Windows Phone 8 From an Android Fan’s Perspective: Part 3

Ladies and gentlement, am back with the final post of my three-part series. In case you missed the previous ones, here are the links, go have a look:

  • Part 1 – My thoughts on WIndows 8 Phones, the performance and stability of the operating system and the the current state of apps.
  • Part 2 – Windows Phone 8 features that I really love and what sets it apart from the competition

In this last instalment, I’ll talk about some of the features on Android that I wish Windows Phone 8 had and what I think can be done to make to make Windows Phone 8 even better.

1) A Notification Center

Don’t get me wrong, I like the whole idea of live tiles and how they work, but there is just a small problem. On Windows Phone 8, you can get app notifications through a pinned Live Tile or a Toast – a notification that appears at the top of your screen then disappears after a short while. The problem here is that if you haven’t pinned an app as a Live Tile and you miss the Toast, the notification is gone.

A nice way to fix this would be to have an elegant, easy-to-access unified notification centre e.g. Swiping to the left edge of your screen could let you access notifications and quick settings or something of the sort. A blinking LED to let you know of that call you missed or that email or text message you received while you were away would also come in handy.

2) Apps

Sideloading Apps
Sideloading is the process of downloading an app on your PC, copying it to your phone and then installing it. This has been enabled…but only for phones with an SD Card. This means that people with a Nokia Lumia 920 like myself, or a HTC 8X miss out on this feature. Downloading large apps or games on the phone can sometimes take quite a long time e.g. it recently took me about 3 hours to download 878MBs of Asphalt 7 Heat.

Automatic Updates
When there in an update for an app you have installed, this notification is displayed in the Store, or as a counter on the Store Live Tile. You then have to manually choose to update it. I would like to have an option to let the apps automatically update themselves.

Closing Apps
I have no problem with the way Windows Phone 8 handles multitasking. You hold the back button and there you get a screen with a horizontal slider showing the apps you have running. I wish I could close apps am done with straight from this screen, say with a small close button on each app.

3) The Phone App

As it is, if you want to make a call, you either dial in the entire phone number, go to the People app and search for a contact or if it’s someone you’ve called recently, you can search the call log.

What would be even faster and easier is smart dialling. You just start typing in the phone number or contact name you want to call and get a filtered list of contacts that match your criteria.

4) Ringtones, Volume and Profiles

Sound Profiles
For starters, a way to manage sound profiles would be nice. This is a feature that was available in feature phones years back. You create a few sound profiles, say “Silent”, “Home”, “Work”, “Meeting” then by simply pressing a button or a Live Tile, you san switch from one profile to another. For now, the only thing  you can do is manually reduce the volume on your phone before dashing into a meeting.

Volume Controls
It would also be nice to have more control over volume. More often than not, I have to increase the volume when playing a game, and then I forget to turn it back down when am done…thereby irritating everyone in the office when I get a call or text notification. I’d like to have independent volume controls for the system, ringtone, notifications etc.

Ringtones
Another nice-to-have would be the ability to assign custom ringtones to certain contacts so you could easily tell who is calling you.

5) Universal Device Search

Windows 8 Phones have a dedicated search key which simply opens Bing Search and allows you to quickly search the web. There is however no way to search accross data from all your apps. This feature is already available in Windows 8, and it’s executed very well too.

Here’s an idea, the search key functionality could be extended to search through various apps and data e.g. music, documents, emails, text messages, contacts etc and present the results in a user-friendly well-categorized list.

6) Other Minor Gripes

Screen Orientation & Auto Rotate

Switching screen orientation across Windows Phone 8 is not consistent. Say am watching a video on landscape, I have to switch to portrait to use the home screen, then open say my web browser which I switch to landscape to read an article. I would prefer it if I could do everything in landscape.

The other thing is orientation lock. Everyone has experienced that moment when you’re in bed sleeping sideways and you want to read something on your phone and it switches to landscape. An option to lock the orientation would really come in handy in such a case.

Greater Color Choice
Windows Phone 8 allows you to customize the color of your live tiles with an option of 21 colors to choose from. You can also set your phone’s background to either light or dark. While we are at it, we might as well have a color picker so that you could choose whichever color for your background and accent color.

It’s a wrap…

This brings us to the end of the series. To sum it all up, Windows 8 Phones are well-made high quality devices and there is now one out there to fit anyone’s needs and budget. As for the operating system, it’s one of the most stable ones around and performs really well. When it comes to apps, the total number is not as much as the other app stores but the selection is enough even for dedicated smart phone users.

When it comes to how Windows Phone 8 stacks up against the competition, it has quite a number of unique features that set it apart and it can go head to head with the rest. There are a few missing features and a couple of things that need fixing. If you ask me though, the things Microsoft has done right outweigh the minor flaws by far.

If you’re in the market for a phone, pickup a Windows 8 phone and give it a try, you just might like it. I’d like to hear from you in the comments section. If you’ve used Windows Phone 8, what feature do you think would make it better?


  • Joel Brache

    You can assign custom ringtones to contacts by opening the contact in the people hub, select the edit button (pencil in circle), then select + Ringtone.

    • http://bwangila.com Brian Wangila

      Aaah, I didn’t know that Joel. I’ll update the post. Thanks

      • rich

        Thanks for the tip as well. I did not know that either

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  • Adam

    It’s not perfect but Launcher8 for android gives the look and feel of windows 8 to an andriod device.

  • Abhijeet Mishra

    Buying a Windows Phone today (Lumia 520) to try out WP8. I’m an Android fan and user since 2010, have a Galaxy Nexus now (which I love), but thought of giving WP8 a try. I had a WP7.5 phone (Omnia W), but I sold it in one month and went back to Android as it was quite a limiting experience. So this time I bought one as a secondary device, haha. Let’s see how long I hold on to this time, probably longer since my Galaxy Nexus is still with me, so I can always look to that when WP8 lets me down.

    Nice to read your opinion though! Gonna be writing one of my own after a month of using the Lumia 520.

    • http://bwangila.com Brian Wangila

      Funny, I went through the same process. I had an Omnia…sold it so fast and went back to Android…then decided to get a WP8 Phone. Got a Lumia!
      Hope you enjoy the experience :-)

  • badri

    windows phone lap top to music file how to send

  • rich

    I enjoyed your series. Well balanced and not the usual blind fanboy type review that are found. You really did use it and reviewed it from experience.

    I went from Iphone to WP8 and like it a lot better. It integrates very well with my office and as my personal phone. My wife bought a GS3 and returned it 4 days later for a Nokia WP8 because of what she liked better about my phone.

    Like you wrote, the advantages outweighed the short comings for me. All the complaints you mentioned are exactly the same I found as well. None a deal breaker for me but all something that would enhance the user experience.

    @Brian Wangila. Thanks for that tip as well, I did not know that you change the ring tone for the contacts.

    Again, nice review.

    • http://bwangila.com Brian Wangila

      Thank you for the very kind words Rich. I too like how WP8 pulls all the stops both when you want to use it as an office phone or a personal phone.

      Am glad we are in agreement when it comes to the advantages and shortcomings. Enjoy the experience

  • Dan

    Good review and series. Not the usual biased stuff, and it includes some very useful information and reasonable gripes. I truly hope MS is looking, and by the way, need to get some evangelists out there promoting their phone with actual buyers.

    I have a Lumia 920 which I love. The issues, and there are some as this series of articles indicates, are head-scratchers, not game-changers. They are irritating, for sure, but the quickness, look, and logic of the interface makes for an overall very satisfying user experience.

    I hope WP8 makes some user inroads, because it deserves to. I compare it to my girlfriend’s iPhone 4, which is itself very nice, and it stacks up exceedingly well. Despite its imperfections, it’s loaded with cool features and overall is a beautiful device.

    • http://bwangila.com Brian Wangila

      Much appreciated Dan. MS just needs to solve this very minor gripes and WP8 will be one of the smoothest mobile OSs ever.

      Also, I hope they gain traction in the market. There are really well-made devices running a solid OS…that’s why I was trying my best to show people that they should not just dismiss WP8, it’s a great experience. Thanks Dan

  • Vasco PM

    Great review but you forgot to mention one of the biggest trade-offs by moving to WP. Navigation.. How is it working for you? thanks!

    • http://bwangila.com Brian Wangila

      Hey Vasco, thanks. HERE maps has very good 2D and 3D navigation. Am in Kenya and it gets all my turn-by-turns right, with even Swahili as an optional language for voice navigation

  • ACPhillips

    I’ve just gone to a Nokia 822 Win8 phone after my BB died. I love the interface and the way it’s designed in most cases…BUT… there are some really BAD oversights that drive me nuts, as a more business-oriented user. 1st: Syncing – There is no phone-PC hardwire or even local WIFI sync available, direct from MSFT, for Outlook, their core contacts/calendar/tasks program. Eh??? Their default sync is cloud-based through Hotmail/Live.com. To get the kind of secure sync that many became accustomed to, you have to go to a third party app like Akruto Sync (www.akruto.com) which works GREAT btw.

    2: There’s no good old File Explorer (or any equivalent). You can’t search and find any files on your Win8 phone, unless they come in from the cloud or you save an attached file to your phone memory (NOT your SD card)

    3: You can’t access or work with Word/Excel/PPT files on your SD card..only images and music. You can’t even SAVE attachments in emails to your SD card.

    It’s really hard to see why they left so many big, honking holes it what is a really dead-simple solution. People who want to really “use” their phones can’t do it win Win8.

    • http://bwangila.com Brian Wangila

      I agree with most of the things you mentioned. Syncing over the cloud works for me and I believe for many other normal users.
      All in all, MS have started getting it right as of WP8, and I believe it can only get better with the next iterations

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  • Tushar

    1. It’s all well and good to have automatic updates, but this would only be feasible if MS included an option to update automatically only when on Wi-Fi. Similarly, automatic uploading of photos to Skydrive should have a Wi-Fi only option.

    People could be in for a shock with their data bills if apps/cloud uploads happen over 3G.

    2. I wish MS would include smart dialling on WP (and Google on their Nexus phones). It would make calling so much easier. I can use a third-party app on the Nexus, but there’s no such option on WP (well, none that can access your call log at any rate). Or at least let manufacturers enable this themselves like they do on Android

    • http://bwangila.com Brian Wangila

      I agree with you Tushar, automatically update or upload only when on WiFi, I like Android’s implementation of this. Though, for apps greater than 10MB I think, WP8 encourages you to use WiFi…you get a “waiting for WiFi” message.

      I can not wait to have smart dialling enabled!

  • Sean

    You can quickly turn the phone to vibrate by pressing the up/down volume once then tapping on the “bell logo” straight to vibrate from the preset volume.

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  • Dave Smith

    Excellent & well balanced article. Coming from an iphone4 (which lasted just beyond its 2 yr warranty before the hardware failed) to a Lumia620 this week, very similar views from an iOS perspective. Exactly the same things advantageous/missing with one noticable exception – the ability to group apps in folders. With my WP8, there are already too many apps on the app list making it difficult and cumbersome to find them again – on the iOS the use of customisable folders made the “desktop” easy to manage. Also the ability to change an SMS ringtone would be nice!!

    One question – on your screen grab of live tiles, you manage to put the tiles in groups of sub- headings – how on earth did you do this ?

    cheers

    Dave

  • Tetsujin

    wonderful review Brian! I laud you for this article! and this is coming from an Android user. Your article has made me totally decide to ditch my Android phone for a Windows Phone 8 mobile phone. Honestly, the apps in the Play Store are not really that interesting to me, so I don’t maximize Android. Just a few necessary apps for call and message blocking, Evernote, a few games, both basic & HD, (which easily wear out their welcome), and religious apps for my spiritual welfare, dictionary + thesaurus, nothing much will be missed. plus the fact that Android is a very resource hungry mobile OS, and with glitches too (i have Jellybean on my Alcatel M’Pop) and I really am inclined to switch to WP8. your perspectives have pushed me over the hump. thank you very much!

    just wondering how long does a WP8 mobile phone battery last before it gets drained, based on all types of usage (moderate, heavy, and abusive usage)? and do you really need to be connected to 3G just to update apps? and does that include updating the OS itself?

    btw planning to get either a Nokia Lumia 520 or Nokia Lumia 720 next month. that’s what my budget affords me. besides, i do the heavy gaming, browsing, and all other stuff on my PC. (^_^)

    thanks in advance!

  • rje

    It needs a notification led for email, text and voicemail. Without that it’s a less than desirable product. I like it but I really have to have those notifications.