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How is Windows Phone 8 compared to Android?

I was given the opportunity to play with the Windows Phone 8 system the other day as HTC was kind enough to send me the 8X.

We were both interested in being able to give it an ‘alien perspective’.  And it was pretty cool.  Slick little device, that I know several of my friends who played with it immediately went “nice!”  Most were iOS users, and I think I sold a few for them by just having it out.

How does it stack up?  Well, it’ll be really hard to compare apples to apples (please don’t sue me Apple for using your name in vain), so I’ll give a raw comparison of the device up against… say my SGS3 (it’s what I have in my hand), then I’ll delve into the WP8 system and see what it’s like.

8X

Galaxy S3

Processor

1.5GHz x2 1.5GHz x2

RAM

1GB 2GB

Storage

16GB 16GB

microSD

no yes (up to 64GB)

Screen Size

4.3” 4.7”

Resolution

1280×720 1280×720

connector

microUSB microUSB

Camera

Back – 8MP
Front – 2.1MP
Back – 8MP
Front – 2MP

NFC

yes yes

LTE

yes yes

Nearly identical with the exception of the screen size.  And the RAM, but I’ll get to that down the road.

But, how is Windows Phone 8?  I can only give it my perspective as being an Android guy, so I’m a bit biased already.  However, being a bit of a tech-head, I love being able to play with something new and put it through the ringers.

Interface

It is stylishly minimalistic.  I think I just made up a word.  But, yeah.  It’s simple to look at, but still has that element of some customizability with the tiles.  The tiles are neat in that some of them change (photos, people, and you get notification counts).  So that’s cool.  It’s not ‘boring’ like some are, just listing the apps, but it’s not full-fledged custom.  It’s somewhere in between.

What’s really neat is that all apps have the same ‘feel’.  The look and the style of ‘modern UI’ (or is it still called Metro UI?) is very intuitive – even apps like facebook ‘follows suit’.

There is some discrepancy when you dig deeper into menus and options as some are unintuitive.  Like trying to find a different email client.  Where do I add in my work’s exchange account, or put in Gmail?  Took some digging.  And then there’s the messenger; is it for live messenger or texting?  Didn’t really explain that out.

Keys

If you’re from Android, you’re familiar with the 3 keys, back, home and search.  On Android we’ve removed search for ‘multi’, as Google Now can be reached by a gesture.

  • Back – straightforward what it does
  • Home/Windows/Start(?) – simple
  • Search – brings up Bing search app, unfortunately not search for the specific app you’d be in

Pretty straight forward, no mystery here about what each does.  But in Android we get some options for long press, so I tried them on the keys.  And this was kind of confusing to me.

  • hold ‘back’ to bring up the multi-task (shouldn’t that have been hold ‘home’)
  • hold home to bring up voice search (shouldn’t that have been hold ‘search’)
  • hold search… nothing, just search

 

I won’t get into how Bing is compared to Google… that’s a fight for other blogs.  But it was nice to see it had a ‘voice search’ item as well.

System

Some of the things I took for granted in Android were definitely missing WP8, like I never noticed how much I missed the notification shade until it was gone.  You still get notifications, but they’re toast messages.  You can also gesture a quick/short drag down, and your battery meter and BT/Wifi indicator shows (which is funny, as I noticed that it would always just start Wifi when I turned it on… turns out that’s a bug with the 8X, and there’s an update to fix it so it keeps Wifi on while asleep).

Or, being able to quick access notifications, like on the lock screen, it’ll show you unread for your emails, but you can’t access them directly from the lock screen.  You’d have to unlock (hit home if you’re in another app) THEN go from the tile.

Took me a while to figure out how the music app could be interfaced.  If you start a song, then go out of the app, it still plays.  But nowhere do you see ‘where’ it’s playing, or if you want to stop or skip the song.  Turns out hit the volume button and a popdown shows with the controls.  Again, not sure if ‘unintuitive’ or just not used to it.

Also, I’m really missing how my battery is doing.  Sure, I can bring up the display for the battery, but … how’s it doing over time?  What’s eating at it?  There’s just no battery meter/stats to be found.

Similarly there’s no data usage stats.   As I said above, the 8X has a glitch where it shuts off wifi while asleep, so I was concerned how much data it would be going through.  You’d have no way on the phone to know.  You’d have to log in to your provider’s site (if they have one) to see your usage.

Apps

There’s not a whole lot there.  Sure there’s Facebook, Twitter, Angry Birds… but the rest seem to be missing.  Like early early Android.  There are some good ones, but there is definitely a large proportion of them that are paid.  Which isn’t so much of an issue, but looking at an app, you get very little in terms of ‘what is it’.  You get an icon, whether it’ll have a tile or not, the name, a rating and then a brief description.  No screenshots, no customer comments.  You have to take a lot on faith.

 

But, like I said, that’s very similar to how early Android was too, so give it some time to get a hold of the customers and it’ll evolve… I hope.

Similar to the apps, the same thing happens when you get app updates… it just won’t tell you what you’re getting updated.  No new features, what’s changed, etc…

Camera

The camera app isn’t nothing new, nothing bad, just a camera app.

NFC

Big props to the Windows folk on this, on being able to understand the trend and utilizing NFC.  They have a share feature for photos between their own kind, and then just general NFC sharing for urls, contacts etc… between Android and Windows.  Awesome.

Overall

So… how’d I like it overall?  Well, it’s unique, so I’m giving it a lot of points for that.  With the ecosystem of “Windows”, people most likely have used Word, Excel, hotmail, etc… so they have a fair understanding of how they interact, plus, with Windows 8 becoming popular, there’ll be a seemless transition from device to desktop.  Which is where I think most people who will be looking for a smartphone, especially those looking for their FIRST smartphone will gravitate towards.

Windows services and I go way back.  It was my 2nd email address.  I still have it… but I’ve outgrown it, and I have to understand that I’m a small subset of the population when it comes to that.

The majority of users are like my father, never really used one, never really explored further than what their Windows desktop computer pre-installed.  I really wanted my dad to get this phone, would have been a lot cheaper, and a lot less stress for me too.

 

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