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iPhone user’s First Impressions on Windows and Nokia Part 2: Software

I’m not going to go into details on the differences between iOS vs Windows Phone 7.  That’s been compared and done before and so no need to delve into it again.  What I will focus on, will be general observations from my day to day usage between the two phones and platforms.

The first and most obvious difference is Metro UI vs icons/apps as home screen.  On the Lumia 900, there are 2 screens you can scroll between, the main screen and the app/menu screen.  The main screen, or the tile screen on Windows phone 7 is modern and refreshing.  After having used the iPhone for some time, it’s a nice change.  Applications can be pinned to the main screen.  These applications become little square tiles, that move and spin, and information gets updated right on them.  So unlike Apple’s notification center, information can be accessed right on the home screen.  It’s simple and easy to use.

Now swipe left and you arrive at the app screen, which lists all your applications vertically.  There is no folder support, and so one has to scroll up and down to see all the applications available.  This is one area where I think iOS does a better job.  Having folders and grouping your apps makes finding them a lot easier, especially when I have around 50-60 apps on my iPhone.  Some will argue that on Windows Phone, once you have 25 apps downloaded, the apps are than organized in alphabetical order and can be reached easily by directly going to letter “S” for example to look for the Starbucks app.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but I cannot remember the names of all 60 apps and so folder support really makes a huge difference for me.  Again it’s a personal preference, but it’s nice option to have.

In terms of the telephone, both phones have similar features when it comes to making calls.  The only exception is that there is no speed dial or what apple calls favorites on Windows Phone.  This is a disappointment as I like to have fast access to the people I call most often.  Yes you can create groups to get quick access to your favorite contacts and/or download 3rd party applications to alleviate this issue, but my feeling is that it should have been implemented directly.  Third party apps are good, but sometimes fail to integrate into the phone properly.  For example, when I use RapDialer, there are shortcuts for speed dialing and messaging.  That’s great.  However, when I miss a call and have to look at call history, it does not show up on RapDialer and I have to revert back to the main phone app to see who called.  This means I have to pin both tiles to the home screen in order to a) make quick calls and b) check call history.  That’s cumbersome and so I do hope Microsoft will update this small but important feature in the next update.

Now, moving onto emails, contacts, and calendar, I find the Lumia to be quite good.  First, the keyboard is a joy to use.  Some say that Apple has built the best onscreen keyboard.  I would suggest that maybe that’s not the case anymore.  Maybe it’s because of the larger screen, but I found myself quite fast at typing out messages and emails on the Lumia and the autocorrect worked like a charm.  Secondly, the email layout is quite nice.  Subject and previews are displayed clearly and once an email is opened the message is displayed like they would on a desktop computer, so no complaints here.  My only gripe for the email system, would be that emails either have to be linked or separated for each mailbox.  On the iPhone, you can choose to look at emails collectively or simply tap on the “mailboxes” tab on the top of the phone and you can view each box separately.  This to me is more intuitive and offers better flexibility.  Contacts and calendar are similar on both platforms, with exception that on the Windows phone, contacts are under what is known as the “People Hub”.   This hub shows your contacts, updates on your Facebook and Twitter feeds, and one can also create groups of people, like family and friends, for faster access.  It’s a very nice touch and works really well, so I hope that Apple can implement something similar in the near future.
Last but not least, apps.  This is something that is lagging on Windows Phone.  Yes it’s true that you don’t need 300 billion apps in your app store to make it a viable platform, but there are some that I feel should be available on all platforms, whether one needs them or not.  Apps that I feel should be available are banking apps, certain shopping apps like keyring and grocery IQ.  Certain food apps like Starbucks (yes there are 3rd party ones, but I would argue company built ones are always better), and business apps like Fed Ex and Dropbox, just to name a few. I’m sure Microsoft is aware of the issue, but it is my opinion that this is the main reason why Windows Phone has not caught traction compared to Android and iOS.  A personal example is that my wife and I use the app Grocery IQ to keep track of our shopping needs.  We can add and delete to our grocery list and the list gets updated on all our mobile devices, whether it’s Android or iOS.  So having certain apps across platforms means we are not tied down to one OS.  Not having the application makes it more difficult to choose that platform and so I think Microsoft needs to work on this fast and in a big way, because apps written for Microsoft phones are beautiful, intuitive, and easy to use.  It’s just a shame there’s not more relevant apps available.

So all in all  I really liked using the Lumia 900.  I love the design, the size of screen, Metro UI in general, and the beauty of the apps.  It’s easy to set up and Microsoft has achieved it’s goal of making their new smartphone platform very simplistic in nature.  The only caveat are the lack of what I consider pertinent apps.  Other than that, I think Nokia came out with a very convincing device for $49 on contract with AT&T.  I cannot wait to see what Nokia has in store in the coming months for Windows Phone. Once again I would like to thank ATT for lending us the Trial device.