Android is an operating system that captured the hearts of many, and continues to do so, but with the release of Windows Phone 7, a new contender has entered the ring. Windows Phone 7 is making some Android users green with envy, while others are turning their nose at the new platform. In this series, we're going to look at specific features of smartphones, and give a breakdown of which OS has the competitive edge in each area.
This series is written from a Android users' perspective, and aims to share how Windows Phone 7 might feel to your average Android user, and what may or may not appeal.
This third and final part of the comparison series covers various features of the OS, and how Windows Phone 7 does this better (or worse) than Android. Be sure to check out the first and second parts of the comparison for an overview of the basics.
If we're perfectly honest here, Internet Explorer Mobile has always been somewhat useless. If I still owned my old Windows Mobile 6.5 phone, I'd dig it out to compare, but despite high hopes for Windows Phone 7's browser, it continues to disappoint. It's not to say Microsoft didn't do anything right here, they've built in some nice pinch to zoom functionality, the ability to have multiple pages open at a time (with previews of them when switching) and the ability to pin them, but these don't make up for the dismal way it displays websites.
I didn't actually have any huge problems getting to pages or loading content, but the way Internet Explorer displays things is often very obscure. On the left is Windows Phone 7, and the right is Android. Android displays Neowin just like a desktop browser, but, Windows Phone 7 for some reason makes random bits of text larger. I'm not exactly sure if this is by design, but it definitely makes no sense.
In a second comparison, using Reddit, the browser did even worse. The sizing is all wrong, if you look at the “Ice T on Fallout New Vegas” link, it's very, very large for no reason at all.
Android's browser on the other hand is great for browsing. Web pages display correctly most of the time, and you've actually got a choice as to which browser you want to use. If you don't like the built in one, go get Fennec or Dolphin HD. This isn't the case in WP7 yet, as it obviously doesn't have as many applications.
The next problem is the lack of Adobe Flash. I don't actually use Flash very much, but the problem has become annoying when I try to do one of two things; order a pizza or buy movie tickets. It's quite common for online ordering to use Flash, and not having this on a launch product seems like a huge mess up. You're either presented with a blank screen, or “Please install flash.” No pizza then, I guess. On the plus side, this does mean less ads on the web, for now, so it's not all bad news.
The Windows Phone 7 has great window (tab) management. You hit the window button at the bottom and the tabs appear in a visual format. Handy. Android has this too, just without the swish shots of the page.
To be fair, the browser on Windows Phone has come a long, long way from the Windows Mobile days of only being usable with a stylus, but even their funky Window management couldn't save them here, Android clearly has the upper hand. Sure, Windows Phone's browser is… usable. But not quite right yet. Perhaps if the quirks are ironed out and Flash is added properly in the next release, we might need to revisit.
With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is trying really hard to impress in this area, and it definitely does. The Zune software can pick up most video file types, and automatically converts them to a Windows Phone 7 friendly format, then synchronizes them to your phone.
The player is basic, yet effective, and remembers where you left off if you happen to jump back out. Video is smooth and watchable, and with the screen sizes of all Windows Phone 7 devices being large, should be great for watching video on the bus or train.
Despite this fantastic integration, Microsoft shot themselves in the foot with YouTube integration. Android has YouTube out of the box, which works great. The app allows you to browse the site, login, and more. In Windows Phone 7, you're required to manually install the YouTube application first. Then, when you launch it through the Zune Hub, it dumps you out to the awful YouTube mobile site.
Once you start actually playing a video, then you're thrown back into the Zune video experience, which works well, but for no apparent reason, there's no way to skip to a specific time in the video by touching. Instead, you're forced to fast forward by hand. Weird.
Android actually has all the functionality that WP7 is missing in YouTube right now. You don't need to leave the application to browse videos, and commenting is integrated.
You can skip through videos, and even view them in portrait while showing the information about the video, in the latest update.
The winners for this section are split into two, simply because it's hard to compare online video watching to watching TV or Movies on your phone. Windows Phone 7 wins the “local” video area, as it's much, much easier than Android to watch videos on the phone, since Zune can automatically handle this out of the box.
Android wins the YouTube area, by a large amount, due to how frustrating the implementation of YouTube is in Windows Phone 7. Android has many more features in this area, but does not come close to contending Windows Phone 7's support for video.
Video Winner: Windows Phone 7
Youtube Video Winner: Android
Consumers all over are looking to ditch personal media players in favour of an all-in-one device, and both Android and WP7 contain music features that move towards this. Both phones used in this comparison have a 3.5mm jack for headphone or speaker use, which is essential, but what about the software? Is it up to scratch?
The Zune desktop client feels just like using the phone, and it uses the same Metro UI as the Zune HD does, as well as Media Center and, of course, Windows Phone 7. It can synchronize music and videos, as well as apps, and automatically converts the content to the right format.
Android doesn't even have it's own official software right now for the desktop. Various manufacturers offer their own interpretation of “synchronizing” music, but none of which I've used have been very good.
Once the music is on your phone, the Zune hub downloads associated pictures of the album, as well as extra art of the artist, to use as the background for the marquee in the Zune hub, and on the Zune live tile. It also updates the hub to show the latest new music added.
We've already extensively covered the WP7 Zune integration, so I won't go into too much detail, but the music features are brilliant. They're well integrated with the OS, and the marquee art of the artist makes the hub look stunning. Music is able to be played in the background, thank goodness, and controls slide down using the visor notification style when the volume button is pressed, allowing you to pause or skip a track.
Zune Marketplace is also built in, and you are able to purchase CD's from the store for reasonable prices, right on your phone. Something that Android doesn't actually offer yet.
On the Android side of the fence is that album art isn't automatically retrieved, but it can be added manually by inserting it into the folder.
In addition, there are no quick ways to access music controls, except for a widget, or pressing on the “ongoing notification” that appears when music is playing. The music application is OK at best, but has a long way to go before it's half decent.
Windows Phone 7's exceedingly brilliant Music integration makes those attached to their media devices (such as myself) reconsider actually using their phone instead. The platform builds on how well the Zune HD does music, and takes it another step by integrating it with the entire phone experience. The desktop Zune software is brilliant, if a little bloated, but is much better than having absolutely nothing in place, and being required to copy and paste music into folders.
Winner: Windows Phone 7
Finally, we're going to quickly look at gaming on each platform. Android gaming hasn't taken off too quickly, with the more popular titles, such as “Angry Birds” only becoming available recently. True 3D gaming isn't available yet, and many of the games aren't quite there yet.
The best game I've found on Android is called “Abduction!” and is a motion based platform jumper which is addictive. It's very fun, but the graphics aren't gobsmacking.
From launch, Windows Phone 7 has some impressive titles. Most notably, “The Harvest” which utilizes full 3D graphics, and is impressive for a launch title. On HTC devices the game is a bit slow to load, but is impressive to play. Words cannot do the game justice;
Windows Phone 7 also has Xbox Live integration, allowing you to setup your own avatar (or use the one created for your Xbox 360) for your phone, and you are able to earn achievements as you play Xbox Live titles. For further coverage on Xbox Live for Windows Phone 7, view our feature focus.
Today, Android gaming is nowhere near the level of Windows Phone 7 at launch, though I have no doubt now that Windows Phone 7 has been released, that the market will heat up rapidly. Graphics of this level on a phone are new, and haven't been seen before, and it can only get better.
Winner: Windows Phone 7
Over the last few posts we've covered the basics of Windows Phone 7, to the more advanced, specialised features and chosen which which OS wins each area. The comparison is intended as an overview of the platform, in other posts we've covered the Xbox Live experience, as well as the Zune Music experience in more depth.
Here's a quick summary of the winners;
The Home Screen: Windows Phone 7
The Lock Screen: Windows Phone 7
Text Messaging: Windows Phone 7
Email: Windows Phone 7
Social Networking: Tie
Music: Windows Phone 7
Video: Windows Phone 7
Youtube Video: Android
Gaming: Windows Phone 7
That brings Windows Phone 7 to the top with 8-4 (including the tie). Windows Phone 7 brings something new to the table, something which many Android users may find does better that what they're using at the moment. The smartphone is something many disagree on, and is down to personal preference. With Windows Phone 7, another choice is added to the range of platforms, one which excels in music and video especially. For a version 1.0 product, Microsoft has a winner on their hands. Lets hope they keep updating it, with well thought out updates, on a regular basis.
If you're planning on buying a Windows Phone 7 device, or even if you're not, let us know why in the comments.
This post is part of a week long series featuring Windows Phone 7 called "7 days of Windows Phone 7", and is a deeper look into Microsoft's much anticipated re-launch into the smart phone market. To follow the feature week, make sure to check out the "7 days of Windows Phone 7" tag.