Windows Phone looked great. …but then I actually had to live with it.
I had an aging iPhone 3G in my pocket, and iOS was feeling more boring and stale than ever before. I was ready to jump ship to a new phone ecosystem, and after some thorough research and soul-searching, I had made my decision. My prospective new phone was months away from being released, but I anxiously awaited its arrival.
Unfortunately, that day would never come. Léo Apotheker would see to that.
My heart was broken when I read the news. WebOS, the mobile operating system that I had just fallen in love with, was dead. The HP Pre 3, the phone I had been infatuated with for months, would never see the light of day. All of my carefully laid plans had been dashed by a single bullet point in HP’s quarterly earnings report.
Back to the drawing board, I guess.
“Gingerbread” was the Android du jour at the time, but nothing about it (or any of its variants) ever appealed to me. The “authentically digital” design of Windows Phone piqued my interest, and the new “Mango” update seemed to close a lot of the gaps that kept it behind the competition. Blackberry was also a thing that existed.
In the end, Windows Phone was the only real choice for me. I decided on the upcoming Samsung Focus S as my next phone, and started waiting. Again.
I found a lot to love about the phone and the OS throughout the honeymoon period. Windows Phone was just as smooth and fluid as I had anticipated, and simply using the phone was an enjoyable experience. The software keyboard was excellent, and provided the best typing experience that I’ve ever had on a mobile device. The Windows Phone Marketplace had all of the apps and games that I needed, and Wonder Reader was the mobile Google Reader experience that I’d always wanted. Live Tiles were neat! I was very happy with my choice.
…but then, the problems began.
It turns out that the Samsung Focus S has a few kinks and bugs that are unique to that specific phone, and not necessarily to the whole operating system. For example, when the phone is plugged in and charging, the entire user interface goes from buttery-smooth to slow-as-molasses. Plugged in or not, the on-screen keyboard will lag noticeably if you leave the keyboard sound effects enabled. This is quite unfortunate, as the “plicks” and “plocks” of the Windows Phone keyboard are delightful.
The real showstopper is that it doesn’t play nice with my 802.11n Wi-Fi network. Every other device in the house can connect to my Linksys router without issue, but the Focus S has a rough time of it. It’s not unusual for me to get 20 Mbps down on my laptop, but the Focus S struggles to break 1 Mbps. I’ve seen better results when I disable N on my router and just go with G, but I refuse to compromise all of my other devices just for this phone. Never having full Wi-Fi speeds has led to a whole slew of other problems and annoyances, and even though this may be a phone-specific issue, it has been consistent with my general experience using Windows Phone over the past 7 months.
If I had to choose one word to sum up Windows Phone, it would be “unreliable”.
When I was first getting acquainted with “Mango”, I was especially impressed with how podcast functionality was integrated directly into the OS. I’m an avid podcast listener, and having a good podcatcher on my phone is absolutely essential. Windows Phone allows you to subscribe to all of your podcasts via the Zune Marketplace, and it will automatically download new episodes as they are posted to your feeds. The idea is that your phone will always be completely up-to-date for you when you leave for work in the morning. …theoretically.
It doesn’t work.
Oh, sometimes it will work. It works just often enough to remind me that the feature exists. But I would say that a good 80% of my mornings are started with outdated feeds. This was one of the main features that I was excited for when transitioning to Windows Phone, but it may as well not even exist with how often it fails. Since my podcasts haven’t been automatically downloaded, the next step is to manually download something to listen to for the ride in.
You would think that would be an easy task, but you would be wrong.
Half of the time, if I press the button to retrieve new podcast episodes from the Marketplace, it will fail. Instead of obtaining the new updated feed, it will instantly show the old outdated feed that is cached on the phone. When this bug occurs, there is absolutely no way to refresh the feed to gain access to new episodes. The only alternative is to use a third-party podcast app (which are all equally unreliable), or to download it on a computer and then sync it to the phone.
…just what I want to deal with when I’m rushing out the door in the morning.
Sometimes it will fail to download a new episode, but it WILL show the updated feed. The Wi-Fi issue that I explained earlier prohibits me from downloading the podcast in a timely manner, so I usually stream the podcast over AT&T’s cellular network throughout the entire drive in.
…that’s actually not as bad as it sounds, believe it or not.
…that is, until Windows Phone gets in the way yet again! If I lose network connectivity at any point during the stream, then it will fail to resume. The time elapsed will continue to progress once signal is restored, but no audio is played. The only resort is to completely restart the stream from the beginning, and then manually scrub back to continue listening.
All in all, listening to podcasts on Windows Phone has been an unmitigated disaster for me.
My experience with the rest of Windows Phone has been frustrating as well. I never quite know which apps are going to be in my multitasking menu, so I find myself generally ignoring it. Camera settings are never saved when you close the app, so if I want to take a 720p video, then I have to manually set that option each and every time I launch the camera. I used my phone to record video on a recent vacation, and I must have set the 720p option over a hundred times. This is yet another example of Windows Phone getting in my way, instead of making things easier for me.
I gave it a good try. I really wanted to love Windows Phone. I even subscribed to Windows Phone fan podcasts! …but I think I’ve had enough. Everything’s broken. Nothing works. I feel frustrated and disappointed every time I use my phone, and that’s not something that I want to feel for the remaining 17 months of my contract.
So what’s the plan?
I’m holding onto a very slim, unrealistic hope for Open WebOS. If they actually manage to release it, and port it to a Google Nexus handset or something, then I might be back on board. It sounds like Android has finally become tolerable with Ice Cream Sandwich, but I would probably hate myself a little bit for using it. Blackberry is also a thing that exists.
I dunno. I’m not very optimistic about my personal mobile future, to be honest.
I’ve also been watching eBay auctions for an AT&T Pre 3. I guess that says it all.