Last week, right before the holiday break, I started having problems with my trusty old iPhone. The people on the other end of the line sounded like they were at the end of a long tunnel. After trying to troubleshoot it, I gave up and admitted to myself that it was time for a new phone.
But rather than rushing out to buy a new device, I decided to delay the decision. I switched the SIM card to a Windows Phone (running the 7.5 Mango update) that I use regularly to test new apps and OS releases. I’ve been using that Windows Phone as my primary device for the past several days, just as we’ve seen a new spate of commentaries opining on Windows Phone and what Microsoft really needs to do to gain traction.
In fact, when I called David Aronchick to go over some final edits in his Windows Phone guest commentary, we joked that it might be the first call ever made from one Windows Phone to another in which neither participant was a Microsoft employee.
At any rate, in the back of my mind, I’ve been challenging myself to make the switch permanent, if for nothing more than to cut against the grain, and not just blindly go out and buy another iPhone.
But I’m struggling to do it. For me, it’s still about the apps.
Not that there isn’t a lot of them on Windows Phone. In fact, with 50,000 and counting, there are plenty. And for core applications like Facebook and Twitter, the Windows Phone versions are really quite nice. I’m particularly enamored with Wonder Reader, a great Google Reader app for Windows Phone.
But there are two stumbling blocks for me when it comes to Windows Phone apps.
First, when you get beyond the core apps, into what might be called the long tail, the lineup on Windows Phone still feels spotty to me. For example, when I wanted to send a postcard this weekend, I found myself switching the SIM back to my iPhone to use the Postagram app.
Yes, there are Postagram alternatives on Windows Phone, but after trying them out this afternoon, I found myself agreeing with some of my Twitter friends that they just don’t measure up in terms of quality. Feel free to let me know if I’m missing a particularly good one. But what I really want is Postagram on Windows Phone, not a watered-down alternative.
Bottom line, in general, I want to know that a best-of-class app is available on whatever device I’m using.
Second: This a smaller complaint, and I know that fans of Microsoft’s elegant Metro design will take me to task, but I don’t like the fact that the Windows Phone apps follow the same design characteristics. Yes, consistency is good, but it can also be really boring.
There’s something to be said for individuality, variety, and letting designers do their thing, for better or worse. I like the feeling of opening an app and feeling like I’ve entered a different world — knowing which app I’ve opened just based on how it looks and feels.
So those are my issues, in a nutshell. I’m still using the Windows Phone, for now, but I’m hearing the siren call of an iPhone 4S. Windows Phone fans, free to try to bring me to my senses and save me from those rocky shores.
Postscript: One postcard app that I wasn’t able to try on Windows Phone today was the highly recommended Touchnote, which was previously available for Windows Phone but is no longer in the marketplace. (It is available for iOS and Android.)
I sent a message to Touchnote asking about the status of its Windows Phone app. CEO Oded Ran explained in response that the company decided to take the app off Windows Phone Marketplace a few months ago because it didn’t yet include all the features of its website and other mobile apps, such as the ability to view order history, sign in or sign out, send postcards in offline state, purchase multi-credit bundles, send cards to multiple recipients, and back up their address books to the website.
Ran explained that Touchnote decided to focus on improving the experience before putting the Windows Phone app back in the marketplace. A relaunch date hasn’t yet been announced. Existing Windows Phone users who have already downloaded the app can continue to use it.