Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why I Switched from iOS to Windows Phone, Then Came Crawling Back [UPDATE]

For a while now, I've been complaining to friends and family of how "boring" iOS is. It's the same apps, the same bullshit on the phone, the same interface...Apple isn't doing enough to make iOS feel new with each major update. I even had friends tell me how much I'd miss iOS; I brushed it off with enough reasons that I would tell myself it was the right decision to make.

iOS 6 brought two major updates: Maps and Passport. Unfortunately, Maps was horrid, and Passport is lackluster, at best. It started to feel as if Apple was running into a wall, and kept trying to make the best of it. The GUI has been the same, and it feels old.

That's why when Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8, I was actually pretty excited. Android is essentially a copy/paste of iOS, so I know I won't fit in there. Samsung's Galaxy S series, while nice, isn't enough to get me to switch. With WP8 (and WP7 before it), there was a huge draw: mobile Xbox Live games.

Sure, there's your Angry Birds and your Fruit Ninjas, but it's the prospect of Xbox on WP8, the allure, the idea of it. Simply being able to play games on the Xbox service on your cell phone was just enough to get me to switch.

Sadly, I'd find out soon enough that wasn't the case.

This past Friday, November 9, I stopped by Best Buy when I got off of work to pick up the Nokia Lumia 920. After debating between HTC's 8X and the 920, I finally settled on the latter. I waltzed in, sat down at the desk with an employee who I know, and had them hook me up with the 920. After a small snafu of the contract renewal not packaging out with the phone, I walked out with a new phone, and relieved of $105. Since I'm grandfathered into AT&T's Unlimited Data, I was afraid I would lose this going to an LTE/4G device. Nope! I was actually upgraded to "grandfathered unlimited LTE/4G data". Good Guy AT&T!

Before leaving, I set up a few initial things on the new phone, such as connected accounts - Live ID, Facebook, Gmail - and the sorts, and headed home. On my drive home, I found that my iPhone was receiving emails quicker than my Lumia. "Maybe I didn't enable Push settings," I thought. While at a red light, I scurried through my settings; the quickest syncing option I had was every 15 minutes, despite having Push enabled on my iPhone. Whatever, I figured there may be something else.

I got home, perused the Store, found a few apps and trials, and settled on buying Angry Birds Star Wars (good goddamn, that game is fun). Going to dinner that night, I found my phone quickly dying, but it only had half-battery. Again, a paltry "whatever" was thrown my phone's way, despite the phone dying while at dinner. I got home, threw it on the charger, and waited.

And waited.

And. Waited.

"This phone takes for-fucking-ever to charge! My iPhone would have had a full battery by now if it was dead, too!"

That was the first thing I noticed that was bad about the phone. The list would quickly climb during Saturday, then culminate today, hence the post. I started to compile a physical list, coincidentally using Notes on my Mac, and had a bit of a Bill O'Reilly moment on my hands:

Rather than banter on and on, here's the list:

Reasons Why I Would Switch Back to iOS
  • iMessage : Yes, I understand iMessage is only for iOS devices, but seeing as the person that I often text every day is my girlfriend, whom I live with, iMessage is a huge thing for me. Most of my friends are on iMessage, plus all of my immediate family have an iPhone of sorts, so that cuts down the texting bill.
  • Poor App Store : We've all heard it, that the WP8's app store is lackluster; who can blame them, with the small market share. It's an unfortunate vicious circle: third parties have poor app support for the system because people won't buy into it because there's no third party support.
  • No Alternate Browsers : From what I'm able to gather, the WP SDK doesn't support third-party browsers. That's unfortunate, because IE for WP8 is fucking garbage. If I'm switching back and forth between Angry Birds Star Wars and YouTube to figure out how to 3-star a level, I can't do it as easy as iOS. You can multitask by hitting the Back button and go to the previous location, but it also acts as the browser's back button; not just "back" as in "back to previous app", but "back to previous page in the current app before you switched to this one from a different app". This brings me to:
  • Multitasking is a Fucking Joke : If I did switch from ABSW to IE by means of Windows button-to-IE, if I go back to the Start screen and load up ABSW because I was too far gone in IE for the Back button to be useful, it has to boot the app up all over again. Fuck that noise.
  • Too Much Black : Holy fuck, Microsoft, why all the black? It may be beneficial for AMOLED screens, but it's an eye sore. There's so much black, I felt disconnected from the outside world.
  • No Push Email : At least for Gmail; good luck trying to get it to sync quicker than 15 minutes.
  • Poor Syncing Between Phone and Cloud Services : Being someone who's been in the Apple ecosystem for 4 years - and who dealt with a massive iCloud issue last month - it was hard parting with the simplicity of iCloud. Attempting to import my Calendars from the Mac to the phone proved to be nigh impossible; there is no way for the phone to talk to the computer about anything other than media. The app Microsoft made for Macs to sync your WP device only syncs media; it does not allow for anything else. I found this wonderful app called, get ready, "Welcome Home to Windows Phone". Despite the name, the app worked wonderfully. It scanned my iPhone, pulled all information to the app, gave me recommendations for apps on the Windows app store - most of which made sense, if that same app didn't exist - transferred contacts, music, photos...but one thing it heavily fucked up on was my Calendars, something I hold near and dear. I have several calendars, each keeping track of my work schedule, bills, game releases, schoolwork due dates...all of that. It was able to sync it to the phone, but it set everything back a full day; rather than an event being on November 11th, it was on the 10th, and it did this for every. Fucking. Event. Let's try syncing Mac Calendar with Google Calendar! Nope. What about Mac to Windows Live? HA! Fat chance. How do we resolve this? We don't.
  • Reboot Much? : I noticed my phone rebooted randomly today, with half battery and no downloads happening. Found that to be pretty weird. [UPDATE 11/27] Microsoft is addressing this, and is pushing out an OTA update in December.
  • No Dedicated Contacts List : I'm not sure why they think this is a good idea, but I don't have a dedicated phone contact list. Everything and anything is slammed together in the People hub; my Facebook contacts, my Gmail contacts, and my Phone contacts, all in one giant clusterfuck of a list.
  • Familiarity with iPhone/iOS : Oh dear god, the learning curve. Sure, this is bound to happen with any new device, but the curve is so fucking high, I wonder how long it would take Joe Schmoe to rage-quit and throw the device against the wall until his soul bled.
  • Poor Battery Life : I played the shit out of ABSW; I even unlocked the 5 hour playtime achievement. But my phone dies very quickly, much quicker than if I was on an Angry Birds marathon on my iPhone. Unfortunately, the goddamned thing takes forever to charge. Where my iPhone would fully charge in two hours, my phone just sat there sucking on electricity like an Englishman sipping on pipping hot tea for hours on end.
  • Accessory Compatibility : I use the Griffin AutoPilot in my car, where it plugs to the dock connector, charges and plays music via the AUX port. Fantastic little bugger. Sadly, there is no such thing for WP devices, just the "universal" transmitters that either broadcast over FM (good luck with the quality), or directly from headphone jack to AUX jack in the car. If you get a charger, you'll need a separate AUX cable, which the ports are on opposite ends of the device. Have fun with that setup!
  • SmartGlass for WP Is Nowhere Near as Robust as You'd Think : AirPlay puts everything to shame. Despite having an Xbox with SmartGlass set up, I had no way of playing music from my phone to the Xbox; it didn't even come up as a recognized device!
  • Microsoft Account Don't Fully Sync Across : When I went to buy ABSW, the only purchase method I had was to tack it on to the AT&T bill. Fine, it's just 0.99¢. I later find out I can add multiple purchase methods, such as my debit card, or PayPal. Cool, but what about that massive amount of Microsoft Points I have on my Live ID account? How can I pay with that? Turns out, there is no way. Microsoft doesn't allow you to have the same wallet across all of their services.
Reasons I Would Stay
  • Mobile Xbox Games : Yea, the only fucking reason I'd stay with this phone is this.
There is one overal thing I miss about iOS, which a simple picture will let me get that point across:

It's an extensive list of reasons to go back, which is why I am. I'm sick of trying to adapt to the new ecosystem, which does not play friendly with those who come from iOS. If you want to sway people from a system where they just flock to it like ants to sugar, don't make it a pain the in dick to switch. It just makes them want to go back. 

I've already returned the phone, but I won't be upgrading to the iPhone 5. I reactivated my iPhone 4, and will be staying with it for some time. 

This entire procedure makes me want that fucking Xbox tablet I keep hearing about. I want it to run Windows Phone, not Windows RT. If it's running Windows RT, it better be able to play games from WP; it would help build the allure of Windows Phone to those who are on the fence about switching. That, or just bring out a Zune HD 2 running WP8 OS.

The nomenclature of these devices are weird, tho. Currently, it's called "Surface with Windows RT", not "Surface RT". The Pro tablet is being called "Surface with Windows 8 Pro", but should just be simply "Surface Pro". The rumored 7" tablet would be more geared towards entertainment, rather than productivity, so it would most likely be running RT, not Pro; let's call it "Xbox Surface", as others have. Finally, if we do get a true Zune HD 2, it would probably be called "Xbox Surface mini" or something along those lines.

TL;DR == You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.