What I miss so far, and what I don’t

In light of Apple’s recent announcement that iOS 11 will have some kind of driving mode, I wanted to call out some of the outstanding features of Windows Mobile that I miss, starting with…

Driving Mode

Windows phones are great in cars. The Gadgets system app will remember where you parked, which is cool, but Window’s virtual assistant, Cortana, shines in cars. Unlike Android, where I get “new message” alerts–with no idea what’s in them–Cortana says “You’ve got a new text from [person]. Do you want to read it or ignore it?” I respond, and the text is read, or the interaction is over. If the text is read, I can respond, using voice, right then and there. Cortana also filters texts so that I’m only asked about message from my VIP list (e.g., my family, my boss, etc.)

The downside is that this is more disruptive than a simple chime. If you’re listening to music via Bluetooth, Cortana interrupts rather than mutes or pauses the music. If you’re caught in an active texting conversation (such as a teenage daughter asking DAD DAD DAD constantly, it can be extremely disruptive). But most of the time it works beautifully.

I’ve been told that Android has a driving mode, but I haven’t come across it. Perhaps it’s an app, or perhaps it’s buried somewhere–it doesn’t really matter. On Windows phone it works easily, and very well.

UPDATE: A fellow Redditor pointed out the Android Auto app; I’ve just installed it and will be testing it out soon. Too bad it’s not included in the base install/OS as it is with Windows Mobile.

…speaking of Cortana

In addition to getting driving mode years after Windows phones had it, I also read that, also years late, Siri will finally get a text input mode. How’s that for innovation? Revolutionary!

Siri is better at a few things, but Cortana’s speech recognition is much better. Cortana also preserves “state” better. For example, if I ask Cortana “What’s open for breakfast right now?” and it responds with a list of restaurants, I can reply “give me directions to the second one” or whatever. I’m pretty sure Google Now can do this as well, but I didn’t evaluate that, since Cortana works pretty well on Android (but not so much on iOS).

flipboard-wp8-live-tileLive Tiles

You probably saw this one coming. Windows’s signature phone feature (now mainstreamed on Windows 10 via Windows 8) that makes alerts easy at a glance. Who replied on Facebook? Is that Twitter alert a retweet or a new follower? What’s the breaking news story? Live Tiles address all this, beautifully, simply.

Yes, Android has gadgets, but they’re just not the same (and use up much more home screen space and possibly battery).  In addition, the experience is completely different from one app to another, for example, with one app having no gadget, another having a gadget that’s round with a number, another that’s the width of the screen with content details etc. It’s much more consistent on Windows.

What I really don’t understand is why Microsoft doesn’t make Live-Tile-like gadgets for ITS apps on Android. The Outlook app, for example, should have an inbox gadget that looks just like the inbox Live Tile on Windows. Same for Calendar, and many other Microsoft apps. It’s a great interface, and they haven’t given up on it in Windows 10, so let’s see some of it on Android!


This was one of the signature features of Windows Mobile, but I wonder if Microsoft is going to stick with it. Samsung/android has a similar feature, although nowhere near as mature or feature-rich.

At work, since I have two displays and they support multiple inputs, I have my phone plugged into the secondary input on the second monitor. Boom, a personal “PC” at work, perfectly compliant with company policies yet feature rich and under my control. It also works great in company meeting rooms, if I have a few minutes to kill before or after meetings.

Travelling in a hotel room, it works on any TV/monitor with HDMI. Lighter travel. The idea of having a “PC in your pocket” goes way back to, well, PocketPCs, but Microsoft has finally delivered. Is it too late?

Third-party apps

In the absence of official support, particularly from Google, there are many independently developed apps that are better than the “official” apps available on iOS or Android. The two I missed the most on my phone (BUT which are available on Windows 10 desktops!) are: ReadIt (a Reddit client), and MyTube (a YouTube client).

A few things I don’t miss…

As Steve Jobs said, smartphones aren’t perfect, and that certainly applies to Windows phones, even Lumias.

  • Slow (but wonderful) cameras.
  • Hardware that, yes, will run the OS, but that isn’t optimized the way flagship iOS and Android phones are today.
  • Missing apps.
  • Orphaned and substandard apps. (Waze comes to mind; development stopped on a dime when they were acquired by Google. Where’s the DOJ now?)
  • Love:Hate with Microsoft. They need to have a clear strategy and stick by their fans. Instead, they just seem to be throwing bones to the dogs every now and then. (Witness the Microsoft Band.) One bright spot: The physical Microsoft Store experience is pretty good.
  • Reality Distortion among Windows Phone fans. It’s over. It’s just a phone. Move on.


Coming up: The pros and cons of iOS and Android; The Decision(s); Is Google Evil? Maybe more…




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