I’ve been curious about Windows Phone 8 for some time now and contemplated writing a couple of posts on the matter but I never really got round to it. I used four Android smartphones before I finally decided to give Windows Phone 8 a try a couple of months ago. Frankly, I was getting a little bored of Android and wanted to try out something different as an experiment.
I decided to go for the Nokia Lumia 520 which was available for just £79.99 without a contract from Carphone Warehouse. Naturally I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on an experiment but still wanted a device which would give me a good experience of the Windows Phone 8 platform. To that end, the Nokia Lumia 520 seemed a good fit.
This post is about my experience with Windows Phone 8 over the last three months, particularly the apps I’ve come to use on the new platform compared to Android. We keep hearing about the lack of apps on the Windows Phone platform and sure enough I have had to make some compromises here and there as you will come to read below.
My preferred news aggregator on Android is Flipboard which not only allows me to read news from my areas of interests but also integrates with my Facebook and Twitter accounts all in one place.
Flipboard, however, is nowhere to be found on Windows Phone 8 and, worse, there isn’t a good enough alternative app to take its place on the platform. I’ve had to contend with having to install the Twitter and Facebook apps along with Bing News. I know this means I have to use three apps instead of one to get my news/feed, but I find this is better than some of the news aggregator apps I’ve come across on Windows Phone.
I like to be able to get a feel of the weather conditions from a glance on my phone and fortunately the Bing Weather Live tile is as good as Weather widgets on Android.
Videos on YouTube
Who doesn’t use YouTube? Exactly! I find it very disappointing that there isn’t a YouTube app for the Windows Phone platform. To be fair to Microsoft, however, they did build a YouTube app on two separate occasions but Google put a stop to it on both occasions – first because the app allowed videos to be downloaded and then again because the app wasn’t built using HTML 5. The weird thing is that YouTube apps on Android and iOS aren’t built using HTML 5 either but Google doesn’t block these apps, so why target Windows Phone?
I didn’t really expect to find a suitable note-taking app on Windows Phone that’ll sync with SimpleNote so I was somewhat surprised to come across MetroNote which is just as easy and simple to use as JadeNote on Android. A cross-platform note-taking app indeed!
OneNote is another cross-platform note-taking app I use but this one is different in the sense that it helps me make more elaborate plans in ways that is not possible with SimpleNote. I can create separate “notebooks” in OneNote with multiple sections and have any number of pages within each section. I can also add photos, screenshots and hyperlinks to my note, making this a powerhouse of a note-taking app.
SkyDrive is my preferred cloud storage platform which I use on a daily basis. Thankfully the Windows Phone 8 platform has a refreshing take on accessing SkyDrive files compared to Android. Windows Phone 8 comes with a built-in Office Mobile app which integrates with SkyDrive and thus allowing me to access all my documents in one place. In addition to this there’s also a SkyDrive app on the platform for accessing media and other content when needed.
I have quite a few email addresses on all of the major email platforms – Yahoo Mail, Google Mail, Hotmail, Outlook – all of which I need access to on my phone.
The built-in Mail app on Windows Phone 8 works quite differently than its Android counterpart. Each email account gets a Live tile of its own on the Start screen so you don’t really need apps for each email platform. This is one feature I wish we had on Android.
Messaging – WhatsApp
Again, as a major messaging app I’m disappointed in having to say the WhatsApp app on the Windows Phone platform is far too buggy to be of much use. The app feels like an afterthought, only built to complete the “cross-platform” promise.
Android must have a dozen different browsers to choose from in its Play Store and I’m a huge fan of Chrome (both on Android and Windows PCs), but Windows Phone 8 users have no choice but to use Internet Explorer. It’s nowhere near as good as Chrome. Period.
Inclusive Minutes and Data usage Tracking
I need to keep track of how many minutes and data I use every month since I don’t have unlimited minutes or data with my current contract with Vodafone. I can’t do that on Windows Phone since Vodafone doesn’t have an app in the Windows Phone store. Also, to speak of further disparity between both platforms, Windows Phone 8 doesn’t have a inbuilt data usage tracking feature unlike Android.
To make matters worse not a single UK mobile carrier has an app on Windows Phone.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a Lloyds TSB app on Windows Phone 8. It’s a basic app just like on Android and does the job just fine so no complaints here.
Who doesn’t like a good bargain? I’m guilty of being an Amazon and eBay addict so having both these shopping apps on Windows Phone will help someone like me feed that ’habit ’ just fine. Sadly, however, there’s no GumTree app on the platform.
Maps, GPS and Journey Planners
As a non-driver the plethora of journey planning apps in the Android Play Store is a definite plus point for me personally. In contrast the few journey planner apps on the Windows Phone 8 platform appears to be lacking in features and usability compared to Android apps, including Nokia Transit.
I haven’t had the opportunity to use Here Drive much so can’t really comment on these as of yet.
To cut a long story short, my experiment with Windows Phone 8 helped me rediscover why I loved Android in the first place – the app ecosystem, open nature of the platform, flexibility and broad customization options. And yes, the lack of quality apps on the platform played a vital part in doing so too.