My first week with iPhone 5: what I miss from Windows Phone 7

For my first iPhone, the iPhone 5 is a pretty nice way to ease into the mobile platform that started it all.

Putting aside the overblown Maps controversy, the hardware issues and my own gripes about battery life, the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 are both very refined and polished products that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed using for most part of this week.

While for the most part I think the iPhone 5 is a superior device than the Nokia Lumia 800 I was using and iOS 6 is much more powerful and polished than Windows Phone 7.5, there are actually a handful of features from Windows Phone that I sincerely miss.

  • People hub, “What’s new” – Native social integration was a Windows Phone first and its integration into contacts is a timesaver. Being able to tap on a person and see all their Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other updates combined makes stalking catching up with what friends’ are up to is very useful.
  • Me tile notifications – Similar to the social integration above, being able to see all the Facebook and Twitter notifications for yourself in a single combined view saves a lot of time jumping in and out of many different apps.
  • Better Facebook events integration – Since iOS 6 introduced native Facebook support, it also integrates with Facebook Events into the Calendar. Unfortunately it doesn’t allow much control so that all events including the ones I haven’t accepted automatically show up in my calendar (especially Notification Center).
  • Stricter multitasking and battery life model – Windows Phone seems to enforce a much tougher multitasking policy for backgrounded apps. Through my own experience and what I’ve heard from others, manually closing backgrounded iOS apps is somewhat of a necessity to reduce the chance of apps unnecessarily consuming battery.
  • Hardware camera button – While the iPhone camera takes awesome photos, it’s really hard to get to (if the device is unlocked). A dedicated camera button that not only launches the camera app but can also trigger snaps makes the WP7 camera experience much quicker and predictable.
  • Live tiles – I’m a little bit dumbfounded why Apple has not yet added the ability to dynamically update the app icon in iOS6, even though the Calendar app (changes dates) clearly shows it can be done. I don’t even need the animated or flipping tiles of WP7, just a simple icon refresh through push notification is sufficient.
  • Better software keyboard – The Windows Phone soft keyboard feels to have much bigger hit-areas per letter and a more tolerant error correction algorithm. Multiple word suggestions above the keyboard (within easy reach of the typing position) is much easier than reaching out to wherever the word might be.
  • (Developer) XAML app designer – After briefly diving into Xcode and Cocoa, developing apps for iOS is a big hurdle for a “designer”. XAML for Windows Phone is easy to learn for any designer with web development experience, and powerful enough to control every aspect of an app’s UI behaviour.

37 insightful thoughts

  1. It’s been a while since I last used an iPhone, two years ago when I jumped to the WindowsPhone, I love how you can go ahead and type complete sentences, and still go back and select words and the suggestions for that word will still show up (including what you typed initially prior to auto-correct).

    Does the iPhone do that now?

    1. On iOS you can get it to show the suggestions again but it’s pretty involved. You have to click the word, then “more” arrow and “suggest”.

  2. Interesting viewpoint. Especially since I am in the (so far mental) process of switching the other way. From iPhone 4 to Lumia 920. Actually feels like you picked the wrong time to switch to iphone, considering WP8 is on the horizon.

    Anyways, from what I read above it seems as if I’m making the right choice moving to WP8. Iphone is basically the same now as it was when I got the iPhone 3G (plus copy+paste and multitasking), while WP feels much more modern and tailored for the mobile experience, with all important UI navigation being swipes or buttons located at the bottom of the screen. And simply being more beautiful in every sense.

    1. “And simply being more beautiful in every sense.”

      I have been using WP since release and use my dads/friends Iphone4 whenever I get the chance to compare.
      Sure, WP can be really beautiful but overall iOS is much much more polished and imo MS need to spend more time on the little things when it comes to design. There is much to improve visually and functionally.

      1. @Johan, as a creative director I believe that iOS interface, readability and usability is far less friendly than the of WP’s. Just the fact that there are so many extra button clicks, boxes, extra steps on the iOS makes WP really shine.

      2. The big turning point for me was when I saw the WP audible app on video. I have it myself on iphone and I never really reflected over the UI. But when I saw the WP version it sortof just “clicked” in my brain. It had the same features, and the same basic hierarchy of things. But it was all so much less clunky and more intuitive to navigate. Less pixelhunting, more swiping. Like very many iOS apps Audible has buttons and tab-like things all over the place that aren’t hard to use directly, but compared to what WP offers – even if the WP audible is far from optimal – it simply looks and feels old and inefficient.

  3. Good post, I too am giving iPhone a try switching from windows phone. I haven’t received my iPhone yet but i knew there would be some things i would miss.

  4. Why did you switch? I’d be just as interested in that story.

    Also I wonder if it’s possible Apple is so sensitive to “copying” other OS’s main features (maybe because they have been so adamant about accusing other of copying them), that they hesitate to implement some of the more obvious good aspects of WinPho such as live “icons”.


    1. They have copied plenty from Android, so I don’t think that is it. Maybe they just don’t think it is a good idea. Why that is I don’t know, because live tiles are a great idea.

  5. Good write up. I’ve been considering purchasing an iPhone 4S to see what iOS has to offer to compliment my impending Lumia 920 purchase. I liked the frank assessment that iOS6 is a much more powerful and polished OS right now compared to WP7.5. To me that shows you’re no fanboy and under no delusions.

  6. In your post you compared the iPhone 5 / iOS6 with Nokia Lumia 800 / Windows Phone 7.5, which is a great and fair comparison. But in perhaps 6 month’s time (or closer), I’d like to see your opinion when comparing the iPhone 5 with a Windows Phone 8 device (like the Nokia Lumia 920).

    1. I’d say it isn’t a fair comparison at all because it’s comparing a new generation operating system (iOS 6) with an old generation operating system (Windows Phone 7.5). Of course iOS 6 is going to be more polished and feature-rich than Windows Phone 7.5—it’s over a year ahead in terms of development time. An accurate comparison would only be iOS 6 compared with the full Windows Phone 8.

  7. The volume buttons can actually be used to take pictures in the camera app (at least on my aging iPhone 4), and the camera app can be brought up by swiping up on the lock screen.

    However, the maps controversy is *not* overblown. The new maps app is utterly useless around where I live (Tokyo). It can’t find anything (addresses or businesses), doesn’t provide transit directions, and contains a number of errors (apparently there’s a train station right next to the building I work; it would make my commute easier, sure, but it’s simply not true). It’s completely unusable, and the Google Maps web app makes a poor substitute for the old Google Maps app (although still better than Apple’s maps). I’m not complaining about some of the 3D looking weird (I don’t even get the 3D stuff on the iPhone 4), I just want maps that I can use. The iPhone currently doesn’t provide those.

  8. Nice summary! Maybe some time you could also do the other way, i.e. telling us which features of the iPhone you miss most in Windows Phone.

  9. Don’t you miss the back button? I can’t imagine using a smart phone without one anymore. It is like using a browser without a back button.

    I also find it strange that you switched now to iOS. Maybe for app development?

  10. I acquired an iPhone 4S for work after already being the owner of a Nokia Lumia 800. I cannot bring myself to part from my Lumia mainly because it manages ‘contacts’ so much better, as you say. The standout iPhone features for me are voice recognition and the camera quality. I am looking forward to Windows 8!

  11. I find the iPhone 5 with its upper left ‘app specific’ back button to be harder to reach now if its coded there at all.
    The hardware itself is also quite slippery in my hands so adjusting the phone to reach it is a but perilous at times. Sounds nit picky I know but I use the absolute hell out of my back button on this Omnia 7 it feels natural.
    The IP5 has space for a back button but like a 2 button mouse its too complicated i guess.

  12. It is nice to see so many good comments about Windows Phone. 2 months ago, I got the iPhone 4S. It’s a great device and it just upgraded to iOS6. iPhone 4S is an upgrade when compared with Android.

    Since I do like more competition, I think Windows Phone is better off trying to displace Android instead of iPhone. Android’s look and feel is very much like iPhone, but it is a worse experience. My previous Motorola Droid X was a horrible experience. It was slow and buggy. It was very very bad. iPhone is definitely is a step up.

    It will be 2 more years until I will upgrade. I will likely upgrate to the newest iPhone. I won’t go back to Android. Not so sure about Windows Phone. This will depend on how Metro shakes out when Windows 8 comes out in October.

  13. “iOS 6 is much more powerful and polished than Windows Phone 7.5”

    Couple of examples to support this statement would be nice.

  14. “iOS 6 is much more powerful and polished than Windows Phone 7.5” But you miss many features of WP7.5…? What are the features of iOS 6 Windows Phone does not have?

  15. Have to agree with Krunal Sheth ““iOS 6 is much more powerful and polished than Windows Phone 7.5″” need examples to support this.”

    I use both and the last thing I would call iOS 6 is polished, have you used the Podcast and Map apps in iOS 6. Polished they are not.

  16. Interesting article. I went from Windows Mobile to iOS to Windows Phone and there are things I liked about all of them. However I could never go back to iOS now I’ve lived with Windows Phone.

    One of the things I really like about WP is that it speaks to you in your own language. I no longer have to interpret and remember what an icon stands for, the phone tells me in plain English.

    Choice is another plus point for WP. Currently under consideration for my next device are: Samsung Ativ S, HTC 8X and (the favourite) Nokia Lumia 920. The Ativ is closest to the iPhone in being sleek and stylish. The Lumia adds distinctive colours, an ultra sensitive display and a killer camera, while the 8X sits somewhere in between. The iPhone is a very nice design, but if you don’t like it or some aspect makes it unusable (like for me the screen) then you’re stuffed.

    Finally, while I’m happy to concede you can do more within iOS, how you do it is tightly constrained. I bought an iPad as a mobile writing tool, having found laptops and netbooks too bulky. Once I’d solved the problem of finding a word processor that can handle Word documents, I then ran into the problem of there being no Tab key. Going online, I was told that the Tab key was considered passé and that I should use an empty line instead; but I use an empty line to signal a new scene within chapter and how do I format dialogue?

    Now if Apple paid me to use their products, I’d happily be a good consumer and change my ways; but since I pay, that makes me a customer and I want to choose. Microsoft seem to understand and respect this, while not invading my privacy like Google.

    This is why I’m happy using WP7.5, despite inferior hardware and a comparative lack of applications. The hardware limitations end with WP8 and I’m confident that with things like support for Havok physics, so will the software ones.

  17. A strangely immature post, especially the obscure statement “iOS 6 is much more powerful and polished than Windows Phone 7.5″. There are no qualifiers given to support this or define what “powerful and polished” actually means.

  18. Hmm.. You say that “the iPhone 5 is a superior device than the Nokia Lumia 800 I was using and iOS 6 is much more powerful and polished than Windows Phone 7.5”. After reading your list of the eight features you’re missing from WP7.5, I can’t help but wonder what there is left to make iOS more powerful than WP7.5. I know you put aside the map controversy, some HW issue (which?) and your own experience concerning battery life, but let’s include them as well. Now the list is 11 crucial points long! What else is there?
    And as someone fittingly pointed out: Why switch now?? Sorry, dude, but you made a terribly wrong decision!

  19. Great post!

    Funny, I was just thinking of writing an article along the lines of my WP and iPad experiences but now I don’t need to. I love my Lumia 900 (well, I love the 800 even more) but I recently picked up an iPad as a “couch browser” device. iOS definitely has great polish and the last 6 releases have really helped them to nail some experiences but I was really surprised to find some areas feeling awkward, at least to me.

    The lack of a live tile/widget mechanism is the biggest one but I really missed other tiny WP details, little things like how the letters on the WP SIP show the correct upper/lower case based on the shift state, WP’s auto-correct, even how copy/paste work. I struggled to copy/paste tracking numbers out of various web pages on the iPad to paste into my package tracking app where on WP it seemed much easier.

    Other areas are just “different”, for example I’m still torn on the dedicated hardware Back button vs. it being in the app. I think I prefer a dedicated button as I found not all iPad apps put the “back” button in the same place and I liked a common way to go back/exit but that can come down to training/memory muscle.

  20. There is a “faux” camera button on the iPad but I think it also works on the iPhone.

    When the camera app is loaded, the down volume rocker will act as the shutter button. Its not the same as a dedicated camera button but it works in a pinch.

  21. The thing I like best about WP7 is the message count it shows for email accounts. I like the unread count since I checked my phone last rather than a total count of unread messages in my inbox. That one difference between IOS and WP7 was enough to send me back to Windows.

  22. I have tried WP7 for 3 months and decided to switch back to either iOS or Android. For me it just doesn’t have the ummmphhh factor that I am looking is just too dull for now. May be WP8 can solve that.

  23. I absolutely love my WP7.5 as does my daughter hers. I can easily navigate to the tasks I want to complete. It’s intuitive. I had no problem jumping right in and being functional when I got my original Samsung Focus and love my Lumia 900. Bing search, taking pics and other tasks always smoke my iPhone & Droid coworkers and friends – like when we are discussing a movie at lunch and question which actress, or a song and when it came out – I win every time. I love the social media integration with contacts. And I’ve found no lack of apps for my needs. My husband will be switching to WP8 next month and can’t wait.

  24. Never buy a iphone or the new stupid thing always windows phone it will be with the feel and the proud owner of a windows phone. having a new stupid iphone they want YOUR money even to you payed like what £500 or $800 and they want you to buy addons just to usse the pocksy phone. but windows phone comes with it in the box everything you need.

Comments are closed.