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Background: In a recent post I complained about both my old iPhone 3GS and my new Android phone. Brandon Watson, Senior Director of Windows Phone Apps challenged me to test a Windows phone. If I didn't like it better than the iPhone and the Android, he would donate $1,000 to the charity of my choice. I agreed. My evaluation follows.

Keep in mind that I'm just a casual user, not a phone tester. I didn't test every feature of every phone, and I didn't measure anything. I simply used the new phone and kept track of my reactions compared to my Android and iPhone experiences.

As it turned out, the Android phone I originally complained about was a lemon. I exchanged the phone at the Sprint store for the same model, and the new hardware doesn't crash. Apparently the crashing wasn't an Android problem.

I'm not always able to discern which problems are caused by the hardware versus the operating system versus the carrier. That warning is most relevant for the iPhone because my understanding is that AT&T doesn't work well with the iPhone 3GS in my corner of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Here are the three phone configurations I compared:

    iPhone 3GS/AT&T network

    HTC EVO 3D/Android/Sprint network

    Samsung Focus/Windows 7.5 (Mango)/AT&T network

CALL QUALITY


    Samsung/Windows/AT&T: GOOD

    iPhone/AT&T: FAIL (dropped almost every call over a minute)

    HTC EVO 3D/Android/Sprint: FAIL (no dropped calls, but always garbled)

USER INTERFACE

    Samsung/Windows: GREAT

    iPhone: GOOD

    HTC EVO 3D/Android: POOR

ONSCREEN KEYBOARD


    Samsung/Windows: FAIL

     iPhone: FAIL

    HTC EVO 3D/Android: FAIL

(I found all three phones frustrating. If you plan to do much typing, get a phone with a real keyboard.)

BATTERY LIFE


    Samsung/Windows: GOOD

    iPhone: GOOD

    HTC EVO 3D/Android: FAIL

APPS


    Samsung/Windows: OKAY-ISH

    iPhone: GREAT

    HTC EVO 3D/Android: GOOD

(I don't use many apps, but I'm assuming the Windows phone has most of the popular games and utilities but lacks some vendor-specific offerings one might like.)

INTANGIBLE COOLNESS FACTOR


    Samsung/Windows: NONE

    iPhone: GOOD

    HTC EVO 3D/Android: GOOD

Summary:
I hated my call-dropping iPhone. I'm told that the call-dropping had a lot to do with the AT&T network where I live. But I rarely had an acceptable voice call when I travelled either. Maybe it's just me.

My Android phone is nearly useless unless I'm near a power outlet. The battery drains so quickly that I avoid using it if I'm out of the house for more than a few hours. And I don't use it for voice calls unless I have to. I also find the user interface to be a think-about-it-every-time experience, which is a fail. I can't seem to commit the most basic functions to reflex no matter how many times I use the thing.

The Windows phone has the best user interface experience, although the onscreen keyboard is problematic just as it is with the other phones I used. The Windows interface is intuitive, simple, and has a liveliness that I find appealing. Voice call quality was good, and battery life seemed good too. I declare it the winner compared to my iPhone 3GS with AT&T and my HTC EVO 3D with Android on the Sprint network.

However, the intangible coolness factor is impossible to ignore. Even the names Microsoft and Windows feel dated. And the home screen of the Windows phone is great from a usability standpoint, but lacks sizzle. I'd be lying if I said that didn't matter to me.

So what phone is right for you?

If you're an image-conscious hipster/rebel/brand-monkey, and you don't use the AT&T network in the SF Bay Area, the iPhone is a great choice, especially if you need obscure apps.

An Android phone is great if you enjoy its gadgety nature, which I confess has some appeal. And the larger screen on the HTC EVO 3D is a huge plus compared to the iPhone 3GS. I assume Windows can match screen size on some phone models. The downside for Android is a frustrating interface and, in my situation, with my particular phone, an inexcusably bad battery life. Other Android users I have spoken to don't complain about the battery issue although they do notice it seems short. My suspicion is that I live in a weak signal area and the phone is using extra power to compensate. Or perhaps my particular phone is a power hog; I can't tell.

If you want a smartphone that is easy to use, performs well, has a good battery life, and doesn't frustrate you, the Windows phone is the best choice of the three options I tested. All you give up is some hipster credibility and access to lesser-used apps.

For legal reasons, allow me to state that my opinions on any of the software, hardware, or networks mentioned are purely subjective and potentially misleading. My situation is not typical. Your experience with any of the software, hardware or networks mentioned will differ.

I don't have a financial interest in any of the companies mentioned except for their inclusion in diversified stock ETFs.
 
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Aug 18, 2011
Hipster/Rebel/ "Anticapitalist "/ brand monkey is the correct term..

Anticapitalist as in worshiping apple products as if their produced by the hands of god.

Apple by the way is the second most profitable corporation in terms of market capitalization just under exon mobile if anyone knew that.
 
 
Aug 18, 2011
Android keyboard ... use Swype ... it becomes fast!
 
 
+115 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
@lemmein

Even though it's extremely uncool, Windows Phone has a surprising number of fanbois. We don't work for Microsoft, we just like the phone :)
 
 
+31 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
I try not to get into heated discussions about which is computer/phone/god is better, since everyone has their own preferences and you're not likely to win over many converts once their mind is made up. One thing I've noticed, though, is that people who start out with a Blackberry usually have a harder time switching to an on-screen keyboard. It works the other way too. I've used an iPhone for several years now (never owned a Blackberry), and any time I try to use a physical keyboard on a phone, I just can't do it. Once you've trained your brain a certain way, it must just be too hard to switch.
 
 
-10 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
Scott, I would love to see your take on one of the new BlackBerries, such as the Torch 9810. It has a 640x480 touch screen as well as the full slide out keyboard. I am thinking of getting one once they are available, and would love to read an unbiased opinion.
 
 
-32 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
I confess this is completely unrelated to today's post... but when this showed up as a recommended item in Google Reader, I immediately wondered what your take on it would be... http://shankman.com/the-best-customer-service-story-ever-told-starring-mortons-steakhouse/

I would guess cynicism but that seems to simple a reaction to stir up your blog readers... and maybe your years in the restaurant business might influence your response as well.
 
 
-18 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
No love for Blackberries? Would have like to seem them in the mix, particularly because the very reason I use mine is for the keyboard.
 
 
Aug 18, 2011
Hi Scott,

I agree with you on your Android assessment. I have used Nexus One for few months.

I am now using Samsung Focus with Mango update (unofficial) and it works really well. I have some complaints with Windows Phone OS as well. Like you cannot just copy files to phone, just music and movies via Zune PC software. You cannot copy documents or and other files at all.

One tip I can give you and other users of Samsung Focus. The charger Samsung gives with the device is 700mah, and the battery is 1500mah. So, the charging takes like 4-5hrs to charge, and you mostly get 12hrs of optimal phone use per charge.

Use a Nokia 1200mah or similar rating charger with Samsung Focus, you will be amazed that the battery will give you twice the time per charge. I mostly charge my device after 24hrs, and I mostly do emails, some social, and some calls. Pretty standard use :)

Give it a try, you will know ;)

// chall3ng3r //

P.S. now you've selected to go with Windows Phone, so according to bet, now ask Brandon to donate 2000$ to charity of your choice instead of 1000$ ;)
 
 
-8 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
I LOVE my Samsung Nexus S 4G (most recent version of android). I bought a 3rd-party extended battery and I always plug it at night. I turn off stuff that I'm not actively using (like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi), but you can buy battery apps to do it for you. (Apparently, Android's processes work differently than Windows processes--you can Google and article that explains that). I have all of the apps I could possibly need on my phone, as do my husband and son, who have the same phone. I used to be on Verizon with a Motorola phone and didn't like not going on the internet unless I wanted to get a second mortgage on my house. Spring gives us unlimited everything. Sprint is also CDMA, as is Verizon. AT&T is TDMA and GSM, which be garbly. I was in a online meeting with a guy at work who was in the meeting using his iPad (I was on my desk phone)--most of the time it sounded like he was in outerspace, talking through a juice harp like Peter Frampton. With TDMA, it is half-duplex and you ended up cutting each other off all of the time. OH, when my husband's phone battery gets low (he always forgets to charge it), he cuts in and out when I talk to him on the phone. Most of our "conversations" are text-based for that reason.
 
 
Aug 18, 2011
Scott...

I agree with your point about the coolness factor. Apple's got it and Windows doesn't. That's probably the biggest hurdle for Windows Phone. Perhaps this is why Brandon is trying convince celebrities to try the phone.

As for the keyboard, if you really do like the Windows Phone OS, you can choose a handset with a physical keyboard. Same thing with the screen size, there should be a form factor that suits everyone by the time the 7.5 devices come out.

And I agree that the apps are lacking right now (OK-ish is actually very generous), but there will be a huge influx of apps when the Marketplace opens to 7.5 app submissions next week. Lots of developers are waiting for the updated OS because the API improvements compared to the 7.0 OS is night and day.

There are entire categories of apps that don't exist right now because they're simply impossible in 7.0. Plus you'll finally be able to experience fast app switching, multitasking (limited but better than the iPhone), live tiles, search extensions, etc in new 3rd party apps and when existing apps are updated for 7.5. I truly believe app support won't be a problem in 3-6 months.

 
 
+59 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
Glad to hear I'm not crazy... I have a Focus as well with Mango and love it.

I'm a converted iPhone user who had the same problem with dropped calls. Funny how switching phones made such a difference.

The Mango flavor helps hide the sulfuric Windows/Microsoft taste.
 
 
+20 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
I have an Android - my first smartphone. It wasn't intuitive, but when I used my sister's iPhone it was even worse. She has been using it for about 6 months, and she also struggled with several things we wanted to do. She just says "I don't use it for that".

My real problem with my Android, is that sometimes it refuses to let me answer some calls. I'm mostly in an office, and don't use the phone more than once or twice a day. Sometimes, it just won't unlock. It seems to be particularly bad if it hasn't been used for a few hours.

I would like a cool un-smart phone. If I want to shoot photos I'll use my Nikon, if I want videos I'll use my very nice video camera. If I want games I'll know I've mentally regressed to childhood, and commit suicide. If I want to read books, I'll use my Kindle. I have a great laptop that just needs internet connectivity via the phone (I WAS impressed at my Androids ease of connection).

But it would be nice to have a phone I can actually answer every time. But I guess that is a lot to ask of a mobile phone.
 
 
Aug 18, 2011
did you just say, windows apps are OKAY? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED
 
 
Aug 18, 2011
I have had an iPhone (3G, now 4) for almost three years, and I love it. I do not experience dropped calls, but then again, I don't tend to use my iPhone for vocal communications altogether much, so that's less of an issue. I also like being grandfathered into the unlimited data plan, but then again, I only use about 200 Mb a month so perhaps I should downgrade.

I also have an AT&T Galaxy Tab, which has its own good/bad challenges - which includes the battery-draining expressed above (I've found that WiFi drains the battery less than the 3G, so it's best to keep off the cellular network if you're just playing Angry Birds - which also reduces the bandwidth consumption because it can't get to the ads).

I'm looking forward to a Windows phone that will show me something interesting.
 
 
Aug 18, 2011
Why not try the iPhone 4 as well ... ?
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
I have an Evo, not an Evo 3d, just the older Evo and everyone always complains about battery life on it too. The issue isn't really Android but the size of the screen which is burning a lot of your battery life. Personally I like the big screen so I can watch netflix and such. If your battery life really bothers you then you can buy a better replacement battery. The standard battery is, I believe, 1700mAh and I've seen replacement ones available up to ~4000mAh.
 
 
Aug 18, 2011
I have used three kinds of iPhones (3G, 3GS, 4) here a middling-sized city in Canada and have had no issues with dropped calls. (maybe 10 dropped calls in about 3 years, total?) I have lots of friends with androids, and they all report battery life issues to some degree. While tweaking settings helps a lot, for a lot of models (especially 4G) are particularly bad. And really, should it be required that you root your phone and install tweaks/mods just to last an 8 hour day? I do notice that traveling in the country where there is poor signal or say, being in a building that blocks signal affects battery life. I have read up on this, and you are right, it has to do with the phone doing more work to connect to the network to do things like check email, etc. You really nailedsomething in your review about using android that I have noticed: it really is a 'think-about-it-every-time' interface. I wish MS would send me a phone to test against my iPhone 4.
 
 
+107 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
The WOW factor on a WP7 device is the simplicity of it all... and that it all just works...
 
 
Aug 18, 2011
I have a Windows Phone with Sprint that has a physical keyboard, and it's been great for me. The on-screen keyboard works in a pinch, but for lengthy typing, the HTC Arrive's physical keyboard is excellent.

Great review, BTW. I share your sentiments.
 
 
+44 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
iPhone tries to blame its bad reception on AT&T, but from tests of putting it to other networks it isn't AT&T's fault. The iPhone is a good little computer that happens to make phone calls. Call quality wasn't one of their original concerns.

You will notice other phones on AT&T's network have no problem with call quality. I don't like how AT&T treats their customers and I wouldn't suggest AT&T to anyone, but I don't think iPhone's poor call quality should be blamed on them.
 
 
 
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