A user experience of switching from iPhone to Windows Phone 7

Being an iPhone customer since 2008 with the 3G version, I switched to the new Microsoft Windows Phone 7 (WP7) last year.

Here are a few comparison points to make up your mind if you want to switch.

With the new Windows Phone update due anytime now, the shortcomings of the WP7 may be solved soon, or at least we hope.

Overall WP7 is a great product but still behind the competition, and we hope that MSFT, by throwing its whole weight in the battle, will bridge the gap soon.

Features like copy paste are supposed to be introduced in this latest update.
Although not a killer feature (I must have used it only a couple of times within a year on the iPhone), it’s a powerful marketing weapon Apple bigots will throw at any platform that doesn’t support it (“what? your phone doesn’t even have copy-paste? you’re so lame”).
It’s not something you really need, but it’s something that will make your phone retarded if you don’t have it.

The iPhone is still a superior product, but Apple itself made me switch as soon as I upgraded the poor 3G to iOS 4.0.
The whole thing was unusable.
The 3G was already not a speed daemon, but after the upgrade it was slow as hell (pun intended).
I literally had to wait 20 to 30 seconds for the settings page to show.
An eternity in the computer-science-user-patience scale.

How could a big manufacturer like Apple release an update that:
1/ made all the old devices so slow they were rendered unusable?
2/ does not warn the customers beforehand it will render older hardware slow?
3/ prevents you from downgrading to revert to a usable device?

(I guess we all know the answer: the goal was to sell newer versions of the device.)

Anyway, here are the pros and cons of Windows Phone.

1/ WP7: The Good

  • Boots fast: nothing compared to sluggish iPhone 3G
  • Syncs fast: synchronization is faster than the iPhone on iTunes to the point I always wonder if the sync did really happen
  • the screen is bigger (4 inches on the Samsung Focus vs 3.5 inches) than an iPhone 3G or even an iPhone 4
  • Lighter: the difference is very noticeable when both held in hands with the iPhone 4 much heavier (4.8oz) feeling like a brick while the Samsung Focus is only 4oz.
  • You can take picture with the phone locked
    No need to enter your password, press the picture button and you can take a picture. No need to waste time entering your password and missing the picture you wanted to take.
    Although for this feature to be totally useful it should be consistent and popup the camera all the time.
    There’s a bug where sometimes you can keep your finger pressed on the camera button for minutes and the camera doesn’t show up…

  • Applications can offer a trial mode, so you can test an app before buying it.
    This would be great if you could actually update the Trial apps! (see “The Bad” below)

  • Integration of all your contacts pulled from your different email addresses (gmail, yahoo, hotmail) and facebook and in one single address book. This is very powerful.
  • You can hear people on the other end of the line! Pretty amazing for a telephone no?
    But the iPhone speakers are so low you cannot have a normal conversation in a place a little noisy like on the street, in a restaurant,…
    I always wonder how construction workers can have an iPhone as you can’t hear anything.

  • Black is black.
    The black parts of the screen are actually real black and not backlit grey.
    The iPhone 4 is probably much better than the 3G in this area and more comparable to the WP7.

    1/ WP7: The Bad

    1.1 Major features missing

  • NO visual voicemail!
    On the iPhone your voicemails are downloaded and you can see them visually like email.
    At one glance you can tell how many messages you have, which ones you haven’t listened to, who left them, and you can replay a particular one easily without having to go sequentially through all of them.
    With WP7 your back to the old ages: you only know you have a voicemail waiting. You still need to dial a number that will walk you sequentially through all the voicemail and type the appropriate key to skip/delete/archive,…
    Worse: when buying the WP7, the AT&T representative didn’t warn us of that, so they even forgot to switch their backend from visual voicemail to regular voicemail, resulting in a voicemail outage I wasn’t aware of for several days.

  • Copy Paste
    To MSFT’s defence the upcoming update will come with copy pasting.

  • No support for reading MPEG videos
    Trying to read a simple MPEG video in Internet Explorer yields this error message:
    “Can’t download file! Windows Phone doesn’t support .MPG files.”

  • No support for Adobe Flash
    So it’s a draw with the iPhone4

  • No support for reading Silverlight
    This is much more amazing: Silverlight is Microsoft’s equivalent of Adobe Flash.
    Yet they don’t support it on their own phone so you can’t browse a website written in Silverlight. Go figure.

    1.2 Major bugs, Microsoft style

  • the Marketplace (the Microsoft equivalent of the App Store) is awfully unstable, to the point that it crashes, and it crashes big time.
    Meaning once it has crashed, you cannot bring it back up again anymore: your only option is to reboot the phone!

  • the Trial applications cannot be updated!
    There is a major bug on the platform where people who bought a Trial application cannot update it (cf this forum thread).
    Worse: if the user tries to uninstall the current version he has in the hope of getting the latest one, the update will not get downloaded so the user is left with nothing, not even the old version of the app!

  • the Ads crash the applications: provided by Microsoft themselves with PubCenter you would expect something stable, yet there’s a serious bug that crashes your app when the ads are automatically rotating.

    Here is a stack trace of the “Element is already the child of another element.” crash caused by the ads:

    System.InvalidOperationException was unhandled
      Message=Element is already the child of another element.
      StackTrace:
           at MS.Internal.XcpImports.CheckHResult(UInt32 hr)
           at MS.Internal.XcpImports.Collection_AddValue[T](PresentationFrameworkCollection`1 collection, CValue value)
           at MS.Internal.XcpImports.Collection_AddDependencyObject[T](PresentationFrameworkCollection`1 collection, DependencyObject value)
           at System.Windows.PresentationFrameworkCollection`1.AddDependencyObject(DependencyObject value)
           at System.Windows.Controls.UIElementCollection.AddInternal(UIElement value)
           at System.Windows.PresentationFrameworkCollection`1.Add(UIElement value)
           at Microsoft.Advertising.Mobile.UI.AdFrameManager.CreateNewFrame(FrameworkElement[] controls)
           at Microsoft.Advertising.Mobile.UI.AdFrameManager.DisplayNextFrame(Boolean newAd)
           at Microsoft.Advertising.Mobile.UI.AdFrameManager.ResumeFrameRotation()
           at Microsoft.Advertising.Mobile.UI.AdControl.ActivateAdControl()
           at Microsoft.Advertising.Mobile.UI.AdControl.OnParentSelectionChanged(Object sender, SelectionChangedEventArgs e)
    
  • The Internet Explorer Browser is a joke.

    First, it can’t handle big files (big being only 130k). When browsing a simple html text file, some parts will be completely missing and not rendered!
    Tilting the phone from Portrait to Landscape will make the missing text appear.
    What an annoying bug when reading news and long text article or eBooks.

    Second, you cannot go back if you get out of IE. The history is not persistent so you can lose it easily.
    For instance you’re checking out where you will be dining tonight from a site that points to different places.
    You select one, get out of IE to check your Google Bing map, go back to IE and bam! you cannot go back to the original list of restaurants (so you better like your first pick)

    1.3 Annoying things

  • the Marketplace is slow (the caching mechanism seems inexistent or inefficient)
    That’s a serious problem that MSFT discarded as marginal when I contacted them. Probably by now they realized how widespread it is and the upcoming release will fix it?

  • the phone call list in one giant list with outgoing, incoming and missed calls.
    You cannot easily filter to show only the missed calls or outgoing calls for instance.

  • the camera does not remember your settings.
    Set your settings the way you want on the camera:
    - AF mode (Normal, Macro)
    - White balance (Automatic, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Daylight, Cloudy)
    - Image effect (Negative, Sepia, Antique, Green, Blue)
    - Contrast (Minimum, Low, Medium, High, Maximum)
    - Saturation (Minimum, Low, Medium, High, Maximum)
    - Sharpness (Minimum, Low, Medium, High, Maximum)
    - EV (-2, -1, 0, +1, +2)
    - ISO (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800)
    - Metering (Matrix, Center Weighted, Spot)
    - Photo Quality (Low, Medium, High)
    - Wide Dynamic Range (Off, On)
    - Photo Resolution (VGA 640×480, 2M 1600×1200, 3M 2048×1536, 5M 2560×1920)
    - Anti-Shaking (Off, On)
    That’s a lot of settings right?
    Well, you will lose those settings if you close the camera application. Ouch!
    I wonder why they even bothered adding a “Restore to default” button at the bottom then.
    The Windows Phone camera doesn’t remember your settings, plain awful.

  • the keypad is mute, not making any noise when dialing the numbers. It feels weird when you’re not used to the sound feedback and there’s no option to turn it on.
  • same for the headsets: they are not ringing for incoming calls, so you can easily miss calls if you’re driving.
  • the alarm cannot be stopped easily if you don’t catch it right away before the screen blanks again within 10 seconds.
    If you miss this spot (probably frequent when waking up in the morning), you’re punished by having to first hit the power button to get out of screen saving mode then find the “dismiss” button (by that time you really need to have your eyes open and able to focus).
    Why not being able to stop the alarm by pressing any button like on the iPhone? That’s enough of a proof you’re awake.
    The alarm also doesn’t vibrate when in vibrate mode, strange.

    1.4 Device specific problems: the Samsung Focus SGH-i917

  • Opposed physical buttons:
    The power button and the volume button are on opposite sides of the phone, at the exact same place.
    This means when you press the power button, you most likely change the volume at the same time
    And worse, the opposite: changing the volume might well lock your phone (or reboot it it you click too long!)
    Looking at other phone designs I don’t see many putting button opposite of each other like this.
    This is not Samsung’s first phone, what were they thinking?

  • The touch screen doesn’t work when the phone is on a table.
    Put your Samsung on the table and just use your finger to play with the touch screen. Sometimes it will work, but most of the time it doesn’t.
    Could that be a hand detection feature that forces you to hold the phone? Or maybe the phone thinks you’re holding it at the ear.
    Either way, that’s a very bad user experience.
    The proof it’s a bug? Leave the phone as it is, just reboot it, and the touch screen will work fine… for a few minutes until the bug appears again.

  • The 3 soft buttons at the bottom of the screen (Back, Home and Search) are too sensitive. You can easily activate them with a normal phone grip.
    If the fatty/muscular part of your hand between the thumb and the palm is too big, you’re in trouble. Luckily I have thin hands, but the problem annoys me already!

  • The keyboard is not as precise as the iPhone. Apple still has superior finger detection and is more precise when typing.

    3/ The Ugly

    Switching from a 2-year old iPhone 3G to a brand new Samsung 3G phone, I expected the signal quality to be better, hoping the advance in technology would make the 3G chipsets better.

    It turns out there was absolutely no improvement.

    Wherever I had bad signals and calls dropping with the iPhone were exactly at the same places as with the new WP7.

    Conclusion: it’s definitely not the device, it’s the network. Hear that AT&T?

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