The Itch to Leave Windows Phone
By on May 31st, 2013

Some months ago, I was pleasantly surprised to read about Matt Rosoff over at CITEWorld making the HTC Windows Phone 8X his primary phone. The surprise was not just because he chose Windows Phone over his iPhone 4, but it was because he covers technology, is based in San Francisco and would most certainly feel “left out” of the latest fad in apps and games that starts with iOS.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and his latest article talks about why he is about to put his SIM back into his iPhone 4. If I can boil down his frustrations to a few bullet points, those would be:

  • Bing mobile search
  • Bing local search on mobile
  • Bing maps
  • Hot apps
  • Differentiation of apps via tiles
  • Phone/network issues
  • Exchange issues
  • Xbox Music

I can understand some of Rosoff’s frustrations. I was tempted by iOS sometime ago, but decided to stick with Windows Phone. My experience has been quite different, especially within the US because Bing is pretty bad in many areas outside the US.

From a search perspective – *especially* the topical searches that Rosoff mentioned in the article like movies, sports scores, etc., Bing has been quite alright for me. I completely agree though, that the Bing mobile search for general searches is much worse than Bing on the desktop. Perhaps too much intelligence used on the mobile, trying to predict what I may be searching for? I don’t know. However, for most “vertical” searches, I have had no issues with Bing. Bing local search on the other hand, is terrible on Windows Phone. Yes, there is Local Scout and yes, there is Nokia’s HERE suite of location-based apps, but Bing search for local is extremely useless.

As for maps, I own a Nokia Lumia 920, so HERE maps actually replaced Bing maps, but I used the latter on my earlier Windows Phone 7 device and that service is mediocre. I wouldn’t call it terrible because I personally never had an issue, but I know that the POI database, for example, was stale. I don’t understand why Rosoff has a problem using a superior, free maps service instead. It is well-known that Bing Maps is going to start using Nokia’s mapping assets anyway. I’d call this one a non-issue since there is no cost involved in switching to using HERE Maps.

The biggest issue for someone covering tech and using Windows Phone (and in many cases even Android) is they cannot participate in the frenzy that accompanies the launch of the hot app of the moment. Used to be Draw Something and Words with Friends sometime ago, and is Dots and Vine now. I am somewhat of an atypical smartphone user since I write about and follow tech deeply, but I really don’t care about the hot new and cool app which would in hindsight end up being a fad anyway. Anyone still play Draw Something? Words with Friends? Didn’t think so. Also, a lot of this is avoided by simply having an iOS tablet or an iPod Touch, both of which I have. Rosoff is right to feel left out, but if one really likes the platform for what it does, this is something that has a good workaround. Let’s face it, many of the cool apps that get a lot of attention nowadays are built by single developer shops, so there is a very slim chance they will launch on multiple platforms at once.

As for the lack of identification of apps via tiles, I agree with Rosoff. Many of the tiles assume the same color as the accent color of the phone and as a result, it is hard to tell which tile represents which app. Of course, his example of calendar is a bit silly because of all the apps, the calendar does differentiate itself by the big date on it :-) I suspect the next revision of the OS would allow for custom colors for tiles which should help, but until then this is an issue, although a very minor one.

Some of the issues with the phone’s mic and cutting off could be attributed to the network and I don’t think there’s much to say besides that. As for Exchange issues he faced, I can say that I have had some consistently terrible experiences with iOS connected to Exchange. Recurring meetings removed from calendar when declining one instance, accepting a meeting does not make it show up on the calendar, tables in emails getting formatted terribly, images becoming attached instead of being inline, etc. So, there are issues on both sides of the fence, and again to be honest, I have not seen that specific issue with Exchange in my 2 years of using Windows Phone 7 and 8 connected to Exchange 2007, 2010 and Exchange Online via Office 365.

Finally, one item where we both completely agree – Xbox Music on Windows Phone 8 is pathetic. Forget the fact that something like podcasts does not appear outside the US, the music player itself is useless. It is so hard to tell which song is in the cloud and which one is on the phone, and while I can filter for it in the songs view, I cannot do it in the albums or artists view. Just like with Windows 8/RT, the Xbox Music app needs a series of updates to get it right. Sadly, because this app is integrated into the OS, it can only be updated via the OS update and we know that outside of Apple and iOS, no company has been able to reliably update phone software.

Which brings me to my last point and that is, why doesn’t Microsoft follow Google’s path and split out all the core “apps” integrated into the OS as separate apps? Windows 8 did it, why not Windows Phone? Once they do that, they will be able to rev these apps at different cadences and not have to rely on the major OS update. This really needs to happen soon, because some of the annoyances I have with the OS (separate from Rosoff’s) are slowly becoming issues that may make me tip over to the other side too. That would be quite sad because I really love the People Hub and related aspects like grouping people and pinning groups to get updates just from that group, and will miss it on iOS.

Do you have a Windows Phone? Do you share some of Rosoff’s concerns? Let me know!

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Author: Romit Mehta Google Profile for Romit Mehta
Romit writes about mobile news and gadgets, and is currently a Windows Phone owner (Nokia Lumia 920). Find him on twitter @TheRomit. Personal site is http://romitmehta.com.

Romit Mehta has written and can be contacted at romit@techie-buzz.com.
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