Leaving the iPhone- How Windows Phone 8 Stacks Up

by Patrick Moorhead   |   January 29th, 2013

Approximately six weeks ago, I made the decision to stop using my iPhone 4s and immerse myself in Android, which I lumia 920did for about a month.  I wrote about that here.  After Android, I wanted to try out Windows Phone 8 for an extended period of time and I want to share my experiences with you. My goal here is provide some insights into how an American, technically astute Apple iPhone user would feel about using Windows Phone 8.  I don’t represent the masses, but do represent the demographics of a an influential block of analysts, press, pundits, etc.  I will talk about the pros, cons, and things that just didn’t matter one way or the other when comparing my iPhone 4s to the Windows Phone 8 powered Nokia Lumia 920.  The 920 is considered by most as the flagship Windows Phone 8 phone and a good representation of the state of the art.

Let’s start out with the Windows Phone 8 (WP8) plusses.

Windows Phone 8 Plusses

Camera: While I know this has more to do with Nokia than WP8, it’s important to talk about it as it’s such a core feature.  To be fair, when I am bragging on iOS, I always talk about the iPhone camera.  Flat out, the 920 has the best camera I have ever used.  It has superior low light capability and nearly every picture was in focus.

Responsiveness:  Amongst Android and iOS, WP8 is by far the most responsive operating system.  Screen flows are elegant and very rarely, if ever, did I feel any stutter.  This says a lot given the immaturity of WP8.  It also says a lot about how helpful restricting true multitasking can be.  I’ll touch on that later.

Live Tiles: Instead of icons, WP8 uses Live Tiles, or large icons that display information without actually having to open the app.  The most useful tiles were mail, calendar, and weather.  It was nice to just look at my phone and get a glance at the latest email and appointment without having to open multiple apps or down-swipe a notifications bar.  Sure, it only saves a few seconds, but our minds amplify time savings, so it feels like a lot more.  It also helps in the car, too where I can glance at my phone at a stop light and see what’s going on.

Stability: Flat out, WP8 never crashed nor did any app I was using.  I find this absolutely amazing, given the immaturity of the OS.  I cannot say the same about iOS 6 or Jelly Bean.

Contact linking: I liked this about webOS and I like it about WP8.  I have close to 7 social media or email accounts. WP8 (like Windows 8/RT) allows you to link contacts together so instead of seeing up to 7 contacts for one person, you see only one.  Some of the Android shells do this, but WP8 is flat-out superior at it.  It’s nice, too, that the linking gets shared to Windows 8 and Windows RT devices.

Calendar and contacts: WP8’s calendar worked really well with Google services, but not as well as Android, of course.  It supported adding attendees, accepting meeting notices from Outlook, etc.  Contact sharing with Google was flawless.   This is an area of intense weakness for iOS and I hope to see improve quickly.

The “back” button: Having a back button may sound like a nit, but it is a genuine time saver versus iOS.  iOS requires the double tap on the home button and a selection of the app versus just tapping the back button.  I was surprised at just how much I liked this.  When you hold the back button down for a second, your a screenshot of your last used apps pops up and I really liked that.

Internet Explorer browser: Very simply, the browser worked on all sites and was very fast, and in fact it felt faster than both Safari and even Chrome.  That’s saying a lot.

Full email search: WP8 allows me to do a full search of my email, where iOS just enables people and email title search.

Spell check: Unlike iOS and Android, WP8 gets it right for me more times than not and automatically makes the change.  This was one of those “wow I didn’t know it could get better” features.

People App: This app is unique in that you can organize people into groups, like Favorites and Family and see real-time info on them, like their social media updates, uploaded pictures and comments.

Full photo and video uploads: Unlike iCloud and iOS, WP8 uploads full size photos and even videos to SkyDrive.  To keep battery and broadband fees to a minimum, WP8 gives you the option to only upload over WiFi.  This is awesome as I never need to connect my phone to my PC, which I could never say about my iPhone.

Now let’s move onto the areas that didn’t make a difference one way or another.

Windows Phone 8 Neutrals

Copy-Paste: Unlike Android, WP8’s  copy and paste worked nearly as good as iOS.

MS Office: With WP8, MS Office files can be flawlessly read and Word and Excel can be editred.  As iOS has decent Office “read” capabilities, this brought nothing to the table, so I am indifferent.  When I was doing more “Powerpointing” in corporate America, iOS did make grievous mistakes with many Powerpoint files.  Seriously, who edits Excel on their phone?

Multitasking: As far as I can tell, there is no way for the user to control multitasking at any fine grain level.  Mail, calendar, and social media will sync in the background, but many apps won’t, and it’s aggravating.  Therefore, I must have the following apps open to sync data: Evernote, SlapDash Podcasts, and even Skydrive.  This is a “neutral” because iPhone isn’t much better with user controlled multitasking.

Windows Phone 8 Minuses

“Page 1” Apps: WP8 lacks in many cases the apps and the depth of apps I want on my phone.  First, there were many apps that were just as good and in some cases better than iOS.  Facebook, LinkedIn, E*Trade, Netflix and Evernote fall into that category.   Many of my preferred apps lacked full functionality, though.  These were apps like Epicurious, Flixster, Yelp and ESPN ScoreCenter which didn’t enable me to login and import saved data or settings.  YouTube wouldn’t let me even upload a video.  The most difficult thing to deal with was some of the lack of my page 1 apps.  These are apps like WatchESPN, Neat, Nike Run, HootSuite, Instagram, Google+, TripCase, Waze, MailOnline, TWC TV, and Pulse.  I use these daily on my iPhone and they were really hard to live without.

App organization: There are two distinct places consumers can organize tiles; the home screen and app screen.  The app screen is a vertical string of apps that is endless.  If you’re like me and use over 100 apps you are left with a string of endless apps to wade through.   This is ridiculous and needs to change. (UPDATE: In app window, holding down a letter will bring up the alphabet where users can pick apps that start with that letter.  Still harder than folders IMO.)

Lack of synced bookmarks: I liked the speed and compatibility of Internet Explorer, but the lack of synced bookmarks felt archaic. In fact, there are no folders for favorites and like lack of an organizing principle for apps, leaves a huge, long and unmanageable list of links.

Phone search: I really like the phone Spotlight Search on iOS.  WP8 doesn’t have the capability and I missed it.  What compounds the problem is that there aren’t app folders and I want to search for installed apps.  Contacts were tough too, because it could take three clicks to search on a contact as I need to go into People, find “all” people, press magnifying glass, then type in person’s name.  The frustrating this is that one of three dedicated bezel buttons is search, but it’s just a Bing search.  I wish they would change that to a phone search.

Maps and nav: Apple Maps severely disappointed me because of the inaccurate or incomplete data, but it had a killer experience. Nokia Maps was the opposite; decent data with a challenging experience.  I must caveat that Nokia maps is still beta and it shows. First, most of the times, GPS got stuck for about 10 seconds before it could tell me where I was.  That was more of my impatience, but it felt forever when you’re trying to find out where you are or how to get some place.

About 25% of the time when I did go to turn-by-turn directions, the phone got confused and wouldn’t do turn-by-turn or any navigation.  It would just sit there, confused.  Finally, when voice directions did say where to go, Nokia maps doesn’t give street names, it uses generics. It will say, “turn right in 1 mile”, not something like “turn right in 1 mile at Main Street.”  This was very, very difficult when you’re driving 65 mph on the highway in a big city when exits are packed on top of each other.  I missed many turns because of it.  I hope during their beta period, Nokia saw others recognizes this and made appropriate changes.

Switching to Windows 8?

I was really impressed with WP8 “feel”, stability and the camera.  Yes, that camera was a real differentiator.  The challenge is there are way too many shortcomings with lack of apps, maps & navigation, and browser bookmark sync for me to make a switch.  When some of the basics are there, I would reconsider, but then again, there will be a new set of “basics” in a year.  I won’t switch from iOS to Windows Phone 8 for now but will now likely switch to Android.  I want to see what Mobile World Congress before I lock into a phone and I will keep you posted on that.

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick Moorhead was ranked the #1 technology industry analyst by Apollo Research for the U.S. and EMEA in May, 2013.. He is President and Principal Analyst of Moor Insights & Strategy, a high tech analyst firm focused on the ecosystem intersections of the phone, tablet, PC, TV, datacenter and cloud. Moorhead departed AMD in 2011 where he served as Corporate Vice President and Corporate Fellow in the strategy group. There, he developed long-term strategies for mobile computing devices and personal computers. In his 11 years at AMD he also led product management, business planning, product marketing, regional marketing, channel marketing, and corporate marketing. Moorhead worked at Compaq Computer Corp. during their run to the #1 market share leader position in personal computers. Moorhead also served as an executive at AltaVista E-commerce during their peak and pioneered cost per click e-commerce models.
  • FalKirk

    Good article, Patrick. Thank you for sharing your observations.

    “Having a back button may sound like a nit, but it is a genuine time saver versus iOS. iOS requires the double tap on the home button and a selection of the app versus just tapping the back button. I was surprised at just how much I liked this.”

    Yes, I think most people would prefer if the double-click in iOS acted as a “last” or “back” button. But user interface is hard. Making people triple click to access the hidden screen of previous apps would probably kill the feature altogether

    “The app screen is a vertical string of apps that is endless. If you’re like me and use over 100 apps you are left with a string of endless apps to wade through. This is ridiculous and needs to change.”

    Interesting observation. The current iOS method for organizing apps is a mess – very difficult to move apps from page to page. But perhaps the mind needs some sort of “page” system in order to keep things mentally organized. The endless river approach of Microsoft – which is easier to organize on the phone- may be harder to organize in our minds.

    • Don M

      On the app screen, you do get an alphabetical grid on WP, so it’s fine if you remember the name of the app. I don’t think there’s a perfect way to conveniently arrange and access 200 apps on a handheld device. Android just gave me a grid. Sure, I could put them in folders, but it still wasn’t easy. The new WP interface allows small tiles that work somewhat like folders. I use regularly 25-35 apps, so it’s not a huge issue for me – the ones I use most pin to the home screen.

  • Laneway1

    forgot to mention many cool features about windows Phone, local scout being one of them which is where Google got the idea from for Google now, the app list in Windows Phone becomes alphabetized when you have enough apps so your complain about Windows Phone app list is wrong, the 26 letters of the alphabet shows up in the app list so lets say you want apps that starts with the letter s you just hit the letter S and every app that begins with S shows up, there are quite a few things you never truly explored you should give WP the same amount of time as you did with Android to understand it, besides Windows Phone makes Android even with Jelly bean 4.2 update and ios feels old, Windows phone is the sexiest is of them all you never even mentioned that amongst other things.

    ⬇ Drag and drop your images here to upload them.

    Attach

    forgot to mention many cool features about windows Phone, local scout being one of them which is where Google got the idea from for Google now, the app list in Windows Phone becomes alphabetized when you have enough apps so your complain about Windows Phone app list is wrong, the 26 letters of the alphabet shows up in the app list so lets say you want apps that starts with the letter s you just hit the letter S and every app that begins with S shows up, there are quite a few things you never truly explored you should give WP the same amount of time as you did with Android to understand it, besides Windows Phone makes Android even with Jelly bean 4.2 update and ios feels old, Windows phone is the sexiest is of them all you never even mentioned that amongst other things.

    Attach

  • Rich

    Microsoft has messed up Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and the Surface. They need to replace them with good products and they need to do that soon, or it will cost them even more than it already has.

    They also need a new CEO, soon.

    • Paul

      Microsoft has freshened their product range and has a very solid outlook, and on the surface it seems the sky is the limit and they will drive forward with windows as a solid plaform for the future..its internet products also are very solid you just need to explore the possibilities, and share your experience that is my point :)

    • tits or gtfo

      Microsoft’s biggest problem is the internet slobs who seem to all have been brainwashed to think that every single product they put out is terrible. Try it first before you come in with dumb comments that aren’t your own.

    • umesh sharma

      The only problem we have here is that apple was back with a huge BANG…… the voice of that bang has not yet faded that is why we are unable to hear the constant crackers from microsoft….. With steve jobs now in heaven(or hell sorry dont know) ssoner or later microsoft and nokia both will be back…… and remember my friend they have ruled their respective worlds so they can again

  • KevinW

    Patrick, the one big deal you left out was ease of loading data. With WebOS or Android, my phone shows up as a drive on my PC when I plug it in via USB. If I want to copy 5gb of music I just drag and drop. Same with photos, video, books, or any other file. Both IOS and Win make this extremely difficult by restricting you to using a program e.g. iTunes to transfer. If you want to transfer a file type they don’t understand, you’re out of luck. Yeah, I know I’m a techie and don’t represent the masses but that’s why I can’t go to IOS or Win.

    • Paul

      this is also the case with windows phone too it shows up as a drive on the pc, you can then drag and drop photo’s music and video’s to and from your windows phone 8 phone quite easily..

      • Court Kizer

        The iPhone does this as well, did you not know that?

  • Bill

    Partick, I enjoyed the atricle.

    A correction though: holding the Back button for a second doesn’t really bring up the recently used apps, it brings up the currently loaded apps which allows you to actively switch amongst them.

    In addition, I also have over 100 apps installed but I find the alphabetized list very handy. I can quickly go to any point in the list by clicking a letter button and selecting the letter of the desired place in the list. Also the search button (not the bottome search button) allows me to quickly filter the list of apps (I use this alot).

  • pawhite524

    Question: Is running a hundred apps likely to crash a mobile OS?

    After reading of your self-described finite demographic for mobile usage, that is, unique in many ways I thought of the running of a smaller number of apps as the rationale for the WP8 being so stable compared with iOS and Android.

    My usage is far, far less intense than yours and, to my knowledge, I have never had a crash of iOS having experienced iOS 4, 5, and now 6.

    Just wondering…

    • Paul

      never had a crash on my Nokia Lumia 820 either using windows phone 8 os, its very stable and well built….i have over 50 apps and about 20 games which i use a lot of them fairly frequently and not had issues….

      • pawhite524

        Thank you for taking time to reply to my post. In the article Patrick Moorhead referenced OS crashes with Android and iOS but not WP8. If this is solely a benefit of WP8 then MS has set the bar of mobile OS stability higher. If fewer apps running, as Patrick described, I’d like to know if this is the reason.
        All the best!

  • Paul

    Windows Phone 8 is a solid platform and is growing rapidly there are close to 200,000 apps already including the top 46 of the top 50 apps, the Windows Phone i have (Nokia Lumia 820) is very well built is very easy to use very fast very secure for work purposes has microsoft office built in for free, it has exchange integration, secure boot etc, i have my email delivered from yahoo and hotmail straight to my main screen, i also use xbox live games on my windows phone 8 too…great feature and you can use it as a remote control for your xbox….i would suggest that people should visit a phone shop and try a windows phone 8 phone before writing it off…i am very pleased with my purchase…..the built in Nokia Drive sat nav app is as good as buying a seperate sat nav..it has turn by turn voice navigation too….

  • pradeep

    Hi Patrick, I agree with most of your points except for the last one about Maps and nav.
    As far as I know, Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive+, Nokia City Lens, Nokia Transport works perfectly for me and others too. Not sure whether the problem you had is a common thing.

  • PrideLand

    Phone Search: “What compounds the problem is that there aren’t app folders and I want to search for installed apps.” The app screen lets you search for apps as you type in the name of the app the list is updated in realtime. Just tap on the magnifying glass icon and start typing.

  • Allen

    I don’t get why people love to bring up the list of apps being hard to navigate. You can jump to the 1st letter of the apps name….this is literally the same thing as on an ios device when navigating your list of songs. As someone with more than 100 songs (235 songs) i can tell you it isn’t very hard for me to find a specific song with the letter jump function.

  • http://www.facebook.com/davidahenryjr David Henry

    I got a Windows 8 phone since I respect Microsoft’s way of doing business, I use XBox often, and create web apps using MS.. So I’m a little biased, but the responsiveness of the phone (Nokia) is amazing. If I’m bored, the phone is always able to entertain, never frustrate, seeing what my friends are up to, finding new places…. without the need to download apps, it’s all right there. I am jealous that iPhone gets all the apps first, but then I remind myself that I have never used an app for more than a few minutes. They are mainly value added services for other types of business, never as fun to use as ads make them out to be. Anyway, the phone is both fun and professional at the same time. I hope more people start using it.

  • lumiawp

    Nokia drive does say street names for turn-by-turn direction, just go into setting, select navigation voice, download English (U.S announced street name). Now, that wasn’t hard, was it?

  • http://twitter.com/tony_ogrady Tony O’Grady

    Hi Patrick

    Sounds like a nicely balanced review – I guess the big decision of ‘do I go back to the iPhone’ is being saved for another blog.

    Just one comment regarding the navigation app. For many years I had a sat-nav in the car that did the ‘turn left in 100m’ type prompts. This always made perfect sense to me and I struggled when I first used the Google nav app on my Android phone. The problem was that I first used this in an unfamiliar town so ‘turn left into XXXXX Street’ meant nothing to me so I had to concentrate more on the displayed map.

    When is the big reveal?

    Tony

  • Slambusher

    I posted in your Android review about the nightmare I had. You find it frustrating that the apps are lacking or not as polished in WP wait until you go to open the Android apps and the phone locks up on you. Before you get that phone do a search if Android force close and read the nightmares others are having. I know that the tablets are having the same issues.
    There’s nothing more fun then having to remove your battery and restart your phone over and over hoping it won’t happen again. Yes I had the latest and greatest Android phone also running 4.0. At least WP and ios don’t crash all the time.

    • http://twitter.com/notionH Nousin Hawk

      Hi, could you tell me which Android phone you have? Or if it’s a recent one? I bought the Lg G2x, and got stuck with it because it was discontinued soon after I bought it. IOs is too boring and controlling for me. I want to make the switch the Windows, but I’m not sure if that would be a mistake…

      • Slambusher

        The last one was the Razr Maxx running 4.0. I switched last week of November.

  • Parker_D

    I’d leave the old 4S once I know how to transfer my iphone data to my windows phone. So far I have this in mind for when transferring my iphone contacts:

    http://www.copytrans.net/support/how-to-back-up-iphone-contacts/

    However, transferring purchased iTunes music, and videos remains a huge challenge. Apple has had me in their grip.

    • Mannedmodule

      Your itunes music that is non-DRM (mostly those from around 2009) will play on lumia 920. Connect your lumia with usb, in my computer you will find your lumia, drag your music files or folders into the music folder in lumia. Done! Similar with non-drm video – drag into the video folder in lumia.

    • http://www.facebook.com/olink Olin Kirkland

      music and videos can easily be imported. setting up your phone takes < 10 minutes, really. all i did was log in to my facebook, live, yahoo, spotify, twitter, and google accounts. done, done. everything fills up with my personal data after that.

  • Jun Hyeon Mun

    Good to hear that WP8′s market share doesn’t directly reflect its greatness.

  • Eoin

    Just a heads up with the “phone search” on wp8 (well this is on wp7 but I assume it works with wp8 also). By holding down the windows button you can then use your voice to search the phone, for example ring or text somebody or open any installed app. This isn’t exactly the same as a full text search but it’s surprisingly good in it’s own right

  • Jim

    I have a Lumia 920, and for the most part I’m really satisfied. One thing I don’t really get is why it wouldn’t be able to have watchespn yet? It arrived with the ESPN score app..seems strange. Admittedly, I’m an idiot about phones, but it’s been three months. Any word on if/when it would have that capability?

  • Pedal_Harder

    I know I am late to this conversation but just want to add one other cool feature of WP8. Voice commands, when I am driving and have the bluetooth on it will tell me who sent me a text, read it to me and let me respond without touching the phone. Also, lets me text and call the in the same way which is very helpful when I am driving. We just returned a Galaxy 3S because there was no way to make this happen. It would do some things close and you could open an app to but at no time was it so easy and integrated as it is on WP8. Plus there were a list of other disappointments about the Android OS that led us back to the WP8.

  • Linda

    Thanx Patrick for doing this. I’ve been undecided whether to get iphone or Windows. I’ve decided on a Windows 8. I don’t use as many apps as you do and love the camera aspect. Thanx again :)

  • 2thgnz

    the reason why I can’t use ios or q88 is difficulty I loading files from system. they restrict u to certain appear like zune for w8 which why as nokia dropped symbian I had no choice but to switch to android cause its closest to my symbian experience. with android u don’t need any system software to move data. intact I started with a low entry level phone galaxy pocket was amazed @ the features I was able to do so I stepped up to galaxy tab 2 p3100

  • Bryan Billings

    Waze just announced app for WP8 in June!!!!!

  • zim star

    I agree with WP8 is better than older versions of Android. But Jelly bean really is the best OS out there. Really like M$’s attempt at the live tiles, they are really nice, but that is the only thing that is better and all it is really, is a gimmick, i’m asking my self if the next iphone 6 work fine with wp8 ;) ?

  • lannister

    ‘m probably one of the very few people who picked up a Windows phone at the store, and absolutely loved it.until the next sony Xperia ZR The OS Ecosystem to me was just refreshingly different from IOS, and much more stylish and natural than Android (although the different versions makes this hard to compare).

    achat ipad 5

  • Maxx Well

    To switch to Windows Phone, we need to backup iPhone first.
    But how to backup iPhone?

  • Erik Aleksander Moe

    The biggest negative about WP8 isn’t listed here. It is the music app and the truly bad sync software. I have tried to sync music on it and with the sync software transcoding my ALAC files to 128kbps AAC files without giving me an option on the transcoded bitrate is bad. I think everyone who cares about music and quality of sound would say that 128kbps is not acceptable. I think it would be better if the sync software analyzed the file and determined that it was a lossless format and then transcoded it to the lossless format the WP8 OS can read, namely WMA 9 Lossless (since that is a file format and coding that is owned by Microsoft). But I would have preferred to have a choice with transcoding to a lossy format with a high bitrate or WMA Lossless. There is also something else about the music experience in WP8. It doesn’t support gapless playback, at least the stock music app doesn’t support it. But there aren’t any 3rd party apps that does support gapless playing of the music on the phone either. On Android there are many and iOS stock music app supports it (it has from the beginning). This is the reason why I don’t use my Lumia 920 anymore. The main feature is use my phone for is music playback and when that is subpar then I just go back to my iPhone where the music playback is stellar (at least for my use since I don’t use EQs).

  • Mason

    I swapped my iOS for a windows 8 mobile, it’s fantastic! I did however need my contacts from the iOS, I came across an app called phoneswappr. It moved all my contacts to the windows 8.

    The “People” app on the windows 8 is such a good feature, love how it keeps me updated with everything that’s going on!

  • Fritz vonMaybach

    I am late to the party, but I noticed that you say that you had trouble with Nokia maps for navigation. Why would anyone use Nokia maps for driving directions when Here Drive (also from Nokia), is what is intended for driving, and since Nokia owns Garmin, the tech is top notch.