Of love/hate relationships, Symbian and Windows Phone

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There's a pointed piece over at Unleash The Phones by new writer , looking at his first month or so with Windows Phone 8, as experienced on the Nokia Lumia 620, and with particular comparison to his previous smartphone expertise on Symbian, on the Nokia 808 PureView. As I've written many times, you have to work quite hard to keep Symbian productive in 2013 (though it can be done), but it's interesting to see Shibesh working almost as hard to use Windows Phone, dancing around the OS's 'helpful' interface and limitations. A good Sunday morning read for any smartphone fans.

Here are a few quotes from the article, firstly on the positive side:

2. Design/UI

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Let’s face it. Tiles are awesome. The OS is beautiful in its design and in the fact that every application takes hints from the Metro interface and as a result you get a uniform experience, doesn’t matter what you’re doing and where you’re doing it. The Back button always works as you’d expect it to work in the context (And is on the left side of the device, where you’d expect it to naturally be, unlike some other popular *cough* Galaxy *cough* devices) 

3. Lockscreen Customizability


I absolutely adore the way the lockscreen works as an alternative Notification Center. And that I can customize it ANY way I want. I can have pictures from Bing, Facebook, RSS going on in a slideshow. I can have the lockscreen responding to the weather of the place I am in, by showing me a forecast and a suitable wallpaper. The practical applications are endless and already in place! 

And then on the negative side, with a few that rang very true for me:

1. No Multitasking

I cannot understand how a software company, who’s been one of the most dominant forces when it comes to PC operating systems, devalues the importance of true multitasking. Something which Symbian has had for YEARS. Yes, I understand that the target audience for this operating system is probably the masses, and not power users. But still. That choice of how I’m going to be using my phone should remain with me, and not with UX designers holed up somewhere sipping coffee.

On Symbian, I had no concept of the operating system ‘freezing’ tasks, while I went off to do something else. Gravity, Poddi, Opera Mini, WhatsApp, JoikuSpot; all of those applications would still be active, even if I opened them a week ago and forgot about them.

On WP, I have to check on every application I need to be working on, if it’s still doing what I want it to do or not. I have to manually check if the podcast I was downloading hasn’t stopped, if WhatsApp has any new messages it hasn’t ‘toast notified’ me about, if I have any new notifications under the ‘Me’ hub, if the picture I was uploading to Instagram hasn’t freezed, I could go on. What should be a butter smooth experience suddenly becomes me application-hopping frantically just to see if everything I want is happening the way I want it to happen. Which brings me to my next point:

2. App Switching

You know how I said above that I love WP’s UI, and smoothness? Here’s the thing: the smoothness is in the transitions. When I’m doing something important, and on-the-fly, I don’t give a damn about the transitions, which then promptly become a royal pain in the neck, taking for EVER to fly and swing into place and looking pretty, but never, I repeat, never fast. Also, if I see another ‘Resuming’ screen, I might just cry.

While on Symbian, I used to switch between tasks lightning fast. Flitting from Opera Mini, to share a link I found interesting to Gravity, to replying to a WhatsApp message that just came in, to the Camera because my dog just did something very funny, and so on and so forth.Also, don’t even get me started on the useless ‘you were in these apps before but they might be working or they might not, depending on your luck and my mood’ screen, aka, the ‘multitasking’ screen.

Absolutely. I get that Windows Phone is designed for the man in the street and is selling comparatively well to smartphone newbies, but it's frustrating that it can't also be used by geeks - I have exactly the same experience as that quoted above - plus live tiles which don't update properly, podcasts that don't download properly... I could go on. It's as if there's an opaque glass wall between myself and what I want the smartphone to be doing for me [it's called a screen - Ed] and I'm constantly having to guess and check with regard to what's actually happening or, quite often, not happening.

Surprisingly, give the negatives he lists at length, Shibesh comes down overall on the side of Windows Phone in the end:

After all of that, would I still keep using the 620?

....Yes. You see, I come from Symbian, I’m no stranger to finding workarounds for stuff that doesn’t work. In that way, Symbian really toughened up my hide. As an OS, I can see a lot of potential in Windows Phone, considering everything I hate about WP is within arms’ length of Microsoft to fix. And I’m really counting on incremental updates to make it better.

I too am awaiting the major Windows Phone OS upgrade that signals to me that the operating system has grown up, that it's 'finished'. There are some very promising signs that the fabled 'GDR2' update is the one.... but then I've said this before about '8' itself, and GDR1, so.... Fingers crossed anyway!

Source / Credit: Unleash The Phones