11/11/11 to 12/12/12: A Windows Phone journey

This article highlights my experience of using a Windows Phone as my primary phone for over one year.

The HTC Radar with Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango)

See high-resolution photos of the HTC Radar in our media gallery.

I got an HTC Radar on 11/11/11, and yes, it was a coincidence. I was using the HTC Desire before I got this phone in a giveaway by HTC. I was somewhat satisfied with Android. Honestly speaking, if it weren't for the giveaway, I'd have never thought of using or purchasing a Windows Phone. My HTC Desire was just 5 months old when I got the Radar. I was fed up of the low memory errors and had installed a custom ROM on the Desire. Still, it wasn't very smooth and my experience was marred by random FC errors and occasional reboots. It was the Gingerbread era; the lag in the UX was evident on almost all Android phones, except for a few high-end ones. I had planned to use the Radar as a secondary phone, but started using it as a primary phone because I wanted to run away from the hassles of the custom ROM.

I'll talk about the phone first before moving on to the OS. As mentioned in my review, the phone's build quality is top notch and feels quite sturdy in the hand. In spite of being careful, I've dropped the phone a few times from varying heights. It became clear that the metal and plastic parts are prone to scratches, but the internal components and the screen survived the falls. The phone's internal memory is 8 GB, but the actual usable memory comes down to only 6 GB, which fills up pretty quickly. I always felt the need for an expandable memory card slot. The quality of the images and videos captured from the primary camera is decent, but there were a few instances where a pink blotch would show up in the videos.

Speaking about the OS, Windows Phone felt like a fresh gust of wind to me. The concept of tiles instead of icons was very fresh and new to me. The whole experience was fast and smooth. I missed the notification bar and the widgets badly, but loved the Live Tiles and the Metro UI. The social integration is simply outstanding, and the fact that I could capture a moment, tag my friends and upload it, all in a matter of seconds, was awesome. My phone currently has over 100 apps and 15 games but still feels very fast.

There were some times when I felt proud about Windows Phone, but at the same time, a few incidents made me feel embarrassed. As I continued using the Radar, I found out many things about Windows Phone (7.5) that disappointed me. Once, I went out with my friends, we took a few photos and when my friends asked me to share via Bluetooth, I found out that the function was absent. The situation was a little embarrassing.

That's not all, here I've listed a few other things that irked me:

  • Contacts can't be imported from or exported to a .csv file.
  • Documents can't be attached to an email.
  • No custom ringtones.
  • Images and videos can't be renamed.
  • No multiple selection of images/videos.
  • Once the music player is launched, it can't be closed. The controls will stay on the lock screen until the phone is rebooted.
  • Apps can't be grouped or categorized. They are listed alphabetically. If you have installed many apps and don't remember the names then it's a pain to browse.
  • No true multitasking. Apps remain suspended when the screen is locked.
  • Wi-Fi connection is dropped as soon as the screen is locked.
  • Wireless sync feature of Zune software requires the phone to be plugged into a wall charger.
  • Can't handle USSD codes.

I thought that the OS was just a year old and that the next major update would solve most of the issues, but sometime later, Microsoft announced that none of the Mango phones will be getting the Apollo (WP 8) update. I hadn't spent a single dime on this phone, but felt sad for those folks who had spent their hard-earned money. The Mango phones will be updated to WP 7.8, but apart from the cosmetic changes, other details about the update are not out yet.

The Marketplace (now the Windows Phone Store) was like barren land back then. There were relatively very few apps and only a handful of quality ones. Things got better slowly and many official apps started to appear in the Store. But even today, you'll miss some apps and games if you have migrated from iOS or Android. Google recently announced that they have no plans to develop apps for Windows Phone. Like Google, many other app developers are not ready to invest into Windows Phone citing lack of users. On the other hand, users are not ready to migrate to WP due to the absence of their favorite apps.

Windows Phone 8 looks impressive, but I still feel that Windows Phone is a very young platform and has a long way to go. If Microsoft listens to its users and does a good job of fixing the existing problems, Windows Phone can easily stand up against its competition.

Today, one year, one month and one day later, I've sold my Android, and the phone I use day in and day out is still my HTC Radar.

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