Home > General, Rants & Opinions > Android to Win7: Day 1

Android to Win7: Day 1

My Verizon contract 2 year anniversary came up yesterday and my Droid (original) was ready for retirement. So, we went to the Verizon store and despite briefly toying with the idea of a Windows 7 phone, I was sold on the Droid 3 thanks to it’s delightful fold out keyboard.

Only when the clerk told me they had none in-stock, due to a bogo offer, I decided to take the HTC Trophy Windows 7 phone for a spin. I can return it within 14 days if I’m not sold.

So far it’s definitely a love-hate affair.

The very first issue we wan into is that we had been using my Droid for navigation. The Trophy seemed to leap into action taking over the role, but perhaps it sprained it’s ankle in the leap…

It comes with an app called “Maps”. If what you are looking for are maps of places, then it’s not bad. But if you think your phone has come with free navigation software, wrong.

At first our current location was tracked in real time, the maps were sort of fuzzy, clearly still loading, and seemed a bit slow, but it was time to ask for directions. North Richland Hills to Forth Worth.

Commence to fail.

For a start, the directions were from our location at the time I had started the app, 5 minutes earlier in the car park of the Verizon store, not our location when I input the destination, nor our location when I clicked the directions button.

Just to complete the fail, it stopped tracking our location at the same time.  There was some sort of mechanism for updating the location by hand, but it periodically seemed to revert to start of route making it useless for in-car navigation :(

I’m guessing this abject failure is why it isn’t pinned to the start menu.

Clearly, I was going to need navigation software, since my Droid’s deactivation had rendered it more or less a brick (really? I can’t still use it as a GPS device? dangit)

The Marketplace is responsive, but oh-my-gosh is it full of crap. I thought the Android marketplace had junk in it, the Windows 7 marketplace has *#$@= in it. No, no, that’s understating. While we were in Fort Worth, I skimmed a book on Windows Phone programming that had an example of a binary clock. So, I’m unlikely to pay $1 to buy the 4-star rated version of that example app from the Win 7 marketplace.

It also seems to be full of “toolsets” which comprise a bunch of handy odds and ends (torch, spirit level) etc, all of which are included as examples in said programming book, and none of which require any of the permissions that the apps want (really? a spirit level needs to access my contacts list? In case it detects that I’ve fallen over? Or perhaps the torch can automatically scan what I shine it on and detect if I’ve stumbled on one of my friends at night? And perhaps the “quick note taker” needs cloud storage, explaining its need for full internet access?

Am I ranting? Well, the Windows 7 marketplace deserves it. There is so much crap it was really difficult to find the meat. I was trying to find something like Yelp or Where without doing a search, and after 50 odd “see more”s I was still looking at really annoying rubbish that nobody is ever going to want.

In short: If I hadn’t had my android phone as a point of reference, I would never have found a decent app to help me get around.

I do however like the Marketplace itself; the organization, at least as presented on the Trophy, is rather nice and very smooth.

But the content — full of either crap that costs a few dollars, or contenders with scary prices. ($39 for Garmin’s navigator).

I finally found a navigation tool called “Turn by Turn” for $4.99 of which I took the trial for a spin and was reasonably satisfied (until it started bleating about a 12 mile limit every 3s, making it virtually impossible to either select ‘buy’ or enter a new route).

The Windows 7 Phone interface… There’s a pleasant feel to it. There are some glaring “what were you thinking”s tho:

Scrolling lists hide their scroll bar until you are scrolling them. While it’s often obvious when a page has up/down extents, what’s less obvious is when you are at the top or bottom of a page, ’cause the scroll bar isn’t shown. Further, the lack of decoration around the lists themselves mean that the text has a whole number of lines to display in most cases. So there aren’t partially obscured lines at the top/bottom to instantly show you the content extends beyond the (undressed and therefore invisible) area; instead the list tends to look complete, if short. Minor but bothersome.

Final gripes, or rather things I’m set to research and figure out before deciding whether this phone is going back…

The phone’s “back” button is an Alt-Tab. It switches application. This takes some getting used to. There’s no task manager, and as you learn the Windows 7 unique modes of navigation, it will take you a while to remember “Oh, I can press Back to get to the application I was just in”, until you make the alt-tab connection mentally. Which is difficult because holding it down doesn’t bring up a list of running task…

(The lack of a task manager, fyi, is a gripe).

But the real gripe there is … there is no back button in the browser. If you accidentally touch the wrong part of the screen, if a web site decides to forward you somewhere, if you click the wrong result in Bing … Tough luck. Windows 7 phones only browse forwards!

Did I mention there was no task manager?

$39 for Garmin’s navigation software, what the heck? And the Verizon store didn’t have any accessories in-stock for the Windows phone. While the first rep we spoke to said he’d like the phone, these commission-based reps didn’t seem to have any interest in me once I expressed an interest in the Windows 7 phone.

If you use Windows on a PC, reducing the number of running applications is probably something you have to do regularly. The last thing I want is for my apps to interfere with my smartphone’s primary role as a phone (been there, droid that).

So, having fired up a good dozen apps, and cognizant that this was Windows, I was actually subjectively happy by the slightness of the decrease in performance — small but detectable. But the inability to see what was running and/or shutting any of it down was really annoying.

Windows 7 phone, so far:

- No scroll bars (unless you’re scrolling),
– No browser backsies,
– No task manager!

 

  1. Neil
    July 24, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    It’s not hype that iPhones are terrific. I’ve used and programmed many feature phones and smart phones since getting into the mobile industry in 1996 including many that didn’t make it to market, and the iPhone hype, that it “just works” isn’t hype.

    Geek test- I love my iPhone, it has all kinds of geeky apps from ssh clients to net testing apps.

    Non-geek test- my girlfriend Jane loves her iPhone, it looks cool and is really fun and easy to use. She also likes all the puzzle games and becomes physically violent if I suggest she return to her (Noka, Symbian) old phone.

    I bought an Android (2.1) device for a laugh and boy, I hope things have improved since that version. I intended to use the android phone when abroad but it’s such a frustrating experience that I just installed a wifi hotspot app and now switch that on to give my iPhone mobile wifi (so I can actually do useful things rather than trying to work crappy and buggy android)!

    I could go on with lots of practical (and non-religious) reasons why Android seems like a crock to me, but I need to sleep. I will probably dream that someone brings the two year old 2.2 to my ZTE phone.

  2. July 25, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Mine’s a Samsung Focus (AT&T). There is a navigator app on it, but its part of a suite of AT&T software that requires monthly subscriptions… yeah. Like THAT’S gonna happen. Thanks for pointing me towards an alternative. ;)

    What sold the phone for me was the Zune integration. And I’ve actually been enjoying a bit of gaming on it too…

    You might want to look at some of the features of the next OS update (codename Mango). There’s a rundown on the anythingbutiphone.com site.

  3. July 25, 2011 at 1:17 am

    So what’s wrong with the Samsung Galaxy S2?

  4. July 25, 2011 at 9:07 am

    *Supposedly* the Motorola Droid Bionic will be out August 4. My OG Droid was up for it’s 2 year renewal on the 21st.

    The Droid 3 is an option, but I think I will get the 4g Bionic while I still have my unlimited data plan.

    Easting

  5. July 25, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    @Neil: I don’t dismiss the iPhone “hype”. In fact, whenever I read someone bitching about Apple’s strictness over the app store etc, I rofl a little. Sure, I’ll grant the tinfoil hats that maybe sometimes Apple might block an app for some “nefarious” reason, but I’d rather have Apple’s nefarious business interventions than Bob Hacker’s trojan intervention or have to spend weeks trying to find a “flashlight” app that isn’t spyware/malware…

    I haven’t found Android to be that much of a pain, what you have to remember is that back around 2.1 a lot of the vendors were imposing their own custom UIs (note, UI not just skin) over it — most of the folks I know who reacted the same way to ‘droid were folks who suffered one of those god awful UIs (caveat: One or two of the UIs are actually better than the native droid UI, though).

    Mostly, I don’t want to have to program in Java nearly as much as I don’t want to have to program in Objective C.

    The nice thing about the Windows-based phones is that they are pretty damn open. I’ll regret the hell out of saying that when I get my first virus, but until then…


    @Grim: Zune has failed to really grab me yet, I’ve only started using it on my 360 since I replaced my TiVo with the shitty Time-Warner Cable DVR and lost my ability to easily watch Amazon/Prime stuff on my TV (p.i.t.a to get Unbox to work with the 360 from Win 7).

    But having it on my phone now may change that.


    @Mike: Not available from Verizon yet, no slide-out keyboard. Oh, and /wave ltns :)


    @Easting: I might *just* be able to pull off taking my Troph back and swapping to a Bionic on the 4th, but it’s cutting it a bit close :) I’ve still got the unlimited data plan, but based on recent phone performance, I suspect I’m being rate capped – which blows chunks since I rarely do much online stuff with my phone, most of the stuff I use it for is messaging, local apps or WiFi.

    Of course, where most people get caught out is using things like the GPS features and not realizing all the maps it downloads and the destination/etc lookups all use the network…

  6. July 25, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    When I bought my Android device it took me about two days to un-cripple it from the operator. I had to download a *RANDOM* file from a *RANDOM* website and then flash my phone with it to unbrand it. It was unusable without this haxie – all data services had to be over 3G without it. Don’t Android people worry about this stuff?

    Because I believe in the premise behind Android, I will buy a new device in the hope it will be ok (It’s going to be another branded pile of shit, an Orange Monte Carlo) which reputedly will be upgradeable to 3.0+. Cross fingers and hope.

    I hope this device will fix the issues I hate about Android on my current ZTE Blade device (the maps app is unusable and GPS also terrible. Touchscreen also is pretty poor. UI painful). And there’s a bonus of having an OS (just) less than a year old. But without vendor support AFAIK.

    FFS, just try an Apple, then you’ll want to buy it. JUST TRY IT without software religion.

    Neil.

  7. July 25, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    Oliver, you sweet kipper mongrel.

    Get an iPhone.

    Re the programming thing, Obj-C is just C which I happen to know you like. When I see Java AMUL I’ll be (DIS)abused of this notion.

    :)

    N.

  8. July 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Oh, I’ve tried the iPhone – I don’t dislike it. But I’ve been pretty happy with my Droid (which is a specific android phone, http://www.droiddoes.com/)

    At the same time, I’ve also seen how shitty a bad android phone can be. I see that as a huge reason to lean towards iPhone/RIM because – you get a tailored experience, rather than “whatever crap this phone might have cobbled onto it.

    Right now – I’m just taking this W7 phone for a test drive. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to a Droid-series phone because it’s what I know.

    I’d like to like the W7 phone because of the programming possibilities that don’t involve Java/Obj-C :)

  9. allibone
    July 26, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Task manager and other major updates including multi-tasking are coming in the next update to Windows Phone (known as Mango), it’ll be out this fall.

  10. July 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    drop the phone, go for a galaxy tab with 4g. Skype with a Bluetooth headset.

  1. October 13, 2012 at 8:49 pm
  2. March 17, 2013 at 1:54 am

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