Opinion

Why I think Ice Cream Sandwich beats the shit out of Windows Phone (or why Windows Phone sucks, in general)

Earlier today I tweeted that with Ice Cream Sandwich, Android blows Windows Phone 7 out of the water and a huge number of people replied to me asking why I think so.

Actually, that’s not true. Only four people asked. What is true, however, is what I said in the tweet. 

From the first time I used Windows Phone 7, my opinion of it was that it is a pretty OS with very little functionality. As Sreeyesh put it quite aptly, it is a dumb blonde. 

Over time Microsoft taught the dumb blonde some tricks so it could play with the big boy without getting its panties in a twist. It can now multitask, cut/copy and paste text and allow other devices to tether to it, all extremely complicated tasks, I’m sure. But despite all of that it was still as functional as compared to Android as a nail clipper is compared to a Swiss army knife. 

But there was one thing that Windows Phone always had over the competition and that was the user interface. Truly, the Metro UI is an extremely well designed interface and anyone with a pair of eyes and a brain behind them would agree to that. 

Design is also an area where Android has lagged behind since time immemorial. You can only expect as much from a pair of blind monkeys that Google hired for designing the OS. But for Ice Cream Sandwich, Google hired Matias Duarte, better known for designing Palm’s (now HP’s) webOS. With a human finally heading the Android design team, things were bound to improve. 

But they didn’t just improve. Under Matias’s watchful eye, Android flourished into a truly great looking OS. With the new design, Android is no longer miles behind Windows Phone 7 or iOS the way it was before. In fact I would say it is now completely on par with them. Only real ugliness you will now find on Android is within third party apps and not inside the core OS. 

But the design is just one part of the user experience. Here are some other things where Android beats Windows Phone hollow. 

  • The notification system on ICS is far superior to WP7. WP7 doesn’t even show basic information like time, battery and network status at the top inside apps. 
  • The Live tiles look cool but aren’t in the same league as widgets. I can have a widget for something as simple as Wi-Fi on Android but on WP7 I have to dig into the settings to enable it. 
  • Internet Explorer is a joke. The way it displays text reminds me of the browsers on the cheap Java phones. In comparison the ICS browser makes web pages look the way they do on a PC. 
  • Multitasking is an even bigger joke. Just shows you five windows at a time that too only if you remembered to press the home button and not the back button, in which case the app gets terminated. 
  • Relies on the Zune software for transferring media and for upgrading the software. Forces me to convert files that are not supported by the OS. The last time I had to use a software on my PC for my Nexus S was never. Also, I still don’t know why one has to use Zune on Windows to sync media when Windows Media Player could have done the same. Or, why the Mac version of the Windows Phone software is better than the Zune crap. 
  • Still cannot take screenshots.
  • The keypad is annoying. At first it seems nice but then you realize it works terrible with contractions such as ‘I’d’ and ‘I’ll’. Where the Android and iOS keypads automatically enters ‘I’d’ when you type I and D, WP keypad just puts ‘id’. You can’t even just tap at a place to place the curser there. You have to manually drag it there every time. 
  • A single volume for music player and ring tone volume. And I thought Android using a single volume for loudspeaker and headphones was bad. 
  • Bing search sucks. Hard. Most of the time I end up launching Google in the browser (where I’m greeted with an ugly looking version of their website thanks to Internet Explorer) and search for whatever I want. What I find most annoying about Bind search is that when you launch it it doesn’t even highlight the search bar and pop-up the keypad. You have to do that manually every time. And they have fixed the search button to this crap instead of making it application dependent. 
  • Bing Maps sucks. Google Maps or GTFO. Nothing else comes close. Not even Nokia’s Ovi Maps. 
  • Limited Bluetooth functionality. I can’t send photos over Bluetooth, for example. Heck, I can’t even delete multiple pictures at once from the photo gallery. 

There were some other things that I can’t remember them right now but I think you get the gist. The thing is before the general notion was that Android is a very functional OS but it’s sluggish and looks like shit. With Ice Cream Sandwich, that is no longer the case. It looks great, its smooth and it still retains all the functions from before. 

Windows Phone, on the other hand, is the same as it was when it was launched, with the ‘new features’ in Mango being things that should have been there since day 1. But even with all the additions it still feels terribly incomplete and incompetent. So much so that I’m not even sure if you can call it a smartphone OS. 

Of course, some of you will think that Android should be better because it is on its sixth major version whereas Windows Phone is on its second. But is it my fault that Microsoft chose to launch in incomplete product in a competitive market? And how does it matter to the customer that one OS is on its second version and the other on its sixth when both are on sale side by side for the same price? 

Microsoft had all the time in the world to get this right. They were in the smartphone OS business before Apple or Google. Microsoft was getting all cosy in its seat, peddling an ageing product when it was caught off-guard by Apple and later by Google. That’s when they suddenly woke up and started work on a new OS. But instead of releasing something attractive and functional they chose to go with just attractive, adding features as time goes by. Probably hoping people wouldn’t notice the lack of features if they made the tiles flip fast enough. 

This strategy would have worked great back in 2007 and in fact it did for one company but Microsoft launched their product in 2010, when the other platforms had almost matured. But what’s worse is that now that we are in 2012, Windows Phone still feels incomplete and as I said, incompetent, whereas the competition is now fully matured. 

And all of its shortcomings would have been tolerable if it at least had apps but even that’s not the case. Microsoft might claim more than 50,000 apps have been put up on the Marketplace but I still see the same 50 apps that I saw a year ago, at outrageous rates, no less. To add insult to injury, they don’t even work particularly well, despite the fact that the developers don’t have to worry about fragmentation like on Android and have just a couple of hardware configurations to worry about. 

This is why I don’t like Windows Phone 7. It’s currently one of the lamest things out there that you can spend your money on. Compared to this I would rather buy an Android phone running Froyo. I’m not kidding. Don’t waste your money on this until Microsoft fixes this shit. Or until there are some real apps that work properly that you can use on it. 

P.S. – I must mention here that I have a Windows Phone with me right now (HTC Radar) and have used several in the past. In fact I have used all the ones launched in India, so I’m not short on experience. Admittedly though, I have used Android for longer. 

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