You know, I have been happily wedded to Android for a while now. I’m typing this on my old Nexus 7, and it’s still a great device. It’s not as hardy under the hood as my Note 3, on which I do most of the art for this site. But even this Nexus 7 is a powerhouse next to my first smartphone from as few years ago, the HTC Surround. I charged it up for a lark recently and realized that as much as I enjoy Android, there’s a lot still to love about Windows Phone — things that are still true about the platform today.
10 – It’s Fast.
Like, very fast. It feels faster than my Note 3 sometimes, especially when doing core OS work and using default apps, and the Note is still one of the fastest devices out there, running a bleeding-edge OS. I’m impressed at the impression of speed (if not raw computing power) of this now four-year-old device. (Happy birthday, HTC Surround!)
9 – It’s Pretty.
And charming. All the little motions, actions, flips, and whatnot
8 – The Lack of Apps Isn’t the First Thing You Notice.
Futzing around with this old WP 7.8 device made me realize that the core OS had enough built-in functionality that I didn’t miss my ridiculous app ecosystem while doing most of my usual phone tasks. Which reminds me…
7 – Hubs Were Clever, and They Will Be Missed.
Hubs were kind of aggregators for information pulled from various accounts and apps. The Me hub, for example, pulled all my major social media information together, and I could interact with my friends and followers right from there. One consistent, clean experience across all my accounts.
6 – The Mail App May Not Be Amazing, But It’s Crazy Readable.
Unless there’s some wonky formatting in the message, the bold, bright, type-first design really makes messages easy to read and digest quickly, with very little chrome to distract from the content.
5 – It Feels Like My Phone.
The extra work I put in to customize my homescreen and get all the live tiles where I wanted them makes it feel way more like my phone than even the deep customizability of Android. Yes, I know it’s a superficial customization, but it feels more meaningful, because the thing that most reflects me on Windows Phone is the thing that I interact with first whenever I pick up the phone.
4 – Live Tiles are Still an Awesome UI Paradigm.
Not only do they convey a ton of good information when they’re done right, but Live Tiles as a graphic element are kind of genius. Their animations bring the phone to life, asking for your attention instead of demanding it. Having an app suggest that there’s an action to be taken and giving you the sense of what that action will be is very friendly.
3 – The Voice Controls Are Solid.
Even before Cortana, Windows Phone had great voice control. Get a text? It’ll tell you who it’s from and ask you if you want it read aloud. Once it’s read, do you want to reply? It’s that easy. Google voice stuff is really impressive, but I’m becoming more and more intrigued by Cortana (which will be coming to Windows) and frequently miss the ease of use of the TellMe stuff from Windows Phone 7.
2 – The Camera is There When You Need It.
Hardware camera buttons are a great idea. Being able to take photos while the phone is locked is a great idea. If I reach for my phone while it’s in my pocket, even my ages-old Surround is ready to take a picture by the time I’ve got it up to my face. On my Note, I still need to decide whether I want my phone secured or camera-ready. It’s a drag.
1 – It’s A Joy to Use
This is what ever other platform lacks. Thanks to the consistent experience and everything else I’ve mentioned, there’s a lightness and playfulness to the software that makes it a joyful experience. My Note is an impressive device, but I don’t know that I’ve ever felt like I was having fun simply navigating around my phone, doing day-to-day tasks. I pick up this old phone that’s an absolute dinosaur given the life cycle of technology, and it’s fun.
I’ve written more about Windows Phone in the past. I hope that sooner rather than later, Microsoft leverages their purchase of Nokia to make some hardware that will steal me away from the Note. Give me a big damn phone and a sweet stylus and I’ll happily come back, Microsoft.
Until then, every now and again I’ll poke around at my old phone here and remind myself why Windows Phone is pretty rad.
Until next time, folks, paddle your own canoe.