I’ve kept using Windows Phone 8 review unit since my initial impressions. The experience has proved interesting, especially considering the OS lies well outside my comfort zone. I’m used to tinkering with everything. If you haven’t dug into the system files at least once, what’s the point of owning something?
Windows Phone 8 doesn’t do that. In fact, it does a lot of things differently than on Android. Serious Android fans considering a move to Microsoft’s platform should keep a few things in mind before making the jump.
Smoother than Android Ever Was
This was the biggest difference to me, moving from Android. Windows Phone 8 feels smoother and more responsive than Android.
Project Butter and the last few versions of Jelly Bean have done wonders for Android’s interface, but it still has rough edges. It lacks that natural, totally-in-control feel you get from iOS and Windows Phone.
Part of this is likely due to a placebo. WP8 uses lots of flipping and sliding animations to disguise loading times. It’s the same thing Apple does with iOS and OS X.
Placebo or not, it does make a difference. A Lumia 925 feels faster than my Galaxy S4 despite its lesser internals. Android could use something like this.
Android has Windows Phone totally beat on one thing, though- customization.
No Modifications Allowed
This is the biggest difference between Windows Phone and Android (and even iOS). WP8 doesn’t do rooting, jailbreaking, or anything.
Microsoft doesn’t open-source its code like Google does with Android. Apple doesn’t either, but developers still find ways to jailbreak each release.
Chalk it up to better security, less scrutiny, or whatever, but Microsoft’s mobile OS has remained uncracked. You can always get some extra functionality out of Samsung Windows Phones, but that won’t work on a Lumia.
In addition, WP8 takes the iOS approach to customization- there is none. No ROMs. No swapping default apps. No digging into the file system.
Being forced to color within the lines this way felt weird. You have to use the phone as it’s given to you, with no potential of changing things. In one sense, it removes the constant itch to keep looking for more ways to squeeze out that little bit of performance.
I found it annoying. Does something about the OS annoy you? Too bad. Microsoft says this is the way it should be.
To their credit, the community at XDA works on bringing custom ROMs and third-party bootloaders to the OS. However, it’s not ready yet.
If you buy a Windows Phone, you are buying into a closed platform controlled by Microsoft. There is no freedom, no flexibility, and no choice.
The Trade-Off Test
The limited options annoyed me because they fail to pass the trade-off test. Consider this: Why do people use iPhones? They feature a fraction of Android’s capabilities, push you into Apple’s ecosystem, and offer almost zero customization.
The answer’s easy. Using an iPhone means giving up the extra features for smooth performance, stability, a rich app library, integration with iTunes and the warm-and-fuzzy knowledge that it will “just work.”
Like iOS, Windows Phone 8 excludes customization and features. Unlike iOS, Windows Phone 8 lacks iTunes integration and a rich app library.
Using WP8 feels like getting all the drawbacks of iOS without all the benefits. And, of course, you get none of the benefits of Android. Seriously, none. Just look at how poorly Google fares on the platform.
No Google Allowed
This part is awkward for somebody like me who’s invested a lot in the Mountain View’s ecosystem.
Google hates Windows Phone.
Sure, you can get by. Google contacts will sync. The WP8 App Store has plenty of third-party clients for Mountain View services like Maps and Calendar. For everything else, there are always web apps.
But that’s it. Google offers no official WP8 apps. Its help page instead directs users to its web apps… which it tried to block from Windows Phone users. Right.
The biggest problem with using Google products on Windows Phone is that you’re not enjoying them on Android. The Google experience on Mountain View’s own OS performs a thousand times better than it does on WP8.
Look at all the stuff you can do that’s not on Windows Phone 8. You can leave notes for yourself in Keep with Google Now. You can buy and consume Play Store content straight from your device. You can use a real Hangouts app.
Using Google services on Windows Phone feels like trying to stay friends with a recently divorced couple. They might say they’re fine to hang out, but you know the resentment is simmering just beneath the surface, and things boil over when someone refuses to pay their part of the bill, and this wouldn’t happen if you were more responsible, Bill.
Windows Phone 8 is cool. The unique interface and excellent performance are worth trying.
However, I can’t recommend this OS to anybody in good faith. There’s just nothing here that Android and iOS don’t already do better. Windows Phone 8 is a dud.
To any Android fans thinking of making the jump: don’t bother.