If you have read my past work (or my profile) you would know I am a big fan of Windows Phone and I have been using it since it launched. In the past year, I was also handed a work-supported smartphone, the iPhone 4S. I used the iPhone and my Lumia as my primary phone every few days for a few days each. I must say, the iPhone 4S with the latest iOS update did make me very, very tempted to go with iPhone 5 the next time I switch phones. However, I have decided to stick with Windows Phone for a variety of reasons.
First and foremost, I love the live tiles. Some may dislike the constant animation on their phones, but that does not bother me because the benefit I get out of the live tiles is immense. For example, I don’t have to open the weather app to see the current conditions and forecast for the next 12 hours. I can see the latest photos some of my favorite people have posted to Twitter or Facebook. I don’t have to open the ESPN app to see that my USC Trojans lost by 3 to Arizona (sob, sob). You get the idea. I have pinned several apps, and several portions of apps (like the USC Trojans from the ESPN app) so that I can get a quick overview of various items that are important to me. While I can achieve some of that via Notification Center and/or Siri in the iPhone, it is not the same. (Several other use cases exist for efficiency improvements with live tiles, like boarding passes, movie tickets, etc. but I don’t travel much or go out for movies so I am not listing them here.)
The feature that allows an app to enable multiple live tiles for different parts of the app is also tremendously useful. For example, I have several radio stations pinned from a radio app so I don’t need to open the radio app and navigate to my favorite station to play it.
People Groups and Pinning
I have been able to create groups of people that matter to me the most, like immediate family, cousins, close friends, Twitter buddies, etc. so that I can see just those folks’ updates quickly. I don’t have to go to each person’s Facebook wall or Twitter profile to see what they have posted lately. I can go to the group and see all those updates in one place. I can then comment, like or reply/retweet from right there.
What makes the group feature even more powerful is pinning those groups to the start screen. Now, I not only have groups of people I care about most all in one place, they are now on the start screen with the live tiles showing me their latest updates, photos, etc. I find that feature extremely nifty and it has definitely allowed me to interact way more with my family’s and friends’ posts than I would otherwise have. I have about 400 “friends” on Facebook and I follow about 450 people on Twitter. Naturally, the river of news flows quite fast for me, so having these groups created helps me slow the flow down just for those important people.
Sadly, there is no such thing on the iPhone/iOS that I could easily do.
Unlimited music on-demand
Granted, I pay $99 per year for the service, but with Zune Pass (soon, to be called Xbox Music Pass) I am able to play virtually any song at any time, on demand. I can stream directly from the cloud, or download the song(s) for offline playback. It has been a long time since I bought any music because most of the music I really like and would like to keep for myself, I have already bought. I don’t quite like buying music on impulse, and as a result I much rather snack on music and what better way to do it than not worry about how many songs I snack on.
iTunes has perhaps the biggest catalog of music but it does not allow unlimited, on-demand play. Rdio and Spotify do, but since I was already subscribed to Zune Pass, I didn’t feel like it would be much different trying those services just for the sake of making iOS work for me.
Quick social updates
The Me tile has been my friend many times when I just want to send a quick update to Facebook and/or Twitter. Similarly, it has come of use when I don’t want to open Twitter or Facebook apps to just reply to someone. I go to Me > Notifications and see the latest replies and quickly reply back. Yes, the functionality is limited, for example, not being able to “reply all” in Twitter, but I usually use the Me tile for very quick updates. If I wanted to reply all or view entire conversation, I open up my favorite Twitter app.
I believe, with iOS 6 the functionality to post a tweet or a Facebook update was added to Notification Center (and also Siri), but that is just the update and you cannot reply to a comment or a tweet, so it is not the same.
Integration of apps into phone functionality
This feature appeals me to a lesser degree than the other items mentioned above. I do like the fact that, for example, I can take a picture and right from there go to a photo editing app to apply effects or just touch up the image. I don’t have to remember which app to start the picture-taking process and on the other hand, I don’t have to do two actions with two apps (camera app and photo editing app) if I want to take a picture and edit it in one workflow. Similarly, with music, I can start playing a song and see related apps like lyrics to see lyrics as music plays in the background.
With iOS, as I understand, I have to know which app to start from, and then act upon it later. I may have missed some obvious way to make it work like Windows Phone, but since I didn’t discover it, it is as good as non-existent to me.
All these features make me stick with Windows Phone, and I am writing this without taking Windows Phone 8 into account at all. We have seen, via some official previews and leaks galore, some/most of all the new stuff being added to Windows Phone 8. I will keep it out of this post for now since it has not been officially unveiled. I suspect most of these items, if not all, will only get reinforced with Windows Phone 8, and maybe a few more may get added.
Not at all a given
Having said all that, I can’t say that Windows Phone 7 is a slam dunk better operating system/platform/ecosystem than iOS. In fact, I think it is quite the opposite. The performance, especially of third-party, data-heavy apps like Twitter and Facebook apps is abysmal after you go beyond basic use. Some of the key apps that have become popular on iOS have yet to see the light of day on Windows Phone. Also, notifications for many apps are hit-and-miss.
Speaking of notifications, one of my biggest peeves with Windows Phone is that there is no way to see “missed notifications”. If you hear a beep from the phone for a notification, and go pick up the phone a few minutes later, there is no way to know what caused the notification. Yes, there are live tiles that may increment a counter, but if you have several live tiles like I do, each with a non-zero counter, it is impossible to know which app created the notification.
Finally, lack of full device encryption and VPN has me reeling without access to my corporate network and has significantly reduced my productivity, not to mention missing some late night meetings because I did not have reminders pop up.
I am really looking forward to tomorrow’s Windows Phone 8 announcement, mostly to see what is new, and not to determine if that is my next ecosystem. That choice, I have already made.
Do you use a Windows Phone? Do you have any other vital features that make you stick around with Windows Phone? Do let me know!
Product Reviewed: Windows Phone
Despite being tempted by iOS and iPhone, I have decided to stick with Windows Phone. See why.