1 week on Android, after 4 years on Windows Phone

I have been using Windows Phone as my primary phone since its inception. I started with a Windows Phone 7, that got upgraded to Windows Phone 7.1 but didn’t upgrade to Windows Phone 8. I got a Windows Phone 8, that is now upgraded to Windows Phone 8.1 and will also get the Windows 10 mobile upgrade. I develop apps for Windows Phone, and I have enjoyed the OS a lot of the last 4 years. After 4 long years, I switched my primary device to an Android device. I still use Windows Phone as a secondary device. So what triggered the change?

As a Developer

It was a gradual process. As a Windows Phone developer, life isn’t always easy. While developing apps for Windows Phone is a cake walk, implementing competing features in apps is still a massive challenge. Especially when you have to rush to Stackoverflow for issues as small as Accelerometer shake events http://stackoverflow.com/questions/24596915/windows-phone-8-1-accelerometer-detecting-a-shake. If you are a Windows Phone developer, you’d be kidding if you were never left disappointed due to absence of APIs. Low market share is a rant that follows.

I started working on some hardware projects recently, and APIs for hardware integration are still a distant dream. While I hope things to get better with Windows 10 mobile, there isn’t a specific release date announced yet. I had to get started soon, and Android as a platform has a lot to offer on the API front. I jumped.

As an End-user

I had no major complains as an end-user on Windows Phone. I could pretty much manage all my emails and calendars. Any app that you can’t live without is on Windows Phone – WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, you name it. But I missed the chrome in the UI. I remember a Microsoft rep justifying the dual-tone Modern UI as easy to use, with no distracting chrome/gradiance around. I agreed. But somehow I missed the chrome. The UI feels like a controlled diet, as opposed to a calorie loaded barbeque of gradient colors and shades. I know it is good for me, but I need an option to customize out of it. Again, lack of APIs stopped developers from doing much about the customization part of it.

Developers can only go as far as customizing the lock screen image. Some geniuses, like the devs at Facebook have created apps that add notifications inside your lock screen “image”. But it still isn’t the finished experience that you would expect. Custom lock screens are coming, but so far the APIs are exclusive. Android on the other hand, as something called custom launchers. I jumped. Again.

After 1 week on Android

I bought the Mi 4i, which got delivered last week. I was impressed when I saw the launch event in Delhi, and the attractive price point the device was launched in. I like MIUI better than stock Android. This might not go well with most Android fans, but to each his own. One week after using the device, here is what I have to say.

User experience
I am enjoying the UX a lot. There are a few but tolerable micro-lags in the UI, especially when scrolling through images. One thing I loved about Windows Phone, was the smooth scroll; which Android wasn’t able to deliver well on mid range device. That seems to have changed since ART. I love the chrome. I went bananas over launchers and widgets. I loved the fact that I could choose a keyboard I am comfortable with. I’m not a fan of swiping through keys, in which case Fleksy on Android did the job for me. Do note, that the stock Windows Phone keyboard is a 100 times better than the stock Android one.

Apps
So many apps that can go crazy about. Ironically the best apps I found on Android are (acquired) by Microsoft. Next lock screen, Outlook and Sunrise calendar are apps that I now cannot live without. I missed Google’s apps on Windows Phone, esp. the taste of Google Now. I find it smarter than Cortana, but less friendly. Google definitely knows more about me than Cortana, while Cortana gives a wonderful human touch to the interaction. It seems Cortana will be coming on Android too, so see ya there.

Performance
Mi 4i is a mid range device in the Android family. It has a 2GB RAM which is as good as my Lumia 1520 which is a high end device in the Windows Phone family. This says a lot. Android eats up RAM like anything. On the performance front, I would rate Windows Phone far better than Android. Somehow Android still does not prioritize UI over background tasks, so the UI can go unresponsive very easily. This rarely happens on Windows Phone. Close to never on a high device with 2GB RAM. Booo!

Battery
I have seen people around me amused by the battery life Mi 4i provides. It has a 3120mAh battery that lasts for a little more than a day for me using it a little conservatively. Screen-on time eats the battery like anything. My Lumia 625 with 2000mAh fares far better with the same usage. While 4i’s 441ppi screen can drain a good amount juice from the battery; I feel Windows Phone, because of its wise RAM usage goes well on the battery front.

All in all
So far I feel Android does take the cake, because I am ready to compromise with performance and battery with hardware becoming dirt cheap. Windows Phone could do wonders only if Microsoft allows its developers to innovate on the platform with strong competing APIs. The Apps vs Market share dead-lock comes in a bit later. Personally, I will still be using and developing on Windows Phone, but Android has now split my attention.

On the other hand, the build quality and the hardware Mi is providing at attractive price points will soon start hurting Lumia devices where they fared well. The Lumia devices in India were placed very well between 7k to 18k with good build quality. I hate to say this, but Mi has managed to bring in far superior build between the same price points. In the long run, Microsoft cannot rely on its devices to be sold purely on attractive price points. They now have competition here.

Did I miss something? Tweet to me @omtalk, I would like to hear from you.