Android; From a Windows Mobile User

Recently I reviewed the Acer Liquid E, an Android device. Being a long time Windows Mobile guy, this gave me an opportunity to compare Android and Windows Mobile. This is not a highly technical or in-depth look. It is from the perspective of an end-user.  Did I find a clear winner? Read on and see.

HOME SCREEN


Both Windows Mobile and Android have very flexible home screens.

Android has lots of widgets to choose from and you can link to pretty much anything on your phone from one of multiple home pages. I find the Android home screen to be highly functional. However it seems to be missing a professional, well put together, look. It actually looks a bit amateur.  If we look to third party and carrier overlays then things start to look up. HTC have their ever popular Sense UI, which brings it up a notch or two. The Android version of Sense isn’t nearly as full featured or as cool as the Windows Mobile version.  Sony Ericsson has their latest UI on the X10 which looks very polished, slick, and functional.

Windows Mobile probably has the most choices. First there is the old classic Windows Mobile home screen with tons of plugins , allowing for endless different looks. Its biggest problem is that it is not finger friendly at all. Next is the latest WM6.5 UI. At first glance it doesn’t seem too bad, but when you start to use it, it seems that you are forever scrolling back and forth, and up and down. Officially there are few possibilities for tweaking it. However, thanks to the enthusiast community there are a couple of apps , and tutorials enabling some tweaking. Next we have third party apps like SPB Shell which give a very high degree of flexibility combined with smooth operation and looks. Then we have OEM overlays such as HTC Sense. In my opinion Sense 2.5 on Windows Mobile is an excellent interface.

Overall I think Windows Mobile get the nod here, because of the wide choices and slick looks of most of the UI possibilities.


INTERNET

Android seems to have rather limited choices for internet browsers at the moment, but I don’t think that is such a bad thing because they are good choices. The stock internet explorer on an Android phone is Chrome, or at least a mobile version of it. It works pretty well for a mobile browser. Opera also has a version of its Opera Mini for Android and I personally like it as a mobile browser.

Windows Mobile has lots of choices for browsers, too many to list them all. There are some good ones and some not so good. Opera once again have versions for Windows Mobile which are very popular. The stock explorer on Windows Mobile is a mobile version of Internet Explorer. Although it has seen many updates over the years, it still isn’t all that good. Most people opt for a third party explorer.

I’ll give Android the nod here, based primarily on the fact that Google is likely to keep Android ahead of the game when it comes to integration with their ever expanding portfolio of internet wizardry.

MUSIC

Android lacks in this are quite badly. Yes there are players for Android, but it lacks in its ability to easily download legal music to your device. Google is reportedly working on a music service slated for sometime later this year, which will fill a large hole. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying it is impossible, it’s just not slick and easy.

Windows Mobile has its obvious onboard choice of Windows Media Player allowing for easy syncing of all types of media. Third party apps such as Kinoma which allow you to use iTunes Plus give Windows Mobile a clear edge here.

EMAIL

The lines are pretty blurry here. Microsoft has their ever popular and widely used Exchange service which is available on both WM and Android devices. Windows Mobile again has several third party apps to handle email. Gmail is available for both platforms but obviously Android phones enjoy much richer Gmail services then do Windows Mobile.

I’m tempted to call a tie in this area, but I’m leaning towards Android, simply because of the ease of using Gmail and its included services. To use it on an Android device you simply sign into your Gmail account, and your Gmail is pushed to your phone.  Whereas, with Exchange you need to go somewhere and open an Exchange account. Many offer free services, but for the full monty you have to pay a monthly fee.

GPS

There are many third party GPS applications for Windows Mobile. Many are very feature rich making the licence fee worthwhile. Both platforms are seeing a lot of growth in free GPS services. Google Maps being the leader. Here Android has a clear edge, at least at the moment. Recently Google released their latest version of Maps for Android devices, which included voice commands. The service doesn’t have a lot of features, for that you will have to get a third party application, and Windows Mobile rules in this area. I think for the average person Google Navigator does things well enough to get us there.

APP STORE

LOL. Android is the clear winner here….moving on.

APPLICATIONS

This is an entirely different situation. Truthfully, we have no idea of the number of applications there are for the Windows Mobile platform. They are available from hundreds of places on the internet, from freeware to enterprise applications selling single licences, to thousands at a time. They range from farting apps to complex applications written sometimes for specific professions and industries. Many are available directly from the developer, whether a single individual or a company with many employees.  I cannot stress enough here, the diversity and the vast collection of applications for Windows Mobile. I don’t think iPhone can even match what is currently available for Windows Mobile when you fully consider, quality, quantity, and diversity.

UPDATES

Once again Android is the clear winner here. Microsoft has always been severely criticized for its approach to updates. Their method of pushing out updates and leaving it entirely up to the carrier to decide if they will develop it for their customers has had less than stellar results. This is being fixed in Windows Phone 7. I’m just not sure I like the price that now must be paid to do that.

Android have been better, not perfect, in their update path. You may want to keep in mind that Google recently announce that with Android maturing, the need for updates is not as important as it once was, and will likely cut back to yearly upgrades to the platform.

SOCIAL NETWORKING

At this point in time both platforms have applications for all the mainstream social networks. I’m sure there are lots of people willing to argue that one or the other does one better than the other. In general terms either one gets the job done.

This will all change when Windows Phone 7 hits the shelves. It looks as though one of its biggest claims will be its integration with social networks. I don’t think there is a platform out there at present that will touch what Windows Phone 7 will do in this area. That may sound like I’m a big fan of WP7. I’m not. I think it will be a success, but they have an uphill battle ahead of them, I fear. They let WM6.5 swing in the breeze for too long causing it to slip drastically in the marketplace. In this time many carriers have filled the hole with other devices such as Android. They now have to force that door open to even begin the uphill battle. They are trying to do this with a new platform that is fashioned off the iPhone platform. The iPhone strategy was developed for a single device, with a single manufacturer. Now Microsoft is trying to take the same approach, only with many devices, and many manufacturers. It’s going to take a lot of octopuses reaching in many different directions simultaneously to keep everyone on side, and happy, with such a tightly controlled platform.  I think this is going to result in fewer carriers, and OEMs partnering up in the short term, making a long and winding road to any kind of widespread acceptance.  I’m one of the group that is very dishearten by the death grip they have put on their devices and platform, but all that is best left for another day.

In closing, I think Windows Mobile is capable of far more than Android. However, there are a couple of factors that must be considered. First is the obvious, Windows Mobile’s best before date is approaching rapidly. Secondly, Windows Mobile has had ten years to mature,  Android has only had a couple of years. Think where it could be in ten?

About Dave Evans

Dave Evans has written 5 posts on Mobile Jaw..

  • http://www.MobileJaw.com Mike Temporale

    Excellent article Dave! Android is coming on fast and Windows Phone needs to hit the ground running if Microsoft wants to stay in this game.

    One thing I disagreed with you on is the email segment. Android has improved significantly from v1, but even 2.1 doesn’t touch the power of Windows Mobile devices. Sure, your gmail can be pushed to your device, but try managing calendars and contacts – it’s another story all together. Even mailbox sync isn’t at the level it needs to be to kick Windows Mobile off the podium. For example, my gmail inbox was showing messages on the device that I had archived days earlier on the desktop. I would hit refresh over and over but it never fixed the view. Eventually, I had to disable and re-enable the sync of that account in order for it to pick up the changes. :-/

    I’m really looking forward to Windows Phone 7 – Microsoft needs to get this right or they will be in serious trouble.

  • http://twitter.com/mobilejaw/status/17797100829 MobileJaw

    Android; From a Windows Mobile User – http://tinyurl.com/2v3o3fe

  • http://twitter.com/darrenhumphries/status/17797387083 Darren Humphries

    RT @MobileJaw: Android; From a Windows Mobile User – http://tinyurl.com/2v3o3fe

  • Dave Evans

    I knew someone would disagree with that.
    Although I wasn’t necessarily saying Gmail is better than Exchange. Exchange is available for both platforms, and since Gmail has more functionality on Android devices I gave it the nod.

    Thanks for the insight to real world Gmail ability…or lack thereof. ;)

    Dave

  • http://twitter.com/miketemporale/status/17805150885 MikeTemporale

    Excellent comparison IMHO RT @MobileJaw: Android; From a Windows Mobile User – http://tinyurl.com/2v3o3fe

  • http://www.MobileJaw.com Mike Temporale

    That’s just it, I don’t think Gmail has more functionality than Messaging app on Windows Mobile. There are just too many issues around multiple calendars, contacts, sync, etc… Even switching between accounts on Windows Mobile is so much easier than switching between multiple Gmail accounts.

    Messaging on Windows Mobile is far superior IMO.

  • Helio D.

    Mike, I think that the point Dave was trying to make was that Exchange Sync is present in both. I have been trying syncing my Exchange Mailbox (with calendar and contacts) to an Android device and the results have been surprisingly good. Very stable, good looking, and functional.

  • Dave Evans

    It sounds like I need to do a better job of explaining that particular point.

    First off, in no way am I saying that Gmail is better than Exchange.

    What I am saying is, Exchange is present on both platforms, with similar functionality. Gmail, which an awful lot of people use, is present on both, but on Android Gmail natively has much better functionality, including push, which you get by simply signing into your Gmail account on an Android device.

    So the conclusion is: Exchaange is present on both. Gmail is present on both. On Android Gmail has more functionality….. On another note….I almost bought the Experia X10 last night. ;)

  • http://www.bornmobile.co.il Helio D.

    Yes, this is what I understood as well.

    Exchange is good on both, but gmail is more functional on Android, a clear advantage to Android when gmail users are concerned.

  • Dave Evans

    Helio, I just noticed that was you…..longtime!! :)

    On another note, again….. went back last night and picked up the X10. It’s official I’m now an Android.

    Dave

  • http://www.MobileJaw.com Mike Temporale

    Well I won’t argue email any longer. At least not when I’m out numbered. ;)

    So you picked up a X10 – Cool !! I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on how that compares to the Acer Android device you’ve already played with. Do keep us posted. :)

  • http://www.bornmobile.co.il Helio D.

    Yes, Dave, it’s been a good surprise to see that you have begun writing here together with Mike and Darren!

    I am thinking about picking an HTC Desire. It is about time to go further than my Samsung Omnia (upgraded to WM6.5, but still the same hardware) – I need a better screen.