There is no good mobile operating systemEdit on GitHub
I’m back on Windows Phone. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have read in the past weeks that I switched from being a Windows Phone user to being an Android user. Having been on the platform since before Windows Phone 7 was RTM, I found the operating system was getting slower and slower and less stable on my Nokia Lumia 620. So when I saw a shiny Android being fast, stable and having all the apps I needed, I was sold. Until today, when I switched back to a Windows Phone device. And maybe I’ll switch back again.
From Windows Phone to Android…
So after raging at my Nokia Lumia 620 for weeks, I played with a relative’s Nexus 5 and it got me hooked after an hour or two. The Lumia crashed twice a day (not an app crash, a full reboot crash!). Live tiles were not updating. Scrolling a screen was laggy. The Nexus 5 was fast, fast, fast. It synced with e-mail and calendar on both Google and Microsoft services. Fast-forward a few days and I had my Nexus 5 in the mail. Byebye Windows Phone!
The first boot started with me entering my Google Account credentials, running an over-the-air update to Android 5 (lollipop) and getting greeted by a refreshing home screen with some Google apps on there. Having most of my stuff in Outlook.com, Office 365 and so on, I decided to try the Google apps to synchronize it all. Which worked, but only for 90%. Syncing contact pictures? Nope. But not to fear, the Play Store, Google’s marketplace, is filled with nice gems, including a bunch of Microsoft apps that, surprisingly, feel better developed and are more advanced than anything I’ve seen on Windows Phone. Odd, but hey, using these apps, everything synced!
Installing these apps was interesting, as it exposed a clever thing: when entering my Microsoft Account details for one app, other apps just ask me if I want to use that same account or not. Unlike Windows Phone, where I have to login with my Facebook credentials for both the Facebook app and the Messenger app, Android just asks me once. Hear that, Windows Phone?
One thing I found weird was using Google Hangouts as an application to write text messages (SMS). Stop pushing it, Google! But hold on… Android supports plugging the texting app, and the one from Textra seemed simple enough to do just that: texting. Other people may want something more fancy with lots of whistles and bells. That’s in the Play Store, too.
Now back to the “better apps from Microsoft on Android than on Windows Phone” statement. If you, like me, use two-factor authentication using an authenticator app, you may hate the fact that you have to type the generated code in your PC’s browser every time. You would say that’s normal, right? Well, Microsoft’s Authenticator app just prompts me on the Android if I want to allow/deny a login, and handles the 2FA behind the scenes. Easy, convenient, and still secure. Hear that, Windows Phone?
Another interesting thing I found was that Android has pluggable keyboards. You can change from English to Dutch, and from Dutch to a keyboard that has only smileys. More interesting, is that apps like Keepass (a password manager), can provide a keyboard to the OS that automatically enters my credentials when I say it has to do that. In any app just switch the keyboard to Keepass and enjoy the app typing credentials. No more 2-times back-and-forth switching to my password manager app on Windows Phone. Just pick the keyboard and be done. Hear that, Windows Phone?
Next. Apps. The Play Store is filled with quality apps. There are “crapps” as well, quite a lot even. But there are quality apps for big brands, mobile banking, … They all work and are fully functional. Not some minimum
viable valuable product like a lot of apps on Windows Phone. Am I saying there are no good Windows Phone apps? No. There are some. But I can’t do mobile banking on my Windows Phone. Nor inspect the logs of my Windows Azure machines. Nor see how much credit I still have on my electronic meal vouchers. On Android, it’s all there, polished and every app I could think of has at least an official version, a fan-made version and then some crap-variants that every marketplace will be polluted with. Hear that, Windows Phone? Apps!
Something else. An electronic assistant. Google Now! The thing is there, and I can say “OK Google, call wife” and it does that. It also learns my commute, where I parked my car and will tell me all this when I need it. Wait, isn’t that what Cortana is meant to be? Why yes! Except, Cortana is not available in Belgium (unless I switch my Windows Phone region and suffer from a lack of local apps that are not supported on the US region and require me to switch back and lose Cortana again). And that trick is half-baked: who in Europe wants to see local US news and the temperature in Fahrenheit… Google Now is brilliant, and it works!
Writing al this makes you feel that Android is superior, right? Well, it is. Mostly.
From Android back to Windows Phone…
It’s not all sunshine and roses. Pretty much every Android app plugs into the notifications, and if I did not put my phone into silent every now and then, it would literally make noise (or vibrate) every two seconds. A tweet? BZZZZ! An email? BZZZZZ! The current number of seconds is 32? BZZZZZ! Full moon tomorrow? BZZZZZ! The thing annoys you all the time. And yes, you can customize this, but it’s a bit of work do do right. I liked the more sensible defaults on some of the Windows Phone apps.
Android has many apps, and many good apps. But the brands and big names like Facebook and Twitter take Android seriously. This means that things like moderated timelines, all sorts of promoted tweets and posts all show up in these apps. Looking over some tweets, I would expect them to be ordered chronologically. Nope, most of the time they are and then some strange ordering kicks in at some point. Same with Facebook. On Windows Phone, my timeline was roughly identical to what I would see in my browser. On Android, I had no idea what I was seeing but definitely not the latest things. A mess.
And speaking of a mess, my personal flavor is to have an organized screen. On Android, all icons of apps are different, applications are styled differently, behavior in terms of gestures and menus in apps was different and so on. While there are a lot of apps that follow some design principles Google uses in their apps, a lot are just annoying. Since switching apps is always switching context, consistency in apps is so good to have to ease the context switch on your brain! In retrospect,
I think consistency is the main thing that got me back to Windows Phone. Yes, I am insane to take consistency above all the good things Android has to offer. I’m not sure if I’ll stay. Maybe there is no good mobile operating system after all? Or maybe there is, and it’s the iOS one I haven’t tried. Or maybe it’s Windows Phone after all. Or Android. Or a dumbphone. Or a BlackBerry. One thing I’ve learned is they all have some work to do. And all I can hope is the product teams on either side carry the phones of the others and learn.
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