Switching from Android to Windows Phone 8
This is not a Windows Phone 8, but we’re told the picture was taken with one. So there. Image: Antony Mayfield

What would compel someone to switch from Android to Windows Phone 8?

When choosing a smart phone in today’s world, no one ever talks about the small details that make life easier. By that, I mean functions that one doesn’t need to set up, but are already part of the system from the beginning, by default. I want an operating system that feels intuitive and organic in how it complements my life, rather than just being another digital device. Yet, to achieve that, a small learning curve is acceptable.

Just recently I switched from Android to Windows Phone 8. I did this not because I was particularly unhappy with Android. As a technology aficionado though, I like to be updated every once in a while. Also I’m a heavy Windows 8 and SkyDrive user already. So the decision was only logical. Seen on its own, it’s a beautiful, fluid, and colorful OS. To me, the symbiosis of Windows Phone and the Nokia Lumia devices is flawless. Having a bright red phone also helps stand out from a crowd of monotone phone designs. We are all emotional beings, and we buy things that we appreciate.

Windows Phone as a Quality Camera Substitute

Before anything else though, it was the Lumia 920‘s camera I wanted. As a passionate photographer, I used a bulky professional DSLR, which I recently sold. My life took a different direction, but photography still is part of it. So I basically traded my expensive Nikon D3S for a Lumia 920. Many might think this to be an unintelligent move, but creativity doesn’t depend on your equipment. It flourishes with your ability to be flexible in how you capture images. A smart phone is certainly more portable than a heavy camera with humongous lenses and zooms.

It’s clear to me that nothing can replace a dedicated camera with professional glass. However, this isn’t a statement on picture quality, because we know which camera would win. Captivating photography consist of emotions, creativity, and storytelling. While a DSLR provides unlimited technical capacity, my new smart phone encourages me to take photos instead of providing a sense of pressure about what would happen if I lost or broke it.

Getting Used to the Windows Phone Way of Doing Things

In less than a day, I was accustomed to the very different principles of Windows Phone. Initially it impressed me, but no system is perfect. The fact that it’s still impossible to turn off auto-rotation of the screen is very irritating. Windows Phone 8 is the beauty and the beast in one. Personally speaking though, I gladly accept some of the compromises.

Windows Phone, and later Windows 8, are products that resulted from Microsoft’s desperation to get back in the game. As a user, I now reap the rewards. In the course of the last couple of months I embraced the new Microsoft ecosystem, which in many ways centers on Windows as a core experience. Though design is a question of taste, Microsoft created a clean visual presentation of what is important to us: people. Especially if you use Facebook, which almost everyone does, you can take full advantage of the social media integration.

What Did I Leave Behind when I Switched from Android to Windows Phone 8?

To me it feels like Windows Phone is a better-designed gate to our digital life — one that doesn’t stand in the way. By complementing our digital services, it’s the content itself driving the user experience, rather than the other way around. I no longer think in apps, but instead think of specific functions. Also, the apps argument is irrelevant to me. Personally, I only need 15-20 good apps that cover everything that I might want to do. Beyond that, I have no use for an app store that offers hundreds of thousands of apps — of which 99% are of questionable quality.

After using two generations of Android, I always felt satisfied by its ability to adapt to my needs. Flexibility is something that goes missing in Windows Phone, if that’s important to you. I thought that it was important to me, but now I don’t miss it. Having used Windows 8 for many months already on my computer and tablet, I was already aware of how much — or how little, for that matter — it is customizable. Beyond a limited selection of theme colors, and the resizing and moving of live tiles, all the personality comes from your content and not from myriad visual modifications. It truly is that minimal, but don’t interpret that as simplicity.

Is Windows Phone More Personal Than Android?

Microsoft is trying to make computing more personal, and I embrace its vision of a more human digital world. A missing notification center, like in Android or iOS, may seem jarring at first. After a few days it becomes more familiar, and personally I have no need any more for a notification center, because of the live tiles. It’s just another way of achieving the same goal, but everyone needs to decide for themselves what ecosystem best suits them.

I also switched from Spotify to an Xbox Music Pass. Now I have two functions that Spotify can’t offer me yet. It’s helpful to have an app optimized for touch and Windows RT, and be able to use one account to play music on several devices at the same time. The only limitation is that the music has to be downloaded onto the device. While one device can use online streaming, others can use the same account to play music that has been downloaded through my Xbox Music Pass.

Windows Phone: Wonderful and Frustrating

There are many small details that make Windows Phone wonderful and frustrating at the same time. As a whole, though, it’s a system that runs smoothly, no matter how many apps you have open. But getting accustomed to the Windows Phone way of doing things all depends on the user’s ability to surrender old habits from Android or iOS. Keeping an open mind is more important than comparison.

Yes, I miss some functionality from Android — namely Tasker and the automation possibilities. Yet, gaining native Office and OneNote support leverages any sense of loss I might have had after leaving Android behind me. A system-wide SkyDrive integration is also another big plus. Windows Phone has still some features that can be improved, but — to me — the overall philosophy feels so much more human and unassuming than any of the competitors.