A Week With Windows Phone 8.1 - an Android User's Experience
07-15-2014 05:20 AM
- ***EDIT*** I think the title would be more appropriate as A Week With Windows Phone 8.1 - an Android User's APP Experience ***/EDIT***
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a newcomer to Windows Phone. I've been using WP since the WP7 days. My first WP was a Dell Venue Pro (what a keyboard!). I've also had a Lumia 822 and I've had an HTC 8X for the last eight months or so. These were always secondary devices. The 8X has been active and quietly collecting my corporate email for that period but I have never really been 'all in' on it. I don't use it for much other than email. My main SIM has been in a Moto X or, previously, a Droid DNA. I'm a heavy user of Android. Every device I've had has been rooted and tailored to meet my requirements and preferences.
The recent release of the DP for WP 8.1 has encouraged me to shake some of the dust off my HTC 8X and give it a real test. I plan to use it almost exclusively for the next week and see where it succeeds and fails as an Android replacement. I'm encouraged to do this by a few things: the notification center, start page wallpaper, distinct volume controls, and Cortana. I'm really interested to see if I can comfortably use WP full time and whether I should invest in a Lumia Icon as my next phone.
I've detailed below the apps and functions I frequently use on Android and I will eventually report back on the equivalents I found on WP and how I got on with them. I am not looking for free alternatives, necessarily. In many cases I would prefer to purchase an app and support development.
- NewsBlur - this is my news feed aggregator. I've tried some NewsBlur clients on WP before and wasn't too impressed. Hopefully things will be better now.
- Google Hangouts - I use this for "text" and group messaging every day. I have gotten my entire family and extended family on Hangouts. Finding a replacement for this is a must and I cannot ask everyone to change to a different messaging platform.
- Life360 - this is a family location sharing app. Use it to keep track of my kids and other family members. I go into this knowing there is no WP app. Not sue how I will get around this one.
- Bible (YouVersion) - use this daily for devotion time with my wife and then weekly at Bible study and church services. Also use a home screen widget for the verse of the day.
- Pocket Casts - I have a long commute and my job lends itself to podcast consumption. This is the best podcast app I've found. It's reliable and supports variable speed playback on a per show basis. I must find a good podcast aggregator.
- OneDrive - I store all my photos and documents on OneDrive.
- Trigger - Trigger is a great automation program. It automatically changes volumes, sound profiles, radio states, etc based on time/location/network status/etc for me.
- Timely - my alarm clock. Extremely flexible and syncs my alarms with the cloud and between multiple devices.
- Google Play Music - I am an All Access subscriber. This is where all of my music comes from.
- White Noise - really slick sleep sounds app. Has dozens of sounds to choose from and a very nice UI.
- Out of Milk - grocery list app. My wife and I use this to keep track of what we need from the store.
- My Disney Experience - as Disney World annual passholders and DVC members this is a really nice app to have. We use it to check hours, wait times, make reservations, etc.
- Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest
I'm also including screenshots of my Moto X homescreens. I'll use those to compare how I am able to setup the 8X start screen and how it impacts my usage.
Last edited by robnhl; 05-06-2014 at 11:13 AM.05-06-2014 09:27 AMLike 3
- So, I've made it through a week of using WP 8.1 almost exclusively (I swear I could hear my Moto X crying itself to sleep at night because of its underuse). It was a mostly successful experience with only a few niggling things here or there (and one big thing) distracting from the experience. I'd like to offer a big 'thank you' to those that offered helpful comment and suggestions. I really appreciate each comment and got some extra enjoyment out of the week because of them.
Before I get to the meat of my concerns, the app situation, I'll just touch on general WP 8.1 impressions. First, the diversity of homescreen customization options is amazing. The extra column of tiles, the unique wallpaper presentation, and the variety of tile sizes really allows for a top notch custom experience. Second, the notification center is very nice to have. This would have been a much tougher personal challenge without it. I do miss things from Android like responding to messages directly from the notification shade and actioning individual notifications but their absence is not an experience killer. Finally, there are a lot of subtle things that make using WP 8.1 a pleasure. The animations throughout are smooth. I especially like how the homescreen/app drawer perfectly shrink and fade when the action center is pulled down. Overall, I enjoyed using WP 8.1 as much as I do Android 4.4.2 on my Moto X.
Here's the way I settled on homescreen organization. I find that I tweak it every so often in search of the perfect balance of appearance and functionality. I am most interested in the wallpaper appearing "above the fold" so I tended to concentrate my transparent tiles there.
Now, to the app situation. I've listed my original requirements below with links to the WP apps I used to replace them. Where possible I used the paid versions of the apps or used an IAP to unlock full functionality.
- NewsBlur (NewsSpot) - I pretty quickly settled on NewsSpot. I also tried Feed Reader, MetroBlur, and feed me. All were lacking and slow. NewsSpot is just about perfect and is as good, or better, than the official NewsBlur app on Android.
- Google Hangouts (IM+ Pro) - Basically the Hangouts/Google Talk experience on WP stinks. The best of the bunch seems to be IM+ Pro but it is too hit or miss. Sometimes I'd hear the IM+ notification seconds before the Android Hangouts app got new messages. But other times IM+ would be hours behind. I found I was not able to rely on it.
- Life360 (N/A) - I was unable to find a replacement. I did purchase an IAP for WebApps that lets me link to the Life360 site using a tile. It doesn't update my location or work really well in IE. I've just found something called GPS Tracker by FollowMee. It is cross platform but has no updates since 2013. I will give it a try.
- Bible (Bible) - The WP app is way behind the Android and BlackBerry 10 versions I have. Per the folks at YouVersion there is no ongoing development for this app. The app works but is missing features. One really annoying bit is the verse of the day tile reverts to KJV after the first 24 hours. A known bug that YV will not be fixing anytime soon. I tried several of the other receommended apps but didn't find any of them suitable. Most seemed like old Palm OS or WinMo apps.
- Pocket Casts (Podcast Lounge) - I tried too many podcast apps to list and this is by far the best. It isn't perfect but it is really good. Some obnoxious things are the way it handles playlists and regenerates them each time you load one and the lack of variable speed playback. I can definitely use this, however, and it is an excellent replacement for Pocket Casts.
- OneDrive (OneDrive) - no problems here. Excellent version of OneDrive.
- Trigger (N/A) - Either automation (turn on/off wifi, change volumes, enable cell, etc) is not possible on WP or no one has taken up the automation banner. I assume it is an OS restriction. Not a deal killer.
- Timely (N/A) - I ended up settling with the built in Alarms app. It is ugly but functional. Third party apps I tried were all ugly and mostly non-functional. I do wish the Alarms app would tell you how far in the future an alarm is set for.
- Google Play Music (CloudMuzik) - CloudMuzik is great for streaming my Google Music songs and playlists. It seems to fall down in the local caching department but I do like it.
- White Noise (Sleep) - Straight away Sleep proved itself to be an able replacement for White Noise. This is a beautiful and well featured app. Cannot recommend enough.
- Out of Milk (N/A) - There are some nice shopping list apps but I couldn't find one that would sync with an Android app. I could use an Excel spreadsheet or a text file in OneDrive but that's a little clunky - especially for my wife.
- My Disney Experience (Disney Expedition) - Another example of an excellent third party app. I actually like this better than the MDE app for Android. It is fast and accurate. We took my wife to Animal Kingdom for Mother's Day and used the FastPass+ and time features. This app is great.
- Facebook (Facebook) - The official Facebook app is horrible. It is slow and while it looks like the (old) version of the Android/iOS app it doesn't perform like it. I also tried Booklet (admittedly a beta) and didn't like it.
- Instagram (6tag) - Easily bests the official Instagram app on any platform I've ever used. Well done.
- Pinterest - (pin.it) - Again, better than any other official Pinterest app I've used.
I also came across a few new apps that really helped the WP experience.
- Lockmix - This fantastic app readily provided a verse of the day replacement for YouVersion, a quick battery status, weather forecast, and rotating lock screen background. It will be interesting to see if this app changes once the new WP 8.1 lockscreen options come to fruition.
- Metrotube - I'm not typically a big YouTube user but this app has actually increased my YT usage. My biggest feature wish is ChromeCast support, though I'm not sure if that is possible on WP.
- Chickens Can't Fly, Chickens Can Dream, PENKU - some pretty fun games. I'd tried the Chickens games before but they were definitely worth reinstalling.
All in all, I've really enjoyed using WP 8.1. It took me just a couple of days to get used to the different usage flows but after that it was smooth sailing. I see no reason why most people couldn't use a MS device full time. I came into this knowing there would be no FTP client, ad blocker, or real Google support but I found that I didn't miss them too much. In fact, my expectations were exceeeded and I've actually ordered a Lumia Icon from Verizon Wireless. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Nokia specific apps and firmware customizations further improve the experience.
Last edited by robnhl; 05-15-2014 at 11:00 AM.05-06-2014 09:34 AMLike 5
- I believe you are destined to be disappointed. You are going to compare WP 8.1 on a phone with limited capabilities in both hardware and software. I think you can save yourself a lot of time by cancelling your comparison unless you are prepared to use a front line WP to compare to the Motorola you presently use.
As for the list of programs, you won't find enough of this list to make an educated comparison. But, should you decide to proceed, I look forward to your findings and comments.05-06-2014 10:10 AMLike 4
- Check out Disney Expedition it has fast pass and might work for you 😊
Family tracking is available and I've seen few Bible apps too.
Google hangout,I disliked it when I used Android, I have issues with most things Google and the lack of privacy controls from them.
There are lots of news feeds available,so finding a few should pose no problem
While I am on this, I left Verizon long ago and am glad if it. So I chose to go with a carrier that I could get the best devices IMHO and so have a 1520 now. If this isn't a option,I would not do a comparison to a lower end phone to a higher end one.Do a apple to apple comparison not a apple to orange one.
App for app excluding the Google ones, I think you can find suitable replacements and have better overall performance
I will say this,the less dependent you become of any Google services the happier you will be 😉
Mac05-06-2014 10:59 AMLike 1
- aximtreo - Thanks. I am deliberately avoiding comparing the hardware and even trying to avoid the core OS direct comparisons. I believe that each OS will have its own strengths to make that a wash. I know the 8X is long in the tooth and thus apps may load a little slower. I really just want to see if I can setup a reasonable facsimile of what I'm used to.05-06-2014 11:08 AMLike 2
- And should you convert your family members to WP as well, there is feature called "meeting place" which has features integrated you mentioned, such as GPS location of a member of the group, unified messaging between members, shared picture gallery and calendar :)
Sent from my Nokia Lumia 1020 using Tapatalk for wp05-06-2014 11:29 AM
- 05-06-2014 11:39 AM
- I hope you enjoy the experiment, but I suspect that your extensive use of Google Hangouts will make Windows Phone a non-starter for you. I use IM+ Pro to communicate with my few Hangouts friends. It works, but it is a compromised experience when compared to any official Hangouts app.05-06-2014 11:47 AM
- 05-06-2014 12:14 PM
- I am not going to be able to help you with apps. You have some Google apps there that simply can't be replaced and google and MS hate each other so nothing from google will be on WP.
But What I wanted to comment on is your homescreen on the awesome Moto x. Love the simplistic set up / clean look. That is all.05-06-2014 01:38 PM
- 05-06-2014 01:44 PM
- 05-06-2014 03:58 PM
Sent from my Xbox One using Tapatalk05-06-2014 04:05 PM
- 05-06-2014 04:26 PM
- The app called "Start Perfect" can generate "Label" tiles that can organize your start screen a bit more.
Curious as to how your 8x is performing with WP8.1. I've been loving it on my Lumia 822, but I've read such negative things about how the 8x reacts to the Dev Preview I've told my gf to wait until it goes official before even thinking about upgrading her 8x.05-06-2014 04:39 PM
- While I feel you may find WP wanting, it is simply fantastic to see someone posting this kind of thread. It is an education for us as WP users to see what an Android user like yourself wants from an experience and how he feels after trying things out.
It is an app comparison, that is for sure. And while WP is light years ahead of where it was in the Dell Venue Pro days (I so regret not grabbing that phone), it is still not the selection of the big 2. The two areas I see WP lacking is the (already mentioned) Google apps and the podcast app. I love podcasts, listen to them often. But I know the experience on WP is still not great.
Thank-you for the open mind, and please keep us up to date. It would be fun if the preview of WP 8.1 sold you enough that the app situation worked itself out.05-06-2014 05:14 PMLike 7
- Great to see people trying wp with an open mind and an optimistic outlook. WP is a fantastic os and should easily meet your requirements in that sense.
That said you will have trouble with certain apps and services. Google purposefully deny wp users a good google experience, this probably won't change until google have no choice but to compete on wp.
A few apps to mention would be Podcasts! It's a fantastic podcast app with tons of sources and the ability to search and add. You can also pin podcast subscriptions to your start screen.
There are tons of apps that allow you to make header, label and list tiles, I used mytile for a while but dropped it in favour of a more"traditional" start arrangement.
Rooms is a feature of the os that pretty much destroys all other messaging apps and services, but as its wp only it's not really an option for you.
Fantasia painter is a wonderfully powerful photo manipulation tool that gives photoshop level power to your phone, if that's your bag, it's worth playing with.
Do try to keep in mind that your start screen will differ immensely from android, both in look, feel and what it actually does. Try to use large tiles when possible and enable "more tiles" in settings to get the most from it.
Good luck and welcome aboard.05-06-2014 05:32 PMLike 2
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