Posted by Jim Martin 13 August 2014
Why I won't switch to Windows Phone: part II (it's still about the apps)
Back in June, I wrote about my time with the Lumia 630, and lamented the lack of apps available in the Windows Store.
Since then, I've been using the Lumia 1320. It was a dual-purpose test: first to force myself to use a phablet - this thing is huge - and second to really use Windows Phone apps seriously. I'm going to leave the phablet experience for another time and talk here about Windows Phone again.
Much to the surprise of everyone at Tech Advisor and surely plenty of Windows Phone owners, a number of new apps have appeared over the last few months, notably Fitbit.
One of the biggest issues I had with missing apps was that I couldn't use my Fitbit One - nor any other activity tracker - with Windows Phone. Researching the problem I found that even in Windows Phone 8 the Bluetooth stack, as it's known, still wasn't up to scratch. That's fixed in Windows Phone 8.1 (about time, Microsoft), and it has meant that synching with Bluetooth LE devices such as the Fitbit is now possible.
That's no consolation for Nike FuelBand or Jawbone UP owners, though. With a bit of luck, there will be official apps soon as, amazingly, Nike finally released a FuelBand app for Android about a month ago (about time, Nike).
I was also pretty happy to discover that apps for the two banks I bank with are available on the Windows Store. In fact, we've been keeping a list of missing apps for Windows Phone and have been able to cross out about half of them over the last few months. Happy days.
Well. Not quite. The problem, dear reader, is that it isn't enough to be able to tick these apps off our list. Right from the start, Microsoft was keen to boast about numbers. At the launch of Windows Phone 8 in 2012, Joe Belfiore boasted that Windows Phone owners now had access to 46 out of the top 50 apps (he conveniently forgot to mention that it didn't apply to those who bought handsets running Windows Phone 7 because, oh, they wouldn't get the upgrade to Windows Phone 8.)
However, with apps, it's quality over quantity and that's where Windows Phone really falls down for me. I fired up the Y-cam HomeMonitor app expecting exactly the same set of features as on my iPhone. But no. Although I can view the live feed from the camera and watch recorded clips from the cloud service, that's it. There are no options to turn the camera on or off, to enable or disable motion detection, nor mute alerts.
It's a similar story in other apps. Even in the much anticipated Fitbit app, there's no way to re-order or remove the various stats on the home screen - it's a small detail, but it's a theme that seems to run through every app I've used.
It's hard to tell whether I should be blaming Microsoft or the app developers, since some of the features may not be possible due to limitations with Windows Phone 8.1, or it could be that the developers simply aren't putting in as much effort as with iOS.
The bottom line is that, for the user, the experience is inferior to an iPhone in many ways. Don't get me wrong: there are benefits to having Windows Phone 8, such as the ability to pin the London Bridge departures information to the home screen (complete with live tile) rather than merely the app itself. But, after more than two months of using Windows Phone 8.1, I'm itching to go back to iOS.
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