My iPhone is probably the most used device in my tech kitbag. I carry it everywhere and it’s essential for keeping in touch by phone, text and email. I use it as my sat-nav and portable gaming device. So, how does Windows Phone 7 stack up?
For the record, the device I used for my Windows Phone 7 experiment was a HTC HD7. But this isn’t about the hardware — it’s about the operating system, my experiences and the switching process.
The great thing about the dominant mobile operating systems that are around today is the diversity. Turn on a BlackBerry, iOS, Android or Windows Phone 7 handset and it’s clear that they are all different. What stood out for me when switching from an iPhone to Windows Phone 7 was that iOS is very app-centric. The home screen is dominated by application icons and folders (it reminds me of Windows 3.x in that regard) whereas Windows Phone 7 is about information.
Windows Phone 7 puts the application icons in a list on the second screen. The home screen is covered with a series of tiles that represent both applications and the data within them. For example, the People tile provides access to your address book. But it also displays a dynamically updating mosaic of contact photos that, if you choose as I did, pulls together Facebook, Google Contacts, Twitter and LinkedIn information for my contacts. For me, that ability to bring together disparate information sources was a huge plus over the iOS silo approach.
I spend a reasonable amount of time browsing the web on my iPhone so I was keen to see how the latest mobile version of Internet Explorer fared. Interestingly, several websites I visit regularly don’t render with their mobile versions under IE whereas they do with Safari. I quite like getting the full website and zooming in and out as necessary. Others might prefer to see a mobile-optimised site but I’m happy to get the full experience.
The number of apps available to a mobile platform is, by some, considered to be a sign of the platform’s strength. I’m not so certain — how many silly sound apps do we really need in the world? However, I was able to find equivalents for all my key apps – Evernote is a major one for me and there are plenty of games to choose from. However, I couldn’t believe that Microsoft has made Photosynth for iOS and not Windows Phone 7. My advice is is that if you’re planning to make the switch away from iOS then you’ll need to do some research to ensure the apps or functionality you need are available cross-platform.
When I started my Windows Phone experiment, Mango hadn’t yet been released. One of the main features I was expecting with Windows Phone 7.5, aka Mango, was tethering. I relied on my iPhone’s Personal Hotspot feature as a way of connecting my iPad or MacBook Air to the Internet when traveling. I have a generous data allowance with my phone contract that provides enough connectivity to meet my needs when traveling and away from WiFi.
Unfortunately, tethering is a no show. That’s a big omission in my view.
From a usability point of view, I ended up preferring the way Windows Phone did most things. Even the unlock screen was easier to use as I didn’t need to find a slider. All I needed was to drag a finger upwards somewhere on the screen. Task switching is easier and more elegant with Windows Phone — just tap/hold the Back button and swipe between recent applications.
However, I was annoyed when my preferred view of email, the All Mail folder, couldn’t be set as the default view when I entered the email application. But that wasn’t a big deal.
My suspicion is that most users would be equally happy using either platform.
What are your thoughts? Is there a showstopper feature in either platform that you couldn’t live without?