Windows Phone 7 vs Android: Can WP7 Compete With Google?
is a new smart phone platform that is looking to attract users
from Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry. Windows Phone 7, although new,
does not bring anything groundbreaking to to table. Consumers have
been putting WP7 to the test and across the board, the reviews have
been positive. Not only has Microsoft successfully elbowed its way
into the crowded smart phone market, it has also secure a firm
position for Bing. One of Microsoft's goals with WP7 is to become a
worthy competitor to the leading smart phone platforms. Another goal
that may be quickly overlooked is the future of Bing. Can WP7 help Bing compete against Google? Can WP7 compete with Android?
Bing is Microsoft's successor to Windows Live search. Bing is fairly new. Google is holding, what some say, a monopoly in the search market, while Bing is a far second.
does Bing have to offer that Google can't. Not much. In terms of
search results, Google recently put itself a big step ahead of Bing
with the introduction of Google Instant. With this option turned on,
results will instantly appear in real time as you are typing. Google
can also predict what you may be looking for with suggestions also
appearing dynamically. Bing's search page is ahead of Google's in
terms of appearance. Bing's home page changes every day with some of very unique and beautiful pictures. It
may not seem like a big deal but this makes using Bing a little more
pleasant. Sometimes, you will see Google's logo change depending on
current events or time-line. For example, the Google logo was
decorated with pumpkins and other festive symbols this past
Halloween. I do think, visually, Bing is ahead of Google. Bing's main
page and search results appear more modern and less cluttered. Also, I find Bing Maps better than Google Maps. Their aerial view is fantastic.
So, Bing looks good on the browser. What's the big deal? Well, with the release of WP7, Bing is the default search engine and traces of this attention to eye candy is present on the mobile platform. You access Bing by hitting the search button. Background changes and the phone feel “fresh”. This little feature makes it feel like the phone is constantly getting an update, albeit a small one. Results are smooth and seamless. If feel like Bing is a part of the phone rather than an app. You can switch through results by swiping from left to right. They are sorted by web, images, local, and other options.
Search On An Android
There's different ways to initiate a search on Android. Some manufacturers have a dedicated search button while others omit this. Most users will make a search from the home screen through a widget. Making a search will open up the browser. Most of us are familiar with Google so I won't go into detail explaining their features. Results are accurate and reliable though I will say Bing's implementation on WP7 is much cleaner. Swiping through the different categories of results feel more natural than clicking on a link. It feels easier to use search on Bing compared to the browser on Android.
On Android, Google Maps must be launched when you are on the browser with an address. The experience is not as smooth as WP7. With WP7, when you search for an address, and click maps or directions, Bing maps loads seamlessly. The transition is smooth. On Android, it feels like one big app shuffle.
Messaging on Android is simple. You either use the default messaging app, ChompSMS, Handcent or another third party app. Messaging on WP7 is also easy. One of the tiles on WP7 hosts a messaging app where you can compose and send SMS and MMS text quickly. Email is equally easy on both platforms. You can use the default Gmail app on Android or a third party app such as K9 Mail. The email app on WP7 works more or less the same way. They both have push capability, priority filtering, and HTML embedding. One feature missing from WP7 is threaded messaging. The Gmail app does not have support for a unified inbox however the “Email” app does. There is currently no support for a unified inbox on WP7.
Music on Android is good. I found myself looking for a third party music player just because “good” sometimes isn't good enough. I found TuneWiki to be a much better experience. WP7 did a better job with Zune. Like most of Microsoft's products, Zune integrates very well into WP7. Third party apps are not so lucky. You can play your own music in the background with Zune. Apps like Slacker Radio and Last.FM cannot be played in the background. Microsoft have confirmed that they will release third party multi-tasking. It's now just a matter of when. Those who have a Zune Pass will have unlimited access to millions of song on their PC, Xbox 360, Zune HD, and now WP7. It costs $14.99 per month and you can keep up to 10 songs per month. Compared to iTunes, each song is $1 and they are served a la carte. On Android, there is no default music store however, most apps allow you to purchase songs via a third party. For example, if you are listening to a song on Pandora Radio, they often have a choice where you can buy it. Speaking of Pandora, it is currently not available on WP7 although an official app is expected soon.
In terms of customization, Android beat WP7 hands down. There are so many things you can do to change the look of Android. There's ton of widgets and many cool things like “live wallpapers”. On top of that, there's also different flavors of Android. Most manufacturers have their own version. Motorola has “MotoBlur”, HTC has “SenseUI”, and Samsung has “TouchWiz”. Their differences are subtle but enough to make casual consumers question what OS they are using. As far as WP7, each phone basically looks the same. There are no themes available at the moment but with the introduction of the marketplace, that may change. Right now, you can only change the colors of the default theme. Is this a good thing?
One of the main complaints with Android is fragmentation. There are so many versions of Android that many developers have a hard time making programs that work for each one. Some apps will only work on Android 2.2 and up while others work depending on phones. This creates many problems for the platform. Although WP7 is keeping their OS closed, this can be a good thing. Accountability is one of them. When an app doesn't work on Android, it is up to the developers to fix it and they can do it at their own discretion. This is true for all third party developers, including WP7. Microsoft is aiming to protect their WP7 brand in the long run. They are developing brand awareness. When we think of WP7, people will think of a powerful smart phone platform with standards. Android does not have any standards so they cannot control their brand image. We find Android running on low end phones up to the latest high powered smart phones. There seems to be some confusion when there's too many choices. MotoBlur is aimed to deliver many social-oriented widgets, SenseUI seems very functional, and TouchWiz looks like iOS. Although Google opened up Android for people to develop on freely, this fragmentation may have a big impact on consumers.
Consumers new to smart phones have a some knowledge on what they're buying. If you were to ask people, “What's an iPhone, BlackBerry, or WP7?” they will have a clear picture in their minds. Because there are so many different versions of Android, people will not recognize it as easily. This may hurt Android in the long run.
An Ergonomic Phone?
Fitts' Law of ergonomics states that the time it takes to hit a target is a function of the distance to the target and the size of the target. Basically, this means that it is easier to click on a big object that is close compared to a small object that is far. I'm talking about icons. On Android, icons are very small. This allows for more icons on screen but then you have more clutter.
My sister has 5 home screens. 4 of the 5 screen on her Motorola Backflip is completely filled with icons. In comparison, WP7, have big square tiles that are easy to press. Are icon size a big deal? No, but every little detail counts. Small icon sizes on Android makes mis-clicks and accidental drag-and-drops inevitable. Computer designers work hard to adhere to Fitts' Law on the desktop and it appears that Microsoft are following it on smart phones. Much of the menu system on Android is based on clicking. Clicking menu, settings, check boxes, etc. While clicking or tapping naturally migrated from the desktop to the smart phone, WP7 made an effort to follow Fitts' Law. It is easier to swipe than to click. Most of the options and settings on WP7 uses swipes instead of clicks. For example, when you go into their email app, you can swipe to the left to access, urgent messages, sent mail, unread mail, etc. On Android, you have to click small links in order to get to these menus. This makes it a little easier to use WP7 compared to Android.
You can find examples of this throughout WP7. The home screen has a list of apps organized in big tiles. Swiping to the left reveals a list of applications. Tiles are big and easy to press. The layout is logical and well thought out. Integration is good and disruption is minimal. In comparison, Android feels like a smart phone that is trying to be a computer. Small icons on the home screen that's similar to most modern computer operation systems. Widgets become resource hogs and overwhelm the processor (like Flash). Integration on Android is not as clean and it feels redundant.
For example. Searching for Dunkin Donuts starts with a text or voice input from the home screen widget. Then the Browser will take a second to open. The results reveal some Dunkin Donuts locations nearby. Clicking on an address will open Google Maps. Google Maps will load. After it loads, the GPS will guide you. It takes a widget to open the browser, which takes another app to navigate. The end result is not the complaint. It's the method. Each time this is done, there is a pause. Android reminds you that the browser is opened. Then it reminds you again that Google Maps is opened. I'm sure the same happens on WP7 but they don't make a point of reminding you. Loading screens are kept at a minimum.
WP7 has flaws. Third party multi-tasking is a big issue. Cut-copy-paste is also missing. Also, landscape mode is not fully implemented. These issues are known and will be addressed in the future. Once these issues are fixed, where do I rank WP7 compared to Android? No surprise, I rank WP7 above Android. The layout and design is well thought out. WP7 shows a strong adherence to Fitts' Law. The organization of hubs makes consolidating contacts easy. You can view Facebook updates right from your contact lists. Android still has some strong points. No doubt, many manufacturers are investing heavily on making it work. It also have tremendous third party support. Although WP7 is not a game changing smart phone platform, it remains a solid choice. If Android is described as the “hacker's iPhone”, then I would say WP7, is the “young man's BlackBerry”. Thanks.