A cousin of mine once walked up to me and said, “You know what people say about Windows Phone?..”
He was right though, to a certain extent. While Windows Phone has secured 3rd spot in the mobile OS war, many people are still ignorant to the existence of the OS. And while I’ve seen more and more people using Windows Phones in public, few are actually satisfied with their phones. I’m one of those few. Or at least I was.
For the past week or so I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with my Lumia 820, and it’s not just because of what my cousin had said to me; that was ages ago. It’s just getting increasingly annoying to be using the phone as my daily driver.
Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Windows Phone for what it was, and was one of the few people who would wittingly choose a WP8 device. There are many reasons why I fell in love with WP8 in the first place. But equally as many reasons as to why I’m starting to dislike it.
So I thought I would discuss why I love Windows Phone, as well as some of the reasons why I am (increasingly) getting annoyed by it.
The Live Tiles. Windows Phone provides a brand new, clean UI that is a breath of fresh air from the clutter of icons found on iOS or Android. Live Tiles provide a whole new level of information that can be displayed, and a great deal of customisability to the Start screen.
The app drawer is also neatly listed alphabetically in a single column, and locating an app is easy, so long as you know what letter it starts with. It simplifies the whole process of searching for an app without the need for folders, compared with iOS and Android.
Fluidity. Windows Phone as an operating system is extremely light and fluid. It runs on 512MB devices and 1Ghz processors with minimal to no lag, whereas Android devices with those kind of specs constantly stutter and choke on day to day usage.
Integration. Integration is a major selling point for the OS, and the feature that I missed the most when I switched over to iOS and Android for a short period of time. The entire operating system is integrated not only with your social networks, but also with tons of Microsoft services, including Xbox Live.
Photos and status updates can be posted swiftly to Facebook, Twitter, SkyDrive, etc. without the need to launch the respective applications. The Photos app displays all your albums from SkyDrive and Facebook so you can view and use the images from your social networks directly from Photos. SkyDrive auto upload means that you don’t have to transfer pictures anymore, as all the photos are instantly stored within the SkyDrive folders in your PC or Mac.
The way it handles apps. WP8 handles apps in a very different way from other operating systems. When within an app (or even a menu), hitting the back button will exit the application. But if you want to “save” the application in the multitasking menu, called “tombstoning”, hit the Start button, which will take you to the Start menu. When on the Start menu, or in any other application, hitting the back button will take you back to the previous app which was “tombstoned”.
Or you can just press and hold the back button to view a list of your “tombstoned” apps or pages (or menus) in the form of cards, which can also be individually closed with an “X” at the top right of the card.
It even works such that you can “tombstone” and switch between individual tabs on Internet Explorer, which is really neat.
Yes, it’s confusing at first, but after a while it feels really fluid and comes in really handy.
Apps. I’m not gonna lie, the apps on Windows Phone are terrible. Sure, they’ve improved a great deal from the apps of WP7, but they’re still bad in general, nonetheless. A great deal of the popular apps are still in beta (Path, Instagram, etc.) and those which are not are still terrible (like WordPress). Microsoft has had a hard time getting support from partners such as Google and Facebook to make apps for them, so they have to resort to making the apps themselves. And sometimes, when Microsoft produces a great app that the other party refuses to make, the app gets remotely disabled. (Like how Google killed Microsoft’s amazing Windows Phone YouTube app).
So Windows Phone users have to settle for the third party stuff, like MetroTube or MyTube in place of YouTube. They’re good. But they’re not the real stuff, which puts some people off.
This is a major issue.
And right now, the Facebook beta app (once again made by Microsoft because Facebook just refuses to make one themselves), is suffering from major bugs. The Facebook chat feature doesn’t auto refresh, and constantly “has trouble getting data”, so you have to relaunch the app over and over again. It almost drove me crazy.
And we don’t get a proper Facebook Messenger app, or Facebook pages app, because hey, we’re just Windows Phone users.
It’s not just that the apps are bad. Lots of essential apps are virtually non-existent. Other than YouTube, there’s still other titles such as Flipboard, which was announced for Windows Phone in October 2013, yet it’s still not here.
Other times, apps launch late, and when they do launch their service is only available in the US. There are lots of WP apps that only work in the US.
It’s the exact same thing with games. All the top titles don’t usually launch the same date as iOS and Android, and by the time they do launch on WP (if they do at all), the hype would’ve died down and the game would’ve become obsolete. It’s what happened with Temple Run 2, which was only launched on WP8 in December last year, when the rest of the world has been playing it for almost a year.
Battery life issues. Windows Phone is plagued with battery life issues. Sometimes the phone randomly overheats and the battery drains within hours on idle. It’s insanely annoying. And the only way to resolve it is to reboot the phone.
Notifications. I cannot emphasise enough how annoying toast notifications on Windows Phone are. When turning on the WiFi, your phone receives a ton of notifications from Whatsapp, Facebook chat, etc., sending your phone into a vibrating frenzy. And they can’t just tell you “you have 100 messages on Whatsapp”. No, they spam you with 100 toast notifications, and leave your phone vibrating 100 times before it stays silent.
Bottom line, Windows Phone is a great OS, and Microsoft has a lot of great ideas going on. But it’s the little simple things such as the lack of quality apps, issues with battery life, the lack of quick toggles and a proper way of handling notifications that drives people insane.
If Microsoft doesn’t do anything to solve these major issues soon in Windows Phone 8.1, more Windows Phone fans are just going to abandon the operating system for Android and iOS.
I was an Android fan before switching to WP, and have had experience with iOS, so I know what Windows Phone is lacking.
As for me, I’m just waiting to see what Microsoft has to offer with Windows Phone 8.1 in April. And if they disappoint, I’m definitely going to make the #switch. Though not in the direction Nokia intended it to be.