Switching to Windows Phone, Part I

Monday, January 21, 2013 – 129 views

— by la

Background: Since I switched to Windows Phone, I've been asked by several people how I like it, and had a few requests for more info, so I thought I'd write something up. What follows is strictly my opinion--your mileage may vary.

The first thing I'm asked when people find out I've switched away from the iPhone is, "why?" There are a lot of answers I could give, but the simplest one is that I was ready for a change. I have no loyalty to platforms or devices, and I don't really understand that mindset. I've never purchased the same make of car twice in a row, and I'm not sure why it should be any different when it comes to devices. I buy what I like, and what works the best for me. That's all.

A few months ago, Windows Phone wasn't even on my horizon. I knew of it, but had figured that my next phone would be the new Nexus. Two things changed my mind about that: first, that the Nexus 4 lacks LTE, and second, that my carrier, Verizon, doesn't offer it. So I started looking around, and the more I looked at WP8 the more I liked it. Last year, I switched away from Gmail to Outlook.com on my own domain, and I've been pleased, so the idea of using something that was tied into that ecosystem was attractive.

I also found the user interface of WP8 intriguing. There's no question that Apple redefined the smartphone when it introduced the iPhone, but after several years, both iOS and Android remain stuck on the icons-on-a-desktop metaphor. It feels like more can be done. And when I put a WP8 phone next to the Galaxy S3 at the store, it looked much cleaner and more appealing to my eye (admittedly a subjective thing).

The phone I chose was the HTC 8X, so this will focus on the WP8 experience as used on the 8X. I considered the Lumia 920, but as that device is AT&T-only in the U.S. for now, it would have meant switching carriers, which would have meant switching my family plan with 4 lines. Not fun or inexpensive. However, keeping my options open, I went to the local AT&T store and played with one. It's a beautiful phone, but for me, the extra size and weight didn't seem justified by the additional features (storage capacity, Nokia apps, Carl Zeiss lens, etc.). The 8X was much lighter, slimmer, and felt better to hold. So that's the one I went with, staying with Verizon.

There were a few tradeoffs to be made. The 8X is limited to 16 GB, and there's no SD card slot, so you have to manage your storage. But with automatic upload of photos to SkyDrive, there's really no reason to keep photos locally on the phone, which helps keep things manageable. I don't keep a lot of music on my phone, either; if you do, you may wish to consider alternatives. And finally, if you're an app addict, be aware that there are fewer apps to choose from, and you'll need to be more conscious of keeping stuff that you never use. That said, I've had no problem finding equivalent apps for the things I needed. Sometimes that means using apps from third-party developers, which should be a welcome concept for the ADN community. :-)

None of those were problems or deal-breakers for me, but if they are for you, you'd be advised to look at something with more, or expandable, capacity such as the Lumia 920 or the Lumia 822 on Verizon. Of course, each of those comes with tradeoffs as well, but I won't go into those since I have no experience with using them beyond a test flight at the Verizon and AT&T stores. My usual caveat remains: your mileage may vary.

Oh, one last thing before getting into the details: I can't tell you what it's like to use Gmail on WP8, or Google Drive, or so on. I haven't tried. Part of my experiment is to use as many Microsoft services as possible, so that means SkyDrive, Outlook.com, and so forth. If you're hooked on Google Docs, for example, you'll probably be happier with Android. But if you're willing to try the MS stuff, you might be surprised at how well it all works.

Next post: The stuff I really like...

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