Why I broke up with Windows Phone: It's not me, it's you

Can an 'all-in' Windows user find happiness by turning a Nexus Android phone into her Microsoft phone? This one has, at least so far.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

I'm no longer part of the one percent.


It took me almost two years longer than my Microsoft-watching colleagues Ed Bott and Tom Warren, but I've given up using Windows Phones as my daily driver.

As of about a month ago, I'm now sporting a Nexus 6P (made by Huawei). I'm still on Verizon. But my Lumia Icon is now in a desk drawer.

I didn't come to this decision lightly. I actually really liked Windows Phone and figured I'd be one of the last to go down with the ship -- which currently has roughly one percent market share. Many Microsoft employees no longer use Windows Phones (and not just in the name of "research"). If few Softies believe in the platform, why should the rest of us?

Windows 10 Mobile, in many ways, feels like a step backwards from Windows Phone 8.X, feature-wise, especially on existing Windows Phone handsets that can't take advantage of Windows Hello and Continuum. Yet I was sticking with Windows Phone/Windows Mobile because I use Windows PCs, many Windows services (OneDrive, Groove, Outlook.com, Office 365) and Windows Phones seem custom-made for a Microsoft-centric user like me.

For those wondering why I didn't go iPhone, I am not interested in Apple products, as I have a deep-seated personal dislike of all things Apple-related. I don't want to be affiliated with the Apple user community. Other than a relatively brief fling with the iPad, I haven't purchased any Apple hardware, software or services. This is a personal bias/choice. I think differently than many of my tech press colleagues. I am a PC.

Android was and is another story. I know many worry about Google scraping our information and using it to keep its search/ad juggernaut rolling. But I feel like we've all largely given up our privacy for the sake of convenience these days, regardless of platform. (Scroogled campaigns and vendor privacy promises won't sway me on this, so don't bother sending them.)

So when my Windows Weekly cohost Paul Thurrott offered me a chance to try one of the Google phones -- the Nexus 5X -- a couple months ago, I decided it might be a good way to test the growing number of Microsoft apps and services on Android (some of which aren't available at all for Windows Phone). I simply put my Verizon SIM from my Icon into the Nexus 5X and I became a first-time "Android Pro" user.

At that point, I still felt like this was only a test. I missed my Windows Phone Live Tiles and the way services I used, like OneDrive, just worked. What I didn't miss was that old pit-in-the-stomach feeling that an app I might want or need would often not be available on my Windows Phone.

I've always said (and still do, to be honest) that I'm not much of an app person. When on Windows Phone, that projection mirrored reality. But once I started using Android, I realized I could be an app person if I wanted. Instead of assuming an app wouldn't exist, I could now just figure that on Android, it would. I still have only about a dozen apps installed on my Android phone, but knowing I can download more if and when I want is a freeing feeling.

Yes, I know Microsoft's strategy for populating the shared Windows 10 store revolves around developers having to make only minor adjustments to their Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform PC apps so as to support Windows Phone. But in the past week alone, examples of the weakness of that strategy have emerged. Sonos isn't going to do a UWP app and has no plans to release a Windows Phone app. And Opera execs say while the company might one day do a UWP version of Opera Mini for Windows Phones, but it's definitely not a priority.

When Microsoft wavered on allowing Icon users to upgrade to Windows 10 Mobile, I decided it was time for me to make a move. I went with Thurrott's advice and opted for a Nexus, since the Google phones are the ones most likely to be kept up-to-date with the latest Android OS releases and fixes, and are also the ones with the least crapware preinstalled. I bought a big (5.7-inch) Nexus 6P (the 32GB gold version) and populated it with my Microsoft apps and services.

The battery life on the 6P is excellent. I can sometimes go two days without a charge. I love USB-C fast-charging far more than I ever cared about wireless charging. I unlock the phone with the built-in fingerprint reader.

The robust notifications on Android have weaned me from my Live Tile dependence. And don't let anyone fool you: The cameras on both the 5X and 6P take really great photos, especially in low light. I find the camera app on Android much easier and dependable than the Microsoft or Nokia ones I used on my Icon.

Here's what I don't like about my Android phone. As someone who doesn't use Google services other than Google Maps, the Chrome browser and Google search, I have to jump through some extra hoops to use Microsoft apps and services on my phone. I've had some calendar syncing issues with the otherwise nice Outlook Mobile app. Saving and accessing my photos and files using OneDrive mostly works. But it's not as seamless as it was on my Windows Phone. I'm hoping Microsoft's seemingly growing focus on Android apps and services may make for smoother sailing, going forward.

If Microsoft ever comes out with its own equivalent to a Google phone, say, something like a Surface Phone, I definitely will be willing to take a look, as I remain committed to Windows on PCs and laptops, and still like and use many Microsoft apps and services. But I have to say, I'm not convinced at this point that Microsoft's Windows 10 UWP strategy will fix the app-gap problem that continues to plague Windows Phones.

My interest in all flavors of Windows, including Mobile, remains, as does my interest in Microsoft hardware, software and services on all platforms, including Windows Mobile. In fact, I'm part of a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Windows Phone tomorrow, April 22. Bring on the questions, and we'll try to provide some answers.

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