On the eve of the big Windows Phone 8 announcement, now might be a good time to see how the old version of Windows Phone compares to Google’s latest and greatest, and also to see in which areas Microsoft needs to be catching up.
By now, all mobile smartphone platforms are becoming quite similar. So how does Android Ice Cream Sandwich compare to Windows Phone Mango? Both have thier positives and negatives, and just like iOS vs WP7, both are great operating systems.
In the end, the “best” truly comes down to personal taste and what you actually need out of a smartphone. Nevertheless, each operating system could learn quite a bit from its competitors! Here’s how WP7 compares to Android:
Internet: Winner – Android
With Ice Cream Sandwich, you have flash bundled right in with the phone. People will always say “Oh you don’t *need* flash”, but the truth is, it is really great to be able to browse the actual web. Being able to stream my favorite radio station, The Hope Line, is awesome and not possible on WP7. Plus, Android’s browser has features like “Find on page” which WP7 doesn’t have (anymore), and you can even save things for offline reading. Mobile websites are often formatted better on Android than WP7 (take Neowin.net for example). In terms of load speeds, both phones are very similar.
Email: Winner – WP7
Windows Phone was king of email when compared to the iPhone, and it prevails once again here. With Android and the iPhone, you can’t even search emails!! (iPhone only searches To/From/Subject). Plus, Android’s email app seems to be lacking threaded conversations. (You can actually search email on Android… if you use Gmail. But on WP7 you can always use search no matter what)
Plus, the email interface on Android is insanely cluttered and messy. The email composition page makes me cringe! WP7 easily wins when it comes to email.
Notifications: Winner – Android
This is an obvious one. Both Android and iPhone handle notifications quite better than WP7. With Android, all your notifications are stored in a notification tray at the top, which you slide down to access. This fixes the problem in WP7 where you receive a push notification but your phone is in your pocket, and when you actually take your phone out the notification is gone and you have absolutely no clue what you missed! Hopefully WP8 will bring aÂ quality notification management similar to Android.
Interface: Winner – WP7
Android Ice Cream Sandwich was a great attempt at unifying the user experience in Android, but it wasn’t completely successful. Some things like the Contacts app look great, but other things just don’t match well. Sometimes menu buttons are on the top of the screen, and sometimes they’re on the bottom. Email, as I said earlier, looks hideous and took me a solid minute just to locate the reply button! Android has gotten a whole lot better, and the interface is overall decently easy to use, but WP7 is still a step above.
Home Screen: Winner – Android
Widgets and Live Tiles are basically the same thing. The difference is that widgets can have different sizes while Live Tiles are limited to the little squares (people have been asking for landscape tiles for quite awhile) An app with a good widget is hit-and-miss, just like an app with a good live tile. However, good widgets on Android usually are more useful than good live tiles on WP7. With the Weather Channel widget, I get today’s weather plus the forecast for tomorrow… something not possible on WP7. The Calendar widget also displays multiple upcoming events instead of only one, and canÂ even beÂ larger if I wish.
Battery Life: Winner – WP7
With my week of using the Galaxy Nexus, battery life seemed to be slightly worse compared to Windows Phone, but it was close. If you want a phone with a little longer battery, WP7 seems to stay alive longer.
Multitasking: Winner – Android
The fact is, being able to reply to text messages while receiving GPS turn-by-turn navigation instructions is AWESOME. Both iPhone and WP7 are lacking in this department. With Android, you can be doing anything and your navigation continues to run. With WP7, you would have to return to the nav app to actually receive any instructions. Android “just works” here and WP7/iPhone do not.
And unlike previous versions of Android, you don’t need a task manager anymore. All the running apps are managed quite intelligently, and I never once had to force close anything. Thus, Android is the clear winner here, with no downsides thanks to their improved handling of running apps.
Media Controls: Winner – WP7
On Android, there’s no way to control the currently playing song in the background for apps like Pandora! You always have to open the app to pause or skip songs, whereas in Windows Phone there’s a universal control for pausing and skipping. Android has this control for its native music player app, but doesn’t for third party apps.
Keyboard: Winner – TIE
Both the default Android and Windows Phone keyboards are great. Neither one was any better in my opinion.
Voice Commands: Winner – Android
With Android’s voice commands, you can do things like set alarms or say “Navigate to Chipotle”. WP7 is definitely behind Android, and even further behind the iPhone. Also, with Android you can type with your voice anywhere. I’m sure we’ll see better voice support in WP8 tomorrow!
Scrolling: Winner – WP7
My experience with Android was always very smooth, and I never had any lagging. However, scrolling is still not perfectly butter smooth like on WP7 or iPhone. It still feels choppy in a few things and could use some improvement.
Navigation: Winner – Android
With any Android phone, you get free navigation. With WP7, you only get that with Nokia devices (though with WP8 that should change soon). Android also has the upper hand since navigation can actually multitask. Hopefully if navigation is built into WP8, Microsoft will allow multitasking too.
Camera: Winner – WP7
In Windows Phone’s camera app, you can instantly view all the pictures you took. With Android, you can only view the very last pic you took. To view any more, it has to launch the actual Gallery app, which takes a solid 2 seconds. Otherwise the camera apps are pretty similar.
Phone: Winner – Android
Android’s dialer has T9 search built right in. This handy feature lets you dial from your contacts way faster than anything else (look for RapDialer on the WP marketplace if you want something similar). Also, on Android you can natively block calls from numbers that keep on spamming you (by going to the contact and selecting the “all calls to voicemail” option)
Text/Email Unread Counts: Winner – WP7
On the lock screen of WP7, you can instantly see how many unread text messages and emails you have. With Android, you have these in your notification tray, but they should also be displayed elsewhere. Also, on your AndroidÂ home screen, the icon for Messaging doesn’t display how many unread texts you have… when it should.
App Performance: Winner – Android
Android handles launching apps the same way the iPhone does… if it’s already running, clicking the icon opens the current instance of the app. On Windows Phone, it launces a new version of the app and takes AGES to open! Therefore, things feel much faster on Android. WP8 desperately needs to be like this… and if it’s anything like Windows 8, it will be!
Overall: Winner – up to you!
Both phones have plenty of positives and plenty of negatives. The fact is, many people will be happy with either phone. Both operating systems work well, and Android definitely isn’t the big mess it used to be. WP8 will hopefully learn a few tricks from Android and keep improving!