By Adam Doud | May 7, 2013 7:00 AM
Windows Phone has built it’s brand for being the phone built around you. But Windows Phone customization is severely lacking, once you move beyond small, medium and large tiles. Fundamental operating system tasks have been locked into Microsoft’s own provided services and there are either better options that can’t be used or in more cases zero other options for everyday tasks in Windows Phone.
Not long ago, when Facebook Home made its triumphant debut, I switched from Windows Phone back to Android. Since then circumstances have forced me to remain on the big green bot. I remain enamored with Windows Phone as an awesome platform, full of potential, but even given the opportunity to switch back – an event I hope comes very soon – I can honestly say I won’t be 100% satisfied with the switch.
It’s really two main things that will just tweak me the wrong way. Get it? Tweak? You will in a second. Windows Phone’s main shortcomings are customization and range of options. I’m not talking about “only 2 fart apps” kind of options. I’m talking about basic phone usability options.
Put the “Bored” in Key…board
Windows Phone has a pretty decent virtual keyboard. For the most part I can knock out a couple of quick sentences with a minimum of mistakes. But when I think about Android’s range of options in this area, it’s almost silly what Windows Phone brings to the table.
Not long ago, my esteemed colleague brought you a video showing you a unique way of entering text on Android. Now, I’m not saying we all need to enter text in a square, but other input options would be nice. Swiftkey and Swype are two notable examples that are available for Android that I would particularly miss upon returning to Microsoft’s brainchild. And yes, Android fans, I know that Swiftkey has a Swype-like flow option. See you in the comments.
Another shortcoming of Windows Phone is, somewhat ironically, and yet not unexpectedly, Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer is the much maligned web browser of desktop Windows fame. For the record- I have no problem with the desktop version of Internet Explorer. I use it every day. But the mobile version of IE just doesn’t render many websites that I visit very well. Of course, individual results will vary in this area. Not everyone visits geocaching.com a dozen times a day like I do, for example.
But Android has an answer to this dilemma – Firefox, Chrome, Dolphin, Opera, and on and on. Android’s versatility in the browser department generally means if there’s one site I visit that doesn’t work quite right in a given browser, chances are one of the other three browsers I have installed will work. It’s just nice to have the option.
There’s a Map For That
Mapping is another area of Windows Phone that has me concerned. I much prefer Nokia’s Here over the stock Maps application. However, I cannot set Nokia Here to be the default directions app when (ok here I go again) navigating to a geocache for example. That all directs to the Maps app, which has its place, but is not all that great when it comes to turn by turn directions.
Bing Search for ‘Google’
Search is another area of contention on Windows Phone. In this case it’s almost understandable that Microsoft wants you to use their services. But at the same time, this is optional on a PC. It should be on the phone too. Especially since they made the search button a hard button on he phone. If you’re going to accidentally bump the darn thing a dozen times a day, at least make it so it goes to the search engine of your choice.
Windows on computers does allow for changes like this to be made. Wanna run Firefox as your default browser? Right click. Easy Peasy. The same goes for default applications in a wide range of areas from video and music to document editing. Every file extension in Windows has a default application to handle it, and every default application can be changed.
Android has this too, to the nth degree. Actually, what Android has is TOO much. If Android handled default applications the same way Windows did, I’d be much happier. For example, if I set Swiftkey to be my default keyboard, I want it as my default keyboard across the board. I don’t want to have to switch from the stock keyboard to Swiftkey seemingly at random. But Windows Phone doesn’t even have that, which is ironic since most of their marketing campaign is all about making your phone yours.
Customizability is the very essence of making a phone yours. And yet, we find ourselves shackled to Microsoft’s basic services using the apps that Microsoft dictates, and all others be banished. If they could only bring their customizing options already present in their desktop software over to their phones, it would make the overall experience much more pleasant.
Then of course, we need to get Firefox and Swiftkey to actually develop for Windows Phone, but that’s a whole different conversation.