The Last Hooray, Bye Windows Phone

Windows phone vs Android vs iOS

People are always surprised when I say this, but I have a Windows phone. I’ve had one for the past four or five years, and there were only a couple regrets: the app store and a modern browser. I only found these to be minor annoyances and if Verizon hadn’t dropped Windows phone, I’d probably be getting another Windows phone. I know it sounds crazy, but I find the Windows phone interface to be the smoothest and best looking, and at the end of the day I only use a couple of apps. The built in apps are of high quality. I wish it had succeeded, but I’m not one to cling to the past. Fate has been accepted and I must look elsewhere for my next phone, though I won’t lie; I’ve fancied not upgrading. Unfortunately, at one point or another I’ll have to move off as it’s not a sustainable ecosystem.

HTC One M8 (courtesy of HTC’s website)

I’m writing this post as documentation so that I may look back on this post and understand my decisions. Writing down my thought process will ensure that I don’t make a hasty decision, especially when someone tries to persuade me otherwise; I can have an informed conversation. My decisions are tailored to my needs, your mileage will vary.

I’ve considered the following phones, which are offered by Verizon:

  • HTC 10
  • Google Pixel and the XL version
  • iPhone 6/7

Here’s a brief table of some specs with my current HTC one M8 included (there are many tangible and intangible qualities excluded from this brief table):

phonebatterydisplaystoragecamera (rear)
HTC One M82600mAh5in32GB4MP
Google Pixel2770mAh5in32, 128GB12.3MP
HTC 103000mAh5.2in32GB12MP
iPhone 61810mh4.7in16, 64, 128GB8MP
iPhone 71960mAh4.7in32, 128, 256GB12MP

Samsung rubs me the wrong way and so was excluded from the list. Their phones are not aesthetically pleasing. I also decided against looking at more exotic phones (phones not offered by verizon) because if I ever need support for a phone, I want it to be officially supported.

Samsung S7 - disappointing in the aesthetic department (courtesy of Samsung’s website)

The biggest constraint I’ve felt when looking at these phones is how to incorporate my multiple Microsoft accounts into the chosen phone. For better or worse, I have hotmail, outlook, onedrive, and onenote. I can copy and paste from all these apps, like copy a meeting access code into the phone app, so I don’t have to dial the numbers individually. I don’t want to have to spend a significant amount of time downloading and configuring my phone to reach the same level of proficiency that I have currently. When switching phones, I don’t want my hand to be forced to incorporate a service I have no need for like Apple Music or Google Play Music. Not that these services are detrimental to my well-being, but I’m more interested in baby steps with acquiring a new phone as the first step. Currently, I have no desire to transition my information to google’s or apple’s services. The one advantage that google does have is that I do have a gmail account, though it lies dormant until needed for a site’s registration. I’m willing to bet I’d need it for downloading from the google play store.

Speaking of accounts, I have zero Apple accounts and share the same sense of dread towards Apple’s services. ITunes leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Some have to ask if Safari is the new IE. The headphone jack is unfortunate because I don’t want a new set of headphones and I often find myself on the train listening to music and charging the phone. Forcing me to pay for a developer license ($99 a year) to program for my phone drives me insane. One of the original reasons why I chose a Windows phone over a others is because I didn’t want to pay and I preferred C# over Java (Android). Even though I ran into early roadblocks with the lack of controls for Windows phone which persuaded me to drop development, it still allowed me that freedom if I ever chose to pick it up again. Maybe in another life I’d be an apple fanboy, but investing in that ecosystem now seems too time consuming and expensive.

iPhone 7 (courtesy of Apple’s website)

I am impressed that all platforms have a notion of live home screen apps (called live tiles for windows phone, widgets for android, and the widget/ screen for iOS 10). I find that I use the live tiles quite a bit because at a glance I can see the weather, calendar, stocks, news, text messages, etc without opening the respective app. Below is my current home screen.

My Window’s Phone home screen, if I had any messages, emails, calls, they’d show up on their respective application

iOS loses to Windows phone here. I had to spend 15 minutes trawling google in order to not find someone complaining about this feature and to show a screenshot of more than one widget. The result is not stunning at all. Uniformity does have benefits, but the color scheme doesn’t jive. Too bad there is not much one can do to customize an iPhone.

Apple lock screen (courtesy of the Mac Observer)

Android takes the cake with nearly everything being customizable. Just take a look at the videos that cover some of the best android launchers (like this one), some of these are downright beautiful and make the phone become a piece of art. Frankly, I’m jealous. The one downside is that there is a cost associated with these modifications. Nova Launcher Prime is $5 and Zooper Pro is $3. Both apps offer free versions, so it doesn’t sound like a bad deal – getting a beautiful screen for < $10 should warrant minimal complaints.

A Windows phone-esque home screen for androids (courtesy of Zooper)

So that eliminates iPhones, as they don’t seem to shine anywhere on the spectrum. It’s a shame as a large part of my family has iPhones and I hear that Facetime is nice, but Skype works fine, and I’ve only needed to video chat on my phone when I’m not by my computer, which is rarely!

On to the Androids. Early on I was leaning towards HTC 10, as it would be a natural upgrade to my HTC one M8. However, I have an issue that my Windows phone still hasn’t been updated to Windows 10, which was released over a year ago. I’m not sure who is to blame, HTC or verizon, but the result is the same: I don’t want to be without the latest updates, which often contain needed security updates. There are have been reports of HTC 10 users on Verizon networks not being updated to the latest android. Not acceptable. Considering that the Pixel and the HTC 10 are close in specs this was the dealbreaker for HTC 10.

HTC 10 (courtesy of HTC’s website)

I’m deciding to go with the regular google pixel. It has the same specs as its larger brother, but has a 1080p screen instead of QHD, which is fine by me. The pixel is the same size as my current HTC one M8, so it should be a size I’m used to. Compare that to the XL, which is an additional half an inch, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’m sure my little fingers couldn’t stretch the distance. Not to mention the regular pixel is $120 cheaper.

The next question. Order it directly from google or verizon? The only solid evidence I’ve found against verizon is that the bootloader is encrypted and can’t be circumvented without voiding the warranty. I don’t plan on running an alternative OS, so not a strong disadvantage. People have speculated that updates from verizon will be slow or the phone will be bloated. On the contrary, updates will be pushed at the same time as google’s pixels, and there will be no bloatware if the phone is initialized without a verizon sim card. If a pixel is direct from Google, on the other hand, you may find that insurance on the device is limited, whereas verizon may offer fuller coverage.

Google Pixel (courtesy of Google’s website)

One thing that I have found to be bizarre about Android devices is that there is not a default messaging app. Both Windows phone and iPhones have default messaging apps, why not Android? Here’s the top 10, but wait, here’s the top 16, but wait, what is installed on your phone initially is the carrier’s app. Thankfully, it looks like google has published one, so I think I’ll use that (or signal), but the sheer number of choices for something so fundamental has made me question what else I’ll need to look for (I just checked, and should be good to go with an alarm clock).

Circling back to what I thought would be a big constraint: there appears to be high quality and well maintained apps for Android by Microsoft. So I’ll be able to set up outlook and onedrive with no problem. Doesn’t seem like such a hurdle now!

Yup, so it’s the google pixel for me.