Windows Phone struggles to convince smartphone users

Same same, but different.

Okay, time to end this short blog series, read the first two pieces here, First Impressions and App-situation on Windows Phone. These posts of course only brushes the surface (pun not intended) of my experience and opinions on Windows Phone and the Nokia 925 but hopefully I’ve managed to explain my general feelings and motives.

Before this first in-depth encounter with Windows Phone I was intrigued, my impression was that Microsoft was trying to go their own way and actually innovate in the mobile area. In general, I still think this is true!

The idea with Live tiles instead of shortcuts, functioning almost as widgets is a good one. The problem is that so few of the apps have interesting tiles; this might partly be a personal preference, because when I think of it, I normally don’t use that many widgets either. Hard to tell, but in the end the one I found most useful was calendar but would have liked to see content on Twitter, Instagram, Newsflashes. I would have liked the tiles to be my Google Now replacement to put it in Android language.

One area where I wish more innovation would have taken place are the Notifications. They use the same basic idea as Android and iPhone, but not at all as efficient. My biggest annoyance is that the same icon is used for…maybe not all but close to, all occasions. That means that I have to unlock and pull down the notification bar to see if the vibration told me about a work email, Gmail message, text, Instagram like etcetera. Extremely annoying! Not only that, there’s only one instance of the icon – no matter if I have 5 texts and 3 emails waiting or just 1 mail. So, when I went through the process of unlocking and checking what activity the envelope represented this time, new notifications will easily be missed because I think there’s nothing new if I’m already ignoring one. It may sound small but yeeeez this has bugged the hell out of me, and made me miss urgent texts.

Biggest problem for Windows Phone however, is still the apps as I focused on in the second post. Just like it used to be for Android, Windows Phone lags behind in number of apps. This was the case for Android and it isn’t any more so the same journey could be predicted for Windows Phone. I see one difference though, when I started using Android I very seldom had any problems finding an app that did what I was looking for in a good or at least decent way (even if it was not the same app as the big hit on iPhone), this is not the case on Windows Phone. I can only guess as to why, but that I struggle to find good mail apps, chat, podcast (found an okay one!), news reader et cetera is simply not acceptable 2014; the quality is even a little lower even for mainstream apps in general, like Spotify.

All in all I like Windows Phone, as a platform it has interesting ideas, the hardware that I used was solid and I had pretty few encounters with crashing apps and similar issues. It’s also worth mentioning how seamless it worked with my work accounts and office360 subscriptions. Some early version annoyances that will be sorted out doesn’t scare me – but before I’m willing to switch I need more and most importantly better apps. Today, there’s not even close to enough selling points to make it worth the sacrifice of better app supply, I mean office run nice on my Androids as well, and my iPhone synced my Exchange e-mail and calendar into better apps.

I’m still intrigued over what Windows Phone might develop into, but I’m not ready to join the journey, at least not yet. Microsoft’s problem then of course is that users everyday commit to an ecosystem, today that will be Android or iOS and getting customers to switch is much harder than winning them to begin with.

Trying out Windows Phone

Lucky me have a friend who hooked me up with a Nokia Lumia 925 for a while, letting me dip my feet in the Windows Phone pool. There’ll probably be a couple of posts but let us start with some first impressions after a week of use (though, I will wait a bit with publishing).

nokia925First word that comes to mind, slick! I like the feeling and getting started as well as adding my accounts was a breeze. I was a little bit taken a back by how fast and snappy it feels. I don’t consider my Nexus 5 to be slow or suffer from lag really, but it does take a moment now and then to start a new app for example. In Windows Phone that moment is pretty much hidden behind an animation, works out better than you’d think.

Another difference to Android is how many apps and services are built in. Small things like WiFi sharing (Sense as it’s called), Podcast player, Battery Saver (not part of stock Android), Office suite, all makes getting of to a smooth start easier. This of course gives a pretty consistent experience but it also put the pressure on Microsoft to drive its own product development. Looking at the Store, Podcast, Calendar and Explorer I can’t say that I’m entirely convinced. All of them lacks some functionality that I seek and I often feel that the strive for simplicity has won over functionality or even the wish to be intuitive. I just don’t find it simply that often.

To be fair, I’m almost to be considered biased, I’ve been using Android for many years and are of course set in my ways of what apps I use and how I want them to work. I therefore decided to be hard on myself, and I’m really trying to adapt to a Microsoft world, using my Windows account more, Here Maps et cetera. As I’m pretty heavily invested in my Google account and use a lot of their services I figured this switch could be…less convenient, more about how it turned out in the next posts where I write more about apps!