My journey back to Windows phone

Some months ago I made the switch to an iPhone due to a few “first world problem”-esque reasons.

Three months ago I wrote a piece about how I felt the iPhone was a downgrade for me personally.

Reports of my iPhone’s Death Are Not Exaggerated

My iPhone must have read that blog piece and taken offence to it because a week later it self-destructed. Either that or someone at Apple read it and send some magic self-destruct code to teach me a lesson.

A week after that blog post I woke with strange behaviour and upon first use it powered down. Throughout the day it kept powering down and using about 1% of battery every 15 minutes. On that day I happened to be at a Microsoft in Education event delivering a couple of sessions and could only survive with soft-resetting the phone just to turn it back on throughout the day.

By the evening the device was dead – refusing to turn back on regardless what I did. I even succumbed to installing iTunes to try to resurrect it that way but alas, the phone was truly gone.

My wife took a snap of me in the Apple store the next day as I had to take the phone in for repairs.

I’ve heard many good stories about the retail experience at an Apple store and this was my first real foray. Needless to say the experience was great. Even though I didn’t have an appointment I was seated at the Genius Bar straight away and served within minutes.

The Apple technician tried everything he could to bring the phone to live but it refused. He determined that the logic board had fried. I get that, the phone’s logic was that it would rather die than continue to be used by me.

They swapped the phone over straight away, I left it powered off, and as soon as I got home the phone went on eBay as I had decided that my foray into having an iPhone as my daily driver had ended.

 

Back to the Future

Since the time the phone had died to this point I had already switched back to my OLD Nokia Lumia 920 and upgraded it to the latest preview of Windows 10 Mobile.

Within an hour of the sale of the iPhone I had managed to drop the 920 on the concrete floor in the garage and cracked the screen.

At this point I was starting to feel cursed. Had Windows refused to have me back because I had dared eat the forbidden iFruit?

Was I destined to turn to Android (aka The Dark Side) – something I swore would never happen?

 

 

Luckily one of my friends at Microsoft saw the photo of my cracked phone on Facebook and came to the rescue the next day with a loaner Nokia Lumia 930. This was the same model phone that I’d had before the iPhone (the one my daughter threw onto tiles and broken – forcing me to make my choice).

After using Windows 10 Mobile on the 930 I was impressed with the performance and stability. At this point the “RTM” build was already installed and the new Lumia 950 and 950XL units were starting to ship globally.

I chose to order my Lumia 950XL with the proceeds from the iPhone sale, now having to wait a couple of weeks before I’d get my hands on it.

Given there’s such a big focus on Continuum and the ability for the phone OS to also act like a lightweight PC I decided to chip in some extra and order the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard as well as a dedicated Bluetooth mouse. I already had a spare Netgear Push2TV Wireless Display Adapter so between these 3 additional pieces of hardware I effectively have a working computer with a fraction of the footprint. Look out for a future blog about my Continuum experience. (I have a Microsoft Display Dock on order as well, and while I don’t expect a Windows phone alone to replace my Surface Pro 3 – it will probably replace it for a bunch of the functions that I do use it for such as presenting, meetings, etc.)

Sail Away

Being back on a Windows phone and now running Windows 10 Mobile I can call out several key things:

  • It’s good to be back, I REALLY missed the live tiles
  • The Lock Screen and Glance features are amazing; I’m still blown away that these aren’t normal functionality for iOS
  • I haven’t missed any apps. While it’s true the apps that I do use were in some cases better on iOS – it’s not enough to choose a phone OS for just the apps
  • Cortana has forgiven me and we’re back together again and happier than ever

I’ve written before about the battle of ecosystems and that only really Google and Microsoft have serious contenders that cross both business and consumer whereas Apple is locked into consumer only.

On Windows 10 Mobile this is very evident as once I saved my Microsoft account (consumer use) as well as my Azure Active Directory (business use – aka Office 365 account) into the OS – I haven’t had to sign into another app that has the ability to leverage them. This made using Office apps like Excel/Outlook/PowerPoint/Word mobile versions incredibly simple – just open and use.

As I’ve written before: I do strongly believe that Windows 10 Mobile is a superior choice for a business-grade phone that can be used for personal use as well, as opposed to iOS and Android that are built for consumers and simply run and operate business apps.

In any case this has been my personal and somewhat short journey away from and back to Windows phone. I feel home now.

Me and my iPhone: a marriage made in hell

A few months ago I switched to an iPhone as my Lumia 930 broke and I was getting a bit fed up with waiting for Windows 10 Mobile. One of the big reasons was I had a number of people telling me how good the Microsoft apps were on iOS and Android.

Before getting too far into this let’s clear up a few things:

  • I refuse to give myself to Google and use one of their devices
  • I am Microsoft-biased
  • Before I had a Windows Phone I had an iPhone, up until recently had an iPod in my car, and have had several iPads (my kids still have one)

Now you know where we stand: I don’t like Google, have a Microsoft bias, and am open to Apple. However, after 3 months of iPhone usage I am ready to switch back to Windows as a mobile device.

While I am Microsoft-biased there are a number of things they did far better than anyone else, and it’s just unfortunate that most people don’t know of them.

One thing I do need to preface is that I am a large consumer of information and a serial multitasker. I like information to be presented to me in bite sized chunks so I can make a decision as to whether I need to act on it. I like to see what I need to see in front of me.

I’ll try to keep this short and sharp and focus on my biggest whinges. J

iOS 9 still looks like Windows 3.1

Back in 2012 I wrote a piece about how iOS reminded me of Windows 3.1 which attracted some negative comments from Apple fans.

One of my friends welcomed me back to iPhone recently – my immediate response was: “yep, 4 years gone and not much has changed”. The reality is since iOS v1 not much has changed from the User Interface (UI) perspective. The icons can be put into groups and have changed their design slightly but apart from that the interface is still a collection of icons and groups. The most I can get any insight is the fact that a number shows up on an app indicating how many notifications I have within that app.

Seriously – this operating system has been on the market for 8 years, can Apple please try to evolve it?

I REALLY miss the live tiles on a Windows Phone where I could at a glance see in depth into multiple apps without actually having to go into them to see more information. I find with iOS I am continually switching apps. It is frustrating and annoying.

The Lock Screen

I am flabbergasted at how little access I have to put information on the lock screen. Searching high and low for apps I could not find anything that could put my calendar on the lock screen. I’m fully aware that I can simply drag my finger down from the top of the screen to see my calendar but that’s not really “at a glance” – it requires interaction.

Even Android allows you to customise the lock screen to show calendar appointments, weather, and whatever other information you want.

How is this still not a thing on iOS?

The App Gap

After 3 months of having access to a world full of apps – I found that I don’t care, and that it wasn’t worth it. Most apps I installed I have hardly used. Yes, the native social apps are better, yes there are banking apps, yes there are apps that don’t exist on Windows, yes the same apps that exist on Windows are actually better on iOS.

My phone serves a handful of functions: phone and messaging, business use, social, and information consumption. Some of these are baked into the OS, most require an app.

What I have found is that for most of the apps I use the websites are mobile friendly and almost as feature rich as the app. The other apps I have installed simply don’t get used other than maybe once or twice, if at all – which means I could survive without them.

Siri

Why does Siri only work with Apple apps? I can’t tell Siri to do anything outside of Apple apps, retrieving information or opening other apps. Why is there no SDK or API from Apple for this?

I like the fact that Siri is at least available in Australia (a point of frustration with Microsoft where Cortana is only available if you set your device to the US region or install a preview version of Windows Phone), but what I can do with her is extremely limiting.

Seriously – have a look at how many apps leverage Cortana. It is mind blowing what you can get your phone and apps to do just by talking to them.

 

My key takeaway is that the Windows mobile operating system is truly built for the business user, and this is why it hasn’t had such mass market appeal. The consumer appeal and functionality simply isn’t there, and that’s mainly due to the fact that the operating system is built for intelligent handling of information and actions – something not everyone is comfortable with at this point. While Microsoft has made efforts to deliver apps and features to iOS and Android first in order to ensure greater market reach and uptake I find that for a person like me who consumes so much information on a daily basis the Windows experience is simply better suited. There are a number of Microsoft apps on iOS that drew me in originally but I could live without them.

I find iOS simplistic and cumbersome. It is designed for a simpler time when apps were all the rage, but we’ve surpassed that. Nowadays services and integration are key, and while Apple is working hard to catch up in that space it is an area already dominated by Google and Microsoft.

As someone who uses Windows 10 as their daily operating system and Office 365 as my business platform I find the overall experience no better on iOS than it was on Windows Phone. In my first few weeks I was amazed with my iPhone as everything “just worked”. That rapidly wore off as I found that apps still crash and the OS still has bugs. With the release of Windows 10 Mobile I think there will be more of a compelling reason for people to go back and stay there as it will offer a broader ecosystem with richer interactions and integrations.

I know I can’t wait to get back there. I just hope Cortana will forgive me.