The, not even close to eternal question, “A Microsoft Phone, Better than Android?”
While waiting for parts to repair my LG G2 I was using a Microsoft Lumia 550, I’ve started and stopped this article so many times, I hope I’ve managed to keep it from being nonsensical. But that’s what happens when you use a Microsoft phone for too long, you reality gets distorted.
When I started this adventure I was quite optimistic…
After using the phone for the better part of 2 weeks, its been an interesting experience. I can’t definitively say that I like it more than Android. As much as though? Perhaps. Microsoft has done some interesting things in their smartphone OS, their biggest hurdle now though, is exposure and use.
I am now back on my LG G2 running Android and after using the phone for the better part of 2 months, I haven’t even turned the Microsoft phone on to clear the data. Its has still been an interesting experience, but one that I won’t be running to get back anytime soon. That 2 week guy, haha, so naive.
So what did Microsoft get right?
Well, for one, the “night mode” silencer is really easy to use and built in to the OS. So no added apps required. The bonus of it being part of the OS is that you can add specific people from your contacts list to a “push through” list. Anyone on this list will ignore any previous silenced modes and your phone will ring as normal when they call or text. Its a nice little add on feature that I wanted to mention, because I was really surprised it was there in the first place, and then to have the add on of the push through list was really a cherry on the top of this feature’s cake.
On top of this nice night mode jazz, another thing I really liked on this phone is how folders are handled on the home screen. Instead of opening another box on top of everything, it slides down, making space by pushing any other content out of the way and making a whole new line (or multiple lines if you have a lot in there) that can then be edited even further by letting you place where each icon goes and exactly where its placed. This freedom even includes making non-linear work spaces. Its all done really well and I like it better than how folders are handled in any Android front end loader.
One thing that can be said for this Lumia 550 though is that it has a hell of a battery life. I could go over a day on mostly idle or light use and have no problems. Forget about that on my old LG G2, which has a new battery, but still gets bent over the coals by constantly running background apps and games designed to run on Alienware, or so it would seem. Its the part I miss the most, not worrying about battery level, and it was handled excellently. A large part of that is due to the hardware, but this Microsoft OS knows what its doing to save precious battery life and it had to be noted.
But what did Microsoft get wrong?
Unfortunately most of what doesn’t work for Windows phones is based on the fact that not a lot of people are using Windows phones. As a result, app support is lacking. Not in support for the apps that already exist, but because of the infinite amount of great apps that can’t be found in the Microsoft Store because the developers just never bothered to port their already existing apps. Can you blame them? Well, not really. Let’s look at the numbers.
You see that grey line that’s battling for the bottom 3% market share? The one that’s hard to see because its buried by other tiny brands.. that’s Microsoft! And that’s a problem, even if you’re intended use of the phone is business. Who’s making the apps for that niche market? And that’s what it is, a tiny niche market. Its so odd, and disheartening to go to a Microsoft app and see that it has 5 comments and 8 reviews. What? Or find that 2 people have found a Microsoft support article helpful and it has zero comments. Its an odd feeling, and although examples escape me, they exist and for apps that should have more use and user interaction.
Popular apps exist and have much higher reviews and interaction, but its like the Microsoft share of the mobile market, its a niche market. Start kicking the tires on what the Microsoft app store has to offer and it feels like you busted a fake wall on a movie set. Searches come back with 3-5 apps, or 1 or 2… or somehow even none!
Its like being the only person in an airport. Its open, and functioning, with limited staff, but you can’t help but feel that something big is off. Its a deterrent from wanting to use the phone more, because if problems arise (and when do they not?) then you’re pretty much on your own. You can shout, but you’re likely to only hear your echo. And that’s a good comparison, because ultimately you feel a little hallow when using the Microsoft phone, just dreaming of the things you know you could do, but can’t because they are not supported.
Answering a call on this phone was a macabre dance of illusion that would stun a magician. Okay, so in reality, I had to swipe up, to reveal the pickup button, then tap that button. Now, I also had a lock screen, which any business savvy person would use, and that’s their main market. However, it can take up to 3 rings to get to talking to the other person on the other line.
On an Android phone, it rings, you push pickup, and you’re done. Like, you know, a phone! It was a real pain, and not just for me. I got the phone from a family friend who got it to upgrade from a “candy bar” style phone. He hated it. He would end up missing calls just trying to answer the damn phone. Who designed the UI?
The phone was also clunky in operating usage. That is, there would be lags and hangs at certain times and you’d just get used to it, even expect it before it would happen. You grin and bare it, but it really shouldn’t be the way, in 2017.
Any other issues I have feel like they’re more targeted at the actual device and not the overall Microsoft experience, so I’ll just leave those alone. What’s the point about spouting off about a phone that was out of date when it was released? Not so great camera… no, really? I’m sure you get the drift.
With ups and downs my experience had me considering not fixing my Android phone and just sticking with the Microsoft one instead. But as time went on I could deny that I was missing my Android experiences. Once I got my old phone back I never looked back. All in, stick with what you know. If you get saddled with a Microsoft phone by your employer, its not the end of the world. Its not a terrible experience, its just not really any kind of experience.