Switching from Symbian: What I Love/Hate About Windows Phone 8
Edit Cj: Everyone say hello to the newest member of our crew, Shibesh (@biryaniwhore)!
For the past 2 years, my choice of operating system was Symbian. (Insert Cj’s joke how Steve Litchfield, Yash and I are the only ones still using the platform) So naturally when I picked up a Nokia Lumia 620, I was in for a series of shocks and surprises. Sometimes pleasant, most of the times not. Let’s start with the pleasant:
Yes. Go ahead laugh yourself silly. As a Symbian user, I always could do whatever I wanted to because I was persistent and perennially on the lookout for workarounds. It is Symbian that made me proficient in the use of ‘three fingered salute’, ‘flashing a phone’ and extensive knowledge of the Daily Mobile Forums. In short, nothing was ever easy. Facebook’s official app is still the JAVA one that you can find in the likes of the 8-yr old N70. Twitter doesn’t have an official app. And let’s not even go into the hundreds of smaller niche services that are awesome in what they do, but I could never get to experience on Symbian. It’s no one’s fault. On the contrary, it’s a good business decision on the developer’s side to abandon a sinking ship.
Windows Phone, on the other hand, is the new kid on the block. A year ago, it might have been unstable but it has slowly garnered support from a majority of high-profile services. When I opened up the Marketplace for the first time, I felt like a kid who had just been given a lifetime’s membership to Disneyland. I was, and still remain spoiled for choice here; anyone who says Windows Phone doesn’t have apps, all I can say to them is: What more could you possibly want!
3. Lockscreen Customizability
4. Nokia’s hardware
For a mid-range device, the 620 packs in a sure bang for the buck. The speakers are loud and clear. The size is just right for my stubby-fingered hands. The screen is perfect for outdoor usage with its Clear Black Display. The camera is surprisingly good, in both bright and low-lit conditions.
And it’s GREEN! Who doesn’t love a green phone! Or a yellow one! Or red! Sigh.
Now, with all of the gushing out of the way. Let’s get to the parts I hate about this OS:
1. No Multitasking
I cannot understand how a software company, who’s been one of the most dominant forces when it comes to PC operating systems, devalues the importance of true multitasking. Something which Symbian has had for YEARS. Yes, I understand that the target audience for this operating system is probably the masses, and not power users. But still. That choice of how I’m going to be using my phone should remain with me, and not with UX designers holed up somewhere sipping coffee.
On Symbian, I had no concept of the operating system ‘freezing’ tasks, while I went off to do something else. Gravity, Poddi, Opera Mini, WhatsApp, JoikuSpot; all of those applications would still be active, even if I opened them a week ago and forgot about them.
On WP, I have to check on every application I need to be working on, if it’s still doing what I want it to do or not. I have to manually check if the podcast I was downloading hasn’t stopped, if WhatsApp has any new messages it hasn’t ‘toast notified’ me about, if I have any new notifications under the ‘Me’ hub, if the picture I was uploading to Instagram hasn’t freezed, I could go on. What should be a butter smooth experience suddenly becomes me application-hopping frantically just to see if everything I want is happening the way I want it to happen. Which brings me to my next point:
2. App Switching
You know how I said above that I love WP’s UI, and smoothness? Here’s the thing: the smoothness is in the transitions. When I’m doing something important, and on-the-fly, I don’t give a damn about the transitions, which then promptly become a royal pain in the neck, taking for EVER to fly and swing into place and looking pretty, but never, I repeat, never fast. Also, if I see another ‘Resuming’ screen, I might just cry.
While on Symbian, I used to switch between tasks lightning fast. Flitting from Opera Mini, to share a link I found interesting to Gravity, to replying to a WhatsApp message that just came in, to the Camera because my dog just did something very funny, and so on and so forth.Also, don’t even get me started on the useless ‘you were in these apps before but they might be working or they might not, depending on your luck and my mood’ screen, aka, the ‘multitasking’ screen.
3. Lack of free apps
No, I’m not going back on what I said above. Brilliant, awesome apps are available for almost all services on Windows Phone. Just that they’re paid. Now, I’m not against developers earning or their hard work, they should, by all means be getting paid for something that they’ve developed out of love for the OS, or otherwise.
What I’m against are the astronomical figures charged for some apps. I’m not an economist, but even I know of the concept of ‘Purchasing Power Parity’. What $1 or €1 means to a US citizen or someone in Europe, is in no way equivalent to the what the Indian market price of $1 or €1 means to an Indian citizen.
I’ve bought loads of apps on Symbian, just because they were priced sensibly. Gravity, the most comprehensive Twitter client to ever be devised by a man and the most expensive on-phone purchase I’ve made, was priced at a decent, affordable Rs 35. While in the Windows Marketplace, I’ve seen prices range from Rs 55 to Rs 260. The problem? India is a developing market. The 520 and 620 are the WP smartphones that probably sold most here. No one in their right minds is going to spend that much on applications after choosing to buy the cheapest WP handset in the store.
All it’s going to do is incentivize people to crack these, and make them available online. It hasn’t been done till yet, but who knows, maybe someone just might do it. Just because s/he didn’t want to pay a stupid amount for an app.
4. These screens
5. Data Usage
WP, for some weird reason, refuses to work with a 2G connection. On WiFi, everything’ll be hunky-dory, but as soon as you switch to GPRS, *poof*, your smartphone just became as useful as a Nokia 1100. With the exception of WhatsApp, which just about manages to get your messages through.How can that even be possible, you ask? Beats me.
The same connection, while on my Nokia 701, was enough to run Gravity, upload a couple of pictures to Facebook, even download a couple of podcasts(given enough time), but the 620 just won’t do it. Google’ll take forever to load. I’ve tried everything, UC Browser, Nokia Xpress(an solution similar to Opera Mini) but nothing works. I know the settings are right because, by some stroke of luck, WhatsApp works well enough to be usable.
6. Search Button
7. Xbox Music
What in the world was Microsoft thinking? It is one thing discontinuing a buggy service to replace it with another beta version of a service, but compared to Zune, Xbox Music is pathetic! The only way you can get it to work as a simple music player is by unlinking it with Xbox Live. Unbeknownst to me, when I first moved in all of my music, and restarted the phone, it did away with all of my precious ID3 tagging efforts, giving me a bare list of song titles.
Similar issues can be found all over the interwebz. It took quite a lot of reading up on my part, going through forums to figure out what the problem was.
After all of that, would I still keep using the 620?
Surprisingly, yes. You see, I come from Symbian, I’m no stranger to finding workarounds for stuff that doesn’t work. In that way, Symbian really toughened up my hide. As an OS, I can see a lot of potential in Windows Phone, considering everything I hate about WP is within arms’ length of Microsoft to fix. And I’m really counting on incremental updates to make it better. High priced apps, I can live with, if there are enough free, ad-supported alternatives. I’d really like to see operator billing in the Marketplace to buy the apps I really, really, really want to buy, but that isn’t a major issue right now.
The major issue for me is that Microsoft are treating their audiences like idiots. That isn’t how the world works anymore. At least not in 2013. People are becoming more aware of the stuff going on around them, if only because of Samsung’s aggressive marketing strategies. You go out on the street, you hear the words ‘quad-core’ and ‘HD’ being thrown around quite often. Now, even if we are smug about knowing the real-world application of those technologies, we aren’t 99% of the market. Microsoft needs to up its game. I’m not saying bring in a quad core processor, even if unnecessary. Fix the issues stated above. The innovation can’t stop with, ‘Oh, we brought in Tiles’, and neither can everything be left to Nokia’s PureView branding. For all my love for Symbian, even I’d admit the 808 didn’t do any wonders when it came to market penetration.
As of now, Windows Phone won’t sell just because, ‘I have a Windows PC at home’ anymore.