I just switched back to an iPhone after more than five years with the Windows Phone. And guess what? I miss my Windows Phone 8.1. Yes, after having worked for or with Microsoft for over 20 years, I gave up my Windows Phone 8.1 for an iPhone 6. Don’t get me wrong. The iPhone 6 is an awesome device. I like it, and it will grow on me day by day as I relearn how to use it. It’s just shocking that there are a handful of features iPhone doesn’t have that the Windows Phone does.
Why I Switched
I had an iPhone 3 back in 2009. When Windows Phone 7 launched in 2010, I immediately cast my iPhone to the sea and jumped on Windows Phone 7 bandwagon.“Silverlight to build phone apps?! Are you kidding me?! Those were exciting times. And, at that time, there was a bold promise that still has yet to be fulfilled. More on that in a bit.
So, I have used the Windows Phone from 7 all the way to the developer preview on 8.1, and loved every minute of it. I love the OS. I love the Metro tiles. The devices have been OK--nothing special, but, at the same time, Windows Phone devices weren't as expensive as iPhones.
The issue has always been the apps. It just seems like every time an app comes out that I want, it’s only available on Android and iOS, and takes months or years (or sometimes never) to get to Windows Phones. Remember when Windows Phone 7 launched, and it didn’t even have a Facebook app? During the last World Cup, every smartphone and tablet had a World Cup app that enabled users to watch any of the games live and for free--every device, that is, except for Windows Phones. Just search on "top 10 apps missing on Windows Phone" and you will pull up plenty of blog posts.
I just cannot understand why Microsoft would invest so much into the Windows Phone 8.1 OS itself and not into the app ecosystem. It really seems to me that, not only should Microsoft be investing in its partners to build the apps, but also spiffing those companies real money to build Windows Phone apps for them.
And that was part of the bold promise: to build the app ecosystem. And it’s just not happening. And that has everything to do with adoption, which isn’t happening, either, and was very much part of the bold promise.
It is that frustration with the missing apps on Windows Phone that caused me to consider switching. And it was one app in particular that forced me to switch: I’m a wilderness guy, and there is a specific application that works with my tracking/safety device when I am alone in the wilderness, miles from any humans. When I contacted the company for a simple update on its Windows Phone 8.1 product roadmap, and asked if the company would be interested in getting a version on Windows 8.1 for free, I got a nasty email back saying, “We will never release our app on Windows Phone.” My heart sunk. More from the “iBigots.”
At the same time, my contract on Verizon expired and I was due an upgrade.
What Windows Phone Has that iPhone Doesn't
In pure industrial design terms, the iPhone 6 is beautiful--it's slim and functional. It’s also expensive and fragile. I’m a phone dropper, so I made sure to do the insurance and the rugged case for it.
Granted, it’s only been a week, but there are some features I simply took for granted on Windows Phone that the iPhone doesn't have--or even have something close to.
Here are the top five things that are better on the Windows Phone than they are on the iPhone:
1. Efficient Typing on a Virtual Keyboard
I had no idea how good I had it on Windows Phone 8.1 until I tried to type on the iPhone’s virtual keyboard. I was shocked at how bad it is. I really thought it would have improved since the iPhone 3. The suggestions and the correcting process are still horrific. I have said many times since I started using the phone, “I missing being able to type.” And others like me who have had both Windows Phones and iPhones all agree. The typing process, type ahead, auto correction and computer learning for inputting text is just superior on Windows Phone.
2. Siri vs. Cortana
This is a weakness in the iPhone that I expected. I mean, how many iPhone users complain about Siri? All of them, it seems. What surprised me, though, is just how much better Cortana is. It’s beautifully integrated in Bing, but it’s more than just a translator for Internet search. Cortana is a digital assistant integrated to the metal on the Windows Phone 8.1. I could write an entire article on the wondrous features of Cortana.
3. The “Back” Button
I miss the back button in Windows Phone. On the iPhone, there is a home button. It’s just not the same. If you are trying to go back in iPhone, you have to go through the home button. In many cases, you end up losing state on what you were doing. This has been really frustrating to me. Windows Phone has a true back button for the entire OS that truly takes you back one screen or app. So, if you are in an app and get distracted by an email, you can truly go back on Windows Phone. On the iPhone, if you are distracted, you risk losing state in that app. You also risk simply remembering what you were doing before you got distracted.
4. Scan Codes, Tags, and Text
With the Windows Phone, you can scan bar codes, QR Codes or Microsoft Tags that you see in magazines, online, on signs or anywhere. You can also scan text to search, have it translated and paste scanned text into a message. And that functionality comes native in the Windows Phone OS. I assumed that functionality also was native in iOS and Android; it is not. My ignorance explains why QR codes have not taken off: You have to install something on the majority of the phones out there to get that functionality.
5. Decent Version of iTunes
Why is the Win32 version of iTunes still so bad? iTunes was bad five years ago, and it’s still bad on Windows. I am a software guy. I understand bugs. What I don’t understand is showstopper bugs that still kill the application that don’t seem to be getting fixed. I also don’t understand that Internet searches for tech support on how to fix some of the problems typically result in, “Get a Mac.” I also don’t understand why so much of a burdensome set of services need to be installed on my PC pulling my computer’s performance down, when all I want to do is get music on my phone.
Yes, the iPhone is awesome in many ways. And, to be fair, I bet I could easily come up with a list of ways in which the iPhone is superior to Windows Phone. It would obviously start with apps. I’m just shocked that that the iPhone is missing some awesome features that the Windows Phone has. I am going to give this expensive iPhone a run for at least a year--at least until the Windows 10 version of Windows Phone comes out. But, I predict that I will be writing this same commentary a year from now. It might just be titled something like, “Why I switched back to Windows Phone from the iPhone.” Stay tuned.