May 5, 2013

That Just Happened

For four years, I’ve railed against Android.  Everything about it is vile – it’s fragmented, it’s got malware all over the place, buggy, crashy and it’s written in Java.  It is, in a word – awful.  Being the Microsoft purist that I am, the very moment Windows Phone came out, I had TWO of them.  Both decent phones.  Good profile, good weight, great looking screen, excellent home screen and navigation – clean, crisp.  The apps weren’t there though, but that’s okay – I’m a purist – they would come.  Then Windows Phone 7.5 came out – AMAZING I said – wonderful work, extensive overhaul.  Great new apps kept coming.  The Zune Marketplace was amazing, music app and video apps just worked, the desktop app was impressive, slick and unique.  Windows Phone 7.5 made iOS look like a freaking piece of junk – and it is!  It made Android look even worse.  Then came what us blue blooded purists longed for – Windows Phone 8.

The promises were astounding.  The hardware was gorgeous.  The DAY it came out, I plopped down $500 for one at full price, caring not that two days later they were on Amazon for $0.01.  It had everything I could imagine!  Except the apps.  But as a stalwart, I kept believing, kept promising myself, my friends and others that the good apps were here and they were great, when in reality, they were just decent 1.0s.  There was no official FaceBook app, Microsoft wrote it for them.  There was no Twitter app (it did finally arrive later) but I kept saying – guys, you’re missing the point – check out that People Hub!  And it was fabulous.  There were only two things that could integrate with the Messaging Hub – Messenger and Facebook and everyone else was left to an app that drained itself on exit and sometimes worked with notifications.  I was constantly looking at my phone – every time that little buzz went off, I lept across the room to see the notification before it went away, because there is no notification history or panel – you either saw it or you missed it.  I kept telling my friends and family though that you didn’t need a notification center – those live tiles are awesome – and they are.  They are in fact…AWESOME.

Then something started to change.  I noticed some things.  Zune was now gone and the music app was replaced with an abomination of a hack.  Music wouldn’t transfer, DRM errors everywhere.  I had to use a Windows desktop app called Phone for Windows 8 that was so awful, I deleted it in disgust after one use.  The video app didn’t actually work – it doesn’t actually play video.  They mirrored the disgusting and terrible experiences of the built in apps on Windows 8 Metro land.  Those Windows 8 apps have since improved some (mostly still terrible but they are better).  But I’ve now had my Windows Phone 8 for almost a year and I still haven’t seen a useful music app, the bluetooth doesn’t work despite switching out phones 3 times, the notification system still lacks any sort of history (when notifications come through at all), the phones come with an automated notice encouraging you to restart them every two days (!!!!) and the list literally does go on.

And then one day this passed week, I saw it – a gorgeous phone, crafted from what looked like jet metal.  Edge to edge gorilla glass.  Purest of black screen.  Fantastic specs.  There was just one tiny problem.  It was running Android.  The HTC One.  It was amazing to hold in my hand.  Standing there in the TMobile store, I felt dirty.  I felt ashamed.  I felt like at any moment someone from MSFT would walk into the store and curse the lack of pure blue blooded thought.  And then I bought that damn phone and I’ve spent the last day enamored with it, like a kid with a new toy truck that can’t put it down.  Amazing battery life, unbelievable screen resolution.  TRUE multi tasking.  A notification panel – A NOTIFICATION PANEL!!!!!  And then there were the apps.  Every app I could think of – there, fully functional, not the stripped down/read only crap that was being published in the Windows Phone Marketplace.  Sure there was Google all over it, but that crap was easy enough to get rid of.  I needed Skype, there it was, and it was always running.  I needed OneNote, got that too.  SkyDrive, yep.  Lync, yep…and hundreds of other apps that I looked jealously on other’s phones while looking down on their users thinking – no idiot would buy an Android.  And yet, here I was – and I just did.

I looked for issues and problems – after all, I had once owned another Android (in 2009).  I found them, but they were not nearly as challenging as the daily challenges of my Windows Phone 8.  I miss the Live Tiles and the People Hub.  I miss the Metro interface.  I missed the ability for my pictures to automatically upload to SkyDrive…and that is it.  I needed a way to send my pictures directly to SkyDrive as my camera took them on this new devil phone – that was a fantastic feature of Windows Phone 8.  Sure, Google+ app does that, FaceBook app does that, Dropbox app does that (and they freaking gave me 25GB of storage space just for signing in to the damn thing from my phone!!!), even a wicked cool new app called MightyText does that, and there was a new thing called HTC share that does that built into the phone.  But SkyDrive didn’t do that.  Hmm – I’m NOT moving all of my cloud pics off SkyDrive – it is too wonderful, oh wait, there’s a freaking app for that…bam, FolderSync downloaded.  Problem solved – now my pics land in 12 different places automatically when I take them.  Too much?  Throw the excellent IFTT.com into the mix and you can grow that list a lot faster.

Then I opened up the music app.  Hmm, not very impressive, of course, I didn’t have any music on the phone yet.  But there were other choices.  Of course my WP had Pandora (finally) and a few others, but the native Music app had better be good.  Meh, it was okay.  Oh, here’s DoubleTwist, I hear good things but the real kicker came and kicked me in the pants as I was poking around the phone.  About a year ago, on a whim, I had checked out that new service, Google Music when it launched.  Run this little tool, it said, and it will keep your music from your computer synched to the cloud.  So I did and since then, every song I have purchased (from XBox Music no less) has been landing on my Windows Phone, my home computer, and, because of that little app, Google Music.  Hey, that’s neat…Windows Phone 8 promised me that it did that but it didn’t.  I wonder…there it was.  The Google Music Android app…I opened it and immediately there was all of my music.  I didn’t touch a thing – it was just there.  Windows Phone 8 swore it could do that but it didn’t.  Then there was video – all there.  Then there were my pics, all there (after I wired up FolderSync).  Then there were my contacts, my Exchange email, my Outlook.com email, everything.  It was all there and then some and it came in a fabulously crafted device.

I still feel ashamed.  I tried for TWO YEARS to love Windows Phone.  I tried waiting.  I lived with the faults of what they did to the Music and Video app.  I guess at the end of the day…I got tired of waiting.  I got tired of living in a beautiful interface that was only skin deep.  Now I will learn to live with an ugly interface with 750 thousand apps.  I bleed blue.  I absolutely love Microsoft.  Build me a phone like the HTC One and arm it with apps that work, multitasking that works, built in apps that aren’t an embarrassment, notifications that aren’t 5 seconds long and an app catalog that can match at the very least the top THOUSAND apps feature for feature of what’s on Android or iOS and I’ll be back.  But for now – I run on Android with my MSFT apps front and center.  Small consolation.