Should We Stay or Will We Go with Windows Phone?

GearDiary Should We Stay or Will We Go with Windows Phone?

Dan: This is the fourth and final part of our look at Windows Phone and the HTC Titan. In Considering the Move from an iPhone 4S to Windows Phone Titan, we talked a bit about the operating system and its history. In Comparing the iPhone 4s Hardware to the HTC Titan and Dipping into the Windows Phone User Interface, we addressed the user interface and some of Windows Phone’s key features. In Checking Out Windows Phone Speed, Apps, Camera, Music Player and Games, we looked more closely at the applications that we are using as well as the camera and a few additional aspects of the device from a usability standpoint.  In this final installment we want to summarize all that and give you the ultimate outcome.

Judie: As you’ll recall, Dan and I were each given an HTC Titan at a Microsoft sponsored CES dinner this January, and we both made the decision to put our iPhones away and start using the Windows Phones. Right off the bat, both of us noticed improvements to the Windows Phone OS that the Mango update had brought, and we were pleased to see that there were so many more app titles available in the Marketplace. That’s not to say that our move to Windows Phone was without any issues or problems. Along the way we have both missed apps that haven’t yet made (or may never make) the transition from iPhone to WP, Dan has greatly missed Siri, I’ve missed some of my iPhone accessories, and I’ve traveled internationally with Windows Phone. While some experiences have been better than others, we have both been left with one pressing question …

Dan: In other words, do we stick with Windows Phone, or do we go back to the iPhone?  Our answers may surprise you.GearDiary Should We Stay or Will We Go with Windows Phone?

Shortcomings

Dan: Windows Phone Mango paired with the HTC Titan is pretty impressive. Is it perfect? Nope, not by a long shot. The OS is still a bit on the immature side. This can be seen in everything from the limited “fast app switching” (“don’t call me multitasking!”) and the lack of customization on the home screen. It can also be seen in the current state of available apps. Although the situation is much better than it was just a short time ago, there are still apps that I miss, such as the Sonos Controller, Line2 and more. The speed with which the situation has improved indicates to me that it won’t be long before there is app parity among iOS, Android and Windows Phone, but for now that is not the case.

Judie: While it’s true that many of the apps that I rely upon are available on Windows Phone, some of the ones I enjoyed using the most — apps that made my iPhone user experience more convenient, efficient or satisfying — are not. If I have my iPad along, it is no problem to do without PayPal, CardMunch, Instagram, Fluent, EventBrite, the full version of eWallet, Words with Friends and Scramble apps on my Titan. But the fact that I can’t leave the iPad at home sometimes is bothersome, never mind the fact that my husband misses being able to see me on ‘Find My Friends’. =/

Dan: A big issue for me is the lack of global voice recognition. I waited a long time for it to come to iOS and am truly missing it.

Judie: I have to admit that this is something that started to bother me more than I had expected it to. There is voice recognition in text messaging, but as we had mentioned before, it is limited. For instance, if I want to send a text via voice, I have to get it all out in one pass, and there is no way to add something to a text that has already been started. With Siri, I can send a text that has been modified or added to by using voice inside the text again. With Windows Phone, I have once chance to get it right; otherwise I have to start over again, or I have to send a second text. This isn’t always a huge deal, but it’s something I have noticed.

Dan: Another issue is the lack of a true ecosystem akin to what exists for the iPhone. While the app environment is better than ever, there still isn’t anything to compare to the ecosystem that exists around iOS. Not only do Apple’s products work together seamlessly but accessories abound. Not so for any phone running Windows Phone OS.

We bumped into this when trying to find decent cases for the phones, and the shortfall finds its way into pretty much every accessory area; there just aren’t that many accessories available for the Titan (or any other Windows Phone).

Judie: This is definitely something that I have struggled with. Accessories are important to me. I want my phone to look good, and I like having a cool case or a fun skin, or something that makes my device look different from everyone else’s. It does not help that while at CES, CaseMate gave me a limited edition “I’m on Deadline” cover for my iPhone that I absolutely adore and have never been able to use  — other than to put it on my iPhone and stare at it wistfully.

Contrast that to the Titan, and I just haven’t been able to find much that I like. I’ve settled on a carbon fiber skin which I sometimes cover with a semi-transparent gray Boxwave cover, but most days I don’t put the Titan in anything because it is a bit too large to cover with a case … and as Dan can tell you from watching me drop the Titan several times at CES, that is not a good thing.

GearDiary Should We Stay or Will We Go with Windows Phone?

Dan: A bright spot is the Pro-Clip car adapter that we will have coming soon. But the truth of it is that if you love the accessory choices you have with the iPhone, then you are going to be disappointed. The reasons for that are obvious — by having a limited number of offerings and a universally standard connector on iOS devices, Apple makes it easy and profitable for companies to build a huge number of accessories for their ecosystem. That, combined with the sheer number of phones, tablets and iPods Apple sells makes the effort worthwhile. Windows Phones, along with Android devices, are not nearly as locked down. They come in a huge range of shapes and sizes and, as a result, any new device-specific product will come out of the gate with a limited audience. As a result, the dearth of accessories is likely not changing any time soon. So… if you are using a Windows Phone, then you are probably best off with Bluetooth speakers, a universal case, and low expectations in the accessory department.

Judie: I can live with using an auxiliary cable with my speaker boxes, and I do love that the Titan takes the universal microUSB connector because it sure makes packing and traveling simple … but I can’t stop missing my choice of cases and accessories, and it bothers me to go without. =(

Dan: Another shortcoming was pointed out by one of our readers in an earlier post. Windows Phones tend to have a relatively small capacity when it comes to storage, and the lack of expansion means you are stuck with whatever capacity the phone has from the start. Cloud storage may be all the rage, but we happen to like having as much capacity on our mobile devices as possible. .

Judie: Dan is right. Although I don’t necessarily need to be able to carry all of my music on my phone, there are times when I don’t want to bring along my iPod, and the difference between a phone with 16GB storage and 64GB storage is pretty obvious. I’m not sure what the holdup is for creating larger capacity Windows Phone, but that is a barrier that needs to be broken as soon as possible.

And if we are going to mention cloud storage, then it beings up a serious and costly problem with data. This may not be something that affects everyone, but it is something that it had never even occurred to me to check on before I traveled internationally. Let me back up for a moment …

When I am in the US,  my AT&T (grandfathered) unlimited data plan is fully in effect. I surf, check email, SMS, MMS, upload pictures to Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter … you name it. I enjoy using my smartphone as a mini computer, and I don’t think about how much data I am actually using, nor do I stress over whether I will be able to afford my bill when it comes.

When I was prepping to leave for Mobile World Congress, I knew that data was going to be an issue, and I planned ahead by purchasing the 125MB AT&T International Data Package for $50. I also purchased 500 International SMS fo $50. So right there, I figured that I would be covering email, texting, Twitter, and maybe a Facebook update or two.

I started looking for a way to reset my data usage counter on the Titan, so that I could monitor my usage; I quickly learned that there is no way to do that, and there is no app that can help.

Okaaaaaay.

So I did the trick where you go to Settings/Cellular and then turn off Data, but I found that there were plenty of times when WiFi wasn’t available and I needed to use my data plan. I tried to judiciously switch data on and off, and it got to be a bit of a hassle. I couldn’t check my data usage on my mobile phone, so I just used my data and hoped for the best. When I got back to my room, I logged into the AT&T site to check my numbers. After the first half-day overseas, AT&T said I had used 24MB. Not too bad, but I still had a week to go, and I knew I would be cutting it close. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My second full day in Barcelona, I got a text message and an email from AT&T saying that I had used over 500MB of data, and I was looking at a hefty additional data fee with the possibility of my data being cut off to avoid excessive charges. I think they heard my scream all the way from the hotel to the Fira. All I had done was allow my email to push and emailed a few pictures to Dan to use in posts!! After an international call asking AT&T what my options were, I upped my data plan to the 800MB for $199 … and then I removed the SIM and popped it into my Vertu, which automatically allows me to turn data on and off by app when needed. That way I could stay in touch if someone called or texted, but anything else, I was going to have to do differently.

While on the phone with AT&T, the operator had checked to see if she could unlock my Titan so that I could purchase a local SIM to save money on data; she said she didn’t have the codes, possibly because my phone was “too new”.  I searched online for a Titan unlock service, and happily paid the fee to get a code. Then I bought a local Yoigo SIM for 20 Euros and popped it into my Titan. Expensive lesson to learn, but problem solved. =/

Dan: So… what are we going to do? Will we be sticking with the Titans and using Windows Phone, or is it back to the comfort and familiarity of the iPhone 4S?

Judie: I am going back and forth on this, because there is much about Windows Phone — and the Titan in particular — that I truly enjoy. If I am back on the iPhone, then I won’t have the huge screen that I love, the excellent camera, the fascinating little Live Tiles, and the excellent battery life. But if I do go back to the iPhone 4S, I’ll get back all of the apps that I miss, Siri, and the accessories I enjoy using.

Dan: In the first pass at this section a but ago I wrote the following.

I love my iPhone 4S. I love the quality of the device. I love the feel in my hand. I love the tight integration with Apple’s ecosystem. I love the screen resolution. I love Siri. “”I love you too Dan now lets get back to work.”) I really am happy with my iPhone. But, at least right now, I am using the HTC Titan and have no regrets. Yes, the Titan is the first smartphone to truly stand on par with the iPhone, at least for me.

It is a few weeks later and this is the update:

I really like the Windows phone operating system. I also love the hardware on the HTC Titan. The screen is big and gorgeous, and it’s something I got used to within minutes. Even with glasses my eyes aren’t what they were when I was 20, and the 4.7 inch screen is a delight to use. The Titan is fast and the battery life beats the iPhone by a mile. Most of the key applications I need, if not all, are now available on Windows phone and work beautifully. I love the live tiles and the social focus of the operating system. And I really love the way in which windows phone handles pictures and they’re editing and sharing. Not forcing you to leave the camera or photo application in order to go to a separate third party application is brilliant. Yes, I like pretty much everything about Windows phone.

All of that is true except for one thing…

I am now back on the iPhone 4S.

So why am I back to the iPhone? It is really quite simple – Siri and global voice recognition. More than anything my iPhone is a mobile productivity device for me. I need it to make phone calls but I also use it to do the vast majority of my communication on the go. My productivity took a tremendous hit when I went back to work and found that I wasn’t able to use my voice to reply to email messages or to write quick drafts of sermons for temple or posts for Gear Diary. And while I thought I could deal with it I quickly discovered that it was not to be.

Yes, I also happened to love the tight integration of being part of a single ecosystem, but I could have gotten around that. But being able to write using my voice on the iPhone and have the text immediately appear on my iPad or Mac is too important for me on an ongoing basis.

Judie: I’m going back and forth on this, and I am wondering why it is such a hard decision to make.

I think that a small factor here is that I enjoy using something different from everyone else, and I really want Windows Phone to work for me because I prefer the hardware. But the reality is that I have to create workarounds to accomplish the same things I used to take for granted on the iPhone; I’m at a point where I don’t always have time to find workarounds and I’d rather not feel like I am missing out on a particular app’s features.

And that is why after over two solid months of using the Titan, this morning I pulled out my iPhone 4S and slipped its SIM back inside.

I already miss the Titan’s glorious 4.7″ screen and the Windows Phone Live Tiles. Looking at the iPhone’s screen I see a hot mess of apps foldered in tiny boxes, and I am bummed because the iOS filing system is so inelegant and dated. But the fact of the matter is the apps that I need are on the iPhone, and although I usually have my iPad with me, I don’t want to have to carry it. I need a device that can do everything in one package; and it wasn’t until I couldn’t easily do the things that I took for granted  that I noticed it was an issue.

But then, isn’t that usually how it is with things you take for granted?

GearDiary Should We Stay or Will We Go with Windows Phone?
The back of my CaseMate states the obvious!

To Wrap Things Up: 

Dan: So there you have it. In a relatively short period of time, the Windows Phone operating system has greatly matured, and the app offerings have grown significantly enough that we can both recommend phones running the operating system without hesitation. Paired with the right hardware (“right” is, of course subjective) it is a great combination for mobile computing and one that we both thoroughly enjoy.

Judie: Being able to whole-heartedly recommend Windows Phone to just about anyone is something you will never catch Dan or me doing for Android. When either of us have tried devices running the Android system, each and every time we have quickly returned to our iPhones or iPads, and never one questioned the decision.That isn’t the case here.

Dan: After using powerful hardware like the Titan with Windows Phone, neither of us were happy to leave them and go back to the iPhones. And, now back on the iPhones, there are things both of us miss about the Titans. And that will only get worse when we get our hands on the Nokia 900!

Judie: Exactly! Because both of us plan on getting the 900, which says something about Windows Phone!

Dan: So between the iPhone and a device running Windows Phone, we have to say it is completely a matter of personal preference.

Judie: Yes, that’s right. We are both firmly in the camp of “there is now a real iOS competitor, and it comes from Microsoft” And who knows … I’ll probably be back on my Titan this week! =)

Dan: Have any of you made the jump to Windows Phone? Let us know what you think about it in the comments!



About the Author

Judie Lipsett Stanford
I've had a fascination with all types of gadgets and gizmos since I was a child, beginning with the toy robot that my grandmother gave my brother - which I promptly "relieved him of" in 1973. I'm a self-professed gadget magpie. I can't tell you how everything works, but I'm known world-wide for using a product until I have a full understanding of what it does, what its limitations are, and if it excels in any given area — or not.