Windows

I'm still waiting for Windows Phone to win me over

Deb Shinder is a fan of Microsoft products, but there are several reasons why she hasn't completely jumped on the Windows Phone bandwagon.

I'm unapologetically a fan of Microsoft products. Windows is my desktop/laptop OS of choice. Internet Explorer is my favorite web browser. I have a Zune, which I like better than the iPod. I even cut my smartphone teeth on Windows Mobile. So, why am I carrying an Android device now, and why are my electronic taste buds craving an Ice Cream Sandwich more than a Mango?

A lot to love

It's not that I don't like what Microsoft has done with Windows Phone 7 and 7.5. I've tested it extensively, and I like the Metro user interface a lot. The live tiles give me the at-a-glance, up-to-date information Ineed. The flyaway animations and the smooth sideways scrolling add a touch of elegance. The integration with Outlook and SharePoint and the mobile Office apps are fantastic productivity enhancers.

They almost had me with the e-mail client. I live and die by my e-mail, because it's the foundation of my business. The way Windows Phone handles e-mail is the best I've seen. Little things mean a lot, and the ability to have my "favorite" Exchange folders show up in a list so I don't have to scroll through dozens of important-but-less-often-used folders to check the mail in them (as I must do with my HTC Android phones) removes a whole layer of frustration from the smartphone experience.

The People hub is cool, and after getting over the initial resistance to a new way of doing things, I really like the way it shows me "what's new" with my contacts across different social networks -- and I especially like being able to pin a particular contact to the Start screen. And even though I'm not into games, I found the Xbox Live app oddly compelling. In fact, I spent half an hour creating an avatar who looks as much like an animated version of me as I could make it.

Getting better all the time

As the Beatles once sang, "I've got to admit it's getting better." Despite the nice UI and the other benefits mentioned above, the first iteration of Windows Phone left way too much to be desired. No multitasking, no Wi-Fi tethering, not even copy/paste capability in the very beginning -- it felt promising but unfinished, like a pre-beta product.

I love trying out those "first sneak peek" preview editions of new products as much as anyone, but I don't depend on them for getting my work done. My primary phone has to be dependable, and it has to have the essential features that I've come to expect in a smartphone. Windows Phone 7 took too many steps backward, leaving out features that had been in Windows Mobile years ago.

Mango didn't change all that, but it was certainly a giant leap forward. It's been rolled out to most Windows Phones now, making around 500 changes to the OS, including multitasking, Wi-Fi tethering (two deal-breakers for many who had contemplated a switch to Windows Phone), and better integration with e-mail and social networking. You can now choose which e-mail accounts you want to go into the same Inbox, and multiple accounts can be linked to one live tile. It also supports threaded conversations like "big Outlook."

Another really nice new feature is Groups, which lets you put your contacts into logical groupings, such as Family, Co-workers, Old School Buddies, Club Members, or whatever. I love that you can e-mail or text an entire group in one fell swoop. You can pin Group hubs to the Start screen just like can with individual people, too.

There are also lots of little improvements, such as the ability to pin multiple tiles from one app to the Start screen (so, for example, you can have tiles showing the weather in two different cities).

Nokia leads the pack

Quite a few people I've talked to who are interested in Windows Phone have told me they were waiting to see what Nokia came out with. After all, Microsoft's partnership deal with them made us think maybe their phones would have that extra special something to send Windows Phone over the edge into "magical and revolutionary" territory.

This week, Nokia finally unveiled their first Windows Phones, which will ship with Mango. The higher end Lumia 800 is sleek, slim, sexy, and comes in three different colors (magenta, cyan, and a more traditional but very stylish black). The less expensive model, the Lumia 710, adds yellow and white to the color choices. They're a good looking bunch, with enough "wow" factor to rival the iPhone. The 800 will include turn-by-turn navigation, a feature that's a "must have" to compete with Android phones' Google Nav. Unfortunately, they won't be released in the United States until 2012.

Still missing in action

So, with all those great things happening to Windows Phone, why am I still not able to get on the bandwagon?

One thing Microsoft will have to address before I consider giving up my Droid for a WinPhone is a USB mass storage option, so I can connect my phone to my computer and easily transfer files between the two -- without the awful Zune PC software. That's a very basic requirement that was easily met by my old WinMo phones and every Android phone I've ever used -- and its omission is a deal breaker for me.

A related issue is the inability to install applications except through the Marketplace. Having an app store is nice and convenient, and I get at least 90% of my Android apps through the Android Market -- but I want the option to get them elsewhere if I choose. Think I'm too stupid to be trusted with access to the file system and installing third-party apps I download from the web? That will lose you at least one sale, but I suspect I'm not the only one who feels that way. The thing is, if I want a locked-down, walled-garden device, I might as well just follow the herd and get an iPhone.

Oh, and speaking of emulating Apple, how about that expandable storage issue? I don't want to be limited to the amount of storage the vendor decides to build in, especially when most of the Windows Phones I'm seeing seem to be limited to 8 or 16 GB. Yes, there are finally some Windows Phone "certified" micro SD cards out there, so it is possible to change it out -- but Microsoft apparently doesn't really support that. I can pop a new card into my Android phone any time I want, and it's no big deal. Why make it hard? I guess there are two reasons: 1) It will cause people to upgrade to a new phone when they need more storage, and/or 2) everybody's going to store everything in the cloud anyway, so extra storage will never be necessary (not).

Another reason I can't quite bring myself to commit to a Windows Phone yet is that I haven't seen one with a camera that suits my needs. The cameras on the HTC Incredible 2 and Thunderbolt are so good that I can use them in place of a dedicated camera much of the time. And for casual photo sharing, the editing capabilities are good enough so that I can do a quick crop or enhancement and upload it directly to Facebook or Google+ without transferring it to my computer first to "fix" it.

I love the idea of a physical shutter button plus the ability to tap the screen to take a picture, like we have with Mango. But the Windows Phones I've tried just don't take very good pictures. They aren't as sharp, and there are no manual controls for adjusting things like color balance, contrast, and exposure. Windows Phones operate more like simple point-and-shooters to be used only by the most amateur of photographers. The brand new Lumia 800 does have an 8 MP camera, so maybe it will deliver higher quality photos. We'll have to wait and see.

The Nokia phones were disappointing to me in other ways, though. An AMOLED display is a plus (although I'm not sure if it's a Super AMOLED Plus like on the Charge), but 3.7 inches seems positively tiny in comparison to the 4.5 and 4.7 inch Android smartphones that are on the market or in the works. I probably won't be getting a Windows Phone until there's a 4+ inch offering. The single core processor is also disappointing. The top Android phones are sporting dual-core CPUs now. Yes, it does make for shorter battery life, but let us decide on whether we want to make that trade-off.

Finally, I'm not going to buy a Windows Phone that sticks me with a relatively slow 3G network when I can get on the blazing fast LTE network with an Android handset right now. I admit it; in my time with the Charge and Thunderbolt, I've gotten spoiled. I want my 4G.

I know 4G Windows Phones will eventually appear (as will dual-core models), and I'm guessing someday they'll have big displays too. Will they ever address my other issues? Maybe, maybe not. Until they do, I'll keep waiting and devouring the latest Android offerings. I'm afraid I have to agree with Jeffrey Van Camp that there is no hope for a Windows Phone (for me) in 2011.

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...

25 comments
galebRijecki
galebRijecki

Hi! I read your article, and it seems to me that all you are requesting from a smartphone, already exists. And has been for a while. On a BlackBerry platform. This is what I do not understand - BlackBerry platform has all of that, and much more, yet, so many people look down to it... I've used Nokia. iPhone. Android. For a while I even tested Mango. But I always get back to BlackBerry. It seems to me, if you really need a true smartphone to get the business done, to have all the information at hand... there is only one true choice, and only one true solution. Kindly, Hrvoje

GuidoCavaliere
GuidoCavaliere

Even if it comes it wont drive me crazy. It will be a cheesy excuse to skyrocket the its prize I am saving for the iphone. Regards From Argentina

markp24
markp24

So far its way better than my old windows 6.5 phone, so far everything works well, only issues i have with it are the following: cannot change your default seach provider cannot change home page (at least not easily) Angry birds is not free in the market place (LOL) It does not sync Outlook notes (had to move to evernote) Oh and i dont know if theis is the phone or wp7 but i cant insert a microSD card and use it without wiping and reloading the phone ans the device or os, intergrates the internal memory with the sd card as one single storage space, so if you remove the sd card, you kill the phone. otherwise its so far so good, but there is room for improvement. alot of good features, same a what an iphone offiers.

fhrivers
fhrivers

You want a geek phone. Just stick with Android. The things you like so much about Android is part of what makes it suck so much. Windows Phone 7 is a phone first and everything else second and people enjoy making a phone call without the damn thing locking up or needing to be rebooted. Windows Phone 7 is a happy medium between iOS and Android. I have a beautiful, snappy walled garden with my choice of hardware. The problem with Windows Mobile and Android is that they try to be all things to everyone and thus became cluttered non-cohesive messes of an OS. Not everyone wants to have to bring up a task manager to "kill" a process. If you don't have performance problems to begin with, then you don't need to do it. Not everyone wants to navigate through a file system to locate files when they can browse documents in the cloud where their information is synced. As a techie, I love tooling with stuff, but then there are times when I want choices to be made for me and I want it to just work. That's why I own an iPhone and the only reason that I don't have WP7 is that the perfect phone hasn't arrived on Verizon yet. A Nokia N8 with a FFC and 4G is all I need. I'm an IT Engineer and I gave Android a chance. But it felt too much like I was working. It's a damn phone. "Reboot" shouldn't be in a phone's vocabulary. The last time I rebooted my trusty iPhone was when I updated to iOS 5 earlier this month. My wife reboots her Droid 2 Global on a weekly basis.

terrygore
terrygore

Just because Nokia has phones coming out doesn't mean they are the best ones. You complain about many things in your final paragraph which are coming in less than a week. You get 4.3 and 4.7 inch screens with super AMOLOED (Samnsung Focus S and HTC Titan). You get 4G speeds, you get 8MP cameras with 1.3MP front facing cameras, you get auto sync with SkyDrive (25GB of free storage), you get streaming music, you get turn by turn directions with voice, you get the fastest OS around - even without dual core chips that only kill your battery. Take a look around - things are much better than your article explains.

junk
junk

Win Phone 7 seems to be coming along nicely. My problem is Microsoft itself. I've been a WinMobile/PocketPC/WinCE user since the beginning, and really like that OS. I was excited when WP7 was announced, but then very disappointed when I found out that none of the apps I already own would function. Then, to drive the nail home, Microsoft discontinued the on-line backup service and the App Store a full 6 months before the contract on my phone was due to be up. My TouchPro 2 was Verizon's flagship product when I bought it less than 2 years ago. Android was barely out of the gate with the early Droid 1 having its problems, so I stayed with Microsoft. Then they screwed me into the ground, and I would not buy their products if they were selling $20 bills for $5 each. I understand that they needed to make a break and update the system. That's fine with me. But, to simply decide that the existing base of customers was of no use to them and simply cut them off while their devices were still perfectly workable and under contract was unconscionable and I won't stand for it! What's to stop them from doing it over and over if people put up with it. I vote with my wallet - no more Windows phones for me.

chadasandu
chadasandu

The problem is you are comparing a software that has undergoind numerous dev cycles with the software that has completed only 1 cycle. Android is now in the 4th major release (and had numerous minor releases in between). Multitasking was not available in the initial versions of Android or iOS, but MS released it with the 1st update. I am sure they will come with more features in the next major release, I only hope that the Nokia 800 will support that release. I agree some points made here like missing "Mass storage" and "SD card support", but honestly 16GB is more than enough unless u r carrying all the songs or movie you ever owned along with your phone. Oh and donot forget the 25GB of space on the cloud. I am sure most of people out there using Android will be using 8/16GB cards not more than that. And adding this in the phone memory (instead of external) will be increase the performance of the phone.

techrepublic
techrepublic

A lot of the things in this article are either wrong or skewed so that it's MS's fault. For example the assertion that MS doesn't allow apps from non-Zune marketplace to be loaded. Correction: MS worked with the group who jailbroke the original Windows 7 release to offer an official application for Mango to perform the same tasks. Sure it's $9 US, however I personally feel that it's a much more secure option than adding it as basic functionality to the phone. the app has a built in limit to how many unsigned apps you can run simultaneously, which is likely MS's way of controlling stability (something that you may not be too familiar with using Android). Bottom line, you really need to know you need that functionality to purchase it and put your phone at risk. Please don't think I'm bashing android, its nice in its own way, I owned a G1 and Nexus One, so I remember when Android was first released, and it amazes me that others forget so easily that Android was BY NO MEANS what should be considered a finished product when it was first released. They still haven't gotten the whole stability thing together since anyone with rudimentary knowledge of Java and the Android API can create an app for the Google app store. Heck, the diff between the app store and a third party seems pretty small considering the recent string of malware "approved" for the Google app store. So for as much as I dislike Apple, I agree with the 'i' approach after experiencing some of these things first hand and am happy to let MS limit me provided I also have the option to draw outside the lines. As for multi-processors, WP7 will have phones with multiple processors be the norm mid next year according to a few sources on the net (Bing/Google it) however I put my WP7 (HD7) next to a coworker's iPhone 4 and another coworkers Evo4G and they both (devoted MS bashers) were amazed at the smoothness throughout the apps in the OS. I showed them the Mango switching, and a few other nice things they didn't have (at the time) and haven't heard another peep from either of them since. My battery life will easily stand up to that of an iPhone with a bigger screen since the Mango update as well. I charged my phone last night and only had to connect it again today after playing 3 hours of music during Halloween, after a total of 2 hours in conference calls and a few other calls throughout the day. My android phones would have been completely drained after any one of those things (not charging it the night before, not charging it during/after the calls, and not charging it during the music). And I know Android has task killers to make that better, but your stock phone shouldn't make you need to learn what an app killer is to meet "the norm" You are entitled to your oppinion on these things and I'm not looking to change yours, but please research a bit more if you're going to make it one of your main sticking points, it should be a valid one since your article may help someone to make a decision.

vinneyk
vinneyk

Apparently I'm not as demanding of my phone as the author. That said, I don't settle with junk, either. I've been using an Android for the past year and finally bought my first WP7: the HTC Trophy. It wasn't my top choice but as of right now, it's the only phone available for Verizion. I can say, with out hesitation, that this is the best phone I've ever used! It beats my droid, hands down. My only regret is that I have never owned an iPhone and can't make direct comparisons to it. What I do know, however, is that the WP7 operating system is a great step in the right direction. The hardware is bound to improve but it's good to know that the core foundation--the OS--is solid!

Rndmacts
Rndmacts

I have a Samsung Focus S and it has a 1.5 Ghrz dual core processor and a 4.3" Super AMOLED screen with Gorilla Glass. It came with 16 Gb of Built in Memory and can take up to 32 Gb added SD card, the only qualification on the added memory was the card had to be Win 7 certified. It has a 8 Megapixel camera and the Mango software allows all sorts of manipulating both the camera settings and the finished picture. I don't know what your talking about with turn by turn GPS as I had that on my phone since day one, pre Mango. Syncing with my home computer involves walking in the door and turning WiFi on and connecting to my home network, it is being done with Zune but I don't have to do anything, Zune knows what requires syncing and does it without my input. And as far as Outlook goes I just have to enter any coffee shop or restaurant and my Outlook and Twitter and Facebook and other email clients are all updated using freely available WiFi plus my ISP has good coverage of the city as well, When travelling what is the difficulty of updating your phone while waiting for your baggage, WiFi is pretty much available at all large International airports. As Windows 8 gets closer even Zune will become less noticable as Microsoft is currently beta testing the new Marketplace. I think most of your objections have nothing to do with Windows phones but more the new shift of playing up iPhone and Android, what Microsoft not give you a free phone? You state Microsoft does not allow 3rd parties to publish and install their software, this is not true but the one advantage to using Microsoft as the source is that they are insuring no malware is included in the package, a problem plaguing Android and to some extent iOS. Yet there is software for WP7 available from non Microsoft sources, I use a handy bus schedule app that was installed by the bus company when I went looking for info, only later did I find out it was available in the Marketplace.

chrisaap
chrisaap

Hadn't noticed all the new camera controls added to the Settings control for the camera. Still keep forgetting that I can tap the screen to take a picture, also. That's a very nice addition.

chrisaap
chrisaap

I can understand Microsoft's lack of priorization on cable connection to a Windows Phone given their WiFi support and the availability of WiFi in most environments (especially homes) nowadays, meaning there is a relatively common, easy, and free way to sync Outlook data with the phone. I say that, despite the fact that, even in Mango, many phones can't connect to "hidden" WiFi routers (non-broadcasting SSIDs). Despite that feature being touted as added to Mango, Microsoft conveniently "forgot" to highlight that the feature also requires firmware changes that many phone vendors (LG, in my case) have not indicated any interest in implementing. Thus, I still have no WiFi option for data sync, given my Neanderthal approach to obscuring my home WiFi's SSID.

bitcrazed
bitcrazed

I too look forward to the new phones that will inevitibly arrive early 2012, especially those with better cameras than currently available on todays' crop of WP phones. However, you obviously haven't yet hit the cogwheel icon to the left of the zoom in/out buttons on a Mango powered phone - this gives you a large number of controls that you can choose to modify the AF mode, White Balance, Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness, EV, ISO, metering mode, photo quality and Wide Dynamic Range capability. Also, I just don't see the benefit of syncing email onto my phone via a cable these days. With WiFi connectivity to the internet so very easy to acquire, even if you're not in range of a cell tower, you're usually in rance of someone's WiFi AP. I'll agree with you that it'd be nice to be able to use my phone as USB-attached storage, but, frankly, the number of times I've wanted to do this in the last 12+ months I can count on the fingers of one hand. I set up my phone to sync to Skydrive so all my photos, etc. are already in the cloud when I get back to my laptop - no syncing needed.

cybershooters
cybershooters

The main problem I have with them (and why I don't use them) is the lack of a way of syncing it with Outlook on a PC except OTA. This is a major problem if for example you go abroad because you may not have a roaming data package on the phone (and really do you want to be charged anything just to sync your calendar with your laptop?) Or there may simply be no internet connectivity. I was in the UK recently and data access was very spotty where I was. I totally agree with the comment about how hard it is to move files back and forth between a PC and the device, it was so much easier on Windows Mobile 6.x I'm just utterly sick and tired of this "cloud" computing nonsense, it depends upon reliable internet connections and they simply don't exist in many locations. I work for the construction industry largely and on construction sites you can't even reliably get wired connections, so it's all PSTs with POP3 because you can't get things like RPC over HTTP to work reliably. Anyway I got an iPhone. Not really an option for a large scale deployment though as they are so expensive.

techrepublic
techrepublic

I don't know if it's carrier specific but I can change4 my default search provider between google and bing on my HD7. I just need to go to Settings->Applications->Internet Explorer and it has a "Default Search provider" tab there. I'm guessing it doesn't change the bing search button but rather the searches performed from the address bar. The phone has Bing results integrated into the OS, so while I expect it would be possible to change it, I'd imagine it would make the experience less consistant since they (MS) could and would be more likely to modify the search algorythms based on WP7 usage stats than any other provider. I think the notes thing is MS's push to one note (which it syncs to Sky Drive if I remember correctly) but it will sync (exchange) outlook tasks still as it constantly reminds me of tasks I forgot to mark complete :)

deb
deb

"Windows Phone 7 is a phone first and everything else second." Yep, I do want a "geek phone." I hate telephones and I love computers. I don't want a "phone first" and that's probably a big part of my problem with WP7. I doubt I'm the only one out here who wants a smartphone to be a compact computer first. It's just two different perspectives and needs and neither is "right" or "wrong."

bitcrazed
bitcrazed

How many apps did you own and run daily on your Windows Mobile? I was a staunch advocate of Windows CE since 1997 & Windows Mobile since I got my first iPaq. I wrote and had 4-5 apps running on my phones and PDA's (remember them? ;)) but even I was glad to see MS move to a FAR more modern platform. Sometimes, one needs to take a step back in order to be able to run forwards. Had MS not done so, they'd be in FAR worse state (in the mobile marketplace) than they're in today. They didn't screw you into the ground - during your 2 year contract, you got a supported phone and ecosystem. Your phone continued to work. It continued to sync email. It continued to place calls. Making such a steadfast stand against a product vendor in a marketplace that moves SO VERY FAST is crazy. If Microsoft hadn't pressed the reset button on their phone strategy they'd be dead in the mobile space right now with no hope of resurrection. Just look at how little market share they now have - they'd have been spending hundreds of millions to support an ecosystem that was abandoning them faster than they could develop a new mobile platform. Luckily, the platform they built is bloody awesome and holds ENORMOUS promise for the future. Don't shun them for having to make a difficult choice in order to regain some of the market that abandoned them for the new shiny phones of today.

wdewey@cityofsalem.net
wdewey@cityofsalem.net

You also forget that Windows has been developing software for mobile devices for over 10 years. Sure phone 7 was a rewrite of the GUI, but the kernel is still Windows CE. I think that from that perspective android is way ahead of Microsoft while being around for less than half of the time Microsoft has been in the mobile business. Microsoft has to know how to do a cable tether as well as provide access to SD cards because they have had that capability for a number of years so breaking this capability, and many others, when they released Phone 7 is a pretty large step back. Bill

techrepublic@
techrepublic@

Also SD card support is an important feature for some (myself being one of them).

adimauro
adimauro

I agree. I have an Android Thunderbolt through work, and I hate it. The OS is clunky and overbearing, the phone is heavy, the battery is lucky to last 8-10 hours, and takes many hours to recharge. I've had the battery run out on me overnight while sleeping so I didn't get my alarm in the morning. As far as 4G goes, I don't live in a 4G area, so it's useless to me. So, when it came time to get my own phone, I waited for the HTC Trophy. Am I glad I waited! I love this phone, as you said, it is the best phone I've ever used. The battery can get 2-3 days even with heavy use, except with GPS heavy applications. People tell me you can get better battery life with the Thuderbolt if you turn off the GPS. But, my Trophy has all the location aware features turned on, and still gets good battery life. So, my work Thunderbolt has become an expensive paperweight, while my WP7 is the real 'Trophy'!

terrygore
terrygore

There are many of us with test Samsung Focus S pre release models, that are available November 6th (months before Nokia is available in the US). I have put it up against any phone on the market and it wins. There are a couple of facts to fix. It's only got a 1.4Ghz processor and it is not dual core. But I don't want dual core - all it does is run down the battery and the phone is already faster than anything on the market. The front facing camera works great, the pictures are awesome with the 8mp camera and I can sync over WiFi or just have it sync automatically with SkyDrive where I have 25GB of storage. Which runs over 4G! I also love the all you can eat music streaming service with Smart DJ. This is hands down the best phone I have ever used and the best phone I have ever seen. When my friends with the iPhone 4 saw it they said they would trade in their phone immediately to get one. I wish the author of the article would do a little homework and recognize there are tons of phone coming November 6th that do all the things he complains about - just because Nokia doesn't have one yet, doesn't mean others dont. Ohh, and if 4.3" screen isn't big enough - get the HTC Titan with the 4.7" screen. Now go update your article.

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

At least according to Nokia. Their Lumia phones have considerably less capability - but hey, they're shiny! Colors! Polycarbonite! Honestly, it's kind of amusing how the bloggers and reviewers are fawning over the Nokia Lumia phones - as if beauty was truly only skin deep. I'm waiting for the first prominent tech blogger to point out that the emperor has no clothes - that Nokia didn't do anything distinctive to differentiate itself from the other WP7 OEMs, and even arguably fell short of others. Doesn't bode well.

junk
junk

How do you have a Samsung Focus S when it won't be released until November 6th? Don't denigrate the author for not reviewing something which is not available!

bitcrazed
bitcrazed

... Windows Phone wasn't just a new UI - it was an entirely new OS - from the app process model, communications infrastructure, UI framework, EVERYTHING. Sure, they were able to reuse the C# & VB.NET parsers and IL compilers as well as some of the .NET FX, but even the JITter and GC had to be rewritten to target modern ARM SOC's. Make no mistake, despite reusing the WinCE kernel, Windows Phone is a brand new OS. Android, on the other hand, has been around for 4+ years now and even then, was substantially derived from Linux.

rhonin
rhonin

I'll put my Samsung Galaxy S2 against any, any Win7+ phone out there and come away a winner. From camera to 4G to speed to battery to.... Honestly, I took a long hard look at Win7+ phones especially once Mango came out. They are getting better but have a ways to go yet. Sorry, they just are not up to snuff yet.

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