Windows Phone 7 vs. Android: Can you choose just one?

Windows Phone 7 is hot, slick, and new while Android 2.2 is on fire in the mobile space. Come look into the mind of a mobile mad man as I try to figure out which of these two I am choosing for myself.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributor writer on

I have now spent several days with both the myTouch 4G and HTC HD7 and actually ended up purchasing both from T-Mobile for my own personal account. The problem is I only have one available SIM to use with my phones and now need to decide if I am going to play musical chairs with my SIM or return one device. FYI, I also have a separate Sprint account for review/evaluation needs and have an HTC EVO 4G on that account. The easy answer is to keep the EVO 4G on Sprint, keep the HD7, and return the myTouch 4G. The tougher question is which device would I go with if I could only keep one on T-Mobile with none on Sprint. Let's take a look inside my mind and put the HTC HD7 head-to-head with the myTouch 4G and see if I end up at the end with the "easy answer" and what I would do if T-Mobile was my only carrier.

Hardware: HTC vs. HTC

Both of these smartphones are made by HTC and have similar specifications. Microsoft has specific minimum requirements for Windows Phone 7 and I get the feeling that the HD7 was designed to meet those without going too much further. With the MT4G it looks like HTC pushed the limits further and came up with a device that is about optimal for the compact size.

We see both have 1 GHz Snapdragon processors, but the MT4G has a second generation model. Both have 5 megapixel cameras with flash, but the HD7 suffers from the pink photo issue (should be fixable with a software tweak though) while having an additional flash and the MT4G also has a front facing camera for video chatting. Both support T-Mobile's 1700 MHz 3G network, but the MT4G also includes support for the much faster HSPA+ network. The HD7 has a larger 4.3 inch display with the same resolution as the MT4G (coming in at 3.8 inches), but uses the standard older TFT display technology (seen on the HD2 from early this year) while the MT4G uses the new Super LCD technology.

Both the MT4G and HD7 have 3.5mm headset jacks, microUSB ports, power buttons, and physical camera buttons.

The HD7 does have a slick kickstand around the camera lens and I personally find these quite useful for enjoying media on the go.

The MT4G has physical hardware buttons and an optical trackpad while the HD7 has three touch sensitive areas below the viewable display. They both seem to work fine, but I tend to like the physical buttons a bit more.

A major difference is that the MT4G has removable storage media with support for microSD cards up to 32GB with 1.2 GB of integrated user accessible flash memory. The HD7 is limited to just the 16GB internal memory with no expansion capabilities.

They both feel good in your hand and seems to be built well. The volume button on the HD7 is a bit loose in the opening though and on the eval unit I had for about a week this has gotten looser and actually rattles a bit if you shake the device. The back removable battery cover of the HD7 is a bit cheap and thin feeling while the metal one on the MT4G is quite solid. The MT4G feels better in my hand with the narrower body and much better curves and angles with a denser, more solid feeling.

I am also a fan of the MT4G colors and think T-Mobile and HTC could have made the piece on the back of the HD7 surrounding the camera pink or some other color to be a bit unique.

Overall, my personal preference for the hardware is with the MT4G.

Software: Windows Phone 7 vs. Android 2.2

As you all know, Windows Phone 7 is a brand new mobile operating system so there is a bit of a sense of newness and freshness to the OS that appeals to me. I also wrote the Windows Phone 7 Companion book and have a bit of an emotional attachment to the platform so I am trying to take out these emotions and give the device an honest look.

Windows Phone 7 is a pretty OS with slick animations and fast performance. There are some issues that bug me about the operating system though and these include:

  • No multi-tasking, results in lots of reloading...
  • No cut, copy, and paste
  • No custom ringtone capability
  • Limited customizability on Start screen
  • Lack of some key apps (Evernote, Kindle or Nook, and podcatcher)
  • Office apps are pretty limited in terms of what you can do from the phone
  • Inconsistency in auto rotation (especially lame with kickstand and then Zune always in portrait mode)
  • Lock into Zune software for PC connections (no drive or file access)
  • Lack of tethering support
  • Lack of ability to capture screenshots

Many of these can be fixed with software updates (Microsoft already stated cut, copy, and past will indeed be fixed with an update very soon) and some with application releases. I am a huge podcast fan and would love to see Microsoft add support for discovering and downloading podcasts through the Zune integration. However, the true multi-tasking seen on the Android platform may never come to this platform and I don't think Windows Phone 7 will ever be as customizable as Android.

Some of the pros of Windows Phone 7 over Android 2.2 include:

  • Slick and consistent UI (in terms of menus)
  • Decent app selection at launch (Netflix, Slacker, Slingplayer, Shazam, USAA, Endomondo, Xbox LIVE games)
  • Zune integration rocks and is good for downloading and streaming music
  • Facebook integration is good
  • Very stable
  • Superb Exchange support, including multiple Exchange account support

I have been using Windows Phone 7 for a few months and the OS has been rock solid with no crashes and just a few lockups recently in the Marketplace. On the other hand, I regularly see force close pop-ups, even in Android 2.2 on the MT4G.

I think people will find the sheer speed, fluidity, and consistency in the Windows Phone 7 OS to be fun and refreshing, but after time the constant loading with dots flying across the screen tends to get tiresome. I like the live tiles for email, but these are needed for things such as Twitter apps and Facebook too as the Android OS is much better at notifications. Windows Phone 7 is quite glanceable, while you can try to do the same through widgets on Android.

Some things I love about the Android OS on the MT4G include:

  • True multi-tasking where apps can be running at the same time as other apps
  • Customizability of the home screen and panels
  • Excellent application selection in the Android Market
  • Google services integration with Voice, Listen, Search, Gmail, and Maps
  • Full access to the directory structure on the device
  • Excellent Exchange integration with slick view options (conversation, faves, attachments)
  • Awesome mobile web browser with best text reflow support compared to ANY other platform
  • Google Maps Navigation service that is tough to beat and has proven to be reliable
  • WiFi Hotspot tethering capability
  • Widgets for things such as wireless connection management
  • Swype text entry keyboard

Cons of Android on the MT4G for me include:

  • Limited quality gaming
  • Repeated contact indexing with the Genius button
  • Lack of content sources for media (music and video)

Looking over these bullet lists and some of my comments, it seems pretty clear to me that Android 2.2 on the MT4G is my preference as well. Windows Phone 7 is a very slick operating system with some good quality apps, games, and media services, but it also is a 1.0 release and has definite room for growth while Android has had a couple of years to get refined and optimized for the smartphone user.

Actual user experiences

I have been using Windows Phone 7 for a few months now and do enjoy the fluid experience for the most part. Like the commercials state though, it has been the phone to free me from my other phones as I tend to use it a bit less when it is in my pocket because of the lack of multi-tasking and a bit of frustration with the loading times for apps I just want to jump into and out of (Twitter for example).I am not that happy with the camera on the HD7 at this time. I figured out that switching to the Candlelight effect improves flash photography, but the stupid software goes back to its default settings every time you leave the camera application.

The HD7 fits fine in my pocket and even though it is larger than the MT4G I do not find the size to be much of an issue. The HD7 is a bit slick though and the evaluation unit slipped from my hands a couple of times (this has rarely happened to me over years of using these smartphones) and is now scratched on top next to the power button. It still performs flawlessly though so that shows it is a bit durable too.

I have only had the MT4G for about a week, but have loved carrying it and using it during that time. As I mentioned earlier it feels great in your hand and has performed very well with just a few force closes and no resets or complete lock ups.

Which is best for ME?

I went into writing this post thinking that I would come out at the end with a clear decision to keep the HTC HD7 no matter what, but as you can see above I honestly do have a preference for the MT4G. If I was only going to stick with a single US carrier and one line of service then I would select the MT4G over the HTC HD7.

I love the hardware and form factor of the MT4G, but if I honestly look at the EVO 4G (I did give it my pick as the top device of 2010 a couple of times) then I see there is nothing the EVO 4G cannot do that the MT4G can (except for Swype). The EVO 4G actually has the added bonus of a larger display, kickstand, and better included services (Sprint TV, NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile, Sprint Football Live, Sprint Navigation) than the MT4G.

So, for me personally it looks like I am going to return the MT4G and keep the HTC HD7 and EVO 4G. I get to keep using the Windows Phone 7 OS and seeing it develop from the ground up while still having the capability and functionality of an Android device. My wife likes her MT4G and will be keeping it and with the HTC EVO 4G we can still video chat with each other using Qik. T-Mobile has some excellent smartphone choices and thankfully with my additional Sprint account I have the luxury of choosing an Android device on another carrier to satisfy my needs.

I am sure there are many of you having to make this same choice and I am curious about which way you are going and what you think of these two platforms so please leave comments.

UPDATE: My buddy, Chris Leckness, happens to be conducting the same exact evaluation as me with the myTouch 4G and HD7 so I recommend you head on over to his post on GottaBeMobile to see which way he is leaning. It sounds like we are coming to the same conclusion and like Chris I may just end up keeping both ;)

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