4 advantages Windows 8.1 has over Android in mobile

Summary:Windows 8.1 proves to be a good tablet OS the longer I use it. It's better than Android in some key areas.

dell-venue-8-pro
(Image: Dell)

Windows 8.1 gets a bad reputation as a tablet OS in spite of all the work Microsoft has put into it. While it's true that it's quite a stretch to build a platform that covers all possible computing forms, Windows 8.1 has some nice features that leaves Android behind.

Snap view

Microsoft wasn't the first to develop a scheme allowing multiple apps to run and display at the same time, but it's done it better than anyone. Snap view allows putting multiple apps onscreen and then adjusting each pane to the size that works best.

While Android doesn't have this ability, Samsung has its multi-view which works in a similar fashion. It's restricted to a few approved apps, though, and that is a big limiter compared to Windows 8.1. It's only on a few Galaxy devices and not part of Android proper.

Samsung's multi-view is better than Microsoft's snap view in one area, and that's the ability to rotate the screen to portrait and still use it. The Windows 8.1 snap view will only work in landscape, in fact it disables screen rotation when it's active. That smacks of laziness of the developers of Windows and needs to be fixed.

The one restriction aside, snap view in Windows 8.1 is well implemented and it's nice to find it ingrained in the OS.

Updates

Galaxy Note 8.0
Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet

Have a lengthy discussion about Android and it will eventually turn to the thorny subject of updates. Perhaps the lack of updates is a more accurate way to put it.

Updates to Android devices are at the whim of the device makers and carriers and there's no guarantee that a given device will ever get that shiny new version of Android. If they do, it will likely be long after it's available from Google.

Windows device owners aren't saddled with this update envy, as all updates are pushed to devices. A very few may not have the smoothest update experience , but at least they get the chance to grab new updates.

While it's true that Android devices continue working just fine without each new OS update, they do miss getting some security updates that are part of these OS renewals.

Mobile experience improvement

Android has been out longer than Windows 8, and it seems that the user experience (UX) is roughly the same as it's been for a long time. Sure there are minor improvements with each new version, but that's about it.

The story is different when it comes to Windows 8. While there were some serious shortcomings in the original version of Windows 8, Microsoft stepped up to the plate and ironed them out with Windows 8.1.

That Windows 8.1 rolled out so fast is a testament to the new Microsoft. The improvements that are ingrained in Windows 8.1 are not minor. The advantage of snap view is due in large part to the 8.1 upgrade.

Rumors are already appearing about the upcoming Windows 9 , which will no doubt be another major step forward as far as the UX is concerned.

Sharing

We've been taught since an early age that sharing is a good thing, and that certainly applies to information. The ability to send information from one app to another is very powerful on mobile devices.

Both Windows 8.1 and Android have the ability to share information between apps, but the Windows implementation seems to be more consistent. The Share feature is always available right there in the Charms menu, and many apps have it implemented well.

There are a few apps that don't have the ability to share, Google's Chrome comes to mind, but for the most part apps make it simple to do so.

A great example of sharing in Windows 8.1 was given to me by a friend. He's able to take ink notes in Windows Journal on his tablet and share them to his Evernote cloud where all his other notes live.

Another good example is the ability to share web pages to the Windows 8.1 Reading List app. This saves information on the web to read later in the Reading List app designed specifically for that purpose.

Sharing information is not missing from Android, but it's more useful in Windows 8.1 in this writer's experience.

The evolution of Windows

Windows 8.1 isn't for everyone but it's coming along nicely. It's not strictly a mobile OS but it's evolving into a decent one. The advantages discussed here are not the only ones over Android, but they are big enough to make a difference.

Some may feel that the availability of Microsoft Office on Windows 8.1 is a big advantage over Android and wonder why it's not on this short list. While the absence of Office on Android is a disadvantage over Windows for some, it's not for the millions of current Android users and thus is not discussed here.

Android makes more sense for some mobile users as it's a robust platform for tablets and phones. It's now making its way onto the desktop, too. Those wanting a pure mobile UX can do well with Android.

Windows is a better mobile OS than some realize, and it would be a mistake to overlook it. Mobile devices of all types are now available with Windows 8.1, and that alone could be an advantage for some over Android.

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Topics: Mobility, Android, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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