I have been a happy Android user since I bought the HTC Hero in late 2009, and it is now time for me to upgrade. I am considering switching to Windows Phone 8 and this post is to gather my thoughts as I evaluate a potential switch. I am a very atypical smartphone user, hence my considerations may not match most users’ needs.
To begin with, why not the iPhone 5? I already use iOS 6 on my iPad where I can enjoy the flowers in the garden. If I can have the best of multiple worlds, why not? For purposes of this post, I am contrasting the LG Nexus 4 with the Nokia Lumia 920 as they are the newest flagship phones on the two platforms. Lastly, this is the first time I am writing about gadgets on this blog or anywhere, so mea culpa for any errors!
Philosophy & Requirements
I prefer to own my core data – documents, contacts, music, photos, etc. – so that I can choose to use it in any different service as and when I like. This is not always possible, but I try and hence I’ve primarily stuck to Google or local storage. I use Gmail (separate personal & professional GApps), Google Search, Chrome, Google Reader. I also have my music library in Google Music, which is locally in an iTunes-format library.
I use a Windows 8 desktop PC, use MS Office on it for all my documents, have 25GB of unused SkyDrive, will likely get an XBox after some months. My iPad has my eBook collection, and usage is mostly restricted to reading, gaming, and other fun/education/reference apps. I am also in the process of setting up a 7.1 home theatre, for which I am choosing a Marantz that would be both AirPlay as well as DLNA compatible, besides a DLNA-compatible AC Ryan PlayOn HD media box.
I spend all my weekdays online, working from home, on my PC. I spend time away from home only on weekends, when I like to be and largely am, offline. Holiday travel is few times a year. Thus my atypical smartphone requirements, in order of priority, are:
- Voice calls and text (70% of which are spam)
- Basic email & social networking
- Unified cloud-based contact management
- Good, easy-to-use camera, selectively share photos to Facebook, Twitter, Google+
- Navigation when I’m on the road
- Easy, cloud-based note-taking
- Stream photos/music to home theater / act as remote control
- Cloud access to key documents
- Expect good usage for at least 3-4 years with latest updates
Pros & Cons of Android / Windows Phone 8
After remaining stuck with Android 2.2 on my HTC Hero, the latest Jelly Bean on the Nexus 4 is very enticing indeed. A quick summary of Android advantages
- My comfort factor with Android, especially the tight integration with all of Google
- Extreme Customization (I love being able to tinker with different ROMs), keyboards, backgrounds, etc.
- Number of apps (Besides all the popular apps, I need apps to block/identify spam calls/texts)
- Google Now, new Camera app, Photo Sphere
Given these, why am I considering Windows Phone 8? I am an early-adopter who likes to try new things.
- Live Tiles, People Hub, etc. are a whole new perspective different from the app-centric model of iOS/Android and I’m enticed
- Better integration with my Windows 8 PC, and future XBox
- Better integration my Office Documents, better usage of SkyDrive across PC & phone, and OneNote
- Kid-friendly. My 6 yr old plays a lot with my iPad but never with my Android without supervision.
- 60% of my Gmail is spam, and it is getting increasingly difficult to control spam in Gmail
- I can use Outlook email with both my phone & my Win 8 PC
- Use new cloud-based contact management system integrated with Email, Facebook, Phone Numbers, Twitter, and Gmail (at least so far)
Nexus 4 vs. Lumia 920 and Regional Factors
- LTE support is largely irrelevant in India
- Google/LG support in India is largely unproven, while though Nokia has huge base in India, Microsoft hasn’t rolled out WP8 updates as quickly
- Nexus 4 not yet launched in India, worldwide availability issues, Lumia 920 launched officially in India
- Storage on Nexus 4 is 16 GB vs. 32 GB on Lumia 920 (neither support external storage)
- Nexus 4 has DLNA, Lumia 920 to get a DLNA app in future
- Nexus 4 is light, Lumia 920 is a monster
- Nexus 4 expected to be cheaper than Lumia 920
- Both have Cameras that have few pros and few cons in overall performance & usability so it’s a non-factor
- Navigation with Google Maps & Nokia Drive excellent on both so it’s a non-factor
Have I missed anything important?
Windows Phone 8 Adoption Hurdles
Mainstream Indian reviews advise against it, especially the software. There is a price to pay for being an early adopter, but almost every long-term user of Windows Phone 8 I have interacted with is passionate about it. In shifting from a Google-centric Android universe to Windows Phone 8, here are the challenges I will face:
- Updating my new personal Outlook address on all 3rd party sites and services that are important (this is one-time, but a very big deal)
- Painstakingly organizing my new contact hub in the Windows world
- Miss the excellent universal Notification Center in Android
- Hunt for replacement apps where possible, live without one if there isn’t any
- Relinquish my history and personalized maps with Google, make a fresh start with Nokia
- Import/Integrate my local music library with that of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8
- Pay a high price for a heavy-weight monster of a phone
- No support for multiple Twitter accounts in People Hub
- Lose patience waiting for latest updates (also somewhat true of Android in India)
Any items I have missed?
I have not committed myself either way at present. This post was a starting point to organize my thoughts on the subject. Also, regional factors are sometimes critically important while choosing a gadget, something you don’t find in the US-based top gadget site reviews, which entails one to evaluate relevant factors oneself. There may be other Indian early-adopters considering a similar switch, for whom I hope that this post would be useful.