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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
Interesting re: the iPhone call dropping.

Living outside the US, I've never experienced calls getting dropped up here in Canada. But then, the iPhone is carried by all three major carriers up here.

I suspect the problems are more network than phone. But your talk of the Windows Phone does intrigue me a lot - people seem to forget that Microsoft can deliver decent product when the pressure's on.

It's when they're complacent they don't deliver nearly as well. Case in point, Windows Vista and IE6. Once Vista got panned/people weren't getting it, and Microsoft started getting viable competition in the browser space, they brought their A-game.
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
I continue to love my Pre as well but did add the extended battery. Funny how a good product can be mismanaged and fade away.
 
 
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
I was an iphone user for ~2.5 years and swapped to an Android about a year ago. The explanation for the battery life is that the manufacturers turn on all the bells and whistles so it increases the "intangible cool factor," but as you noted also decreases the battery life to where it's almost unusable.

If you just google "battery saving tips for android" there are hundreds of pages dedicated to the subject, but the summary is basically: turn off wifi, turn off gps... the apps that need them will ask you to turn them on when you try to start them.

Yes, I realize that isn't a very good answer for people who aren't "gadget people" but suffering through a 1 hour battery life is even less desirable.
 
 
+46 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
Umm.. if windows phone is also on AT&T how come the call quality is good when compared to iPhone ! So it has nothing to do with the signal strength ?

[Correct. The dropping was not related to signal strength in my case. My wife's iPhone had exactly the same problem. -- Scott]
 
 
-16 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
I second infraspace's recommendation of the Pre2.
 
 
Aug 18, 2011
Fair enough assessment. Especially battery life on the droid. Where I work, I have horrible reception. I work in a steel and brick building that is tucked down deep in a little valley with hills on all sides. I have to leave my phone on charge pretty much all day. However, on the weekend I can pretty much leave my phone off the charger from Saturday morning until Sunday night. However, I find my droid easy to use, but I am a bit of a geek. Kind of disappointed there wasn't a wow factor to the Windows Phone. I was really hoping there would be. Then again it could just be the tester ;-)

I also have a Zune HD and I absolutely loved it for media playing and everything, however it has gone the way of a gadget in the junk drawer. Phones now days with Netflix, and cloud music libraries, streaming satellite radio and things have pretty much rendered the Zune HD and I would guess the iPod as antiquities. So I was hoping you would test some of that functionality out and review it as well.
 
 
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 18, 2011
I'm curious, in the case of the iPhone on AT&T, is it dropping calls regularly when you are NOT moving?

[The call dropping was everywhere and all the time in my town. And oddly, it didn't seem to be related to signal strength. -- Scott]
 
 
 
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