Until last year I was using an Android smartphone. At first, I was happy with Android. But the way Android evolved has taken a toll on me and caused lots of frustration over the years. That's why, as of 2012, I decided to give Windows Phone a try. With a few exceptions, I'm happy with the choice I've made and I think Microsoft is onto something good with this platform. After using and testing Windows Phones for more than a year, I believe this is the best platform for affordable smartphones. Here are 6 reasons why:
Affordable Smartphones with Android
To prove my point, I have decided to run a small experiment: I searched for random smartphones with Android, that cost less than $300 when purchased unlocked, without any subsidies from telecom providers. In most countries, spending less than $300 on a smartphone means purchasing an affordable smartphone.
I chose devices from the most important vendors and my final list included the following smartphones: Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini, Samsung Galaxy Ace 2, HTC One V, Motorola Motoluxe, HTC Incredible S, HTC Desire X, LG Optimus 2x, Sony Xperia P Nypon and Sony Xperia Go. Some of them, like the Sony Xperia P Nypon are sold mostly in Europe.
When it comes to their hardware configuration, there are many common aspects as well as many differences. For example, most of these devices have dual core processors while others have single core ones. Some devices have 512 MB of RAM while others have more. If you look at the Android version they are bundled with, the picture is even more diverse, as shared in the table below.
If you look at the Android version available through official updates for each phone, there's even more diversity to consider.
Analyzing this list of devices, reveals some important problems that plague the Android ecosystem and its users, problems which are avoided by the Windows Phone 8 platform. If you choose a Windows Phone 8 smartphone, you will have the following advantages:
1. Access to Latest Updates, Guaranteed by Microsoft up to July 8th, 2014
At the time of writing this article, the most recent version of Android is 4.2.2. It was made available by Google on February 11, 2013. More than three months ago.
None of the affordable smartphones mentioned above, have access to it. It is not clear which of them will get it and when. There are devices, like the Motorola Motoluxe which are guaranteed not to receive this update. This phone will be stuck with its Android 2.3 version that was launched in December 2010. The only phones that are sure to receive access to this update are high-end devices like the HTC One, which cost much more than $300.
In comparison, Windows Phone 8 devices already have access to the latest update provided by Microsoft. It doesn't matter if they are cheap devices or expensive ones. If you would make a table with all Windows Phone 8 devices available since this platform was launched, you will see lots of uniformity across the board, regarding the latest operating system version available.
2. A Minimum Hardware Configuration, Guaranteed by Windows Phone 8's Specifications
Both Android and Windows Phone have a minimum hardware configuration required in order to run one version or another. On Android, a vendor can decide at any time to provide cheap & dated hardware and bundle an older version of Android on it. It is a way to make a quick buck. Just look at the Vodafone Smart Angry Birds phones sold in Europe or the Pantech phones sold by AT&T in the US. Their hardware is dated and so is the operating system bundled with them. The price though, when buying them without plans and subsidies, is quite high for what they offer.
With Windows Phone 8, you know that a manufacturer will sell a phone that has at least a dual core processor, 512 MB of RAM memory, at least 4GB of internal storage space, etc. You won't find a Windows Phone 8 device with a configuration that's worse than this.
3. Quick & Easy Access to Bug Fixes and New Features
Any operating system has bugs. Both Google and Microsoft are actively working to fix them. The difference is that Microsoft is responsible for providing updates that include those bug fixes. Carriers and manufacturers only approve them. Google has left the updates in the responsibility of phone manufacturers. Also, carriers have a say in things.
Each new operating system version includes some new features, depending on the version. With access to these updates, users also get the new features and are able to use them.
Android phone owners can easily learn what each update brings in terms of bug fixes and new features, but they never know when they will get those updates, unless they buy a Google phone. In many countries, that phone costs more than $300.
4. More Security
Every operating system has security problems. Even though both Microsoft and Google do a good job at solving those problems, an important difference is being made by how updates get to users.
Again, on Android, things are not positive: not only has this platform seen the biggest growth in malware development and distribution out of all platforms, but fixes are taking a long time to arrive to users.
The popularity of a platform plays a major role in its security and how many viruses and exploits are being created. Here, Windows Phone's underdog status provides an important advantage as very little to no malware is being developed for it. This will remain true until Windows Phones gains a big market share that makes it interesting to malware creators.
5. The Same Fast & Fluid User Experience on All Devices
Many manufacturers of Android smartphones make important modifications to the operating system. They change the interface, bundle many apps users won't use and don't allow users to remove them. This translates into a frustrating experience. Also, not having the same interface on all devices means that you have to learn a new way of doing things each time you change your smartphone.
On Windows Phone, manufacturers are not allowed to change the user interface nor any important aspect of the operating system. They can only bundle exclusive apps that can be removed with ease by users, if they are not useful to them. What does this mean? A fast and fluid experience on all devices. Even affordable smartphones are snappy at loading the operating system and its apps. The operating system looks the same everywhere and you are not feeling lost, each time you change your smartphone.
6. Less Frustration
The sixth and final reason is just a sum of all the others mentioned above. Frustration is what we feel when we encounter any of the problems I've mentioned. Personally, when I buy a smartphone, I want the guarantee that, at least for a time period, I will have access to updates. I want the manufacturer to provide bug fixes and new features in a timely fashion. I don't want to be forced to keep apps that I do not use and waste precious resources.
The way Android is being developed, customized and distributed, especially on affordable smartphones, is a mess that frustrates users. It surely isn't doing anything in their best interest. I believe that the approach used by Microsoft for Windows Phone 8 is better and closer to users and their needs.
The next time you buy an affordable smartphone, do consider trying a Windows Phone 8 device. You might be pleasantly surprised.