Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Windows Phone vs. Android

Android is the market share leader in the mobile space in US as of January 2012 with around 50% market share (according to NPD via Engadget). They are doing this by flooding the market with tons of phones, ranging from free, cheap phones, prepaids, and mid-range, and top of the line phones. People have plenty of options when getting an Android phone.

The Nexus line/series is the bar that Google put out to showcase the new OS releases. Nexus One was release to showcase Froyo (version 2.2), Nexus S for Gingerbread (2.3.x), and Galaxy Nexus for Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0.x).

I was an Android user, starting with the G1 (the original Android phone - back in 2008). When my wife's old Windows Mobile 6.1 phone died, I got her a G2 (also an Android phone). I recommended Android phones to many of my friends - and many of them did switched to Android (from Symbian, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, etc). But late 2010, my love for Android grew weary and when Windows Phone came out, I jumped ship and I am happily recommend Windows Phone to anyone instead of Android. Why?

This post is a part of a series titled "Should I Get a Windows Phone?":

  1. Windows Phone vs. BlackBerry
  2. Windows Phone vs. Android
  3. Windows Phone vs. iPhone
  4. Windows Phone vs. "the rest" (WinMo, Bada, Symbian, etc)
Why go with Windows Phone (vs. Android)?
  1. Windows Phone major releases are on time and you will get it within reasonable manner (usually within 1 month) after its release - for all devices. This means 1 year old Windows Phone will get update approximately the same time as a new Windows Phone that your friend just got last week. This also means that you are very likely to be running the latest, greatest features available in the Windows Phone OS at all times (instead of always a generation or two behind). With Android, your device may never get updated to the newest Android features. Unless you are always getting the Nexus series (which is around $299 with 2 year contract), the updates are really slow to get to your phone. This is caused by the fragmentation of the Android operating system itself by carriers and manufacturers in making it work with their devices and services. Although a this article by Michael Degusta is about iOS and Android, it illustrates well about the fragmentation and lateness of Android updates, so if you get your Android phone now, most likely it will be a version behind in OS and will remain that way or worse (unless you are getting the Nexus series).

  2. Streamlined & consistent user interface. Windows Phones is consistent regardless of carriers or manufacturers. From using a Nokia, an HTC, a Samsung, etc they are all look similar and everything is where it's suppose to be. With Android, not only devices are in different OS versions (which introduce new things, changes, and adjustments), manufacturers also put a lot of stuff (HTC with "Sense", Motorola with "MotoBlur" etc). So your experience in using can be different (and sometimes radically). This is a big turn off for me. Although I consider myself as an informed Android user, but sometimes using my friend's HTC MyTouch 3G is quite a difficult adjustment.

  3. Much more user-friendly interface. Android is much more well-known as a "power-user" phone. It provides a lot of opportunities for customizations, mods, etc. Compared to this, Windows Phone tiles & hub is just so much friendlier. It is also a fresh new look away from the "list of icons". I remember once teaching a friend to use her first Android device - where she basically told me to set it up for her. Months later, her setup was still the same, including the wallpaper, widgets, and shortcuts. I asked her about it and she said she was afraid to change anything and not sure how to get things back if something go wrong. In Windows Phone, to put a tile in the start screen is so easy: find the app you want, long-press it and select "pin to start". In Android (2.3.x or older): long-press empty space in home, select "shortcuts", select "applications", and select your app.

  4. Windows Phone interface is fast & fluid (even without the dual-core). Although none of the current Windows Phone are running dual-core processor, but all of them are still running buttery smooth and fast. My HTC HD7 is a first generation Windows Phone device - and it's still running like a champ. Yes, it is slower compared to the second generation devices, but there is still no lag, or jerky movement, freezing, etc. Compared to my friends Android devices (most of them are newer than my Windows Phone), not only they are running 1 or 2 versions behind on OS, but they need to be rebooted regularly (once every 2 weeks, once a month, once a week, etc), or getting a lot of "force close" on basic apps (GMail, YouTube, etc), interface is getting jerky/lag, and other miscellaneous problems (speaker phone not working consistently, cannot answer phone sometimes, late notifications, etc).

  5. In Windows Phone, you can uninstall "bloatwares". When you buy a phone from a carrier, usually they will include their apps in the phone. With Windows Phone, you can uninstall them easily: find it, long press & hit "Uninstall". With Android, 99% of the time you are stuck with it and cannot be uninstalled. One option is that you can "root" your phone (that is getting an administrative access to your phone) and then flash the ROM (that is installing the Android flavor of your choice). Although I am a pretty savvy user, but it seems unnecessary if I go with Windows Phone.

  6. Live Tiles that just work vs Android clunky widgets. Widgets in Android are cool and I love them for like weather, calendar, email, etc. But they are clunky - sometimes they won't update, do a "force close" or just simply disappear. Some widgets are small, some are big, and some are bigger still. So my home screen ends up looking cluttered and messy. When the widget is running, it means the app is running (and draining battery). With Live Tiles, things are organized, neat, and they just work, plus the app itself is NOT running. I can get the information that I want in a flash and often without launching the app at all.

  7. Windows Phone is cheaper. The top of the line Windows Phone is $199. The top of the line Android is $299 (both with 2 year contract). I would rather use my $100 saving toward something else. Plus, combined with the fragmentation, it is very likely that if I go with Android, my new $299 phone will be outdated (as far as OS goes) within several months and not getting updated for a year plus.

  8. Much better battery life. I use my phone a lot: reading news, checking weather, replying to emails, playing games, as well as syncing 4 email address, Twitter, 2 calendars, and Foursquare.The only constant thing that I see my friends who carry Android device is chargers - even though they have more capacity in their battery (G2 - 1300 mAH, GS1 - 1500 mAH, GS2 - 1650 mAH, EVO 4G - 1750 mAH, etc) than mine. When they are at my house, they borrow my charger, charging in the car, charging while at a computer, at the coffee shop, etc. This especially true for phones running dual-core and with "4G". On the other hand, my HD7 (1230 mAH) only needs charging at over night. I unplugged my phone from the charger around 7am and plug it back before going to bed, around 11pm. I don't have any charger at the office nor in my car.

  9. Better media/music player. Zune is an awesome music player. It's a native client, has millions of songs in the Marketplace, movies, etc. It is also gorgeous and non-intrusive. Zune's subscription based (like Spotify) gives you a lot of freedom instead of pay-per-download based fee. Google Music is a bit of pain-in-the-butt, while Zune just works. To get subscription based music, you will need to download Spotify (or others) in Android.

  10. XBOX Live integration. Windows Phone has Windows Live account integration just as Android has Google account integration. But, XBOX Live integration is a part of the Live service that is unique to Windows Phone. Gamer's score, points, avatar, etc are synced and customization in the console and the phone. Some games even allow game integration between the phone and the console.

  11. Nokia hardware option. Although Nokia used to make outdated OS (Symbian), but their hardware is still sets the bar. Having the option of getting Nokia hardware running Windows Phone is just awesome. Nokia with its volume is also able to drive the price down in the market. The Nokia Lumia 710, which is a entry level Windows Phone device is being sold in US at $49 with 2 year contract, and the Lumia 800 is selling in Europe often for free. The rumor is that Nokia Lumia 900 (coming out March 2012) will be sold for $99 with 2 year contract. Wow!

  12. Better cloud integration with SkyDrive. With Windows Phone, you can have free 25 GB of storage. All your OneNotes will sync (no more need for EverNote), auto-upload options for photos, sharing folders and documents, etc. With MS Office, you can view, edit, and create documents on your phone and put them in SkyDrive. I don't know how many times I have used this feature to review documents or Power Point presentations and taking notes - certainly a very beneficial feature for me. 

  13. Better voice control. MS TellMe is much better and easier to use than Google Voice Action. TellMe understands the non-western names in my contact list. It also works better in understanding me and some of my friends. Plus, it is a lot easier to access TellMe (long press on Start) vs Voice Action (launch an app). Granted that Siri (iOS 5) is still better than both.

  14. Email reading, which I do lot of, is a lot better in Windows Phone - with the big clean text and previews. Combined with the panorama display in hubs, this makes categorizing, reading, and managing emails to be a lot easier in Windows Phone. 

  15. Twitter & Facebook integration. If you are into the social networking scene, this is a must. Instead of opening and closing apps, Windows Phone integrates Facebook & Twitter - so you can do all your social networking stuff without the hassle of opening and closing apps. I am an avid Twitter user (not so much on Facebook), so this is a big deal for me.

  16. Much better Exchange integration. If you are an MS Exchange user, Windows Phone do this much much better than Android. Touchdown in Android helps, but it is costly ($19.99). I manage all my contacts and calendar in Exchange, so being able to sync (push) them into my phone is just a must.

  17. Better touch-screen keyboard - across any device. With Android, you get hit and miss.

  18. Windows Phone has the best Foursquare app, called "4th and Mayor". Much better than the official one, in any platform. 

Why go with Android?
  1. Excellent turn-by-turn navigation. I still envy the GPS feature that Android has - until now. This is simply awesome. With Windows Phone, we need 3rd party apps - or continue hoping that Nokia & Bing will one day provide this for all devices. Currently only Nokia devices get the Nokia Drive.

  2. More variety in the market. The cell-phone market is saturated with Android phones. There are probably around 30+ Android phones released every year. In comparison, Apple release 1 version of hardware every year or so and about 10 Windows Phone per year. So more choices for you if you go with Android.

  3. More apps. Android Market has more than 300,000 apps. Windows Phone Marketplace only has around 60,000 apps. Windows Phone still has a lot of catching up to do - but I find all the major apps that I need are already in Marketplace. Yes, there are the missing "tricorder" app that I "need", or the "battery saver" app etc. But with Windows Phone, there is already a native battery-saver feature under "settings" and for the "tricorder", I use the G2 for that, so I can use the tricorder while on the phone.

  4. Most Android phones has dual-core processor. Although this translate very little improvement in daily use (in fact MS did a contest called "Smoked by Windows Phone" during CES, go here for results & detail), but this still becomes a prevalent marketing strategy. 

  5. If you use "WhatsApp" app, the Android version is still better than the Windows Phone one.

  6. No Skype, yet. Nothing much to say here ...

If there is no Windows Phone, I would probably stick with Android - and I used to be an Android lover. But time has changed and Windows Phone (especially Mango) just won me over.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Windows Phone vs. BlackBerry

Should I get a BlackBerry? Or should I get a Windows Phone? What if you are coming from a different platform (i.e. from iOS or Android)? Or maybe from RIM/BB platform? There are values in both sides of the platform and I will discuss them to the best of my knowledge - and hopefully this will inform you to make your decision making easier.

BB was the leading platform several years ago - conquering both in the consumer space and corporate space. Their push-email was revolutionary and BBM changed the way people connect to one another. Is it still an excellent platform of choice today?

This post is a part of a series titled "Should I Get a Windows Phone?":
  1. Windows Phone vs. BlackBerry
  2. Windows Phone vs. Android
  3. Windows Phone vs. iPhone
  4. Windows Phone vs. "the rest" (WinMo, Bada, Symbian, etc)

Why go with BlackBerry?
The strongest reason to go with BlackBerry is the robust messaging platform that BB has - the BBM. Many of my friends have acquaintances and family members all over the world - and some of them use BB. BBM then becomes a essential communication hub for them. 

The second strongest reason to go with BB is the keyboard. BB makes awesome keyboard - probably the best in the industry. If vertical keyboard is your thing, then BB is your choice.

If you are coming from BB platform and all your communications to your contacts have been via BBM and don't want to go away from that paradigm - or if this is your #1 need in getting a new smartphone, BB is the way to go. This works not only against Windows Phone, but also against any non-BB platform, since BBM is unique to BB platform.

But there is actually a way to get around this "need" if you want to use a different platform ... please keep on reading. If you are very frugal in using data and want to keep your frugality, then BB is probably the platform of choice. Since most BB data is text, there is a very low data usage when using BB. This can also be caused by the lack of screen size in BB, where it discourages the users to resort in consuming large files or videos.  

Why NOT go with BlackBerry?
  1. There are ways you can get around the BBM hurdle: other messaging platform. There are platform-agnostic messaging apps that will allow you to communicate with people with different platform, including BB. They pretty much work in relatively similar manner as BBM. For example:
    • Kik Messanger - messaging platform for Windows Phone, iOS, Android, Symbian, BB
    • WhatsApp - messaging platform for Windows Phone, iOS, Android, Symbian, BB 

    The advantage of using these apps are actually much more than sticking with BBM. You can actually reach more people/friends/contacts and not be constraint to BB contacts only. Also, the interface for all these apps are much nicer in the non-BB platform, I kid you not.

  2. PIN/device identifier instead of user-based identifier. BB also uses PIN to connect a BB contact to another and the PIN is the main connector in BBM delivery. Unfortunately, the PIN is tied to a handset, NOT the user. So, if you choose to change your BB device to a newer or different BB device for some reason, you MUST tell all your BB contacts that your PIN has changed and they will need to update your information - or else BBM won't work.

  3. Outdated OS. There has not been that much differences between BB OS 5 and BB OS 6 and now BB OS 7. Between OS 5 and OS 6, the are only a handful major differences: home screen organization, new OS 6 browser supporting tabs, touch interface support, and universal search. Between OS 6 to OS 7: bigger icons, voice-enabled search, NFC support, hardware accelerated graphics, and BlackBerry Balance Technology to separate between work and personal stuff.

  4. Crappy hardware. Almost all of my friends who carry BB as their main device have it breaks down within a year or so. Broken battery cover, screen not working, buttons not registering, broken track-pad/ball etc. But the new Bold 9900 may change that - since it looks much better than its predecessor and feels solid. The 2.8" screen is ... small.

  5. Decreasing market share - and rumor has it that RIM is going to be sold. Most tech writers (Engadget, Gizmodo, BGR, The Verge etc) consider RIM to be irrelevant in the near future. So why invest your tech choices in something that most people believe to be going out the door?
Most of the things I mentioned above apply in general against BB, but not giving a lot of advantages for Windows Phone over other platform such as Android or iOS. In fact, I suggest that any platform other than BB is already a better platform. So if you are coming in from a non-BB background, reasons above should give you a considerable food for thought about whether you want to get into the BB camp for now. My suggestion: DO NOT.

Why Windows Phone?
  1. Better screen and touch interface. Much better. The screen for most BB are awful and the touch interface feels like a gimmick. Other than BB Torch series (which has touch screen and slide out keyboard), most BB has small screen (2.x inches). For example, Bold (the higher end series) has 2.8" screnn, with 640x480 px resolution. The lower end handset for Windows Phone has larger screen, much larger. Nokia Lumia 710 has 3.7" screen, with 800×480 px resolution. It's a pain to do touch in BB, since most things are small (using the trackpad or uniball is more friendly for BB compared to touch). Windows Phone uses "tiles" - which begged to be touch. Bigger screen & much nicer touch interface for Windows Phone.

  2. Much more economical price. The newer lower end BB (the Curve 9360) is selling at $79 with 2 yr contract in T-Mobile. The higher end (the Bold 9780) will cost you $109. The newest 4G, Bold 9900 costs a whopping $299 with 2 yr contract (all T-Mobile price). In contrast, Nokia Lumia 710, an economic, newest, latest, 4G Windows Phone will only cost you $49 with 2 yr contract.In AT&T, the price is more comparable, where both Bold 9900 & HTC Titan is selling at $199.

  3. Windows Phone is much more stable compared to BlackBerry. In a week, I don't think I have rebooted my Windows Phone. At the same time, I saw my friend rebooted his BB several times - locked up, froze, self-reboot, etc. Windows Phone is a very stable OS. Some Windows Phone do not even have battery covers, because rebooting your phone by taking out the battery is suppose to be something that you will never have to do.

  4. Live Tiles. I cannot stress this enough - that Live Tiles is awesome. The ability to do a "glance and go" without even entering an app is extraordinarily handy. BB has notifications and will put a number (i.e. 4 new emails) in your app icon. But flipping animated Live Tiles is a different beast. Not only it does serve as a notification, but also able to display important information on the flip side of the tiles. Which means that often you don't have to open the app to view the information.

  5. Apps in the Marketplace. Although BB App World has existed long before Windows Phone Marketplace, but App World is a stagnant ecosystem. ON the other hand, Marketplace is a thriving and growing ecosystem. Within a year, there are 50k +  apps in the Marketplace. It took App World 2 yr + to reach the same number of apps. Many of my friends who use BB usually not loading their BB with apps - and one reason why they don't is because the selection in the App World is kind of boring.

  6. Much better media device. Most BlackBerry user I know carry 2 devices, a phone and an media device (like an iPod Touch). Although BB can browse YouTube, play videos, and music - it is not becoming a device of choice to do all that media consumption activity. Windows Phone can do all the media in a single device with Zune and other apps.

  7. Awesome built-in & integrated apps. Windows Phone comes with XBOX Live integration. So if you game with XBOX already, this should come in handy - the ability to customize your avatar, check gamer score, compete with your friends, etc. Twitter and Facebook integration come in really handy. Combined all those things with Live Tiles - then you can have a solid social-network-charged device, without opening a single app. Windows Phone has other things that come out of the box that a BB does not have: Local Scouts, integrated Bing Search (vision, song, text-reader, etc), TellMe (superb voice command), Office hub, turn-by-turn navigation, SkyDrive integration, and many more.   

  8. Windows Phone also boots much faster than BlackBerry. In some sense, this is largely irrelevant - but with the frequency of rebooting BlackBerry, this can be a factor. As a comparison, in a single BlackBerry Bold 9780 reboot, I can reboot my HTC HD7 4+ times. Not only that, it is probably much faster to do anything in Windows Phone compared to in BB.    
I think BB is outdated and it is much better to use almost any platform other than BB - and the platform of choice for me is a Windows Phone. 
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Should I get a Windows Phone?

People asked me often - "My contract renewal is coming up and thinking about getting a new phone, so which one should I get?" I am going to do a blog series about smartphones comparing them to Windows Phone and hopefully this series can be a useful information to help us in making our decision. If you are reading this in the future, the content of this series may not apply, as smartphone technology changes pretty quickly, so there will be updates or sequel series in the future.Who knows, I might hate Windows Phone in the future!

Secondly, I am not going to claim that I am a professional reviewer and I certainly have my bias. So keep that in mind when reading the series - but I will try to keep an objective or balanced aim and perspective. Please do not hesitate to chime in via the comments.

In the series, I will do some comparisons between Windows Phone against other phones. Along with that, I will also include "what if you are coming from ____" section (i.e. "what if you are coming from RIM") in every post. So here we go:

  1. Windows Phone vs. BlackBerry
  2. Windows Phone vs. Android
  3. Windows Phone vs. iPhone
  4. Windows Phone vs. "the rest" (WinMo, Bada, Symbian, etc)
In general, my recommendation is to try it out. Some people often has dismissed Windows Phone without trying it - but most of the people who have tried it were pretty blown away by it, and ended up getting it. I am not particularly sure why people so quickly dismissed Windows Phone - but from some of the reasons are these:
  • Windows Phone resembles  Windows Mobile - so it sucks. This can not be further than the truth. Yes, WinMo sucks - big time. But Windows Phone is nothing like Windows Mobile at all. If this is something that you are unsure, please do try a Windows Phone. Go to a carrier store and try it out. 
  • Windows Phone does not support dual-core processor (yet) - so it must be slow. Well, while it is true that Windows Phone Mango (the newest OS release up to this Jan 2012) does not support dual-core processor, but it is not slow at all. In fact, during CES 2012, there was a contest doing day-to-day tasks (posting to twitter, taking pictures, checking weather, etc) between Windows Phone vs 30+ phones (BBs, iPhones, Androids, etc), and Windows Phone won 85% of the time. 
  • It's expensive. Not sure where this is coming from, but just because it looks awesome and expensive does not mean that it is expensive. My friend bought a Nokia 710 for $50 on the first day it came out (with 2 yr contract). Nokia 710 is the latest Windows Phone coming via TMobile. The most expensive Windows Phone costs $199 - just like most smartphones out there - and most Windows Phone are actually cheaper than $199. 
Well, there you go - in the next post I will describe how Windows Phone stacks up against BlackBerry.
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