see if I accidentally deleted an email without reading it! 5. Poor programming - the "signal strength" bar has zero relationship to reality. Go to the phone status to see the real signal strength and compare it to the "bars" and you'll see what I mean. 6. Poor keyboards on devices. If you are like me, and like a keyboard on your phone, your choices are really limited. The only Android phones with decent keyboards are the LG Ally (a low end phone) and the Motorola Devour (it was a premium phone when it debuted, but it never got past Android 1.6 as far as I know). 7. Flaky contact list integration. It's supposed to automatically merge contacts from different sources. But on my phone, it doesn't do it sometimes, I have to turn off syncing of Facebook contacts and turn it back on to get new items to merge. 8. Poor UI. Using the phone is hard compared to a feature phone, even for the basics like making a call to someone in the contacts list. Forget 1 handed usage like I could on ever feature phone I used to have. This forces me to use voice dialing while driving (as opposed to holding a number button for speed dial) which is less than perfect on accuracy. 9. More flakiness. My phone LOVES the clock app. So much, in fact, that it randomly pops up. Like when the phone is ringing, it will suddenly cover the caller ID info with the clock app. Or I'll take the "locked" phone out of the holster, and it will be unlocked... with the clock app up. 10. OS fragmentation - it is really frustrating that there is no mandated baseline hardware. Software that is available for one phone doesn't exist for another, or if it is there, it runs poorly. J.Ja

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

You can tell it's a slow news day when TechRepublic has to resort to these 10 reasons to whatever. I'm waiting for the 10 reasons why the hard disk industry will use a different term than hard disk or 10 reasons why some president and CEO of a "gadget" company will get sacked once their top products start faltering badly in sales because of hardware issues.

ChrisHyche@AlabamaOne.Org
ChrisHyche@AlabamaOne.Org

Incomplete Exchange support without a pay app, you have to disable device passwords to be able to sync. No Office support without a pay app. Also of note. Bing Maps on WinMo does turn by turn.

nepper
nepper

have you discounted Palm? I had a Palm (Kyocera something) touch screen before my HTC Touch Windows 6.1, and considered the Windows a step back, e.g. cannot password protect individual files/notes, doesn't sych time with local network (even though that's an option), and a few other integration issues, not to mention startup time. From your comments, Android is as user friendly as Palm or better, and has a ton more apps.

seanferd
seanferd

Which is a Motorola device & implementation.

General Chat
General Chat

I use PDANet for tethering without being rooted. I have a DroidX and love it myself. I dinked with the UI adding LauncherPro, Folder Organizer and WidgetLocker.

jdev1
jdev1

Windows Mobile is not dead visit XDA Developers where Artemis ROM v37 permits dual boot Droid and Windows Mobile v6.5.5 using HTC HD2

junk
junk

The biggest problem is that MS has shunned their loyal users. I have 10 years worth of Win CE/Pocket PC/Win Mob apps all of which work great on my Touch Pro 2 with Win Mob 6.5. Even if Win Pho 7 is the best op sys on the planet eventually, if I buy a new phone NOW I have to consider it along side the opposition. Since it's brand new, and I have ZERO apps which run on it, it becomes a bad choice for me. I would tend towards a more mature operating system and choose Android, just the way I chose Win Mob 6.5 over Android a year ago. Last year Android was "not quite ready for prime time", and this year Win Pho 7 is the same. Who knows about next year.

Chuck Patton
Chuck Patton

The reasons you post are more Android specific then "Droid".

robert.foreman
robert.foreman

I have the LG Phantom and the new Bing maps, this has turn by turn and works very well, It is a free download.

Nsaf
Nsaf

How about an article outlining the differences between the platforms and let the users decide rather than trying to shove your opinion down their throats? Who are you?...Steve Jobs? (BTW: I have used them all, currently on Android and loving it and will be on WP7 very soon)...it is my preference.

elee
elee

Half of the details you mentioned are actually limitation of the hardware/network provider, not WinMo7. As WinMo 7 comes onto market, there will be more and more handset with varying hardware specs which some should hopefully satisfy your needs. Every OS has it's strengths and weaknesses so it's really important that if you are interested in a new smartphone, to try each one out.

l_creech
l_creech

There are a number of apps available via Google search and through the Android Market. SprinxCRM with Remember the Milk. www.sprinxcrm.com (free) and www.rememberthemilk.com (free and pro versions). This requires Outlook 2007/2010. Exchange for Android 2.X(www.nitrodesk.com) may be the best; supports tasks, mail, calendar, and contacts. $19.99, requires MS Exchange Server. I'm using this happily. Taskline is another option, basically takes your tasks and priortizes them into your calendar. I haven't played with it since I don't like tasks in my calendar. www.taskline.com

G_Tally
G_Tally

The magnet in your holster is turning your clock app on. It's designed that way to accommodate the docking station. When you take it out of the holster, hold the flap AWAY from the phone and it won't go into "docking" mode.

elee
elee

The author sounded like she doesn't understood the smartphone world. Perhaps that' the perspective she's trying to give. That end users don't care about OS/Hardware/Software/Specs. They just want a device that works for them. Which is what Apple does, they enclose you in an ecosystem. Certainly not advocating (like the author is proclaiming her obviously biased view) on getting an iphone either, but a serious buyer if they understand there are different OSes, they ought to try out different handsets (with different OSes) to see which suits them. A serious shopper should dismiss this article and do more thorough research on other serious review sites.

elee
elee

Haha, I imagine you are describing your setup? It is mine too. I thought the author didn't understand the market/hardware/software very well. Yet proclaiming, telling ppl to switch like it's the end. Anyone seriouly considering a smart phone would be smart to dismiss this article and do some real research on more dedicated sites that is just one URL away.

l_creech
l_creech

On Verizon the Motorola Droid family is the way to go as these are the premium phones on the carrier. I suspect that may be the reason for highlighting Droid in this case. Yes, virtually all the Android based phones have the same advantages. Personally I have the Sprint Epic 4g (rooted, wifi tether, and a few other root required apps) and won't be looking twice when and if the WP7 comes to Sprint unless it simply blows away the specs and features of my Epic. 4G coverage for me is very good with speeds consistently in the 6-8Mbps range. Yes LTE will probably be faster, but the service I've received from Sprint blows away the service I received from AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile in the past and for that alone I will stay with Sprint.

/usr
/usr

She is only mentioning some qualities that are making her decision. No one is asking you to! Chill out.

seanferd
seanferd

shove your opinion down their throats? Really? So, why don't you just look up the specs yourself and decide on the merits of each. No, wait, don't bother. You have already made your decision based on your preference. Steve Jobs, my @$$.

algy700
algy700

It's the authors opinion for gods sake; and well rounded I thought it to be!

vyevhare
vyevhare

it's true every OS has it's own limitation but there is also more advantages/Features over another we have to focus on those. OS limitation can be overcome if u give ultimate response.you all of know Microsoft has given consistent optimization in Windows OS so have some patience u all will see WP7 will boom in market. ..........Ram...

cavehomme1
cavehomme1

Because Win7 is too little, too late