Switching from iPhone to Windows Phone: a personal journey
About a month ago, Microsoft gave me a brand new review unit of the HTC 8X running Windows Phone 8, Microsoft's newest mobile software platform. The contract on my iPhone was up anyway, so I decided to take the plunge.
For the last month, I've been using the 8X as my exclusive smartphone. On the bus. On the train. At work. On the couch, watching TV. It's even my alarm clock.
First, the spoiler: I like it enough that I'm not switching back any time soon. It's not perfect, but some things about it are much better for my personal use patterns, and I haven't run into any show stoppers.
The biggest surprise is how it's changed the way I think of a smartphone. I've owned an iPhone since the 3G came out in 2008. It always felt like a highly personal and very portable computer with some work features, like the ability to connect to email and read news stories via Twitter. The phone part was almost incidental.
The Windows Phone feels more like an advanced work communication tool, mainly because of its much better contact management system and better auto-correct for on-screen typing. (I imagine that's how BlackBerry users look at their phones; I've never owned one.)
If you want a better smartphone for your working life, or you're coming from a feature phone or a BlackBerry, it's worth a look. I actually think these scenarios are Microsoft's best for getting up to the double digit (10%+) market share that Steve Ballmer said was his first-step goal when speaking at the BUILD conference in October.
At the same time, it's not better-enough than the iPhone for me to yell from the rooftops that everybody should buy one. If you've come to depend on particular apps, you might not find decent equivalents on the Windows Phone platform. Some of the consumer experiences, like music playback, just aren't as good as they are on the iPhone. I also had pretty poor customer service experiences with Microsoft's partners -- AT&T and HTC -- which make me reluctant to recommend it over the full Apple experience.
This isn't meant to be an objective point-by-point review. If you want that, read Galen Gruman's take, which I mostly agree with. Rather, it's meant to give you an overview of what it's like to switch -- not as a reviewer who's trying to uncover and evaluate every feature, but as a regular smartphone user who actually went through the changeover process, and is living with the phone day to day.
What I like best: contacts, photos, and the cloud
The best part of my new phone, by far, is the People app -- the Windows Phone contact manager. It makes the iPhone's Contacts app look primitive by comparison, and would be the hardest thing to give up if I went back.
Because I'm a journalist, I have well over 1,000 contacts in various places, mostly in my personal Gmail account and Outlook app on my work PC, plus a few from a brief aborted attempt to use Hotmail as my main email account back in 2008 or so. Then, I've got people whom I've added in LinkedIn but never added to my email contacts, my Facebook friends, and people I follow on Twitter.
It took me about five minutes to set up all these accounts on my Windows Phone. The People app consolidates all this data under a single name -- so, for instance, when I look up my wife, I see her all her phone numbers, email addresses, and data stored in her LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, and all the updates from her Twitter account. I can contact her using any of these platforms, all from a single location with her picture at the top. It also shows me her latest social network updates and communications to me, all in that same spot.
This all assumes that most of your contacts are stored in various online services. If you've got contacts that only live on your iPhone, you'll have to transfer them via iTunes and the Windows Phone client software on your computer (I didn't test this), or enter them in by hand (which I did for about five vital phone-only contacts.)
Still, it's way more efficient than the iPhone's contact manager, which is filled with duplicates, does not include social networking info, and which continually amazed me with how broken it was -- I recall looking for people with whom I'd exchanged hundreds of emails, only to find that their contact data had never been synced.
Other improvements over the iPhone include:
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