Goodbye Windows Mobile/Phone–it’s been a good (not great) 13 years

A few weeks ago I came to a decision that was a long time coming.  I finally decided to dump my beloved Windows Phone by Microsoft in favor of Google’s Android.

First, some history…

I started using Microsoft powered phones something like 13 years ago, when I got an Audiovox Thera.  I went from a simple cell phone (my very first cell phone) to Microsoft phones because the idea that I could use .NET to write an app for the phone was very cool.  (I wrote a post a few years ago about my personal cell phone history: 9 Years of having a cell.) Here’s a quick run down:

1) Verizon feature phone – my first phone and until this year, the last time I had a non Microsoft phone

2) AudioVox Thera – PocketPC for Phone edition – my first Microsoft phone

3) Samsung i730 – Wifi!

4) HTC Touch Pro 2 – Nice keyboard!

5) Nokia Lumia 710 – Windows Phone 7!

6) Nokia Lumia 925 – Windows Phone 8 (then 8.1), great camera – my most expensive cell phone ever

7) Google Nexus 5X – Android!

Plus, my family jumped on the Windows Phone band wagon when I got my wife and both of our kids Lumia 520s.  The 520 was an incredible bargain.  Instead of buying the kids a iPod for music, we got them phones that could do music plus games plus be a phone! AND the 520 was a quarter of the price of the lowest iPod touch – even more of a crazy gap when compared to an iPhone.

So, why? Why not stick with Windows Phone/Mobile?

It simply came down to one thing: apps, or more precisely, the horrendous lack of apps on Windows Phones. Being a long time Windows phone user, I’ve never really had a huge app selection to pick from.  Going from Windows Mobile 6.5 to Windows Phone 7 in 2011, the app selection was much improved, but my basis for comparison was the previous version of Windows Mobile, which had practically no apps.

My perception started to change when I bought an Android tablet for my family (Nexus 7 from 2012) and my daughter got an iPod touch 4th gen (2012).  Apps would come out on iPhone or Android, but only the highest profile apps would make it to Windows Phone.  Somewhere around 2013, the joke started to be that you couldn’t get the name brand app on Windows Phone, but you could get a knock off.  Some of these knock off apps were quite good (Disney Expedition since “My Disney Experience” isn’t available), but others were bad. Sometimes those independent knock off apps would suddenly quit working because the service they were tied to had changed an API.

I tried to make up for the lack of apps by using the web browser in the phone, even going so far as making short cuts to certain sites be a tile on the home page (Facebook being one). However, most of those mobile sites don’t compare with the full app experience.

AND then the next shoe dropped: companies started dropping support for the few apps that they had published.  My LiveStrong app that I used to track my weight daily would no longer sync to the web site.  This was an app that I had purchased (not a freebie) and that company stopped updating it and at some point they updated their web site in a way that broke the Windows Phone app. I also started reading more and more online about banks or other companies dropping their apps as well.  I didn’t use most of them, but I started seeing the writing on the wall.

The next big news was Windows 10 and how it was going to save Windows Phone.  Microsoft has come up with a way to write an app for the full PC version of Windows 10 and have it work on the phone as well.  Great! That’ll close the gap, right? Well….turns out that developers have to write their app in a certain way, plus make additional (Microsoft describes as simple) changes to make it work on the phone.  Even though the changes are simple, companies are still not going to do it.  Plus, most companies don’t put an app out for Windows, instead relying on their full web site (think shopping, banking, etc.).

Windows 10 Mobile has another issue for me: it would require purchasing new phones and none of the Windows 10 phones look that appealing.  And the thought of spending several hundred dollars on a phone that is still lacking apps is crazy.

This whole lack of apps reminds of previous platform switches I’ve done in my life: starting with my very first computer, a Commodore Vic20 (everyone had a Commodore 64), or later having a Tandy Color Computer (loved that thing, but everyone was moving to IBM PCs), and in the 90s I didn’t like Windows 3.1 so I bought a Mac (Perfoma 6116CD running MacOS 7).  The Mac versus Windows debate of the late 90s reminds me a lot of this phone debate.  Mac users (clear minority) would say that they didn’t have a lot of apps, but the apps they had were good.  Now, it’s the Windows Phone crowd saying that.

iPhone or Android?

I’ve been leaning Android for a long time because I like the hardware/price options.  There’s no such thing as a low end iPhone in my opinion.  Buying four iPhones would have given me sticker shock! Plus, Paul Thurrott and Mary Jo Foley, two Microsoft beat reporters that I follow closely via their articles and podcast (https://twit.tv/shows/windows-weekly) have recently decided to not use Windows Phones as their daily phones. Paul’s published several articles about “Android for the Windows Phone guy” that have been helpful.

I’m still a big Microsoft fan (I make my living supporting SharePoint/OneDrive/Office 365) and Microsoft has been publishing a lot of apps first on Android.  Plus Android being open allows more customizations that I might find useful and will allow me to tinker somewhat with it.  AND with the big news of Microsoft purchasing Xamarin, I can write apps for Android (I haven’t tried this yet, so it’s mostly theory for me…) using Visual Studio and C#.

Paul Thurrott pointed out the Google Fi service, so I looked into it.  I figured if I was going to switch phone platforms, it’s a good opportunity to re-evaluate our cell phone plans as well.  After a lot of research and comparing phone plans, we settled on this:

Nexus 5X and Google Fi: I signed up for Google Fi and got a Nexus 5x through them.  The phone was only $240 and the monthly phone bills are cheap.

Ting for the wife and kids: For now, they are using their Windows Phones until we can replace them with Android phones. I switched them to Ting because our phone usage is pretty moderate. For hardware, my 11 year old son is happy with my hand me down Lumia 925 (big step up from his Lumia 520) and my wife is fine with her 520.  My 14 year old daughter though is quite unhappy with her 520, so she’s probably going to be the next one to get upgraded.  She’s always raving about the iPhone, but when I got my 5x, she said that it was “good enough”.  Then I showed her the finger print reader, the apps, the apps, the apps – and now she wants one instead of an iPhone.

Our T-Mobile phone bill was $120 and we got four lines (unlimited talk/text) and 2.5 high speed data, which is a pretty good price compared with other cell companies.  However, our newly combined Ting and Google Fi service is going to be less than $100/month.  BTW – kudos to T-Mobile for making it extremely easy to move our phones to another provider.  NO hassle what so ever.

We’ll see if our data usage increases with phones that have apps, but our first month is almost over and we’re doing well.