Android Phone Vs Windows Phone Vs i-Phone
Smooth Experience And Fresh Design
Windows Phone comes with a design that has been made from scratch, called the Metro UI. This fresh new interface consists of tiles, rather than the icon-based design that has been, dare we may say, copied by everyone from the iPhone. The tiles are “live”, meaning that they actually show the updated status of the applications they are meant for. The animation effects are also different, and the overall user experience is very smooth. Part of the reason for this is that Microsoft has put stringent hardware requirements for devices to qualify for this platform, which effectively protects against fragmentation that has been experienced by other mobile platforms such as Android.
Deep Social Networking Integration And Web Browsing
One of the first things that you will notice when you start using a WP smartphone is the amount of social network integration that has been built into this platform. You can log into Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live, LinkedIn, and a host of other social networks and get instant status updates on the home screen through the People tile. The phone’s contact list automatically gets populated with your friends’ details, from the networks you have signed into. In addition to the above, users can also sign into email services of their choice and contacts saved over there are also downloaded automatically to the device, while a live tile for the mail service is made available on the home screen for quick and easy access. Last but not the least, we have to mention that WP devices provide one of the fastest and smoothest internet browsing experience in the current crop of mobile phones, and the credit for this goes to its Internet Explorer browser that uses the same core and rendering engine as IE9 for desktop.
An Increasingly Attractive Application Store
Smartphones these days are not just about making phone calls, as more and more users want to use applications for different tasks and the success of a platform depends on its app ecosystem. WP has its own Marketplace application store that distributes free and paid apps. The number of apps is nowhere near that of competing stores, but it is definitely increasing, with the current number now standing at over 80,000. The quality of apps is generally good and Microsoft exercises a strict policy of not allowing “socially unacceptable” programs, possibly with the aim to protect young users against the “evils of the online world”. One of the good things about this app store is that even if it is a paid app, you can still download and try it out before deciding if you would want to buy.
Microsoft Applications Integration
WP devices come with integrated Microsoft applications. The Xbox Live tile grants users access to some Xbox 360 features via the “Games hub”. Users can log into the phone using the same credentials as that for the console and purchase games, set their avatar in a 3D fashion, and also play several multiplayer games right from their handset, even as they are on the move. WP phones also come with free Microsoft Office Mobile to let you open, create, or edit MS Office documents including Word, Excel, PowerPoint,OneNote, and SharePoint. Files can be saved either locally or to SkyDrive and Office 365so that they can be accessed later through cloud servers.
Timely Updates For OS And Apps
Microsoft seems to have taken cue from the negative feedback for its previous mobile OS and made sure that WP devices receive timely updates for the OS as well as for the apps thus far. Updating has been made very easy with the possibility of downloading and installing OTA (over the air) or by connecting the phone to a computer. Similar to the updates for its desktop OS, these WP updates iron out bugs and plug holes in an effort to deliver a better user experience.
Windows Phone smartphones are still awaiting widespread adoption, but we think that its popularity will increase if Microsoft continues to make sure that it does not waver from the above advantages that are currently offered by this platform.
There are certain perks to working as a tech journalist: coffee is free and plentiful, trade shows are equal parts fun and frantic, and most of all, we get the chance to play with lots and lots of new toys. I’ve personally had the luck to be able to swap handsets pretty much bi-weekly for the last couple of months, and find it kind of a bummer that Windows Phone 7 hasn’t really been embraced as the solid mobile platform that it is (I said it’s a bummer, I didn’t say we didn’t see it coming).
Regardless of the numbers, WP7 is one of our favorite mobile platforms, outshining Android in almost every aspect. Don’t believe me? Well, allow me to try and change your mind.
Streamlined User Interface
Android’s are different depending on the SKU of the handset. In other words, the UI you’ll be dealing with when using, say, a Motorola handset, will be radically different than one from Samsung or HTC. The ambiguity can be disconcerting. With WP7, you know what kind of interface you’re going to be working with, regardless of the handset manufacturer. We’d imagine that an un-tweaked user interface would also make lives easier for developers, as well. We love some Android user interfaces, but loathe others. With WP7, at least you know what user interface to expect, regardless of the handset maker. Speaking of which…
WP7 Has An Easier-To-Use Interface
It really does. And look, we get it. An Android is a power user’s phone, and we know that if you’re really looking for power-use, you’ve got to be willing to learn some things. But we’re the geeky minority here, and you’ve got to keep in mind that most people are looking for a phone that makes it easiest to do their day-to-day tasks. Keeping that in mind, WP7’s “tile” system is simply easier to organize and find the things you need to throughout the day. It looks cooler too; way cooler, actually.
WP7 Has Apps That Aren’t Crap
Open-source is good, and it’s a compelling reason to support Android as a mobile platform, but let’s face it: You’ve got to sift through some real $#@t in the Android Marketplace to find apps that are worth downloading, much less buying. Most people fail to realize that the Windows Mobile SDK has been around for quite some time now, and it shows in the Marketplace, especially on the gaming side of the spectrum. Many of the games we played featured awesome 3D graphics and a level of polish simply not(yet)-to-be-found in the Android hemisphere. Microsoft has a far stricter criteria set than Google about which apps and games can populate their respective marketplace. Oh, and now that we’re on the topic of gaming…
Microsoft LIVE Integration Is Bad Ass
If you’re achievement junkies like we are (you know who you are), then a WP7 handset is a must-have. Have a game on Xbox or PC that you love playing? Pop over to the Windows app store; chances are there’s a mobile version of that same game, where you can continue earning points and unlocking achievements with your handset. You can also keep tabs on your buddies’ achievements, and tweak and enhance your Xbox Live avatar. Granted, this integration is still in an infancy stage, but we’d be willing to bet that we’ll be seeing deeper and more intuitive connections between gaming and phones in the near-future. Forward progress is good progress.
Microsoft Mobile Office Integration
We were actually blown away by how deep this rabbit-hole goes. Microsoft Word Mobile Edition, by way of an example, is actually a very intuitive little program, allowing you remote access documents using SharePoint Server 2010, you can use the “find” tool to look for particular words or phrases, and you can even email documents directly from the program.
We’ve had the pleasure of testing some Android phones that can dock with workstations to function as a laptop; imagine how crazy it would be if Windows launched a similar product with a full-fledged Office Suite. That’d be one step closer to a true fusion between phones and computers, and we’re all for that.
Microsoft Isn’t Constantly Getting Sued by Apple
Whether targeting HTC a year ago or Motorola last fall or even Samsung (which is remarkable seeing how they are a flat out key supplier of Apple’s hardware components) just a few days ago, Apple has been regularly suing the hell out of Android handset makers; mostly in regards to hardware and software patents. So why is Apple seemingly ignoring WP7 in the courts? Well, there could be numerous reasons: Optimistically, it could be because the software and hardware developments on WP7 are truly original and innovative, meaning Apple can’t accuse Microsoft of lifting their ideas. A more realistic reasoning? Apple doesn’t see WP7 as that big of a threat…yet.
This is speaking from personal experience with various handsets across both platforms, but to put it simply, WP7 has just been a more stable experience. Apps like Facebook and Netflix simply run the way they were meant to with far less of the hiccups and crashes found on the Android platform. This runs parallel with the overall theme behind WP7 mobile devices: Simplicity. Granted, WP7 had to forgo some of the more complex actions Androids are capable of (i.e. lack of tethering support, lack of ability to capture screenshots, no multi-tasking), but to us, that’s a worthy trade for a phone that will do what you want it do, every step of the way.
Zune is a Native Client, and it’s Not Pay-Per-Song
We like Zune as a service—you pay a monthly fee and can download as many songs as you want, as opposed to being pigeonholed into paying per song, like with Apple and Android. Also, we really enjoy the fact that Zune is a native client that comes fresh out-the-box with WP7—setting up music services on an Android involves downloading various apps (like Google Music, which then has to synch to your Google Wallet, which then has to synch to your Google Music Server, which then needs a Gauntlet from Moredore to unlock your songs, which then needs…well, you get the point) that is just sort of a hassle, and glitchy to boot. Again, simplicity reigns supreme.
All right, we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty, and this is a minor nit to pick, but for the most part (with the exception of the Android Sprint Galaxy, which actually featured a physical slide-out QWERTY keyboard), Windows Phone 7 had a snappier, and more importantly, a more consistent keyboard that was snappy and accurate, regardless of the device. And, though Droid offered a few keyboard-contenders with the Galaxy S2 and the Incredible, others were really bad, (ahem, Droid X2, cough).
That’s right, there is nary a pop up ad to be found, whether you’re in the Windows Marketplace, or playing a game. There is nothing more irritating when using an Android that having to manually close pop-up adds, many of which appear mid game. There are, indeed, advantages to more stringent app restrictions, and WP7 seems to have found a perfect balance.
The Brief Verdict:
So to get you started, here’s a quick primer on iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone (sorry, no BlackBerry considered in the race), and a smattering of the most common questions about smartphone OSes I’ve received from you.
iPhone 4S in a nutshell
- Runs Apple’s iOS 5 operating system
- Available on three carriers: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
- Available on three storage sizes: 16GB, 32GB, 64GB
- Easiest compatibility with iTunes, Apple ecosystem, and products
- Form factor: One 3.5-inch screen (on the smaller size by today’s standards)
- Interface: Approachable, but not very customizable. Some hidden features
- Key features: Excellent 8-megapixel camera, front-facing camera, colorful Siri voice assistant
- Next big release: iPhone 5, release date unknown, but speculated for summer 2012
Android in a nutshell
- Google’s mobile operating system
- Form factor: Available on all carriers, all shapes, all sizes
- All capabilities: Range from budget to super premium
- Not all Android phones are created equal in capability: some have excellent cameras, screens, etc. Some don’t.
- Easiest compatibility with Google services, Google Music, other Android devices
- Interface: Varies by manufacturers, has a small learning curve for some features
- Key features: Free voice navigation with turn-by-turn directions, very customizable, voice actions
- Next big phone release: Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone, Verizon release date unknown, but probably December
- Next big operating system release: Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Released with Galaxy Nexus, coming to existing handsets starting “early 2012”
Windows Phone in a nutshell
- Microsoft’s mobile operating system
- Form factor: Available on all carriers, all shapes, all sizes.
- AT&T has the largest and best selection
- All capabilities: Mostly midrange, solid performers. Minimum 5-megapixel camera
- Easiest compatibility with Zune, Xbox Live, Microsoft services like Microsoft Office, SkyDrive online storage
- Interface: Very straightforward, but some hidden capabilities
- Key features: Clean interface, built-in barcode-scanning and music identification, Xbox Live integration, voice actions
- Next big phone release: Nokia Lumia 800 or similar for U.S. markets, probably January
- Next big operating system release: Unknown. Version 7.5 Mango released in September
Question:Why there is delay on update for Android devices, and will Ice Cream Sandwich bring the solution for this problem?
With Android phones, we’re at the mercy of manufacturers and carriers who need to test the new OS with the additional skins, overlays, or additional software these phones might have. My colleague Bonnie Cha wrote a great story explaining how OS updates work. So the answer is no, Ice Cream Sandwich (or ICS) won’t fix this. However, back in May, Google and several key manufacturing partners agreed to work together to bring phones released within 18 months of a new OS updated to the latest OS version. Unfortunately, neither Google nor other manufacturers have been forthcoming with how this is playing out in practice. For now, the surest bet to get the latest Android OS is to get the Galaxy Nexus or Samsung Nexus S phone (available for AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint).
Q: I am looking forward to buying the Galaxy Nexus. However, which phone would you select between it, the Motorola Droid Razr, and the HTC Rezound?
If it’s specs you’re wondering about, check out my former colleague Nicole Lee’s helpful chart comparing the three. If it’s the overall look and feel, well, that’s just a question I can’t answer for you. What do you value most: the camera, the speed, the price, the way it feels in your hand? They’re all fast, they’re all premium, and they all run on Verizon’s phenomenal 4G LTE network.
The Droid Razr and Galaxy Nexus are thin, but the Galaxy Nexus and Rezound have better screens. The Galaxy Nexus has a 5-megapixel camera, but the Droid Razr’s isn’t my absolute favorite on the market, either. The Droid Razr is more stylish. The Rezound comes with Beats by Dr. Dre headphones and a music algorithm, but the Galaxy Nexus is the first to have the powerful Ice Cream Sandwich OS (the other two will get it as well, but you’ll have to wait until early 2012.) Yet, the Galaxy Nexus isn’t even available yet, while the other two are. I recommend getting yourself to a Verizon store and getting your hands on the other two devices to see how much you connect with them, then go from there.
Q: With the iPhone 4S out, would it be better to wait for the iPhone 5? My 2-year contract renewal is up in 2012. I am hearing possibly summer 2012 for iPhone 5.
If you’re still riding out a contract, keep waiting. The iPhone 4S is a great device, but it’s not worth breaking a contract for or buying fresh unless you need Siri or a better camera.
Windows Phone FAQ
Q: Which is easier to use: Windows Phone, iOS 5, or Android 4.0?
Windows Phone has the cleanest OS of the three and is the easiest for getting in and out, at least as far as the main screens go. With only two home screens to toggle between, it’s hard to get lost. However, the edgy “metro” look may not be for everyone, and the apps look completely different. There are also a few tricks you need to know about to fully use the OS, like pressing and holding on “live tiles” to pin, unpin, and get more options, and using your finger to pull down the signal strength meter and battery meter while you’re on the Start screen (these otherwise disappear from view.) There are other tricks, too–tools in Bing you may not think to look for, and actions when you press and hold the Home and Back buttons.
The iPhone and Android have their own quirks as well, and I don’t consider the other two particularly hard to learn, though with its large icons and limit to two screens, it’s easier to navigate Windows Phone.
Do you know if WP7.5 is limited to single-core processors and how that would impact the performance of the devices?
Right now all Windows phones are single-core, and I can’t complain about performance issues. With the way that the OS handles tasks and task-switching, dual-core processing may not be strictly necessary. That said, as all phones join the processor race, I’m sure we’ll eventually see dual-core Windows Phones with much larger screens and many more features advanced as well.
Q: Do you think Windows will have the kind of app choice that iOS or Android do? I have not heard much about what Microsoft is doing to bring in developers or how they will play the app market.
Windows Phone is really ramping up its app presence. In a few months’ time, the population of the app Marketplace has shot from 18,000 to 40,000, and is growing. While they need to keep wooing developers to create interesting apps, there’s also the danger of choking on too much unnecessary app sludge, an argument one could levy against iOS (500+K apps) and even Android (300K).
With battery life being one of the biggest issues, does any one of the operating systems seem to handle that better than the others? If so, which and why?
How a phone’s operating system handles resources is part of the equation, but not as key a factor in our opinion as the hardware and the capacity of the battery. If it seems that Android phones experience faster battery draining than the iPhone, that’s likely because there’s so much variance among different hardware specs and manufacturers. To be fair, the recently launched iPhone 4S has purportedly shorter battery life than several Android phones as well. There are also some Android phones with better battery life than others.
The real question is when we can stop wondering if our smartphones will last longer than a day before needing a recharge. Here’s some good news we still have to wait to see: researchers are redesigning the lithium ion battery to charge faster and hold charges longer, up to three days. I, for one, am relieved to know that smart chemists are hard at work, and that a fix is coming.