A few months ago I was an owner of an iPhone 6. Now I have a Windows Phone instead. Why did I switch? Is Windows Phone better or more useful to me than iOS? Well, no, not exactly…
On a recent business trip, my iPhone 6 was stolen. I had over a year remaining to pay it off through the AT&T carrier contract, and I just couldn’t justify spending another $649 to replace it. I reverted to my old iPhone 5, but I also started looking around for other options.
It was at Best Buy that I came across the Microsoft Lumia 640 phone, available without contract for $59.99 (as of writing it is still available).
It had lots and lots of good reviews so I thought it was worth trying out. Two things I did immediately was to add a SanDisk Ultra SDXC card to increase the memory from 8GB to 72GB ($22 on Amazon), and I joined the Windows Insider program to gain early access to Windows 10 Mobile (since the phone came with 8.1 and 10 is not yet released at the time of this writing).
My total expenditure for this new phone was therefore $82, compared to the $649 I would have paid for a new iPhone with 64GB of memory. What did I get for my money? A similar size screen to the iPhone 6, a good processor, a nice form factor, 8MP rear camera plus front camera, etc, etc. Some of the iPhone specs were a little better, but in this day and age phone hardware from device to device is overwhelmingly similar. It seems that the smart phone is well on its way to becoming a commodity device and manufacturers are increasingly struggling to introduce innovative or novelty features to freshen their lineup each year.
I’m going to defer providing an objective analysis of usability and versatility of the Windows Mobile 10 versus iOS 9 until after the official release. As of the now, the Windows Insider build of 10 has some obvious bugs that still need to be ironed out. Overall though, I’m really impressed with Windows Mobile 10.
For anyone else considering making the switch, here are a few of the advantages that Windows 10 has over iOS:
- I like the experience of Cortana more than Siri. They both have excellent speech recognition, but Cortana understands my speech flawlessly. Also, the Cortana experience feels more immersive and is therefore a more natural go-to companion for speech-based tasks.
- I like the Windows Mobile home screen tiles more than on iOS. While the multiple pages are not available, instead you have a vertical flowing screen with the ability to size your tiles, put them in folders, and see live snippets of information within the tile itself.
- I find the system settings to be far more intuitively organized on Windows Mobile than on iOS. And I really like that you can actually access app-specific settings from within the app rather than having to locate the app within a centralized settings area.
- Windows Mobile 10 has a Kids Mode that you can switch on before handing off your phone to your kids. In this mode, only apps and features you’ve explicitly configured for their use are available.
- I use Windows 10 on my desktop PC, and the consistency between the experiences really becomes apparent when you have used both. With the recent Windows 10 update, we are starting to see direct integration between your desktop and mobile devices as missed calls now appear on your desktop and you can write text messages on your PC that are sent through your phone. I expect this integration will continue to evolve and provide more value over time.
- OneDrive is beautifully and seamlessly integrated through the whole experience, from Windows Explorer on the desktop, the Office 2016 suite of applications and their mobile counterparts, and the file system type of access on the phone. This is super useful!
So, what is missing? For one, you lose the unified inbox for your email. You also lose access to many apps you may be accustomed to using, because most companies are developing for Android and iOS only due to their market share. And while it may not be fair to judge a preview before it is released, there is definitely a feel that usability of the keyboard and text selection is below par compared to the iOS experience. My greatest personal loss is that, at the moment at least, Google’s apps are not available on Windows Mobile. Google Inbox is a brilliant email management tool, and my circle of friend and colleagues commonly use Google Hangouts, so doing without these apps is challenging.
It may be amusing to you that my main argument for switching is one of price, yet Microsoft are about to release Lumia 950 and 950XL, which have a starting price of $600. Granted, these phones have crazy high-end specs, and include the awe-inspiring Windows Continuum capability, which could be a game changer for the business traveler or tech enthusiast. It remains to be seen if Microsoft can out-premium Apple, and beat them at their own game for high-end products. For me, the excitement remains at the low-end price point. When I can buy a Lumia 950 for, say, $200, that’s when I’ll have the perfect phone, and possibly pumped enough to write another article promoting Windows 10 Mobile!