Reader Patrick_HH recently contacted us, asking what he should expect when moving from Windows Mobile to Android. What a great question!
First and foremost, WinMo and Android are both first-rate operating systems that will fulfill most business and personal requirements for a mobile phone. Both offer multi-tasking. Both “automatically” close unused background applications, so a dedicated “Close” button isn’t required (the same debate over the OS not having a close button exists in both camps).
Both have touch-screens with soft-keyboards (SIPs on WinMo, IMEs on Android), but Android is designed for finger-input where WinMo is primarily stylus-based. Sure, you can use your finger on WinMo and screen technologies have come a long way to help with finger-input rather than stylus-input, but the UI of WinMo is still geared toward the small tip of the stylus.
Both can run apps installed from their respective market, and both can install apps from sources outside the market (.CAB files for WinMo, .APK files for Android).
Both have huge support from XDA-Developers.com (and developers in other online communities) hacking, updating, modifying, and cooking custom ROMs.
Android is a “more current” operating system than WinMo. It looks and feels “fresher” than WinMo does (Microsoft is prepping Windows Phone 7 to address this, but for the most part, “WinPho7″ is an entirely new OS and no longer part of the Windows Mobile family).
Android syncs best with Google services (Calendar, Gmail, Contacts, etc.) and WinMo syncs best with Exchange. No surprises there, right? Both can connect to POP/SMTP and IMAP for email.
Apps written for one platform will not work on the other, but generally speaking, there is a good chance that you will find a sufficient replacement for the apps that you need to run on either platform.
Because Android was designed to be “play nicely” with the web it is intended to sync wirelessly with your data, no computer needed. That’s not to say you can’t connect an Android to your computer, aside for copying files and performing low-level activities (fastboot, ADB, data tethering, etc.) there’s just not much reason to. You don’t need ActiveSync (or the later equivalents) to install apps or sync your PIM data.
Of course there are technical differences in kernel, OS, technologies, and hardware, but we’ll leave those to the fanboys to de debate.
The Android web browser is also much more advanced than WinMo’s stock Pocket Internet Explorer. Some WinMo vendors have abandoned PIE for Opera, or some other browser, which is fairly telling of the capabilities of PIE. On Android, if you don’t like the stock browser (which is based on Chrome), you can always download another one (Opera, Dolphin, Fennec, and others).
If you’ve decided to make the switch the first thing you’ll want to do is ensure your PIM data transfers across. If you’re using Exchange, you’re pretty much good to go out of the box — Android 2.2 (codename Froyo) is your magic number. Froyo brings more Exchange features to the phone (better contacts integration, Calendar support, etc.). Lower versions of Android sync mail and some contact information, but but you’ll need one of several 3rd party apps to sync calendar and other data. That might be a stumbling block to some, but keep in mind, you also have to install 3rd party apps to get full Google syncing on your WinMo device, too.
If you decide to go all-in with Google (like I did) you’ll simply set up a Google Account (if you don’t already have one) and import your contact and calendar data. Next, set up Gmail to automatically retrieve your POP3/IMAP mail (Gmail can be connected to several mail sources, so Gmail can become your universal inbox, if you so desire). (Google has tutorials on how to do each of these, in case you get stuck).
It took me about three days after leaving WinMo before I really felt at home using Android. Your mileage may vary. If it does, I want to know how and why via your comment below.
So, Patrick_HH, make sure you let us know how the transition goes for you, and if there’s anything you think others contemplating making the switch should know!