First Impressions from a Long-Time iPhone User Trying a Windows Phone

Yesterday, the HTC Titan that Judie is loaning me for this experiment arrived on my doorstep. I opened the box she had packed it in, saw the AT&T HTC Titan box inside, and I actually stared at it for a few minutes pondering how this process was going to be a lot of fun.

But it was also likely to be kind of painful.  After all, I’ve been heavily into the iPhone space since its initial release in 2007.  I had Windows Mobile 6.5 before that, and in the meantime I have also had a couple of Android devices from my work, so I’ve been able to see the good and bad of a number of platforms.  Now it’s time to see what happens with Windows Phone!

Twenty-four hours have passed since I opened the box and started on this experiment.  So far, I’ve managed to accomplish the following tasks:

  • I put my SIM card in and brought up the device (tied it to my Windows Live account).
  • I made test phone calls and sent text messages to my mother and brother.
  • I installed my 3 email services, including one standard POP3 account, GMail, and my work MS Exchange account.
  • I made the device live on my home and work networks.
  • I installed apps for most of the iPhone apps I had that have direct Windows Phone equivalents or work-alikes.
  • I set up my Marketplace account and bought 2 games (that I already had on my iPhone) – Flight Control, and Civilization Revolution.
  • I figured out how to add/remove/rearrange tiles and I started reworking things to my liking including changing the default “color”.
  • I installed the Windows Connector on my MacBook Pro and copied some of my photos, music, and video content to the phone.
  • I changed my lock screen image.
  • I activated my trial of AT&T Navigator and created a test route from my house to my mom’s house.
  • I installed Facebook and Twitter and configured my accounts (including trying the integration with the “People” tile which I decided I didn’t like and reverted to the stand-alone apps).
  • I installed SkyDrive for Mac so I could better move some things to/from the phone.
  • I tried importing my contacts from both my MB Pro and my iPhone using processes I learned about on the web and I just ended up with a contact mess – and half-completed entries.
  • I tried migrating my ebooks to Bookviser (via SkyDrive) but I got a lot of failures with an obscure error message (more about that shortly).


So I got quite a bit done, but there is more to do.  Here are some things I hope to look at in the coming days:

  • I want to sort out the contact mess and get them back into shape.
  • I want to investigate the ebook migration errors and see if there is a solution.
  • I want to find a way to move some of the content that wouldn’t transfer on the first time (because of DRM etc.).
  • I want to find some solutions to the foreign language keyboard limitations I already see on this device.

Despite these initial, small setbacks, I am basically up and running.  I managed to use the device though my entire work day without going back to my iPhone.  I had no trouble getting my work email (although it wasn’t issue free – more on that in a bit), so my overall reaction is “so far, so good”.

One interesting thing worth noting is that when people see that the screen isn’t an iPhone and it isn’t Android, they get curious.  I have been asked a couple of times already what it was, and people want to see it and try things out.  Although the most common comment so far is, “Oh, I thought it was just another HTC Android phone”; based on appearances, it might as well be.  It’s not very spectacular or interesting looking as a device.  But when people play with it, their reaction is more like “oh, cool!”

Ok, so let’s take a look at the things that went well and the things I already like a lot.

Although the screen is bigger than the iPhone 4s screen, its pixel density is lower, and that makes it appear a little “grainy” to me.  That said, the display is much more readable in sunlight. I noticed that on the walk from my car into my office, and that brought a smile to my face — not an easy thing to do before I have my first cup of coffee!

When I performed the initial device setup, I was pleased to see that it was really clean and easy.  Not as fluid as my iPhone setup, but smoother then my Android device setups; it was an unexpectedly pleasant experience.

After one day with this thing, I have to say that I really like the main Metro interface – the whole “tile” thing, very much.  Really, a lot.  I like the “live” feeling to many of them; it’s very vibrant and dynamic.  I do, however, wish they were a little more customizable.  I’ve seen comments that they are boring because of the limited color, but I have not felt this way.  I like the appearance and the layout,  but it does need some kind of folders or a better organization of apps.  The main interface comes off as a great idea, but not taken far enough.  I’ll be interested to see how I feel after living with it for a while.  But really, the whole feel of the OS is nice and clean (for the most part) and snappy.  I had absolutely no lag, and it is very nice!

I tried playing a movie on the Titan, and it was – again, an excellent experience; colors were vivid, and the display was very smooth.  This is something I wasn’t expecting, but I was very happy to see.

One of my favorite things in Windows Phone so far is the Outlook email client.  I really like Outlook on this device.  I love the way they implemented multiple item selection and marking/moving messages, but sometimes items “jump” a little as they expand when they are being selected, especially when opening a conversation thread.  I’ve started already to learn to select these things from the lowest on to the top one rather that top to bottom.  The selection process seems to go a bit smoother that way.  But that little thing aside, I really like the look and feel of the client, and I appreciate the way it’s implemented.

Now let me mention some of the things that haven’t been as good so far.

I already mentioned the difficulties moving my contacts.  That is partly due to the way Apple implemented them,  the limits surrounding what they will/will not sync with, and part of it is the limitation on the Windows Phone side and the things it will/will not sync with.  Short form – moving contacts is a mess, and I’m going to have to do more work before I can call that a success.

The music/videos I chose to sync went pretty well except for DRM-protected materials – exactly what I would have expected.  There are tools out there that will remove the DRM, but the biggest one out there won’t work with the current version of iTunes, and it hasn’t been updated yet.  Although this is a nuisance, this really is NOT any reflection on the OS; it’s simply an issue that has to be worked through.

This evening, I started the process of transferring my books – many of which are ePubs.  This involves using SkyDrive (Microsoft’s cloud/sync offering).  Basically, I move my ePubs up to SkyDrive, and then import them into my eReader app.  In my case, however, the results have been mixed and I don’t yet know why.  I’m using Bookviser as my eBook app on the Windows Phone.  I’m seeing an error when I try to download some of my books from SkyDrive – “Unable to download book. (Operation not permitted on IsoltatedStorageFileStream.”  I don’t know what this means – I haven’t investigated yet, but I have uploaded the error to the developer.

I bought two games – Flight Control and Civilization Revolution.  Both look grainier than their iPhone counterparts, and Flight Control definitely had a few small control issues – it was difficult to get the planes to accept the path sometimes – an issue I never saw on the iPhone or the iPad, but they played pretty smoothly and I would call them useable, but not particularly impressive ports.

Let me say right now that I am not crazy about the physical aspects of this device.  With alarming regularity, I find myself accidentally pressing the camera button or the volume controls.  I don’t like that there is no physical mute toggle, and that the power button is the only way to wake the phone (on an iPhone you can tap the power button or the home button).  The placement of the earpiece is such that I have to hold the phone in an uncomfortable place on my ear in order to hear, and when I do it seems that my face keeps touching the screen and accidentally muting the call.  Maybe there is a simple setting somewhere to fix this behavior, maybe not.  Nonetheless, it’s a little annoying when you are used to an iPhone that came set up to turn the screen off automatically when held against your face.

My mother reports that I sound “tinny” to her when I am talking on this phone, although I think the speakerphone is better than the one on the iPhone.  I will likely try pairing a bluetooth headset to this device soon and see if that improves the situation at all.  I’m also kind of “meh” on the materials used to construct this device, but that is more a matter of taste than anything else.  Still, to me, the physical aspects of this device make it feel a little less thought out, less polished and less complete than an iPhone or Nokia Lumias.

Earlier, I mentioned that I like the tiles and the whole tile idea, and I do.  But I am not always crazy about the way some of those tile links work, or the way things are organized one you select some of the tiles.  For example – the Facebook and Twitter integrations as integrated into the “People” tile seems really muddled and confused to me.  I tried them, but I immediately didn’t like how things were organized and displayed, and I was much happier once I simply installed separate apps for those services and used them that way.  I’ll be keeping an eye on how those keep functioning for me.

I also am not crazy about the Office Hub.  It also seems unnecessarily complicated.  I just want to create a new document, and it seems like I have to do more steps than I expected to do something that should be very something.  It’s also not terribly obvious how you are supposed to go about syncing between your desktop/laptop Office apps and the ones on your Windows Phone.  It’s not that it’s particularly hard, but it just seems like it is more complicated to do and less intuitive than it should be.

Let’s talk alarms.  Windows Phone has many “pretty” alarms just like the iPhone and Android denies do, but I wish the device came with a more aggressive alarm – maybe like the klaxon alarm sound on the iPhone.

I write emails and such to my friends in numerous countries.  I’ve learned a enough of several languages that I often find myself needing to type special characters in order to write those words correctly.  So I have to say that my single biggest disappointment with the OS so far, is the weak foreign keyboard support, especially when it comes to Eastern European languages.  For example, it almost seems like the Balkans don’t exist.  Now I know that MS has indicated that they are committed to more language support and making the OS and devices more availability in more markets, but I have to say that Apple has been consistently way ahead in area of foreign language and keyboard/character support than it’s competitors.

When the iPhone was at the age that Windows Phone is now, it was considerable further ahead in the maturation of these types of services.  To be fair, Android support for multiple languages and keyboards has historically been weak and slow to come out too, but I am disappointed and I hope that this is an area that improves a lot in the upcoming Windows Phone releases.

So, In general, I’m enjoying my first day with this device.  I was afraid I’d be fighting it a lot, but that hasn’t been the case.  For me, that is saying a lot!  Many things went more smoothly than I expected, and the snags are ones that I think I can work through.

Looking ahead, I have a lot of language learning apps on my iPhone.  This is an area of particular interest to me.  I already know, however, that this category of apps isn’t very strong in the Windows Phone Marketplace yet.  The pickings are really slim.  And you’ve already heard me mention the lack of keyboards for many languages.  So I’ll be talking more about these things in the near future, but for now, it’s important to note that

  • My basic services are functioning,
  • I’m starting to work on the more difficult transition issues,
  • And I’m having a good time doing it so far!

So now we will see how it goes for at the next few days or so!  Stay tuned!

If you have any recommendations to share for the things that I’ve mentioned so far, please feel free to share!

Have you recently made a platform transition?  How did it go for you?  Are you happy with the change?


Categories: Reviews

Tags: , , , ,

6 replies

  1. Speaking of languages, you might enjoy playing around with Windows Phone’s “Search” tool. Tap the magnifying glass icon in the lower right, and when Bing comes up, tap the eye icon. Note the Scan text (may be initially grayed back). Hold the phone over some text on a page, either physical or virtual, click Scan Text, and then you’ll see Translate Text. Tap that and you’ll have a number of language choices to translate text to, though I can’t speak for accuracy.

    • Bing translations are still not as good as Google and they are way behind in terms of the number of languages supported, but that is an interesting use of the technologies!

  2. You can also mitigate the camera button issue but changing that button to make it do something else, or just disable it.

    • I haven’t found a way to change the button behavior on the HTC Titan yet, but hopefully there is something there somewhere!


  1. Here I Go Again: An iPad User Tries a Google Nexus 7 | Gear Diary
  2. Here I Go Again: An iPad User Tries a Google Nexus 7