Windows Mobile vs. Android: WinMo Is Better Than You Think

198 Comments

Android (s goog) is the hot phone platform, with market share growing at a rapid pace, and handsets with the OS being touted across the web. I have been impressed with how far Android has come in a relatively short time, and how well it has penetrated the market. Windows Mobile (s msft) has seen recent updates, an all-too-infrequent occurrence, and is often getting bashed for being a dated smartphone platform. I have dished out my fair share of criticisms about Windows Mobile, largely due to being such a longtime enthusiast who has grown jaded.

I set my cynical attitude aside and compared WinMo with Android, and the fact of the matter is, WinMo is better than you might think. When you compare the two platforms in the major areas that matter the most, the results may surprise you.

When you talk about what makes a good smartphone, some key abilities are usually mentioned. The ability to run many apps at the same time, multi-tasking, is always at the forefront of such discussions. The number of apps available for a given platform is a hot topic. The user interface is also right up there in discussions about phone platforms. And you can’t overlook the ability of a platform to integrate with the user’s computer desktop, as comments across the web bear witness.

Let’s break down these major abilities and compare Android to Windows Mobile to see how each fares.

Multi-tasking

Android is often touted for its ability to run multiple apps at the same time. My experience with Android phones bears that out — it is a seamless experience running many tasks at the same time. The OS does a good job handling the resources each app needs as it is running, and it makes sure that any app running in the foreground gets the attention it deserves to provide a good user experience.

What is rarely mentioned in the press is that Windows Mobile is an excellent multi-tasking platform. It’s probably not mentioned because WinMo has always been good at multi-tasking. The OS has no problem with tasks running in the background — in fact, it is designed to handle them with aplomb. WinMo automatically changes memory allocation based on the needs of each app, and if the system memory starts to get stretched thin, the OS shuts down background tasks automatically. The user is rarely aware of these system adjustments that are happening all the time, and that’s the way it should be.

WinMo has long been criticized about multi-tasking due to the lack of an app close option. Apps do not shut down by default when exited; they still run in the background. Some users are not used to such behavior and find that to be an undesired feature. Sure, an app developer can include an exit option expressly, but many feel that should be the default action of the OS.

Guess what? Android operates exactly the same way. When the user leaves an app to start something else, the first app keeps running in the background. In a familiar way, an app developer must include an express option to shut down an app when exited. Anyone who has run an Android phone for more than a few minutes should fire up a task manager and have a look. You’ll likely see 20 or more tasks running in the background, not unlike WinMo.

WinMo actually has a big advantage over Android in one area of multi-tasking, and that is how the OS handles user installed applications. WinMo allows them to be installed to either system memory, which can be in the hundreds of megabytes, or on external memory cards such as SD, microSD or miniSD cards. This makes it possible to install an almost unlimited number of apps on a Windows phone.

Android has a huge limitation when it comes to user installed apps. They can only be installed to system memory, and even on the latest and greatest Android phone, the Droid, that is only 256MB. When the system memory gets full, no additional apps can be installed. That’s not even enough storage to install a good game. Android will remain seriously hamstrung until this insane app install limitation is addressed in future versions.

Big advantage:  Windows Mobile

Available apps

We are hearing a lot about the 10,000+ apps available in the Android Market, and it is an outstanding achievement that there are so many apps in such a short time. It is definitely an advantage that the Android platform has evolved so quickly. While Android has only a fraction of the apps that one can find for the iPhone (s aapl), there are many good ones to meet users’ needs.

Microsoft was late getting to the app store game, with the Marketplace just recently opening its doors. Not a lot of apps are in there yet, which is not surprising given how new the store is to the market. What is rarely discussed are the tens of thousands of apps already widely available for the Windows Mobile platform.

The advantage of an app store is bringing apps into one central location, which makes it easier for customers to find them. Windows Mobile apps have always been sold through a variety of outlets, so customers have to do a little homework to find the app they need.

There almost certainly is already a WinMo app to meet virtually every need a user might have. Search around a little, and new WinMo owners will likely be amazed at the number of apps already available, and the quality of them. Most WinMo developers have been producing apps for a long time, and those applications have evolved over time as apps often do. That means that many apps for Windows phones have grown over time to be robust and complete.

Android’s web browser has been widely acclaimed for being much better than the latest version of Mobile Internet Explorer. That is an accurate claim, and many view this as a big advantage for the Android platform. There are already a number of good third-party browsers for Windows Mobile, and while it would behoove Microsoft to get the browser included in the OS to be more competitive, it really doesn’t matter for users.

Opera Mobile 10 is as good as any mobile browser out there on any platform, and it is free for Windows phone users. It is so exceptional that HTC has been using it as the default browser on its WM phones for years, and with good reason. It demonstrates the quality and quantity of apps available for the WinMo platform. While this is just the web browser application, the same can be said for many application categories. There is usually a good WinMo app to fill a user’s needs.

Advantage: Windows Mobile, with a salute to Android for a better central store

User interface

I have been as vocal as many in lamenting the old, tired interface on Windows Mobile phones. The lack of innovation in the interface design is really showing its age, and Android is currently better in that respect.

The primary difference between the interfaces of the two platforms is that Android is a new OS, and thus, has been written for finger manipulation. It is easier to interact with, and it looks more modern. This is why the Android interface is often thought to be the better of the two.

When you compare the two interfaces, you begin to realize that both of them are simple icon-based “launchers.” The icons for apps and tasks are organized in launcher screens for easy (and sometimes not so easy) access to fire things up. Android is cleaner and easier to interact with, so out of the box I must give it the nod.

You can’t compare interfaces without looking at third-party alternatives; it’s the only fair way to compare the two platforms. Android phones with the stock interface are pretty plain Jane, as is the WinMo interface. The magic happens on both platforms when you start adding third-party interface shells, such as HTC Sense, that transform Android into a very capable interface.

HTC has long produced its own interface for WinMo phones, too, and the latest Sense interface, such as found on the HD2, is amazing. It does for WinMo what it does for Android — adds a highly customizable face on the OS that makes it work the way the user prefers. HTC Sense works in a similar fashion on both platforms, although optimized to take advantage of each OS’ strengths. The end result is that a WinMo phone running Sense is as good as an Android phone running it.

The advantage that WinMo has over Android gets back to the third-party app scene. There are other shells already available that turn a WinMo phone into a user customizable dream interface. Spb Mobile Shell has been out for years, and the latest version is for WinMo what Sense is for Android. The difference is that Mobile Shell is user obtainable, where HTC Sense must be installed on a phone as purchased. That means that WinMo phone owners have the option to put a sophisticated interface on their phone, and customize it to fit the way they prefer to work.

Advantage: Windows Mobile

Computer desktop integration

Many consumers expect, no, need their phones to integrate with their desktop computers. They need a simple way to keep the phone’s contacts, calendars, tasks and email in sync with their desktop environment. For millions, this means syncing the phone with Outlook on the desktop.

Windows Mobile wins in this scenario, hands down. It is designed from the ground up to integrate with both Exchange Servers in the corporate world, and with Outlook environments on the desktop. All aspects of desktop Outlook commingle happily with Mobile Outlook on the Windows Mobile side of things.

On the other hand, consumers who have their desktop environment built around the Google cloud will no doubt find Android to be a better fit. The installed user base of Google services such as Gmail has grown steadily, and it’s big. Android is designed around integration with the Google cloud, so it is the obvious choice for those consumers.

Advantage: Tie — depends on which camp a given user falls in, Outlook or Google

The hot platform of the two is definitely Android, but Windows Mobile still has a lot to offer. While criticized for being an aging platform that has been around seemingly forever, the evolution of the WinMo ecosystem is, in fact, an advantage. If only Microsoft would make that clear.

198 Comments

Johnny Appleseed

Actually it is so obvious that BOTH of these platforms are just trying desperately to catch the REAL smartphone innovator. I think everybody knows who that is. MS and GOOGLE are merely imitating the BEST phone ever made. Getter closer but still not there yet fellas. I still don’t like Windows on a phone, it just was never a very bright idea from the start. We now have at least three(3) better choices, thank goodness.

johnkzin

Yes. Maemo. Been the best for several years. Even Apple copied them.

Though, you probably meant Apple… but we all know that until Apple has an open Market and a mobile device with a physical keyboard, their mobile device will continue to such posterior orifices.

cr0ft

Pretty good commentary article there. The primary issue with Windows Mobile is and has been for a while now its appearance – without the HTC magic stuff on top, it looks abysmal and isn’t that user friendly. With HTC Sense you get something that is in some ways easier to use than an iPhone, which is quite an achievement. Note, I say “some ways” – the iPhone is markedly better in some other ways. Just saying.

Anyway, the integration of a Windows Mobile device with Google nowadays is pretty stellar. The Activesync interface to Google will cheerfully sync not only mail but contacts and calendar as well. Basically, my Touch HD is just as usable and invisibly synced to Google as it ever was when I synced to an Exchange server.

And the actual guts of Windows Mobile is fine, really, and has been for a while. Not as excellent as Apples OS, since that is essentially full-on Mac OS X with all the Unix goodness that brings, but it’s a quite decent 32-bit preemptively multitasking OS we’re talking about here – if Microsoft would only have developed the GUI into something non-crappy, Windows Mobile wouldn’t have such a rotten rep now, I think.

Inexpensive cell phone deals

It’s great to see WM get recognized for what it’s been doing well for years. I am partial to WM, I’ve been using one for five years now but have watched all the other OS’s advertise things that WM has done for years. WM as it stands(even 6.5)is still mostly a OS designed for business. Subject to change with WM7

Mike Cane

Kendrick, I’m just betting this is all a setup for a follow-up post so you can taunt me with that damned HTC Advantage again — plus whatever 5″ Android minitablet (Archos or Dell) you also wind up getting. Your fiendishness is so transparent.

tal

Its one article I enjoyed reading but will not take under advise.
Just because its true I am sure and yet wrong for other reasons.
I will take your word anytime on which Android is best or which WinMo is … but this is just too much for accepting or rejecting.
Each with his own choice and personal preference/opinion is much more important.
I guess that it is good for the site though – Balmer may donate ;) and a hot discussion is cool too.

johnkzin

I have to disagree with you about Opera Mobile. Absolutely hate that browser. I’d MUCH rather use Android’s browser, any day.

What WinMo does have, that I find sorely lacking on Android (at least, on vanilla Android) is tethering. Bluetooth, USB, and Wifi tethering are all easily do-able on WinMo. They should similarly be easily do-able on Android … and they CAN be done on rooted Android devices, and soon will be available on Droid. So, I don’t see a technical reason why they can’t be done on vanilla Android.

(I’m also told that WinMo can do Bluetooth HID and FTP — two other things that should be no-brainers for Android)

Jake

Yep, WinMo has always been able to do Bluetooth HID and FTP. My HD2 is paired with a 5 year old Stowaway Bluetooth Keyboard and everything is usable except for the function keys that rely upon additional software.

enjoijams

Ive used 2 winmo devices for a total of 4 years.
Ive been using the G1 since launch date of 10/22/08.

I wish Android handset makers would stop releasing handsets based on outdated versions of Android. Its horrible. Ive been using 1.6 but Im seeing new handsets coming out based on 1.5. WTH?????

Due to the now apparent fork in the android operating system,
and the lack of great android phones for T-Mobile USA,
I am looking towards the Touch HD2 as my next device.

The one thing I will miss is the different google integrated apps as well as the apps for the camera that I use ALOT.

As a side note, everyone raves about the TouchFlo/Sense UI for WinMo. I tried it out on the Touch Pro 2. I thought that was the worst thing for a resistive screen. I would rather use a non touch screen with d-pad as opposed to that.

John in Norway

Here’s a comparison between WinMo and S60:
1 Why can’t WinMo Office open all Office Word files? My Nokia E90 opens ALL Word documents I throw at it – why can’t Microsoft’s own system open it’s own documents? This has been the same sad state of affairs for over 6 years at least.
2 Why can’t mobile Office work with password protected Office documents? Every other Office type program from different companies can, why can’t microsoft’s own software do it? Another age-old problem.
3 What is wrong with Activesync, or whatever it’s called now? It’s still hit and miss whether or not it will connect with my phone. Another age-old problem.
4 What does WinMo do to files when I put the microSD card in the phone? I copy a load of data files over to a memory card, then put it in the WinMo phone. When I go to do a synchronisation, straight away it tells that me that all the files on the card need to overwrite the files on my PC – it’s renamed all the files with CAPITALS!

And finally, one area where WinMo is better than S60 – I can see my network! I’ve never found a way to do this on my Nokia but with a simple, free program, I can on my WinMo device.

Andrew

Another area where WinMo is better than S60: The United States. The merits of S60 (and I really don’t know them) can’t quite overcome its total lack of availability here.

drzeller

Hi, John!

Regarding opening all Office files: Doesn’t your E90 leverage QuickOffice? If I am not mistaken, that is 3rd party software that not all Symbian phones have. So, to be fair, look at 3rd party apps that are available for WM, too. SoftMaker Office is an excellent suite. http://www.softmaker.com/english/ Oh, and this has been available for at least 6 years, too! ;-)

2 Softmaker opens password protected files.

3 Since it stopped being ActiveSync, it has been pretty reliable. Are you running Vista or Win7 with the lastest version of Windows Mobile Device Center? You might give that a try.

4 I’m not sure what’s happening there. My files are still lower case.

D.

Mort

Regarding AS: That at least asked me what to do on conflicts.
When I installed Win7 and added my WM phone, it deleted all contacts on my phone (Outlook was just installed as well, so nothing there yes) instead of asking me whether I wanted to copy the contacts of the phone to Outlook…

drzeller

Mort –

I have heard of others that lost their contacts, also. This is very poor behavior, of course. I’ve never seen anyone explain why/when this happens.

Ironically, with the Office 10 Beta, they didn’t even enable syncing if you were 64 bit. I wonder how bad it had to be if they disabled that!

D.

J. Porter

I can’t say I really agree. Having a bit of a Microsoft bias I’ve stuck with Windows Mobile because I know the power, flexibility and freedom it affords and it’s one the of the few mobile platforms I could write an app for it I chose to. But realistically I’ve found it to be a broken OS in many ways.

The UI is clumsy and hard to navigate and it’s always been that way. My first PDA was Palm III and while I found it to be overly simplistic it did exactly what it was designed to do and did it well. My IPaq could do so much more but finding your way around especially through the settings was not pleasant. Add to this severe stability and performance problems and you have a pretty bad package.

I’ve had IPaq, Palm treo w/ Win Mo, HTC Mogul, Motorola Q, HTC Touch Pro, and now a HTC Touch Pro 2 and I can tell the Touch Pro 2 is the first Win Mobile phone I’ve used where the performance is acceptable. The stability is still hit or miss but defiantly improved.

Of all the 3rd party apps on Win Mo the number of quality apps is quite small. They are not attractive, usually don’t function well and are prone to crashing. And while the built-in apps crash less they look just as bad as 3rd party apps.

Andrew

I wish it’d been done by HTC. They probably could have designed a more attractive phone, not crippled the keyboard with that stupid D-pad and enhanced the hole experience with their SenseUI elements. I really wanted to like this phone. Instead, all I like is the screen.

diar

Actually, a WM phone can run the Android OS (and I imagine its apps), with data and SMS working.

drzeller

Andrew –

You have two options that I know of: running Android in an emulator or loading the OS onto the WM phone. The first is painful, but I admit would allow you to run Android apps in an indirect manner. The second is spotty at best, depending on your hardware. From one guide on doing this:

>If you’ve got an HTC Windows Mobile phone, you might not have to buy yourself another device to enjoy the hype. But install Android on your Windows Mobile device instead. Nevertheless, porting this operating system has proven a tedious task, and not all phone types support it yet. Newer GSM devices will have a better chance, and to date CDMA is scarcely supported.

D.

justin

android hasn’t %100 successfully been ported to a non android device yet but xda is getting close on a few devices. it would be much easier if android would release the drivers to the public. open source my butt. on another note, for a working version of android on a touch pro 2 there is a bounty of $1000 or more.

Luscious

While I haven’t yet touched an Android device, I like the article and congratulate James for pointing out the advantages WinMo has offered FOR YEARS. I’ve been fooling around with PPC phones since the days of the original T-Mobile MDA. Back then video on a phone was nonexistent, you couldn’t IM with someone half-way across the world, carry tons of apps/music/movies/photos, do GPS navigation, surf websites, multitask and sync your PC with anything else other than a PPC. True, you needed to be a real geek to appreciate the advantages WinMo offered, but whenever I showed off the “features” to average folks, they came away impressed EVERY TIME.

I still believe that is true today. WinMo can do things Apple’s iCant will never accomplish, the selection of WinMo hardware is the biggest of all platforms, and the number of apps available outside the marketplace IS a big deal.

I’ve stuck with WinMo because I’m an enthusiast. I know how to get the most out of it; and I’ve spent a considerable amount of time researching what it can do and what’s available for it. Truth be told 99% of consumers DON’T spend time on doing any detailed research of their own. Heck, even reviewers who bash WinMo usually know little of what it’s ultimate capabilities are, and have probably only seen an iPhone in their lives.

Is WinMo perfect? Hell no. Does it need improvement? Certainly. But those two arguments could just as well apply to the competing platforms given their unique deficiencies. WinMo 7 IS overdue, but if the interface on the ZuneHD is any indication, I really believe MS has what it takes to create the next incredible smartphone experience.

Mort

Multitasking / App-Closing

While you’re right about both having the same priciple, there’s one major difference: With Android, it actually works as indented.
WM never adjusted to the limited resources of a smartphone. Background tasks are just foreground processes with lower priority, they use up the same resources and some process time even if nothing useful is done in background (like preparing a screen that is never to be displayed). Android on the other hand just executes a special background method – or nothing at all if it’s not required. A big game is simply suspended to RAM or storage until it’s resumed – with WM, it would take lots of RAM and slow down the system.
Also, WM rarely manages to close apps in time. All too often you rather see the “out of system resources” or “… memory” dialog (which usually is the last trace of live before a system crash…). Even the WM_HIBERNATE message, which was introduced to free memory in time almost never is fired, at least I almost never found it in trace files of my apps. And if, then just a millisecond before the app was killed…

Available apps

Yes, WM has loads of apps. But how many of them are just to fix up the terrible UI or look like they’ve been written for Win3.0?
I doubt there are more than 1,000 really noticable apps for WM…

UI

The UI is way more than the home/today screen and start menu. It’s menus, dialog elements, 3D APIs, etc. WM doesn’t have a chance against Android there, esp. if you look behind the scenes at the API/SDK. Where WM lets the programmer do lots of work(arounds), Android is happy with a (quite) simple XML file or cleverly organized resource files/folders.

Desktop integration

WM really wins there – if you use Outlook. But since WM6, Outlook isn’t delivered with WM devices any longer. So non-business consumers probably won’t even have Outlook…

diar

+1 @Mort

WM is just as powerful as Android (if not moreso), but doesn’t win in these three categories for the reasons listed. I’ve used nothing but WM phones since the Samsung i600 flip phone (other phones: Samsung i760, Tilt, Fuze). I just bought the Droid and it’s night and day. To borrow an Apple line, things “just work.”

Even accounting for the euphoria-driven bias of using a shiny new product, the UI is clearly superior as is memory management.

But the real reason I’m betting on Android is Google’s commitment to ongoing development. MSFT just doesn’t seem to have it and by the time WM7 finally rolls down from the mountaintop, Android will be on version Gingerbread.

drzeller

Hi, Mort. Based on your comments, it sounds like you are a WM developer and probably power-user of sorts. Looking at WM from a less power-user perspective, I’d respond to your points as shown below:

Multitasking / App-Closing
I typically browse, check mail, send SMS’s, and play a game or three. I just don’t suffer memory issues. For a moderate user, I think WM’s memory mgmt works.

Available apps

Let’s say there are 1000 apps. What are you most likely to be looking for? A good browser (yep, could have been in the OS!), a Facebook/Twitter apps, threaded SMS, a few games, maybe some photo apps, and for the geekier, perhaps remote desktop and network apps. Let’s say you have only 3 decent choices for most of them. Did you get what you wanted/needed? Yep? Then who cares if there are 110 options (iPhone fart apps, anyone)? What is key to most people is if they can do what they want. I venture to bet that most people find what they want if they have chosen any of the platforms.

UI

I’m a little confused on this one. Some of what you mention is clear — the WM UI is dated. But some seems like it is open to the developer as well. Nothing restricts you from using XML or clever folder organization with WM.

Desktop integration

Don’t forget that WM can also sync with Windows Live, Google, Yahoo! and others. Outlook is not a requirement.

My goal wasn’t to shred you comments, but to assess them from a “typical” users perspective. By the way, I’ve gotten both a WM (Touch Pro 2) and an Android (Droid) phone – so I’m not a WM purist.

D.

Mort

Yep, I developed some WM apps. That gives me some more insight on how the differences are caused, but a “typical” user might experience them as well.

Multitasking: Well, if you only run 3-4 apps, every multitasking system (i.e. every smartphone except iPhone) is fine. The differences appear when you run many or big apps.

Available apps: Sure, nobody needs tousands of fart apps. But with Android, chances are better the app uses a modern UI, is still updated, and takes advantage of the device’s abilities (GPS, sensors, etc.) – the latter because these are device specific for WM while Android offers easy ways for programmers to use them.

UI: To put it more simple: WM requires a developer to spend many hours to create good looking and finger friendly interfaces, support multiple screen sizes and orientations, etc. With Android, most of the work is covered by clever system parts, so what requires hours on WM takes a few minutes for Android – and then fits an consistent user experience (just compare how the alternative contact managers for WM all work slightly different e.g. regarding scrolling) and often run smoother and more stable because there were no additional traps for the developer.

Desktop integration

The latest AS version I know can only sync with Outlook and Exchange servers. 3rd party apps for other syncs are quite expensive…

drzeller

Mort:

“The differences appear when you run many or big apps.”
My point was that “most” users probably aren’t running 20 apps or many huge ones.

Available apps: Aside from GPS (which I think is standardized on WM), I don’t disagree on sensors/etc. But I’d go back to how often the average user leverages those on any platform. I don’t tilt my phone to get to the next email message. :-)

UI: I won’t disagree about ease of development. Out of curiosity, can you summarize what kind of hoops an Android developer has to go through when Android jumps from V1.5 to 1.6, to 2.0, as it has done this year? I know a lot of pre 2.0 apps did not work correctly on 2.0.

Desktop integration

“The latest AS version I know can only sync with Outlook and Exchange servers. ”

You don’t even need ActiveSync or Mobile Device Center to sync with Window Live accounts or Google. You just set it up on the phone and it does it via data connection or wifi. I don’t know about Yahoo.

D.

Wijn

Hear! Hear! :) Finally someone who does not blindly follow the hype! I have been using Windows Mobile for a long time now and I am surprised about how little is known of the advantages of using Windows Mobile with a (hosted) Exchange server. As someone who lives in Outlook there simply is no better mobile device to sync all my PIM data with.

I wonder when Microsoft finally will be able to clearly market the advantages of the activesync?

gadgety

A final comment. I find Win Mo more rounded, and complete, but the new platforms are likely to catch up quickly. Each platform will need its killer app’s. Looks like it’s the Google Maps turn-by-turn navigation for Android, Web browsing, multi-tasking and voip based video-calling for Maemo5, and computer/PC/Exchange integration for WinMo. Maemo5 seems immature at the moment, although I find it mighty tempting. I like the fact it’s more of an open system as well which may keep the platform alive longer. WinMo devices seem to get old quite quickly, paradoxically because new flag ship devices are constantly being launched with continuously higher specs.

Jake

The Google Maps app may work well in the US but I think it has too many limitations to really work well, especially over here in Europe where you incur roaming charges the second you drive into another country.

I don’t think WinMo is suffering from the release of higher specced phones any more than Android is. After all, didn’t Droid just leave everything else in its dust? Besides, don’t forget that hardware will be standardised for WinMo7 so this “problem” may be curtailed. Either way, I think it’s good that the consumers can choose between a wide range of devices on the same platform.

gadgety

Great review. Throw in Nokia’s Maemo 5 based N900, which seems to be the multi-tasking and internet browsing star at the moment, regardless of who the competitor is.

The HD2 I find to be extremely attractive. It does lack two things I’d like, though, a forward facing webcam and TV-out for presentations.

Jake

Without wanting to undermine your opinion, both video calls and TV-out are niche requirements. I’m quite happy to sacrifice them both for a thinner phone although I know that it’s more of a sticking point for others. As far as I know, most people try video calling out once when they get their first phone that supports it and then they never use it again.

Andrew

That’s because they look awful from the below-the-chin angle people hold their phones at when making video calls. “Want a nice shot of my nosehairs?”

Probably several other reasons, too.

Denkie

The problem with Windows Mobile’s Market (app store) is that the number of new applications is increasing at a much slower rate than both Android and iPhone. This indicates to me that most developers are creating new apps for Android and iPhone, and Microsoft is having difficulty attracting the same developer interest. Android’s rapidly rising market share, and WinMo’s rapidly declining market share, is no doubt the reason for influencing where developers put their time and resources.

BTW, that camera bug on the HTC HD2 is fascinating. If HTC admitted it was a hardware fault that causes a pink color cast, then I wonder how a software patch can fix it. The only remedy I can think of is if software corrects the color cast, by color balancing the image in the opposite direction, before saving it. But this would take system resources, and slow the handset down somewhat. I will be following progress on this as it unfolds.

Jake

It’s my understanding that HTC are advising customers to return their phones for a replacement if they have the colour problem.

Kai

There’s an app for that xD another one that has mainly free/demo apps to download that’s been released before windows mobile marketplace – also has a better interface than marketplace in my opinion. The problem with marketplace is that MS charges developers who want their apps on the list… just gotta look for those 3rd party apps and sites that gather apps

Dogtown

I have owned many WinMo devices and now use a HTC Hero. Android is the new WinMo. WinMo is the new Symbian, and Symbian…well, they fall off the map (or maybe become Palm Garnett).

Simply, Android is a better thought out touch OS than WinMo. HTC has hacked WinMo to approximate a touch interface on a pen based OS – but frankly Android Sense offers a complete touch experience versus WinMo Sense. I know a lot of people want to love the HD2, but c’mon people – wait until Android Snap dragon devices hit the market or until WinMo 7. You guys are clinging to WinMo like old school Symbian users (see above) or Palm Garnett folks. There are better options. Even Microsoft has turned the page and will push WinMo 7 out the door quickly.

daguila

I had a chance to play with my friends Hero and its lagginess is a deal breaker I would say its probably worst than my Touch Pro on Manila and I’m not even going to compare to my SPB Mobile Shell because that will be a complete blow out.

Justa Notherguy

If your friend’s Hero was so ‘laggy’ that it strikkes you as a serious problem, than he’s doing something wrong. For example, its common to stress the system by jamming too many apps onto on-board RAM. This has much the same effect as leaving too little free space on your primary HDD.

My ancient G1 runs great, with very few problematic moments…no more than on my iPhone.

gadgety

Ooops. The Nokia N900 lacks that at the moment, too. In general a review such as James’s, good as it is, still has its limitations. I need to put up my specific usage criteria, and not only compare OSs but also devices.

congz

i like how the article is presented. it’s a pretty fair comparison between the two OSes, and it’s nice to see for once some reviewer isn’t bashing winmo without even trying the OS first.

i hopped onto winmo a couple of years back, and i have to say i’m very satisfied with it. i can find apps to solve any problem i have and i can find modified roms to suit my need if i get tired of the stock ones.

i’ve to say i’m impressed with the growth of android, but it’s still in the growing stage. and android is probably more suited for casual use, whereas winmo is preferred by the business user. imo, android’s like a plaything. fun to have, but not for serious use. winmo’s like a business planner. it serves your every need, but doesn’t really up the fun factor.

and about the finger friendliness, i’ve actually never had problems navigating around the winmo interface with my thumb, even on 6.0. that’s a reason why i never understood the complains about winmo being finger unfriendly.

Phil

Since I’ve had some time with WinMo and now have an Android device I fail to see where Android is just for fun. I handle many of my business tasks on Android from reading documents to email to managing servers over SSH. The fact that it also allows for fun doesn’t make it any less capable when it comes to business.

Vinod Mishra

Highly biased article!!

1)Multitasking: You fail to mention that Android autocloses apps and apps can subscribe to services so apps can start at certain events and then can be closed without any loss in functionality.
Also for WinMo you take into consideration 3rd party customisation vs vanilla android. Apps2SD allows you to install apps on SD card..so fail there too
Huge advantage Android

2) Android apps are great and Winmo doesnt win there. I havent seen apps related to augmented reality,etc on WinMo…. fail there as well

3)UI: Anyone saying WinMo has a better UI must be high. HD2 is great but its not WinMo..its HTC..similar to HTC Sense on HTC hero (Android). difference is on android you get a smooth experience.. and on HD2 ugly winmo shows up with checkboxes and old screen in between.

syd

Do you know why there is no exit option on wm apps? it is because they are closed by the os when memory needed. It has been like that for many years, and this is why it is often not mentioned, just like having copy and paste supported by the os.
If you search google for “windos mobile memory management” you will see why your comment 1 is void.

daguila

1. Your telling me that you need a app to install apps to SD Card? So WM fails here becuase it does this natively?

Microsoft MY Phone opens up and auto closes completely when its done synchronizing so this “original function of android” is really based on software developers not on the OS

2. I bet you never used SPB online, Kinmoa Play, Pocket Express…..I’m not exactly sure what you mean by augmented reality but more than likely WM has those kinds of apps as well. I will agree if you say that you have to hunt them down but they surely are available.

3. When you compare Stock WM, to Stock Android they both completely suck. The Motorola Droid is no where as good looking as the HD2, and in reality how many times are you going to jump into the check boxes? maybe once or twice a month. I can live with that.

Kai

There are a few augmented reality apps but they’re not quite useful just demonstrations to show that it can be done…
If all you have to say for great apps is augmented reality, that’s fail on your part. Thanks to the guys at XDA there are tons of apps and games.

Actually I agree and disagree a little with your third comment. Checkboxes aren’t a big deal 0.o What does Android have instead? A button to toggle?
A little modding on both OS’s will make ’em better. HD2’s Sense(Touchflo) isn’t ugly at all it’s more useful, instead of having 3 screens with program launchers, the HD2’s Sense actually has a useful UI that displays useful information. In fact, the Android’s default screen, though apps and w/e can be added on, is bland. Just tiles of programs and a weather widget or facebook widget.

Stuart

When I was reading this article I was wondering what the results would be if you replaced SYMBIAN with Windows Mobile and viewed it merits/problems. It is the most widely used smartphone OS and yet new smartphone users constantly complain about what it can’t do. Most are not aware of what it can do. Perhaps you could discuss SYMBIAN in another article.

GadgetMerc

You really need to check out the mod scene for Android. Many of ‘Androids’ short comings in your article have been addressed there. I quoted android because it is more of a framework in my mind, whereas you think of it as a specific OS. For instance, my G1 saves all applications and settings to my SD card by default. I don’t even have to think about it, it is just how the OS handles it.

“The difference is that Mobile Shell is user obtainable, where HTC Sense must be installed on a phone as purchased.” I don’t believe you have done it on purpose but you’re not really comparing apples to apples here. Sense really isn’t third party at all when you really think about it. It is a ROM coming from the vendor. The vendor just used the Android open source framework to develop it.

GadgetMerc

I forgot to check the “notify me on follow-ups.” I remembered on this one ;)

James Kendrick

I understand what you are saying, there are mods available for WinMo too. The ability to install “legitimate” shells on WinMo means that those not willing to run afoul of their build or their carrier can do so easily, without rebuilding any ROM image.

G K

Yes it is nice to see WinMo get some positive feedback. The HD2 and Touch Pro 2 which are carried by most carriers around the world are super devices with much more room to improve the great platform. Most writers/bashers of the WinMo platform are not usually users but are reviewers that are not familiar with how the platform works and give it negative feedback. WinMo is behind in some aspects but I do see the growth and success in the future.

Martin

Hi,

why the surprise at the result ? If you did the same comparison between windows mobile with the iphone you might come out with a similar conclusion. HTC have done a fantasic job.

Have fun
Martin

cybertactix

I am a Windows Mobile phone user and I agree with your comments for the most part. Up until recently I too thought that WinMo phones just didn’t do touch well. And then I started using TouchTwit, a Twitter app available from Windows Marketplace. My conclusion now is that WinMo CAN do touch and do it well, as long as the applications are written to be used as touch applications.

Brett

I agree with the above posters, it is nice to read a WinMo article that showcases the positive aspects without just passing it off as a dated uncompetitive OS.

Bryan P

This will be a hotly debated conversation. I agree with some of the points mentioned in the post, however it felt biased and hugely one sided.

For instance, Android is a new development, being out only a year. Comparing it to a seasoned system is quite unfair. Using that thought, you compare available applications/ shells for Windows Mobile against Android.

Based on age alone, it would sad if Windows Mobile, didnt have more applications and shell solutions. The only reason Windows Mobile has so many shells available is because people needed an improved UI when Microsoft didnt have it.

James Kendrick

I agree with what you’re saying, but believe me many will disagree with you on my being biased towards WinMo (right Jake?).

You may feel it unfair to compare an “old” platform with a new Android, but that is the choice consumers are making today. Not in a few years, this was written from the perspective of today.

I also agree with you that the shells are needed because the WinMo interface sucks, but the fact is the shells are there and shouldn’t be overlooked. I have been a big fan of the HTC Sense interface on Android, and it’s only fair to point out that similar alternatives exist for WinMo.

GadgetMerc

I fell that Windows Mobile it at a huge disadvantage because it doesn’t have a CyanogenMod alternative. You just happen to have used Sense on both platforms.

MrMarc

Nice article. Yeah, I for one concur that James isn’t biased toward WinMo, but rather towards the Iphone and its OS, uhu … :P.

But Bryan has a valid point: Android is still a growing puppy compared to WinMo. Also, like you two already mentioned: WinMo was lacking improvement, but with more innovative competitors it will improve.

However I can’t agree with Bryan’s argument that there should be more applications for WinMo available. In the past years more people are using smarthphones and its OS’s. Therefore the need for different kind of applications has grown according to this. New OS’s are build forth on this. Same principle as “progressive insight” in the world of science.

Finally the essence of this article, at least what I make of it, is:
Why buy a buy a “unfinished” product and compromise your needs, while there are complete alternatives now?

Btw, same comparison is done with the Iphone. Does somebody still know the outcome of that?

DroidBot

My last WinMo phone was the HTC Excalibur (some know it as the T-Mobile Dash), and while I now have and use an HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1), I am only doing so because it was the first web-capable 3G and HSDPA/HSUPA phone that worked with T-Mobile’s networks.

Having used both extensively, I can definitely say that I won’t be moving back to the WinMo world until Windows Mobile 7 is released (rumored to be late 2010). If WinMo 7 is anything like the ZuneHD, you can bet your ass it will take back some market share from Google and Apple.

In terms of a mature app market, it is the market share of the platform that determines the size of the app market (obviously). iPhone apps are up around 100k now, owing to the huge success of the hardware. Same now with the growth in Android apps (working on one in another window as I write this reply).

But the .NET Compact Framework is something extensively documented, well-understood, easily portable from platform to platform, and has a gigantic worldwide developer base.

As for the CyanogenMod argument — that’s a great example of someone who did for the Android platform what those early developers did for the admittedly lacking Windows Mobile 5.0, 6.0, 6.5 platforms.

They tweaked, optimized, customized, and improved. Cyanogen has done nothing but the same.

And, as a matter of fact, Cyanogen wouldn’t have gotten his start on XDA-Developers without those ROMs for Windows Mobile, since that’s how that site began in the first place –> as a forum for tweaking Windows Mobile on the HTC “XDA” handsets of the day.

Jake

Yep, it’s a long time since I’ve seen an WinMo article from James that doesn’t have a go at Microsoft.

I think this was a pretty fair article. It doesn’t attack Android, it just points out WinMo’s strengths.

Jake

Also, without wanting to start a war, Android seems to be just as dependant on skins (Sense UI by HTC and Rachael UI by Sony Ericsson) as WinMo is. Depending on your point of view the ability to skin these interfaces can be seen as a strength or a weakness.

I don’t know about Android but I’d expect Microsoft to sort their UI problems for once and for all in WinMo7. All it needs is that and the inclusion of better libraries for handling standard hardware (WiFi, GPS, sensors, etc.) in the .NET Framework and it will be perfect. I’m expecting the latter to come with WinMo7 as well off the back of their Chassis 1 hardware spec.

Justin

Android was made to be skinned by different hardware manufacturers from the get go. Windows Mobile on the other hand was not.

WM was skinned to fix the unintuitive UI.

Not bashing here, just making a clarification.

Jace

I think this comparison is well founded being as Android has been compared to WinMo since it came out. Also, I agree WinMo has these advantages because of it’s age but they are advantages none the less, and WinMo has been able to multi-task and work with the desktop platform for as long as I can remember. Aside from that who can say when the first shell for winmo came out? All these are valid points and users should remember comparisons work both ways.

JD

What’s fair got to do with it? If someone’s looking to make a decision they’re not going to choose the lesser option just to be fair towards that company. They’re going to choose the best product, period.

Andrew

Thanks for this. I was looking for an unbiased look at some of the strengths of Windows Mobile because I REALLY want the HD2 when it comes out. I’d like to see some sort of shootout between capable devices loaded with the two OSes such as the HD2 vs. Passion/Dragon. The chance the HD2 might upgrade to WinMo7 was a check in its column. So is the application loading limit on Android that I wasn’t fully aware of. I got a couple months of bondage to AT&T to let things shake themselves out.

James Kendrick

Very nice capability, and it actually looks usable. I am impressed how well the remote desktop works on the small screen, no doubt due to the multitouch.

Jake

Finally, an article about WinMo that looks at its positive aspects and doesn’t just roll out the same tired cliches.

I recently bought my first WinMo phone (an HTC HD2) and the only other WinMo devices I own are a couple of old Pocket PCs that haven’t been used much for a long time. I’ve always avoided WinMo phones because I’ve never been happy with the hardware but we finally have a WinMo phone that picks up where HP’s hx4700 left off four years ago.

Within minutes of switching the phone on I was up and running, the experience is smooth as can be and I can do things that most other phones can’t do like map drives on my home network, use the phone as a wifi router, watch movies/play music in just about any format, etc. Making calls becomes a secondary thing because this phone is more like a mini computer than a phone. Sure, some of this is down to HTC but an awful lot of it is down to WinMo.

My only gripe at this point is that the Marketplace is not as good as it could be, especially outside the US. However, the other benefit of WinMo is the ability to sideload applications without having to go through Microsoft so this is just a minor gripe rather than a gaping limitation.

Anyway, good article James. It’s nice to see an article about WinMo that avoids the hysteria or the doomsaying.

James Kendrick

I envy you that HD2. I want to get one in my hands so badly, that looks to me to be the best phone out today. On any platform, anywhere. The only questions I’ve not seen addressed about the HD2 is how’s the camera?

Jake

Yeah, I agree with Miko, the camera could be better. Fortunately it’s not a feature I ever use in my phones but I know there are more than a few unhappy HD2 owners. I don’t seem to be suffering from the pink tint fault that Miko’s link refers to but the low light pictures I’ve taken have been pretty unusable.

Other than that, it’s currently my perfect phone :)

James, you should head up to Seattle to have a play around with Matt Miller’s.

GTRoberts

I’ve had my HD2 for about two weeks now from the first production run and theres not a single problem with my camera.

I’m suspecting this “camera business” is probably from a second shipment?? or a particlar model for a particlar market?

Leo

I’ve been using an HTC HD for almost a year now, and it is hands down the best phone/PDA combination ever. I’ve tried and used them all — Palm, Nokia, etc. — but the combination of hardware and software is the best for business use. Having ALL of my documents and files always on my phone and available is priceless.

When the HD2 becomes available in the U.S. I will certainly want to look at it closely, but I see little advantage to change. However, when the HD does eventually die, I would replace with the HD2.

Kim

I have been searching for unbiased reviews of WINMO vs Droid. But also glad that i found someone who has actually bought a HD2. I am definitely the business user who has Outlook/Exchange and even though Droid does support Exchange the features are just not as rich as WINMO.

Along with the need to keep converting your media files for it to play on Droid that would be just too inconvenient. straight out of the box you can start playing divx and the like.

Saying that, i am very interested in Droid and its potential and if i knew that there was going to be a huge step forward in the OS in 3- 6 months time i would buy the Desire. But since my needs are here & NOW! HD2 it has to be, but will be watching DRoid updates closely.

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