Sep 06 2013

Avoid the Android: My switch to Windows Phone

A few weeks ago, I made the decision to move from Android to Windows Phone. “Madness,” you might say. “Why would anyone switch from Android for Windows? Are you crazy?” Well, while the latter might be true, the switch was a very thought out decision on my end. It boils down to how one uses their phone, and the experience for the price you pay for the device and service.

Lets just say that for my old phone, I was no longer satisfied.

The back story…

About a year and a half ago, I switched from simple feature phones to finally get my first smartphone. It was all about cost: I am not the kind of guy to trust getting a contract phone and not having something happen in my life to make the bill impossible to pay, so I have always stuck with your more simple monthly plans. An easy way out in an emergency, you could say. This, of course, left my selection of phones somewhat limited to what the service provider decided to offer, and what price they offered the device for

The device itself…

In early 2012, I was in the mood for a new phone, and noticed that my service provider at the time had an android handset available for $200. It seemed like a good choice at the time, as I was growing tired of feature phones and their limitations, and the device was in the form factor I like: It had a slider functionality, with a classic qwerty keyboard on it, which was perfect for me as I have always hated typing on most touch screens.

It seemed like a very good device early on. It ran well, and I had a massive selection of applications to install and use. Of course, me being the kind of person I am, I didn’t go app crazy, installing tons of useless things, but instead hunted out what I wanted to use. Twitter and Facebook were definite, but then a few other apps caught my eye. Google+ became more useful to me, since I could now easily make use of it from mobile, rather than just from my home machine.

Then, in April, came the release of Instagram for Android. At that point, I really began to love the phone, and I had a great time uploading photos via the service. Things seemed pretty good though most of 2012, and into early 2013.

Things go from good, to bad…

That was when Google decided to overhaul their services. That’s when it seems every app maker decided to increase their applications file sizes. That’s when my service provider also decided to cut back on the quality of their service. That’s when everything went downhill for me, and my personal Android experience.

Now, this old phone runs Android 2.3.4. Yes, a rather old version, but at least it’s one that still supported by most app developers. That, I could live with. The thing I couldn’t live with was the on-board storage: 256MB. That’s all. Yes, the device had a 4GB SD card installed, and yes, I did ensure every app possible installed to the SD card, but every app still required a decent bit of data installed to the storage of the phone itself.

I mentioned  in a previous article that another issue was the storage used for certain integration features also filled the on-board storage to unusable levels. Having a phone that has a minimum of apps installed, and still getting a “storage is full” message is not a pleasant experience. It got to a point where I was having to clean out the app cache every single day. What’s the point in a device that gets clogged up under basic usage, due to app clutter, and bloated software? I had had enough.

Something new catches my eye…

At this point, Windows Phone had already caught my eye. Not only did it look like a very good phone OS in and of itself, but the Microsoft ecosystem is something I already have myself very invested in (remember, I am one of the people who bought Windows 8 on launch day), so it would be logical to take advantage of their services in my mobile life as well as my computing life.

This decision was helped by the fact that there is a limited selection of Windows Phone handsets out there, all of which receive more attention from their manufacturers than the thousands of android based handsets out there. The end result is, software that works better on the hardware, and the fact that virtually all phone models would have better support, and quicker updates, from the carrier in question. I wouldn’t be stuck with an archaic device that I spent $200 on. I wouldn’t have to spend money on a new phone to find it was still cheaply made, had poor performance, or had such a custom version of the Android OS that some apps wouldn’t run correctly. No, a Windows Phone seemed like the best option for me.

Of course, I would have to sacrifice some things: apps like Instagram just are not available on Windows Phone, but I knew I could find ways around this, and at the worst, could use the old phone via Wi-Fi to upload pictures. That actually became the only real software fear I had, as anything else I wanted to use the device for was available in some proper capacity on Windows Phone.

The other problem…

Cheap phones are one issue, but there was another problem at hand: service. The service I was using, which shall remain nameless, had gone from being “unlimited” everything, to seeming to cut people off left and right on their data. Granted, these people were in general using too much data, but it is a little ridiculous to not be able to check how much you have used, or to not be able to see what the actual limit is. While I was not hit by these issues, as I don’t use the device for video or constant music streaming, I did suffer another problem: service just being terrible.

Over the past 2 months, the service in question has degraded to a situation where many calls would never go through, despite having full signal strength, and many times text messages would come in at very odd times, long after having been sent by my friends, resulting in many strange situations. The problem never resolved itself, and even as I type this, some friends are still suffering service issues that the company in question believes do not exist.

So, needless to say, while there was a Windows Phone option available through this carrier, I decided against it, and set out to discover what options were out there with other companies.

Enter, Lumia

I soon learned about the current Nokia lineup of phones, including the 1020 and 520. Now, obviously I wanted the best I could  afford, which meant the 1020 was right out. As I am a person who never gets contracts, there was no way I could even try for such a device. I immediately looked at the opposite end of the spectrum, and what was available in that end: the Lumia 520. Reading more and more on the device made me feel it was a good choice. AT&T was selling the phone for $99 on their GoPhone plan, which was perfect for my needs and budget. The decision had pretty much made itself: Dump $160, less than I had paid for the old, shoddy Android phone a year and a half ago, on the Lumia 520 and the new service. It was win win, save for the fact I had to get a new phone number. Hilariously, this was something I actually thought would be a good idea, since the old number I had for nearly 4 years was still getting calls for it’s previous owner, who clearly was in legal troubles. I had grown very sick of these calls, so getting a new number was more of a relief than anything else. Oh, and no, the old phone had no way to block these calls. Just another nail in the coffin for it.

And so, the time had come…

There was one last thing to do: actually go to an AT&T store and check out the phone in person, to get a feel for it. I went ahead and did just that, moving over to the demo unit and flicking around, checking out my own website on it, and doing a few other things to see just how smooth or not the experience was. To my surprise, the device behaved better than I had expected. I knew I had found the right device for me.

Before leaving the store, I had decided to go on and make the purchase. New Phone, new service, and a nice little case for it, all for about $200: the same as my old, cruddy android phone had cost a year and a half ago, which had lasted hardly a year before becoming a pain to use.

2 Weeks later, I do not regret the decision. However, that is a tale for another article.

By the way…

Oh, and yes, the section titles are meant to be comedic in their flow: I don’t think of cell phones as all that epic or incredible, but the mass of people act like they are the greatest things in the world… so, why not give grandiose headings, right?

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  1. Hi Chris, Very interesting story. My daughters had old Android phones and had the same problem. On board storage was measured in MB, not GB and an SD card only takes you so far.

    I have tested Windows phones and have been very impressed with them. The downside, as you discovered, is the limitation on apps but if you can figure out a way around that, you will have a great phone at a great price. Well done.

    1. It’s amazing that Google would let hardware makers do whatever they wish with the hardware, including making sub-par devices that sell for as much as some of these low end Android phones do.

      It’s nice to hear that I’m not the only one that had this experience, but I also hate that anyone else had to go through such. It’s great to have a new, awesome device, but horrible to realize you can’t do anything with it because it’s too limited!

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