Switching From iOS to Windows Phone (Pt. 1)

As I have already mentioned in a previous post (8th paragraph), the Windows Phone platform had me hooked since day one. There was something to it that made it more interesting than iOS or Android. However, at that time the competition had been more mature – not only the OS but also the devices – and therefore I chose a Samsung (from now on called Copyshop) Galaxy S2 as my first smartphone. Android seemed the best fit back then (around 3 years ago), simply because of all the possibilities this platform offered on a technical level (I’m a programmer, that’s how I think). As it turned out, I basically used none of those things I found so interesting (like widgets) but rather tried to get a vanilla Android experience without the Copyshop bloatware – not to mention regular software updates.

After around a year I bought an iPhone and shortly after that came my beloved iMac and the iPad, to complete the Apple platform. The whole and simple integration of device and computer and the apps driving this integration had been the selling point. For roughly the past two years I was very happy with those devices, until iOS 7 came along. Although it worked quite well from the start, I had, and still have, a few issues with it, especially on the iPad (3). Performance is, at times, very awful. Most notably in the browser, where a few (like three) open tabs can be enough to force reloading the pages each time I switch to a different tab. Yes, I know that applications “running” in the background use up memory as well, so: I kill ’em all. But after several days and weeks of frequent use, memory fragmentation seems to be the culprit and simply killing the apps doesn’t really help. Another terrible experience is the multitasking UI. Sometimes it is so laggy that I accidentally close two apps at once because I perform the 4-finger swipe two times as it seems the first time wasn’t registered by the system. iOS 6 never had these issues. On the phone I cannot complain.

As laid out in the already mentioned post I’m now back on Windows on the computer and in the past three years Windows Phone software has grown up quite a bit, as have the handsets, especially the ones from Nokia. I am a person that likes to have a homogenous network (remember the Apple conglomerate?) and the Surface Pro 3 is an almost fixed must-buy once it comes out. The only thing that wouldn’t fit is the iPhone. So I started looking at Windows Phone devices. Nokia has a nice selection of very affordable ones, up to high-end gear. The most interesting being the 1020 with its impressive 41 megapixel camera and the 930 (called Icon in the U.S.; already loaded with Windows Phone 8.1 once available) which will hit Germany this or next month, as far as I know. Both, however, cost somewhere north of 450€ which I’m certainly not willing to pay anymore. The way I was (still am) using my iPhone certainly does not warrant such a high price. I don’t need a high-end phone. I want a device that is as future proof as it can get in such a fast-moving industry and has a better than decent camera – and can do phone calls.

Enter Lumia 925. Once a high-end device (end of 2013) now available for around 300€. The specs are modern enough to run smooth in all those situations that I use the phone, which excludes games. Ergo: I don’t give a damn about 3D dick swinging contests. Windows Phone has been running smooth on single-core CPUs for a long time, so I bet a dual-core with one-point-something GHz and a gig of RAM shall do the trick. Expandable internal storage: I don’t care either. It would be nice but I managed to get through 4 days of festival with my 16GB iPhone while taking pictures and recording some 1080p videos, so the fixed 16 GB of storage is no big deal. Screen you ask? 1280 x 768 pixels across 4.5 inch, that is even a few ppi higher than on the iPhone 4s. I don’t need more. The last thing left to check out was the camera and there I took my time and swallowed every review and comparison I could get, until I finally decided it is good enough for me. I’m also planning on doing a little comparison myself. If the weather is nice I’ll grab my bike and go for a ride within the next few days.

Almost 800 words later I’m now at a point where I can start discussing the initial key differences between the iPhone and iOS and the Lumia and Windows Phone 8. I have only had the device for a few days now, so don’t expect a deep dive into all the details there are to cover. This is basically a high level overview while I work myself into the capabilities of my new toy.

First off: The screen. Compared to the 3.5 inch iPhone the Lumia with its 4.5 inch feels huge to me – to everyone else this is most likely small by todays standards (remember laughing at the first Copyshop Note 5 inch phone? Well, those sizes are a common thing now). I’m probably one of the (very) few guys that applauded Apple’s stance on keeping the screen size small to make it comfortable to use in one hand. But, I finally figured that change is either inevitable or the device is expensive as hell (hello Apple) or cheap as crap. I do have to admit that especially typing is less error prone.

Next: Build quality. The front is glass, the side is an aluminum band all around the device and the back is plastic with a very subtle rubber like surface. It doesn’t come close to Apple’s perfection but it does look and feel very nice. The back cover moves a tiny bit into the device when squeezing it between your thumb and index finger with some force, but there are no creaking or rattling noises. This is all that I can find to complain about and I really do complain about build quality all the time. This and the “lesser” materials are all there is not to like. This is a good quality handset.

Lastly: The software. Where iOS and Android are the classic mobile phone / tablet “desktops”, Windows Phone is the Gnome Shell to the classic computer desktop like Windows and KDE. Since the introduction of Windows 8, probably everybody knows what live tiles are. Seeing them in person for the first time is actually kinda fun (Windows 8 so far doesn’t count, my use revolves around the desktop). As mentioned, I haven’t yet spent much time with the phone and therefore my experience is very limited. For now there’s only one app making use of the live tile and that is Bing Weather. This really is neat. The contacts app shows little pictures of my contacts where images are assigned – which aren’t many. I may connect it with my (dormant) Facebook account just for the fun of it, to see what happens.

What I Miss so far:

  • Favorite contacts for one-tap calling (didn’t jump my eye so far but I haven’t explicitly looked for it)
  • Syncing browser bookmarks (Windows Phone 8.1 should have this)

From this very short list you may be able to tell that I am not a hardcore smartphone user. I barely use apps and I mostly perform calls – it’s a phone after all. Obviously, the iPhone was a complete overkill for my use but hey, what’s a hobby (tech-nerd) without expensive gadgets? I’ll dig into the system as time goes by and if you like it or not, I’ll post my observations and opinion on them (judging from how far you’ve read, you like it!).

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