7 Windows Phone Features I Want In Android Jelly Bean

Having used Symbian, Windows Mobile, Meego and iOS in the past, and settled on Android for the past 18 months, I have been quite excited to check out Windows Phone’s current offer in terms of ecosystem, OS, and devices. Thus, for the past couple of months, I have been using a Nokia Lumia 800 (running WP 7.5) as my secondary device, along with my primary HTC Desire Z (running ICS). After a series of ups and downs, I have found a lovely cocoon with both platforms, although the back and forth between them is highlighting all the exclusive features in each that I wish existed on the other.

Here, I will tackle the Windows Phone features that I really hope make it to Android; on our sister site, Windows.AppStorm, you will find the Android features that I would like to have on Windows Phone. These points are based on the out of the box options of each, neglecting what could possibly be done with rooting, unlocking, custom ROMs, homebrews, and so on.

Android and Windows Phone 7, a visual illusion

Android and Windows Phone 7, a visual illusion

Fluidity and Stability

This opinion isn’t solely based on my experience with the HTC Desire Z and its meager 800MHz processor, but on dozens of modern Android devices with dual-core processors. It befuddles me that manufacturers had to go up to quad-core processors in order to make Android almost as fluid as it should be. We used to have full desktop computers running perfectly with much less than that!

Windows Phone currently only supports single-core processors, and yet it feels, acts and responds way faster than Android flagships that are clocked at double the speed. Microsoft truly delivered a masterpiece here, as there is no noticeable lag when pinching, zooming, scrolling, tapping. The whole experience is enjoyable and gets out of the way to let you do your work. Additionally, WP has proved to be perfectly stable, with me running into no freezes at all. By comparison, my Android gets a few Force Close errors in any given week.

Unified Design and Interaction Language

Before Ice Cream Sandwich, Android had absolutely no signature look. Whether it was stock or (god forbid) a skinned OEM phone, everything just felt like a mosaic of decisions made by teams who never communicated with each other. ICS introduced the Holo design directions yet many apps, even new ones, still offer an iPhone-like approach, an old Android approach with the ugly four grey tabs on the top, or even something totally out of a terminal command window. To this very day, every time I download an Android application, I have to learn where its settings and options are, as well as how to switch between different tabs or columns or views.

By comparison, after only a couple of minutes with Windows Phone, I had a perfect understanding of how the whole UI looks and works. Every application and menu are consistent with the Metro UI design, and I struggled to find third-party apps in the Marketplace that don’t follow that unified language and interaction scheme. This makes the whole experience predictable, even if you’re using an application for the first time. Moreover, you’re offered the option to switch between a black and a white background, and many accent colors. These will be applied consistently inside all default and third party apps, providing a new yet uniform look.

Same design guidelines between Music and a 3rd party Twitter client, Rowi

Same design guidelines between Music and a 3rd party Twitter client, Rowi

People, Pictures and Messaging Hubs

Android has offered an integration of contacts between different networks (Google, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp…) for a long time now. However, its execution falls well short of the People Hub on Windows Phone.

More than an address book, People offers you a glimpse into everyone’s life, with a “What’s New” tab that pulls all the social updates from these contacts, regardless of the social network they were posted on. You can even create groups and filter the specific updates from your friends, family or coworkers, for example. And viewing a contact not only offers their details, but also their specific social network updates, pictures pulled from their Facebook account, and a history of communications between the two of you.

What's New on the People and Pictures Hubs on Windows Phone 7

What's New on the People and Pictures Hubs on Windows Phone 7

Windows Phone’s Pictures hub is similar to Android’s Gallery: the first pulls your picture albums from Facebook while the second checks your Picasa and Google+ photos. Besides the debate between which is more useful, WP’s hub is smarter in that it doesn’t attempt to download all your images, but rather pulls them down whenever they are needed, as well as displaying all the new images uploaded by your contacts.

The Messaging experience on Windows Phone is another well integrated one, with not only SMS but also Live Messenger buddies as well as Facebook Chat all baked into one. By comparison, Android fails to even mix Google Talk and Google+ together, let alone Messaging.

In short, Windows Phone offers a wonderful people-centric approach, much like WebOS, whereas Android attempts that and fails, ending up in the application-centric approach of iOS.

Decent Desktop Companion

Yes, we are obviously moving to the cloud more and more each day, but Android has been running, since its early days, without any desktop companion. The integration with Google services in terms of email, contacts and calendar is stellar; however, it falls short when it comes to automatic synchronisation of images, music and videos.

Keep in mind that Android is mostly popular in developing countries, where unlimited data plans are a dream and relying on the cloud for Google Music and Video or Google+ photos is impossible.

By comparison, Windows Phone comes equipped to deal with Zune (formerly) on the Windows Desktop, or Windows Phone Connector on MacOS. I have only used the latter, and the experience is terrific for managing multimedia and especially playlists with iTunes.

Camera/Gallery Switch

It might sound like a gimmick to most, but I have grown so used to the way Windows Phone lets you switch between the Camera viewer and the latest photos taken. A simple swipe from the viewfinder takes you there, and a swipe back brings you back to the camera. It’s simple, intuitive and absolutely trumps Android’s tiny image thumbnail button.

Sliding the camera viewer to the right reveals the last image taken

Sliding the camera viewer to the right reveals the last image taken

Built-in Music and Image Search

Although Android offers a multitude of separate clients like SoundHound, Shazam, and Goggles, it’s still another icon that you have to remember installing on new devices and looking for when needed.

On Windows Phone, the Search button encompasses not only web search, but also recognizes songs, barcodes, pictures and voice commands. You can even launch Search from the lockscreen to make it easier to access on the spot. This integrated approach has proved to be really useful for me in the past months.

Free Trials for Apps

Android’s Play Store is full of double versions of applications: Free and Paid. Whether you’re looking at a paid app and want to check it out before paying for it, or whether you want to buy an app you have tried before, you will end up going through many clicks to get to the other version.

Windows Phone, although it allows separate Free and Paid versions, adopts a much more useful approach. When opening a paid app, and if the developer has allowed it, you can click to Try it, without having to go look for the free version. Trials are either fully featured with ads or limited time, or lack certain features, basically much like the Free versions of apps on Android.

Plus, you can easily purchase a trial app from the same Marketplace listing, without searching or redownloading or changing your settings. All in all, a small change that makes a lot of difference when you test apps frequently. It also encourages developers to offer a preview of their apps’ functionality for free.

What about you? Have you tried Windows Phone 7.5, and if so, what are the features you wish to see on your future Jelly Bean devices?

Take a look at Android features I’d like to see on Windows Phone at our sister site Windows.AppStorm.

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  • rob

    vibg read your article I can say one thing, its a good thing no one gives a damn about your opinion.

    • http://michaeljameswilliams.com/ Michael James Williams

      “Vibg”? Can’t tell if spam…

  • http://www.glenbramlittcreations.com/ Glen

    Unlike “rob”, I agree with your opinions. I think WP has a lot of things figured out and their UI’s are very fluid. I like their messaging and People hubs. I didn’t know that about the camera and switching to the last picture.

    Your next article should be trying to find suitable alternative Android apps that can get these features. Because, as you know, not everyone will see Jelly Bean…much less ICS.

  • Irfan

    I most definitely want to see an equivalent to Siri in Android Jellybean. And a built in one not the many voice-search apps that exist on Android. They should also improve dictation and add the Official Android version of Siri to Google Maps.

    I also want to see a unified UI because i feel Android UI changes per device. For example, My Droid X says it has ICS but it does not have the new icons, app-groups, graphics, or Roboto.

    I feel that ICS was a good release, but it wasn’t available to many phones for a while and it wasn’t universal.

    Jellybean has a lot of catching up to do against iOS5 and Windows Phone 7, with iOS6 and Windows Phone 7.5, they better come out with something amazingly awesome.

  • metis

    @Irfan do you mean you want voice actions to have personality, have censored responses and less responsive? it’s been around since…. cupcake iirc and aside from teaching your phone to refer to you as rock god, does more than siri can afaik.

    there IS a unified UI, most mfgs just choose to add another UI over it to add more features, or carriers restrict portions of it. it’s part of what makes android superior to (imho) and more vibrant than more restrictive OSs; you can make it look and act how YOU want it to.

    ICS won’t ever really be available to many older phones that can’t support its needs as an OS. similarly not every computer will run win7 or osX

    • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

      metis, I agree with you regarding how we can personalize Android, as a matter of fact this is the reason I never get bored of my Desire Z (and I normally get bored with phones very fast) and I’ve written quite extensively about it here http://bit.ly/L2EWVc and here http://bit.ly/OVJ733. However, what I meant wasn’t how much freedom we’re given with the OS, but more the default guidelines that developers follow. Check the default Android Gallery for example: even on ICS, it looks NOTHING like the rest of Holo. Then check 3rd-party apps. On my phone, Producteev looks like iOS, SafeWallet looks like the old Donut, and Beautiful Widgets looks like Holo. It would be a lot easier for new users of Android as a whole, or new users of a certain app, if Android had encouraged a cleaner unified design guideline from the start.

  • Mike Baker

    Why? If you want Android and Windows Phone to have exactly the same features and behave in the same way then what is the point?

    There is value in having greatly different OS.

    • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

      I’m pretty aware that every platform will need to have its differentiating features, but I see a silver lining: I’d like those to be more in terms of services (iOS’ iCloud and Facetime, Android’s Google services integration, Windows Phone’s Xbox & Office) than in terms of essential aspects of the OS itself. What I highlighted here isn’t anything proprietary to Microsoft, it’s more a series of options that they integrated in their OS to make it better.

  • Chris

    Are those requests realistic?
    Are you trying to be objective?
    Do you honestly believe that your Nokia Linus has better fluidity that galaxy s3, or HTC one x, with same amount of apps installed?
    A common misconception that the android lag is based upon on the fact that the android had a lot of free apps and average user can afford to have more of them.
    Plus the fact that the increased personalization of the androids give them the opportunity to have many UI apps, like launchers, that result at compromising the performances.
    This should not and cannot be overlooked.
    Plus the fact that Apple and MS, have higher minimum demands of hardware, in order to ensure, that at worse, they will have a standard fluidity.
    But what of the ppl that are willing to make such compromises, because they cannot afford all?
    The choice should be theirs to make.
    Consider how much did you payer for your lumia and the free content and choices you have available for it.
    Now look at the android market. For the very same content alone and for the same price tag, can’t you find an equivalent answer?

    • Tanner Middleton

      As a person who has galaxt s3, HTC One X, and a Nokia Lumia 900 I can definitely say that my Lumia is the most fluid out of all of them. The amount of apps installed has a relatively small impact on phones now days. Fluidity comes down to the way that the operating system work as low level, with Android user touch isn’t always top priority which can cause some lag albeit with them finally using super mega powerful processors the S3 has come close to eliminating it. While Windows Phone and iOS put the users input at the top of the list nearly always, meaning that when a persons finger touches the screen nearly all resources are put towards towards that action. This results in nearly zero lag, you can see this while you start to load a web page on the iPhone if you hold your finger on the screen. The browser stops loading until you remove your finger from the screen.

      Android is having to use quad cores because of this inherit flaw some would call it, just for them to be as fluid as a last generation single core processor used on a Windows Phone.

      However I do love all of them!

  • tobik

    One thing is for sure: Microsoft looked at other mobile operating systems, learned from their mistakes and created an almost perfect product. But it was too late, the war was over. Android is hardly perfect, I agree with all points mentioned in this article. But it was there on time, Google smelled the opportunity and made a system with many glitches but very attractive to carriers, manufactures and naturally customers. And in front of all, it was the only alternative to iOS. You can criticize Google for not being able to deliver a solid OS but in the end, what they have achieved, is amazing…

  • http://about.me/planetf1 Nigel Jones

    My experience is based on HTC trophy & SGS 2

    #1 – Samsung SGS2 is pretty fluid in terms of UI — about the only android handset that seems to get it quite right. Even comparative HTC devices don’t seem to manage it. I agree though that W7 gets this even more fluid in terms of UI.

    #3 – Samsung’s hubs try to do this very thing. I personally don’t use them, though they do try to aggregate posts in a people centric manner. I’ve not played with this area of WP7 though

    #4 – actually I really dislike this part of WP7. It’s so very desktop centric — I haven’t had my music/contacts managed by my desktop in years, so the cloud approach is far better for me

    I’ll read the inverse article….

    • http://www.ritaelkhoury.com/ Rita El Khoury

      #4 – I do appreciate the cloud approach, and I really like the fact that Android allows me to send music over mass storage for example, or backup my pics that way. I’m not asking for a desktop-centric only approach, just for the option to have it, in case you want to sync playlists instead of music files for example, or backup messages.

  • dez

    windows sucks.
    period .

    • http://michaeljameswilliams.com/ Michael James Williams

      Thanks for your contribution.

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  • http://cansurmeli.com [email protected]

    As to why the lack of speed with Android: it uses Java as a main programming language among other languages and Java keeps running a tool called JVM(Java Virtual Machine) in order to work. It’s for Java’s portability purposes. Sure, Java is so capable and easy to use but this side of Java makes it consume a lot of system power.

    That’s the technical reason why Android phones constantly require more horse-power underneath. Otherwise it’s not something that needs to be advertised as a plus.

    That’s why developing for iOS or maybe Windows Phone is much more peace of mind.

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