Monthly Archives: December 2014

Switching to Windows Phone: it Just Works

I was planning to get all cute with the title of this blog post, making reference to the default dark color scheme of the Windows Phone, by calling this the “Welcome to the Dark Side” installment.

But honestly, that’s just too dramatic for this phone, which is the real theme of this piece: it just works.  No drama, no needing to reboot the device because the Audible app has hung (again!). There is nothing flashy about this phone or the O/S to the point it’s almost boring.  But on second thought, isn’t that a good thing?  I’m not fighting this phone to get it to do what I want: the Podcasts app works as expected (though I really wish I had a button to go back 30 seconds and hear the last few sentences again).  The music app just works.  There were no headphones that came with this phone so I can’t say they “just work” but the $20 Amazon Basic headphones (ostensibly for their Fire Phone) work like they were made for this phone.

In the last post I ranted about what the phone is missing in terms of apps, but it’s missing something else as well: frustration and configuration headaches.  Need to sync your contacts and calendars from both your Google and iCloud accounts? No problem! Need to import all of your music from your iTunes library? Microsoft has an app for that (which works on Windows and Mac) which does it’s job well and nothing more.  I want to expand on this last point a bit.  If you have a Mac and an iPhone then you know the “joy” of having your Mac happily launching a bevy of applications as soon as it sees your iPhone connected (you know, because if iTunes doesn’t automatically back up your phone’s state, or iPhoto doesn’t upload your photos, and iCal doesn’t do whatever the heck it’s doing when it sees your phone then you’ll never remember to do it on your own!).  Not only will a Mac, like an over-eager puppy wetting itself at the return of its master, launch a bunch of apps upon the connection of an iPhone, there’s a photo import process related to iPhoto which sucks up so much memory that my habit was to reboot my Mac after syncing and disconnecting my iPhone (16GB is enough RAM for mobile application development in Xamarin Studio along with a bazillion Safari and Chrome tabs open, but not enough for an iPhone apparently).

I know… First World problems, but my Lumia 635 doesn’t give me any of that drama… and isn’t this more in line with what we want our phones to be?

Switching to Windows Phone: Where are the apps?

Introduction

On the day after Thanksgiving I bought a Nokia Lumia 635: a Windows Phone. It wasn’t a dare, I wasn’t under duress, my iPhone wasn’t broken — I wanted to buy a Windows Phone. Over the next few blog posts I’m going to write about my experiences in switching from an iPhone to a Windows Phone.

First a little background. My history of smartphones is pretty basic: a couple cheap Androids, an iPhone 4S, followed by an attempt to like Android again (about a month with an LG F3 Android running 4.1.x) followed finally by a 64GB iPhone 5s. My expectations for the Windows Phone are simple: function as a suitable replacement as a music and podcast client, do basic things like texting, email, Facebook, and Twitter, and allow me to run several useful apps. Oh — and make phone calls at least as well as the iPhone did.

Where are the apps?

“Why do Windows Phones run so fast? They don’t have any apps to slow them down!” There are many versions of this joke but the stereotype is based in fact: there simply aren’t as many apps for Windows Phone as there are for iOS and Android. While I knew this to be the case I wasn’t prepared for just how few apps there are for Windows Phone. Which apps are missing? Here’s a rundown of the apps I’m missing most right now:

  • Gmail: Yes, you can set up mobile Outlook to connect to Gmail but the advantage of the Gmail app is searching: it searches your email on the Gmail servers as opposed to the email on your phone.  I’ve been using Gmail since the days when you needed an invite to join and have so much email in my account that downloading it all to my phone in order to make it all searchable is a no-go.
  • AMEX Mobile, Schwab Mobile: I do my banking with Schwab and have an American Express card I use as my primary credit card and got hooked on the iPhone apps for these just in time for my switch to Windows Phone.  I’m considering changing my bank and credit card based on who has a Windows Phone version of their mobile app.
  • YouTube: There is a Microsoft-created “app” for YouTube, but it’s just a shortcut to launch YouTube’s mobile website in the phone’s web browser. A shortcut to a website isn’t an app.
  • Google Hangouts: I realize this is a newer app but Google is a freaking software company — and they can’t make a Windows Phone version of an app? In anticipation of leaving iPhone I have been using iMessage a lot less and using Hangouts a lot more expecting that Hangouts is surely supported on Windows Phone.
  • MS Word and Excel: I had Word, Excel, and even Power Point on iPhone but never thought that these would be missing on Microsoft’s own mobile platform.
  • Google Drive and Dropbox: I don’t really want to move everything to SkyDrive, especially since I have 1TB of storage on GDrive and real people with whom I share files use Dropbox.
  • Amazon Cloud Drive: With unlimited photo storage for Amazon Prime members I have become a huge fan of this app. I’m hoping Amazon releases a WinPhone version of this soon.
  • Amazon Music: Obviously iTunes-purchased music won’t auto-sync through the air with a Windows Phone, but I figured that at least I wouldn’t need to side-load my Amazon-purchased music to my Windows Phone.

There are more apps which have no Windows Phone version — Meetup.com; all of my Amateur Radio apps, especially EchoLink; Yahoo Sports — which I use less frequently.  All of that said, one of the reasons I decided to give Windows Phone a try is because I keep hearing that the tens of people who have them LOVE them… and despite the lack of apps mentioned above I am liking this phone so far.

More on that in the next installment.