The Great Windows Phone Migration pt. 3

Current Phones: Lumia 610 & 800, Xperia P
Current Phones: Lumia 610 & 800, Xperia P

See also part 1 and 2.

After a month and a half the great experiment has come to an end. Overall, I enjoyed the Lumia 800 with its smooth and mostly pleasant experience. I had some issues that I hoped would be addressed in Windows Phone 8, but unfortunately Microsoft announced that current phones will not get Windows Phone 8, so I have decided to go back to Android (Sony Xperia P).

Things that I will miss:

  • The Lumia 800 hardware design is more elegant and eye catching than any Android device (the HTC One X is pretty nice though).
  • The Metro user interface. Navigation is very responsive, fast and smooth (sometimes longer lists get bogged down though). Everything is easy to read with good contrast and a nice font. User interfaces are usually basic (in a good way) and consistent across applications. Basically, Metro addresses all of the problems with the Android UX (well at least pre 4.1 Android).
  • Stability. A few apps crashed, but the OS never locked up. My new Android phone locked up 5 minutes after turning it on and later again that night.
  • The Zune music player is very good. The functionality is good and the user interface looks amazing.
  • The email client. I will miss the user interface but not the functionality.
  • The keyboard makes better usage of space than the stock Android keyboard.
  • Skydrive. Android doesn't currently have an official application. The Xperia P comes with 50 GB of lifetime storage at box, but this is practically useless as you have to upgrade to a $15 per month account to use the desktop syncing application.
  • Locked down for developers. A malicious application cannot do much as it can't access much personal information or your emails or SMSes.
  • Development tools. Developing using C#, Visual Studio and Expression Blend is about 1000x nicer than the Android or Apple equivalents.

Things that I will not miss:

  • The notification system. The Windows Phone notification system is abysmal. The lockscreen can only show notification icons for SMSes, calls and 3 email accounts. If you get a notification sound from another application or from your fourth email account, you will have to unlock your phone and try to find where the notification came from. You can only tell which applications have possibly caused the notification if you have pinned the application to your start screen, it will then show the unread count on the application tile. You can see 8 application tiles at the most on the start screen before you need to scroll, so this starts to become annoying as you add more and more application tiles. You also cannot set custom notification ring tones for different applications. So basically you find yourself hearing the notification sound, unlocking your phone and then scrolling through the start page to try to find what the notification was for. There is no notification LED so you also find yourself periodically unlocking your phone and making sure that you didn't miss anything.
  • Windows Live primary account. Once setup, the primary account cannot be changed and certain services can only use the primary account. When I first setup my phone I used my Xbox Live account. Sadly this ancient account is different to my newer SkyDrive account. As such the Office application cannot access my SkyDrive account. I had to completely reset my phone (losing all SMSes) and set my SkyDrive account as the primary account, but of course I can now no longer use the Xbox Live application.
  • Insane Regional Restrictions. A mobile phone is mobile, so it is reasonable to assume that people may move countries. The platform has strict regional rules. The Zune service isn't available in most countries and for some reason a lot of application availability is limited to specific regions. As mentioned above I had to reset my phone to use my newer Live account, another reason for doing this was so that I could download bus applications for Singapore. Android seems to avoid this problem. The Zune music application has a nice feature that it will show the currently playing artist's image on the lockscreen...but this only works if the Zune music store is available in your country. So people like me are instead treated to a giant noisy orange lockscreen instead. You can change your Live accounts country, but you have to go through the lengthy and painful process of contacting customer support, and who knows what services changing countries will break.
  • Multitasking. There isn't really any multitasking, instead the OS will suspend the application when it is no longer on-screen. This is usually okay, but it doesn't work very well for a fitness app such as 'Sports Tracker' as it will stop tracking your position on the map when it gets suspended and your workout looks a bit funny when it thinks you ran through a highway and a few appartment blocks. The biggest problem is that it will only let you have 5 suspended applications, after 5 it will close the oldest one. The issue with this is that the definition of application is very broad. Opening a new tab in Internet Explorer is considered a separate Application. Each page under the system setting is considered a separate application. Each email inbox is considered a separate application. If you are stuck on an Angry Birds level, you go to setting and turn WiFi on, you press the search button to find a walk-through in the Bing app and you click the first item to open up IE, read the answer and want to return to Angry Birds, but in doing so you find yourself having just stumbled into a game of Russian roulette. Will my current Angry Birds game still be open or will it have been killed? The limit of suspended apps needs to be based on actual available resources and stupid things like the WiFi on/off page shouldn't count as an application.
    Another annoying thing is that you have to hold down the back button to fast switch to the suspended app, if you click the app tile it will restart the app rather than resuming it. There is also a slight-moderate delay when resuming suspended apps.
  • You cannot change the default applications. You cannot install a different SMS or email client. Even if you could you wouldn't be able to use it as the default application that gets opened.
  • You cannot reject calls with a default SMS reply.
  • Internet Explorer. I am not sure why Microsoft continues to develop their own mobile browser and not just base theirs on WebKit. This would be easier and cheaper for them and web developers. IE actually renders pages quite well, but my main problem it that it will only open tabs in the foreground and not in the background. Very frustrating, especially when on a slow connection. You can download other browsers, but these cannot be set as the default browser.
  • The email client. Is supports Gmail, but it doesn't support Gmail things like labels and reporting spam very well. It also has that annoying Outlook behaviour where you click reply but because the last email was from you, you end up replying to yourself rather than the other person in the conversation.
  • Crazy WiFi rules. Unless your phone is charging, WiFi is only turned on when the screen is turned on. If I am at home I want it to use WiFi for push notifications and not cellular.
  • Locked down for developers. Having 4 emails accounts I was very annoyed about having to add each email account to the start screen just to see the unread count for notifications. I wanted to create an application that could show your unread SMS and email count on a single tile. Sadly you cannot do a seemingly simple and harmless thing like this.
  • Twitter clients. Rowi seems to be the best but it doesn't support multiple accounts. Some of the other clients like Seesmic and Gleek are good but they don't remember your scrolled position in the timeline. It also means that an application to backup your SMSes doesn't exist.

 I guess that sounds overly negative and possibly nitpicking and switching back to Android has been a bit difficult (Launcher7 helps with the transition). But it feels like Microsoft has abandoned Windows Phone 7 before it ever got into a finished state. It still lags behind iOS and Android in features and it doesn't look like the 7.8 update will change that. My list of complaints probably isn't even relevant for most users. For most users Windows Phone 7 will provide a very slick and stable email, SMS, internet and Facebook mobile experience. Nokia was kind enough to give me a Lumia 610 for development purposes, so I will still be in the loop.