I gave Winphone a chance. I really did. I still like the overall UI and ideas for presenting information from the OS. I think it has the potential to be great. But there were too many rough edges for me to be happy with it in the end.
So I switched back to a rooted Captivate running Jelly Bean. And because a friend asked what I found detrimental about Windows Phone, I decided to list them out here, both for myself and for others.
Too many phantom screen taps
It is way too easy for me to accidentally swipe a carousel or tap a button with the heel of my palm while holding the device. The phone ended up feeling like a field of landmines to avoid. This can be resolved in software or with a better bezel design. As indeed it has been with the iphone and most android devices I’ve used.
Getting photos and files off is way harder than it needs to be
I’m not sure how it works on a PC or under Linux, but on a Mac one needs to install and run Windows Phone 7 Connector to sync the device. I would love to just browse the filesystem, but I have to go through a wonky file interface. And you have to do it in the right order. God help you if you plug the phone in before starting up the software.
So you start the program on the computer, then plug in your phone. Then you have to checkmark stuff in this quasi-filesystem pane to sync between the phone and computer. And then if you’ve transfered photos onto your machine there’s a further step where you have to wait for iphoto to finish importing. So what should be a click and drag step ends up taking around 10 minutes of actual time waiting for various pieces of software to finish.
Skydrive integration goes from “meh” to “what the hell?”
Like, it works, but gets in the way. I never wanted to use the built-in twitter thing to send an image, because Sky Drive seems geared to Sending People Into the Sky Drive Interface. E.g. I attach a pic to my tweet, or FB post. You, the viewer, click on the link and you get a heavyweight Sky Drive Experience. You get a skyrdrive shortened link, but it takes you to an interface with the resource rather than just the resource. At least yfrog, as whored up with adverts as it is, loads quickly.
Oh also, I couldn’t get videos to autoupload to Sky Drive. And if you manually upload they force you to downconvert from full resolution? What’s up with that? So my 720p video uploaded to skydrive is only ever at a crappy resolution.
Also, there’s a real feeling of “this is on Sky Drive, this is Local” that permeates. So though I want to stream music from the cloud I cannot. Though I want to stream my videos from the cloud, I cannot. I can’t even look at my uploaded photos without Going To Sky Drive specifically.
Video recording has problems
Speaking of video, when shooting relatively steady handheld video in bright light, the autofocus constantly does this thing where it goes out of focus then in focus again. Like someone new to camera work constantly adjusting the lens while shooting. Also sometimes it just doesn’t autofocus for literally about 30 seconds. Seriously, I have the cutest video of my daughter bouncing on a trampoline, but you can’t tell because it’s blurry for most of it.
Camera isn’t actually that good.
For having such a nice lens (I guess?), the photos sort of look like crap. Maybe they just talked it up too much, but I had higher expectations.
The marketplace/appstore thing doesn’t indicate what apps you’ve installed. If I search for something, there isn’t an indication in the list that says “installed” unless I view the app page.
There’s a real problem that most of the apps are also-rans in terms of quality. But I think they’re kind of hampered by the OS. I had an app for running that couldn’t operate in the background, so the timer stopped if I tried to snap a picture or do anything else while it was going. And if I try to SMS or mail the picture I just took, the OS helpfully kills the suspended running program, so I have no easy way to get back to where I was. As I understand it, this is a limitation of the operating system and how it handles background/suspend/resume. It definitely surprised me because I don’t think that workflow is that extraordinary.
Another example: In order to use last.fm/audioscrobbler you have to start listening to music and then run the last.fm app in the foreground. That’s… like… I mean, I want that to just happen ambiently. I don’t want to think about doing extra work.
Another example, and this illustrates something you take for granted too. When I search a map for “baja restaurant” I expect it will show, if not restaurants, at least places with “baja” or “restaurant” in the name. Ones that are around me, since I’m in a map program that knows where I am. If I do that search in Nokia Drive or Bing Maps, it kept jumping me to Baja Mexico. I live in Washington State. I did get results if I swiped back to my home, but jeez why the extra step? This continually happened to me in maps.
Bad UX makes limited space a huge issue
So I already said it’s a pain in the ass to get stuff off the camera. I also said it’s a pain in the ass to get videos to SkyDrive. So that means that 1) I avoided transferring stuff off the phone since it was a painful process, and 2) I couldn’t rely on The Cloud to save me. Thus the 16G, non-expandable space filled up really fast. A couple times I blindly deleted old videos (hoping I’d gotten them off already) just so I could capture a moment, such as the first time my daughter tried rollerskates.
Whither headset controls?
Lastly, the thing that kind of broke the experience for me. I know the headphone controls thing is kind of not widely supported. But at the very least the play/pause or mic feature has worked on all my phones from Blackberry, iPhone, Android, etc. Even the original Razr if I recall correctly.
The only way that the mic button worked on my Lumia was if the screen was actively on. I mean, that’s just… if I’m looking at the screen I don’t need to use the mic button. I guess the screen turns on if there’s an incoming call, but that button works as a play/pause button too. And it does, in fact if I have the screen up. But when running you can’t tap the mic button to pause the music.
So all of those aggravations were resolved going back to my old phone. Jelly Bean is a pretty neat OS, too. But it’s really too bad because the Lumia is the best touchscreen phone I’ve ever used; it’s just bad at everything else that’s supposed to make it a smartphone.
Towards the end, as my wife can attest, I was saying, “Did they even use this phone? Do they use phones like this?” And I’m still trying to figure that out. Maybe I just don’t use my phone the way the winphone’s target market uses their phone. It’s like the designers and developers use their phones like, “And now I am making a call. And now I am done with a call so I am looking at some pictures. And now I am done looking at pictures here so I will look at pictures on the cloud. And now I will go to Facebook. etc”
Anyway, those are my reasons for switching back. Holla.